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What Is SGE And Why You Should Care

Keeping up with AI innovation seems like a full-time job lately. Left and right, companies are adopting machine learning capabilities. Headlines are buzzing about AI possibilities. It’s hard to cut through the noise and determine what matters when it comes to your digital marketing strategy.

Of course, Google is no exception to the AI craze. As the hype of ChatGPT refuses to die, Google has unveiled similar technology with Bard. It’s important to understand how the new Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) fits into your overall digital marketing strategy and what it means for your business.

What is the difference between a “search” engine and an “answer” engine?

It’s no secret that in a world of instant gratification, we have similar expectations from our search engines. People want answers to their problems fast. They don’t want to spend hours—or even seconds—parsing through pages of results and “searching” for the answer. Unsurprisingly, over 25% of people are turning to Google as an answer engine instead of a search engine.

But what exactly does that mean? As you likely know, search engines use an algorithm to provide contextually relevant results based on the keywords you used. On the contrary, answer engines use artificial intelligence to answer complex questions at the moment of the search.

Here’s how it works. Artificial intelligence uses natural language processing, so it can understand user intent at a more sophisticated level than search engines. For example, if you search for the weather on a search engine, you’ll get links to different weather websites. An answer engine would know your exact location and tell you it’s 72 degrees Fahrenheit and raining at the moment wherever you are on the planet.

What is SGE (Search Generative Experience)?

As you could have guessed by now, Google wants to use AI to better serve the demands of the searcher. Instead of solely perusing links for answers, Google wants to integrate on-demand answers. Cue the Google Search Generative Experience. Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) is a new AI-powered search experience. Rather than creating an answer engine, SGE incorporates the power of AI to enhance Google’s existing search engine.

Three components make up the new SGE: AI snapshot, conversational mode, and vertical experiences.

AI Snapshot

Normally, asking Google a complex question requires multiple searches. To understand your query, Google needs to break down each part of your query. For example, if you’re contemplating renting an apartment or a house in the Atlanta area, you would have to perform several searches instead of outright asking, “Should I rent an apartment or buy a house in the Atlanta metro area?” AI snapshot allows you to type in this question verbatim with an AI-generated answer weighing the pros and cons of both options.

The AI Snapshot gives faster and more comprehensive answers. It uses generative text to ask long-form questions. This snapshot doesn’t just plagiarize an AI answer though. It still draws attention to existing links but helps you find the answer to your complex questions faster.

Conversational Mode

Take the AI snapshot to the next level by engaging in conversational mode. If you have a follow-up question to an AI snapshot, ask through this mode. Google can retain information from your previous searches and your conversation. If they got the AI snapshot intent wrong, let Google know. Google conversational mode will change the results based on what you tell it.

For example, you might type in a query to Google about “the best polish.” The initial AI snapshot might show you a summary of some of the best things to do while visiting Poland. If this is not right, engage in conversational mode and tell Google you wanted to know the best nail polishes. They can recommend products in the chat instead.

Vertical Experiences

Business owners who sell products will want to pay careful attention to the power of Vertical Experiences. This element of SGE combines both the informational AI snapshot with shopping suggestions.

For example, if you’re searching for a new vacuum that’s good at picking up pet hair, you turn to Google. SGE scans all products housed in Google’s Shopping Graph and delivers a customized vertical experience.

The vertical experience has an informative snippet about the qualities in a vacuum you’d be looking for. It would also recommend several products from the shopping graph that match their AI snapshot. Each product would also include an AI-generated summary.

How Do I Access SGE?

Accessing the new search generative experience is relatively easy. Navigate to Google Labs. Find the SGE tab and toggle it on. You may be immediately opted in or you may have to join a waitlist. This experiment is currently opt-in only. That means as of right now, not everyone is automatically going to use SGE. With time and future iterations, SGE will likely become a default function of Google.

The Pros and Cons of SGE

We hear about the monumental possibilities of AI and its spooky downsides. SGE is no exception. Like any new technology, there are pros and cons for your business. Since SGE is brand new, the gravity of these pros and cons will become more apparent with time.

Pros

Enhanced Search Results

It goes without saying that SGE has the possibility to massively enhance search results. The combination of AI Snapshot, Conversational Mode, and Vertical Experience adds complexity and nuance to the existing search format. Google users get faster, personalized, and more comprehensive search results with SGE.

Big Business Opportunity

Given the nature of these new features, businesses can benefit from SGE. If your business starts using SGE now, you can work on optimizing your website to be featured in SGE results. Imagine the impact of getting your products to rank in the Vertical Experience feed or in Conversational Mode first!

