Artificial intelligence will have an increasingly pronounced impact on the world in the coming years, and marketing certainly won’t be insulated from
Indeed, marketers and the work they do have already been feeling the influence of AI for a number of years. One particular segment of the industry that looks set to experience major AI-driven change in the near future is search engine optimisation (SEO).
This will be fuelled – at least in part – by Google and its Search Generative Experience (SGE) project.
Need help with SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION?
Get in touch with Axonn.
What is Search Generative Experience?
Google describes SGE as an “early step” in its efforts to transform the search experience through generative AI – a class of artificial intelligence that includes models capable of creating text, audio, images and other content based on input training data. ChatGPT is one of the most prominent examples.
Currently being tested in Google Search Labs, SGE is intended to enrich the search engine experience by giving users more comprehensive and useful results from a single query.
Google has said it wants to help people ask new types of questions in search, embark on deeper explorations of their topics of interest and “get more done easily”.
How does SGE work?
In its current experimental form, SGE is designed to enhance the Google search experience with a range of features, including:
- AI-powered snapshots that give people an overview of their search topic or question, drawing on a range of sources. Links to resources with corroborating information allow users to explore in more depth and access a broader selection of content.
- Conversational mode, which uses AI to build an evolving understanding of search intent and point the user towards the most relevant content, based on follow-up questions and context from previous queries.
- Vertical experiences, designed to support activities such as shopping and local searches, which are likely to involve a range of factors and potentially complex purchasing decisions.
- Search ads that will continue to be marked as ‘sponsored’ and distinguished from organic results, and will also “serve as additional sources of useful information”, according to Google.
What does Search Generative Experience mean for SEO?
It’s important for any business that invests in content marketing – and SEO in particular – to be aware of any significant changes Google makes to its search experience and methodology.
The simple reason for this is that, given its sheer size and influence, any direction Google moves in will shape not only the world of internet search, but digital marketing as a whole. Brands therefore need to stay up to date with how initiatives like SGE could impact key elements of their marketing strategies, such as search ads, organic traffic generation and overall user experience.
Higher rankings will be more important than ever
Since SGE is (at the time of writing) still in the testing phase, it’s impossible to say with certainty how it will affect content marketing and SEO.
However, it has been predicted that the incorporation of this generative AI technology into search will make high rankings in results pages even more crucial than they are now.
The AI snapshot element of Google SGE will bring together a summary of information from pages that have been judged to be particularly relevant to the user query. These pages will be presented in a carousel format.
There is likely to be intense competition between brands looking to drive traffic and build authority by getting their pages featured in these snapshots.
You will need authority to succeed
Google says that SGE will “strive for the highest bar for information quality”.
It’s safe to assume, then, that only sources deemed by the search engine’s various algorithms to be of high authority and reliability will be rewarded with a prominent place in AI search results.
Building brand and domain authority can only be a good thing in marketing, and SEO in particular.
Consider steps you can take to bolster your reputation as an authoritative source of information, such as:
- Investing in high-quality content creation, to ensure you’re answering your target audience’s most common questions and recognising their search intent.
- Looking for opportunities to contribute thought leadership and other pieces to other websites with high domain authority.
- Running a link audit to ensure all links to and from your website are working correctly and don’t associate your brand with disreputable sources.
Potential challenges to organic traffic
There are still many unknowns about SGE, but one possibility that marketers may need to prepare for is a reduction in organic traffic.
If a user’s search query is answered comprehensively by an AI snapshot appearing at the top of a results page, they could be less likely to click through to specific websites to learn more. Moreover, they will have to scroll further down the page to get past the snapshot and see the full listings.
This could result in brands looking at other ways to drive website traffic, such as investing in paid advertising or link-building strategies.
The first, known simply as message ads, involves a single call-to-action and suits those looking to attach a lead gen form to capture data quickly. Alternatively, conversation ads allow for multiple CTAs and help users to feel engaged with your organisation.
How could your business benefit from Search Generative Experience?
It’s certainly possible that SGE could give rise to new challenges and questions for digital marketers to answer. However, it could also create opportunities to build stronger relationships and deliver more positive experiences for your customers.
A more complete user experience
Google’s intention with its new AI search project is to give its users a deeper and more rewarding experience, making it easier for them to connect to “the richness and vibrancy of content on the web”.
If you’re able to earn a prominent position in search results and your website becomes a part of this enhanced user experience, it could prove highly valuable for your brand and how it’s perceived.
Compelling shopping journeys
One of the existing foundations on which SGE is built is Google’s Shopping Graph, a vast dataset comprising products, sellers, brands, reviews and more.
The AI search function will draw on this information to display noteworthy factors to customers and present product options. It goes without saying that any business looking to drive online sales would have a lot to gain from SGE showcasing its inventory.
Enhanced local search
If local SEO is among your company’s top marketing priorities, you could benefit greatly from the introduction of SGE, seeing as enriching local searches and experiences is one of the stated goals of the project.
Google will draw on AI-powered insights to add extra dimensions and features to local searches, including new ways for users to compare and explore options in their chosen area.
Upgraded search functions and experiences could open up new opportunities to connect with your target audience and build lasting customer relationships.