Google are really hitting us hard this year!
What with the launch of the new G4 Analytics platform, Google Bard (Google’s new chat-based AI tool), multiple algorithm updates, and new products and tools to get to grips with, you may be wondering ‘What else can Google be working on?’ – SGE is what’s coming next – and it’s big!
SGE is Google’s AI-powered search engine – the Search Generative Engine which will deliver the revolutionary Search Generative Experience (SGE) to Google users. This is the biggest change to search in 20 years. It is on the cusp of being rolled out at the end of this year.
Of all of the Google tools, updates and new products we have seen in 2023 – the one you need to be most focused on is SGE and the impact it could have on your business.
If the whispers across the water are found to be true, we won’t have long to wait for this exciting new search experience! SGE is scheduled to be rolled out from December 2023 in the US initially, then to other countries thereafter. So it’s time to get to work on adapting your SEO strategy in preparation for the new AI Search!
How will SGE change the way we search?
SGE will provide a different search experience to what we have become used to. SGE is designed to be more comprehensive, informative and conversational than the traditional Google search engine, and it will change the way people interact with Google Search and brands in several ways:
1. SGE will be more conversational and able to answer questions more directly.
Instead of just providing a list of links, SGE will be able to synthesise information from multiple sources and generate a comprehensive answer to your question.
Users will interact with SGE much like with Google Bard and ChatGPT, a conversational search where SGE will refine the results, carrying the context from previous searches.
For example, if you ask SGE “What is the best way to get to the airport?”, it might generate an answer that includes the different transportation options available, the estimated travel time, and the cost of each option. You can then ask ‘I need to get to the airport at 10am. What time does the nearest train depart to get there on time? SGE will continue the conversation, refining the answer as you progress.
2. SGE will be able to provide more personalised results.
By understanding your search history and other parameters, SGE will be able to tailor the results to your specific needs.
For example, if you’re looking to buy a specific make and model of car, SGE might show you results for the top features of the car, customer reviews, comparisons to other models, and where you can purchase the car with a price guide.
3. SGE will make it easier to explore complex topics.
If you’re interested in learning more about a particular topic, SGE can provide you with a variety of resources, including articles, videos, and images. It can also help you to connect with experts on the topic.
4. SGE will continue to serve ads and how these display will evolve over time.
Google has been recommending advertisers for some time to upgrade shopping campaigns to Performance Max campaigns, and to add image extensions and business logos to search ads. This is going to help increase your paid search brand visibility in SGE. For now, the ads will gain prominent placements above the AI generated response. There may also be some interspersed between other placements further down the page.
So all this sounds great, right?
Even now, Google is pretty good at getting us the information we want and getting it quickly – so to be even faster, and to deliver personalised experiences, and giving us resources at our fingertips to explore the topics we are interested in, sounds super exciting!
But here’s the thing. Google is running an experimental platform for some users in US, Japan and India so they can test their existing strategies in SGE and understand how SGE impact organic traffic and brand visibility.
The general consensus is that SGE is likely to have a negative impact on organic traffic for most sites. For some the losses may be as much as 60-80%.
How much do you rely on organic traffic to drive your business?
What would be the impact to your business if you lost organic traffic suddenly?
Would it rock the boat a little but you would survive without the traffic it generated?
Or would it be catastrophic, resulting in immediate loss of traffic, leads and maybe even sales?
The impact of SGE is going to be different for every business.
It would appear that certain niches are likely to be hit harder than others, however, for most of us, traffic loss is going to happen.
IT’S TIME TO TAKE ACTION
Listen, learn, analyse, adapt!
We are all going to have to learn new strategies to adapt to Search AI.
The SEO community is being rocked harder than it ever has before. Being in the UK, we do not have access to the experimental platform that other agencies are able to access across the water, so until that time comes, if it does at all, all we can do here is listen, learn, analyse and adapt.
I have personally invested a lot of time attending many webinars and Masterclasses in recent weeks to get to grips with SGE and to better understand how we can work with it in the future and get results for our clients.