Centers the User

Google has always been about satisfying user inquiries and giving them relevant results. The advent of SGE only furthers the user experience. AI is curtailed towards exactly what the user is looking for. It makes it less likely that a person has to parse through multiple websites looking for the answer they want. As users find exactly what they’re looking for, this has only positive implications for your web traffic. Hyper-focused search results can help your target audience find your website with ease.

Cons

Can’t give advice or instruction

The appeal and interest of ChatGPT is its human-like application of knowledge. Unlike ChatGPT, SGE cannot give advice or instruction to users. Many people love the advice feature of ChatGPT and will ask it for anything, such as help with planning a vacation. Trying to do the same with SGE will only yield a series of links. Also, if a user asks a question of sensitive nature, SGE will not give an AI snapshot in response.

Takes Search Aspect Away

The transition away from solely searching on a search engine threatens the very nature of the purpose of companies like Google. By encouraging quick answers, users can get dependent on fast responses. This means optimizing towards SEO and the evolving “answer engines” becomes integral as a business owner. Google will still suggest links, but they may become more selective when prioritizing fast answers.

Still in The Early Stages

Like all AI, SGE is still in the testing phase. That being said, many unknowns remain when using it. SGE has the potential to suggest wrong, misleading, or biased answers if it goes unchecked. It’s essential to take the initial stages of SGE with a grain of salt as it gets up and running.

Google Vs Bing

Once considered the lesser of the two search engine giants, Bing won the initial AI battle. Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI, the company that created ChatGPT, is a major win for the company. Thanks to the new Microsoft Edge browser, Bing users seamlessly incorporate ChatGPT into their web browsers. As users navigate search results on Bing, ChatGPT is integrated into their search results.

The popularity of ChatGPT makes it a challenge for Google and SGE. Especially since ChatGPT can give advice and instructions, SGE has a lot to compete with. It’s possible that more marketers will migrate towards Bing optimizations, as people prefer ChatGPT. Time will tell how SGE’s integration into Google compares with Bing’s integration with ChatGPT.

How Will SGE Affect My Business?

With all this talk about SGE, you’re probably wondering how this will affect your current digital marketing efforts. Don’t panic. Your strategy isn’t trashed, but it is time to start thinking of the future.

SEO

Undoubtedly, the impact of SGE will impact organic traffic. Once Google gives immediate responses to certain results, it can alter your SEO efforts. Organic traffic and page view metrics will likely shift as we know it. Less time will be spent scrolling through articles. But it’s unclear how big that impact will be just yet. This isn’t a reason to worry right now but rather should be a motivator to focus on making user-friendly and SEO-friendly content now.

Now is not the time to slow down on SEO efforts. It’s also a great time to optimize answers as well. How to best optimize content for the new SGE experience is still in the beginning stages. But we know that AI-generated snapshots will reward concise explanations for common searches.

Retaining a high-ranking spot in search results is becoming more important than ever with SGE. The best way to do so is by providing relevant content to users. This is no different from typical SEO work! Invest in good quality content that satisfies your target audience’s questions and Google will continue to reward you.

Local SEO

It’s not all doom and gloom with SEO, especially if you’re a local business. The on-demand nature of SGE has the possibility of revolutionizing your local SEO strategy. Historically, ranking your local business is tough in a sea of competition. But retained memory from conversations, personalization, and a greater understanding of context with SGE can benefit a local business while users are looking for local suggestions.

Now is an exciting time for local businesses to start optimizing their websites. They stand to benefit from the user-centric focus of SGE.

Google Ads

Don’t sweat, Google is committed to still showing ads in their dedicated ad spots. SGE won’t affect the placement of your ads. However, like SEO, you’ll want to consider how SGE will continue to revolutionize Google Ads in the future. Google is increasingly turning to AI for ad campaigns. Performance Max is a perfect example of what Google is optimizing towards. Google uses its entire ad inventory to dynamically place ads with conversions in mind.

If you haven’t already, now is a good time to play around with Google’s AI offerings like Performance Max. More AI optimizations from Google are likely to come with ad formats, attribution, and targeting.

AI innovation is here, so it’s a good time to have digital marketing experts on your side. The Make It Loud team is here to help you learn how AI can work for your business. Contact us at 678.325.4007 to learn how we can help you achieve your digital marketing goals.


Cliff Tillery, MBA is the Chief Operating Officer and SEO Director at Make It Loud which is a digital marketing firm located outside of Atlanta Georgia. More than 14 years ago, he started search engine optimization at this award-winning agency and has taught digital marketing skills to business owners at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the Gwinnett Entrepreneur Center and other groups.

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