Google’s AI Interface for Search:
What You Need to Know Now
Google’s SGE Search Generative Experience – AI Interface for Search – What You need to know now
SGE (Search Generative Experience) is Google’s name for their generative AI feature for search. Currently it is an experiment in Google Labs, available for anyone with a Google account to try. Google has not announced a rollout date for SGE, however the experiment is slated to end at the end of December 2023.
The expanded AI result, aka “snapshot” takes up a considerable amount of screen space. Where and how Google eventually displays it will play a major role in determining its effect upon organic traffic. Things are still changing, as Google tests display, source attribution, and other elements.
SGE in action – the current status
Early versions of SGE showed Google Ads at the top of the page, followed by the entire expanded AI snapshot, then the organic results. In most cases, only the first organic result appeared “above the fold.”
Google now seems to be testing a “Show more” button. A brief snippet of the expanded snapshot is generated at the TOP of the page (above the ads) followed by a button to display the rest. If they keep this, it would be great news for organic search (though less favorable for paid search).
SGE now has source attribution but it’s subtle. Google is using a small down arrow at the end of statements. Clicking this pulls up a dropdown with links to the source(s) used in that statement.
Local search results
Local searches pull up a group of local businesses – usually 5 – similar to the local pack. At present these are always GBP profiles. The traditional local pack can still be found below the AI snapshot.
Many “head term” keywords for products and services (examples: dentist, pizza, accounting services) are assumed to have local intent in SGE and will produce local results.
Certain types of content do NOT pull up an SGE result by default
Several types of content which do not automatically generate an AI snapshot include:
- Navigational queries
- Sensitive / controversial topics
- News & current events
- Quick answers (examples: weather, song lyrics)
- Explicit / NSFW)
Initial SGE search results do not equal the results of subsequent queries.
Interaction with SGE is a conversation. User queries and actions determine user intent and influence the results of the following queries.
An initial query may produce different results than the same question later in the conversation.
SGE sources are not necessarily top-ranking organic search results.
Sources for SGE results have been verified to have been found on pages 2-4 of the organic search results and may even be pulled from later pages if they are deemed to satisfy the intent of the user.
This is still a Google Labs experiment – features are subject to change prior to rollout.
Implications of Google’s AI SGE Results for SEO
- Everyone’s organic traffic will be affected to some extent. Whether Google goes with the “Show more” button or the original full AI snapshot, organic results will still be pushed down the page to some degree and searchers will be able to navigate to other pages from the AI snapshot.
- Organic search will still exist. It’s still of value to hold top positions in organic search.
- We do not know how the general public will interact with SGE. Will they interact with it? Will they scroll past it? We won’t have much data on this until after the rollout occurs.
Five things you can do now
While we don’t know for sure what the final release will look like, here are a few things, based upon what we know at this time, that you might consider doing to “future proof” your site for whatever Google SGE brings:
Know where you stand
Sign into Chrome with your Google account, navigate to Google labs (the beaker icon), and view an example to access SGE. Check out your top organic traffic and lead driving queries to see how your content is performing. Are you coming up in the SGE carousel for these searches? If not, who is and what content is being included in the AI snapshot?
Think about intent and the customer journey
SGE results place an emphasis on user intent and the customer journey. Does your content address SGE’s assumed intent? Are there important questions your content leaves unanswered? Are you covering all appropriate phases of the customer journey? Either add to existing content or create new content to address any gaps that are relevant to your business.
Local businesses – Optimize your GBP, work on your Google review profile
Currently, local queries in SGE are only displaying businesses with Google Business profiles. They also appear to be taking average Google review ratings into account and are sometimes displaying excerpts of a review beside the result.
If you have a local business, this is one more reason to have an optimized Google Business profile and work on having a solid and positive history of reviews.
Consider targeting longer, more conversational search queries.
Conversational AI like ChatGPT and SGE are at their best processing and responding to natural language queries – like a human conversation. Instead of the traditional 1-3 word queries many target for organic search, consider targeting longer and more conversational versions of these queries.
Continue producing original, high-quality content.
While not specific to SGE, Google has been placing increasing emphasis content that reflects the writer’s expertise, experience, authority, and trustworthiness (“EEAT”.) The most recent of many “helpful content” algorithm updates rolled out in September.
Some ways to potentially establish EEAT:
- Focus upon content which is genuinely helpful to your target audience.
- Link to author or subject matter expert reviewer bios.
- Post case studies and 3rd party testimonials
- Seek out mentions and content publication opportunities on authority sites relevant to your industry, if applicable.
We can’t say for certain what Google’s finished SGE feature will look like, we are reasonably certain it’s going to happen! Hopefully we’ve given you some insight into how it is most likely to be implemented and some ideas for turning this challenge into an opportunity.