On May 10, Google released a major announcement that will impact the way users interact with Google and how website owners will optimize their content for search. Take a look:
The introduction of Google SGE (Search Generative Experience) marks a significant shift in the search engine landscape, as Google incorporates generative AI to enhance the search experience for users.
If you’re a website owner or do SEO, you should read this Overview doc of SGE provided by Google.
In a nutshell, this new technology aims to provide more information and context to searches, making it easier for users to find relevant and valuable content. However, these advancements also have implications for website publishers and their ability to drive traffic and monetize their websites.
What is Google SGE?
One of the key features of SGE is the use of AI-powered snapshots that appear at the top of search results. These snapshots provide a quick overview of the topic, answering specific questions and presenting key information.
For example, if a user searches for the best national park for a family with young kids and a dog, SGE can provide a snapshot comparing two parks, highlighting their family-friendliness and pet-friendly amenities. This means that users can get their questions answered without needing to visit external websites.
While this streamlined approach benefits users by providing instant answers, it raises concerns for website publishers. With the AI-powered snapshots taking up prime real estate at the top of search results, traditional website links will be pushed further down, reducing the likelihood of users clicking on them. This poses a challenge for publishers who rely on website traffic for revenue generation, such as through advertisements or affiliate marketing.
Additionally, SGE will be introducing a new vertical experience for users, which is meant to offer a comprehensive overview of products when users search for specific items. These experiences include product descriptions, reviews, ratings, prices, and images, drawing on Google’s extensive Shopping Graph dataset:
While this feature enhances the shopping experience for users, it bypasses traditional product review websites and affiliate links, potentially impacting the revenue streams of those relying on such monetization methods.
Google’s Response to Site Owners
Google acknowledges the importance of websites and content creators in providing valuable insights and perspectives to users. They emphasize that SGE is designed to highlight and drive attention to content on the web, recognizing that people still value human-generated content and expertise. Google intends to continue sending valuable traffic to websites, ensuring that the web ecosystem remains vibrant and diverse.
Despite the advancements in generative AI, Google acknowledges the limitations and challenges associated with these technologies. Everyone has heard stories about ChatGPT providing creepy answers to queries, or how it can be used for nefarious purposes.
Google has emphasized their commitment to upholding quality and continuously improving the search experience. Google has implemented guardrails to limit the types of queries where generative AI capabilities will appear, ensuring responsible usage of the technology.
For website publishers, the introduction of SGE underscores the need to adapt their strategies and find new ways to engage users and drive traffic. While the prominence of AI-powered snapshots may pose challenges, there are still opportunities to create valuable content that provides unique insights and perspectives. Publishers can focus on delivering expert analysis, in-depth reviews, and personalized experiences that complement the AI-generated information provided by SGE. By leveraging their expertise and catering to specific user needs, website publishers can continue to attract audiences and thrive in the evolving search landscape.
How Much Traffic Will I Lose?
Because SGE will push listings further down in search results, it will almost certainly be a net loss in traffic for websites. But how much should sites expect to lose? That’s a difficult question to answer at the moment for a few different reasons:
1. SGE will be used mostly on informational and product searches
While Google showcased SGE on an ecommerce query for someone researching bicycles, it’s expected that Google will slowly roll out SGE and focus mostly on informational searches where the answer to the query does not change much over time. For example, SGE will likely first start appearing for these searches:
- “Why is the sky blue”
- “How much do newborns sleep”
- “Where are the best beaches in Costa Rica”
I don’t think Google will want to roll out SGE on all ecommerce queries anytime soon for two big reasons:
- Product availability, pricing, features, and other factors change on a daily basis. Google values displaying accurate information in search results, and for Google it will be challenging and resource-intensive to ensure SGE displays accurate and up to date information.
- It’s difficult to monetize SGE. Advertisers bid on ecommerce keywords, and Google makes over half its revenue from ads that appear in its search results.
2. Will Google remove SERP elements to make room for SGE?
In order to make room for SGE in search results, Google will likely remove or move elements it has integrated into SERPs. This may include Featured Snippets, “People Also Ask” boxes, and knowledge panels.
These elements have cut into traffic website owners have received in the past, so it’s possible that swapping these elements out for SGE will negate any traffic loses to some extent.
3. It will have a different impact on different sites
Are you the manager of an ecommerce site? A B2B service provider? A mommy blogger? The type of content you produce and they keywords your site currently targets will have a big impact on how much your site will be impacted by SGE.
4. How many websites will SGE reference?
In the example Google shared on Arches vs. Bryce Canyon for dogs, they provided an AI generated response to the query but referenced three websites for additional information. These three websites will have very high click through rates and receive a large share of traffic for the query.
Will three be the standard? Six? Zero? Or will it vary significantly for each query? We simply don’t know at the moment.
What Site Owners Should Do Now
For site owners, it’s important to adapt and optimize their approach in light of the changes brought about by Search Generative Experience. Here are some steps site owners can take:
- Focus on high-quality content: With SGE providing AI-generated snapshots, it becomes crucial for site owners to create comprehensive and authoritative content with a focus on E-E-A-T. Aim to provide in-depth information, unique perspectives, and valuable insights that cannot be fully captured in a snapshot. High-quality content will still be sought after by users who want to dive deeper into a topic.
- Optimize for featured snippets: SGE relies on snippets of information to provide quick answers. Site owners should optimize their content for featured snippets by structuring it in a way that directly answers common user questions. Use headings, lists, and concise paragraphs to make it easy for search engines to extract relevant information.
- Leverage structured data: Implement structured data markup on your website to provide additional context and information about your content. This can help search engines understand and present your content more effectively in the SGE interface.
- Improve user experience: While SGE aims to provide quick answers, there will still be users who prefer to explore different perspectives and visit websites for detailed information. Ensure that your website offers a user-friendly experience, fast loading times, and easy navigation. Make it easy for users to find related content and engage with your site.
- Build a strong brand presence: As SGE evolves, brand recognition and authority will become even more important. Focus on building a strong brand presence through consistent messaging, high-quality content, and engagement with your audience across various platforms. This can help attract users who prefer to trust established brands and seek their perspectives.
- Monitor and adapt: Keep a close eye on how SGE affects your website’s performance. Monitor changes in traffic, engagement metrics, and conversion rates. Analyze user behavior and adapt your strategies accordingly. Stay informed about updates from Google and adjust your SEO and content strategies to align with the evolving search landscape.
Remember, while SGE may introduce new challenges for site owners, it also presents opportunities to showcase expertise, provide unique perspectives, and engage with users who value deeper exploration. By adapting your approach and focusing on delivering high-quality content and a great user experience, you can continue to thrive in the evolving search ecosystem.