It was called Overcoming the Google SGE Challenge – Assessment & Recovery Strategies.
In the study conducted by Agile SEO, 23 client websites were tested and showed an aggregate traffic drop as a result of SGE to be 18-64%. Some websites are losing as much as 95% of their organic search traffic.
- SGE writes answers to the user’s search query using Generative AI.
- Links to sources that ‘corroborate’ what Generative AI is saying is displayed as a snapshot image carousel with links to websites – these are positions 5-9.
- Over 50% of those links in the test are sites that are not currently ranking in Google Top 10 – so these are new entries that have entered results in these positions.
- SGE does not show for some queries. A recent study shows it is active for 70-90% of queries (depending on niche).
- We are not throwing SEO away, although technical SEO is beneficial, but it isn’t enough.
- Additional algorithms operate at page level without the need for site-wide changes. Factors at play include backlinks, internal links, meta data, social signals, page content influence SGE ranks.
- Factors might be different in different niches.
- For most websites, SGE is expected to negatively impact organic traffic.
What does SGE search page look like and where can my business feature?
The following screenshots and findings were taken from ‘Overcoming the Google SGE Challenge – Assessment & Recovery Strategies,’ webinar presented by Gilad David Maayan.
This is going to be the prime real-estate on the Internet. This is where you want your brand to be.
- Ads will still be prominent at the top of the page.
- A generative AI result will show beneath the ads and will be 3-4 paragraphs in length.
- Expandable links have been added to the generative AI result and are embedded in the generative AI text.
- Snapshot carousel showing image links to related content are shown on the right side of the page.
Recently added is the new Expandable links embedded in the Gen AI text.
This is good because it presents more opportunity for traffic. However, on the downside, the red box indicates the next set of results are ranking, but there is no click here so no opportunity for traffic or placement rank here, although good for brand awareness.
Where are the blue links – what we see now?
BELOW THE FOLD.
The user will have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see natural organic listings.
Because these results are below the fold (below all information Google considers to be more relevant and useful to the user), these results are unlikely to generate much traffic, if any.
Go Daddy did rank #1 for ‘Website Builder’ – the most competitive PPC keyword in the world.
Now they are below the fold. This will massively impact their organic traffic on this keyword.
Where is the Google map and Local Search Results?
As with the organic links, the Local Search Pack which displays the google map and the Top 5 ranking local websites is still going to feature (phew!), however its position is under the Google AI generated result. It looks to be the same as it is now, with the business name, a short description snippet and the review rating.
Businesses who wish to feature in the Top 5 Local Pack will need to be working harder at optimising their Google Business Profiles, ensuring continuity of business information, opening times, uploading photos/videos and posting into the profile regularly with useful content, whilst also encouraging customers to leave a positive review on Google.
How to prepare your business for SGE
Traditional SEO alone is no longer enough.
Google wants to provide the very best user experience. That means you need to truly connect with your target audience and establish authority in your niche.
Whizz Top Tips for Optimising your site for SGE:
- Write for users, not search engines.
- Optimise for mobile users.
- Tap into new opportunities for generating traffic on long-tail keywords and searches that are most relevant to your niche.
- Add structured data markup to important content, such as products, events, search queries and reviews.
- Optimise images and videos to the recommended formats and sizes.
- Follow Google’s Quality Content Guidelines E.E.A.T to make your content the best it can be for your users.
- Refresh your meta titles and descriptions to align with your new keyword strategy.
- Become an authority in your niche – create a content hub/resource centre that focuses on your niche and share your expertise.
- If targeting locally, optimise and regularly post content into your Google Business profile.
- Generate positive independent reviews.
- Increase interactions and engagement on social channels.
- Increase quality backlinks.
- Focus on engagement metrics in G4 analytics.
We believe in the power of strategy. Our SEO Content Strategy service is meticulously designed to ensure your business not only survives, but thrives in the evolving AI landscape.
Ready to get started? Let us show you how.
Header image source https://www.makeuseof.com/how-to-access-google-ai-powered-search/