October 8, 2023

Understanding Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) and Its Potential Impact on SEO

Artificial intelligence has been the hottest topic of 2023 and for good reason. Since the public launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT on November 30, 2022, AI tools have exploded. 

Soon after ChatGPT’s launch, Microsoft announced a partnership between OpenAI and Bing. Not to be outdone, Google announced the limited launch of its own AI tools, including Search Generative Experience (SGE). Since then, other high-profile companies such as Snapchat and Meta have also announced AI tools will be part of future product development.

With the imminent public launch of SGE, those of us in digital marketing are asking ourselves what search will look like in the near future and how will it affect our clients and our business. Only one thing is clear at this point – search as we know it is going to change. 

The good news? From the SEO perspective, we believe the things we do now will still work and perhaps be even more important in the future.

Overview of Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE)

What exactly is Google’s Search Generative Experience? SGE is essentially adding an AI chatbot to Google search. It will provide answers to questions using machine learning. However, the new AI feature will also change the search user experience. The generative results will appear “above the fold” in the search engine results pages (SERPs), replacing the typical search results with dropdown menus of linked sources for the user.

A screen shot of Google's SGE results page

There is also a “snapshot carousel” near the AI result that provides links to related sources, much like Google search does today. The “blue links” that those of us in the SEO world obsess over have moved  “below the fold” on the SERP.

The AI tool also provides an opportunity to ask follow-up questions, letting users  continue the conversation about the topic being searched. According to Google, they expect SGE will help users “be able to understand a topic faster, uncover new viewpoints and insights, and get things done more easily.” 

Potential Impact of SGE on SEO

So, from the SEO side of things, what’s going to happen? 

As with a lot of things in the SEO business, we’re not entirely sure. The only thing that’s certain is that search will change in a big way sooner rather than later. We’re going to have unanswered questions until enough data is collected to make some good assumptions.

Writing in Search Engine Land, SEO expert Gilad David Maayan presented case studies his firm conducted earlier this year. The websites he studied saw a wide range of results. Some websites gained as much as 219% in traffic, while others lost as much as 95% of traffic. Maayan’s studies showed that, even in the best circumstances, websites could lose an average of 18% of organic sessions over current levels. His worst scenario showed a 64% drop. 

The bottom line is this: SGE will significantly impact traffic.

How Do We Prepare for SGE?

We think the answer to this question is to do the same things we’ve been doing…on steroids. Hyper-focusing on the fundamental principles of SEO looks like the way forward. But what does that really mean?

We have to start with Google’s recent helpful content update, which directs its algorithm to display search results from authoritative sources. Google has already expressed it promotes content that provides good value to users, and it’s rewarding the pages that have this type of content. Our fundamental SEO principles are going to be even more important when SGE goes live.

Optimizing for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) is paramount. E-E-A-T is not just a buzzword. It’s a crucial SEO framework that Google uses to assess website content.

Get Ready for SGE With These 4 Steps 

1. Introduce Your Experts

Ensuring your site’s content is written by knowledgeable experts in your field is the first step in optimizing for E-E-A-T. You should also clearly display authors’ credentials and provide easy access to related, authoritative resources to boost your credibility.

2. Toot Your Own Horn (Nicely)

For businesses, showcasing customer testimonials, certifications and awards can enhance your site’s authoritativeness and trustworthiness. You should also regularly update your content to ensure it reflects the most recent and reliable information in your industry.

3. Add Clear and Compelling Metadata

Creating enticing metadata is another crucial step toward SEO optimization for SGE. Metadata, including title tags and meta descriptions, plays a significant role in click-through rates. Craft unique, concise and compelling meta titles and descriptions that accurately reflect your page content. 

4. Tell Google More With Schema Markup

Utilizing relevant schema markup is essential in providing search engines with more information about your website’s content. 

Using structured data can enhance visibility and provide users with additional valuable information. Implement schema markup for articles, reviews, products, organizations, and other relevant content to improve your site’s search presence and performance in the new SGE era.

It should also be noted that, because of the nature of the way SGE search works, creating content that answers users’ questions comprehensively and authoritatively should help it rank well in SGE. 

One Page at a Time

As we understand it today, the best approach to SGE – either to get ready for its launch or assist affected pages in the future – seems to be working on one page at a time. There seems to be little to no value in making sweeping, site-wide changes since it’s truly the page level being affected.

To make an initial assessment, use Google Search Console to identify the pages that are driving the bulk of organic traffic to your site. Once you have that list, analyze each of those pages individually to determine the main keywords that are driving the most clicks to that page. Now, you can get to work optimizing that page based on data.

Once your work is complete, use AI to your advantage. You can use ChatGPT or other AI tools to analyze a specific page for SEO and implement the helpful content guidelines  Google has provided. This process can help uncover anything important you may have missed. You can also ask ChatGPT to compare your page against that of your competitors for an additional perspective!

SGE and the Future of SEO 

At the end of the day, we only know two things for certain:

  1. The widespread launch of SGE is imminent and likely rolling out at the end of 2023 or early 2024. 
  2. Organic traffic will be affected in some way.

There is also one thing we think we know: Good SEO principles will continue to produce solid results. All SEO practitioners know to expect change and learn how to adapt to it. SGE will be the biggest change in search in the past 20 years, but leaning on the fundamentals will help websites weather the storm.

If you feel that your website could use a boost in organic traffic, the team at Campaignium is ready to help. We’ll apply these principles to your site and send you soaring upward in the search results! Contact us today to learn more!


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