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  • Writer's pictureAdriana Leos

How Google’s new Search Generative Experience (SGE) will impact your SEO strategy:

  • What is SGE?

  • How will SGE change user behavior?

  • Moving forward

  • Buyer expectations and stages of their search

  • What does this mean for you?

  • Ongoing efforts

  • SEO and success


It’s fairly safe to say that with the introduction of Google's new way to search, known as Search Generative Experience (SGE), this will not only impact user-behavior but SEO strategies as well.

To properly implement SEO, you must first understand what it is and the fundamentals of the concept; check out this blog for more on ‘everything that you need to know about SEO’.


So first and foremost, to understand how the new Google SGE update will impact your SEO strategy, let’s define what SGE is (which btw, is still in beta).

What is SGE?

Search Generative Experience, or SGE, is a new way to search with generative AI.

If you’re asking yourself, ‘what is generative AI?’:

Generative AI refers to a class of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that are designed to generate new content, such as images, text, audio, or video, that imitate content created by humans. These algorithms use techniques like deep learning to learn patterns and features from a dataset and then generate new content based on that learned information.

Generative AI can be used in various applications, for example think deepfake videos, creating realistic images or copy (like ChatGPT). But back to SGE. According to Google, “when using SGE, people will notice their search results page with familiar web results, organized in a new way to help them get more from a single search.” “With generative AI in search, people can:”

  • “ask new kinds of questions that are more complex and more descriptive”

  • “get the gist of a topic faster, with links to relevant results to explore further”

  • “get started on something you need to do quickly, like writing drafts or generating imagery right from where you’re searching”

  • “ask conversational follow-ups or try suggested next steps or click on related questions that will generate new answers”

  • “try out the search experience with voice typing or listen to the response being read aloud by the system”


Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE)

In the image, you can see that the new AI snapshot will now take up majority of the top-half of the fold on the search results page. This is the area where the SGE results will populate and link to various citations and sources.

As you keep searching, it will review what you have previously searched for and previously viewed in order to show you more specific results that are related to what you're interested in. This is similar to the typical stages of search that a person goes through when searching for a new service/product (which we will get to in a minute).

How will SGE change user behavior?

In the past, we’ve been accustomed to hearing the phrase that being “number one on Google” is the priority, (btw, this phrase refers to ranking placement and that the “number one on Google” is the first link or URL that you see in results on the search results page).

However, given that the new AI snapshot will push those search results further down the page, this is less likely to be the case.

It’s safe to assume that those links will now get fewer clicks as people will probably click on the new results presented to them in the AI snapshot (rather than the typical links listed below the center fold).

And, if Google is building this AI tool with the intended end-goal to be to provide the most helpful and useful result to a search query (or so they say), then the AI snapshot should (ideally) prove to be the superior option to use for search.

Moving forward

Recently Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan asked people on X (aka Twitter), how to explain to SEOs and content creators how to better say, "Do things for your audience. Don't ask what you should be doing for content for Google. Ask if what you're doing is to benefit your audience. That’s the right path." But try telling that to any small business owner who has been trying to rank their website on Google for the past decade. That's why, regardless of what Google’s Search Liaison tells you, the goals should lie in this intersection: search engine expectations (think – keyword research, alt text, H1’s), audience expectations (think MQLs, links, referral traffic), and buyer expectations (think SQLs and conversions).

  • MQLs = marketing qualified lead or someone who is interested in your product/solution.

  • SQLs = sales qualified leads or someone who is interested and intends to purchase.

The real pain is that no one really likes to have to “work for an algorithm” or manipulate their work simply to please an algorithm. However, given the vast amount of content that is being published (and will only continue to rise in the age of AI) - this is what it means to meet a “search engine’s expectations” (at least to some extent). For instance, this might mean taking the time to do real keyword research with a tool like SEMRush and including relevant keywords or phrases. Because you don’t want to simply throw around and overstuff your work with keywords just because they’re relevant – there should always be a natural use of language and some strategy behind it.

This also means taking the time to ensure that your work is fully optimized (we’re tired of that phrase as well but it’s true). This means optimizing things like Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, Headers, Sub-headings, images, etc.,

In terms of audience expectations, this simply means to gauge and align your content with your audience’s interests. The more interested someone is to view your work/product, the more likely they are to click on the link and view it/learn more and share it with a friend – all of which then helps to increase its relevance and visibility.

In terms of buyer expectations, this means also learning to gauge and align your content with your buyer’s interests and expectations. Do they have all that they need to make a confident purchase and/or decision to work with you?

Let’s dive deeper into it.

Buyer expectations and stages of their search

To learn more about how to properly meet your buyer’s expectations, let’s discuss the ‘typical’ stages of search that a person goes through before they make a purchase.

Use the graphic as a visual to illustrate an example of how someone moves through the search cycle from the beginning stage or "awareness" stage and how they slowly move all the way through to making a purchase.


Stages of the search cycle

In this example, a person searching for the keyword “shoes” is more than likely just browsing (or in the awareness stage) - they are just now aware that they are in need or want a new product.

You will notice that the later stages that a person moves into, the more specific their search term becomes. And this is because most people will refine their search term rather than continue on to page 2 or 3 of Google search results. Think about it, when you go to Google or Amazon and you’re just browsing for a certain product but you’re not exactly sold on any particular brand just yet, you might type a generic search term like “running shoes,” versus when you already know the exact thing or brand that you want to buy, you might instead search something like, “black high top converse size 7.”

Again, the further you move through the search cycle, the more specific your search term becomes. So then by stage 4, you're at the preference stage and probably deciding between a brand like Nike, Adidas or ASICS (you get the point). Whatever it is – you now have a preference and are starting to know exactly what you want to purchase, and at this point you practically have your wallet out.

Example:

  • Search term 1: “shoes”

  • Search term 2: “running shoes”

  • Search term 3: “women’s running shoes size 7”

  • Search term 4: “Nike Free women’s running shoes size 7”

What does this mean for you?

Essentially this shows us that rather than relying on surface level short-tail inputs (or ‘head’ terms), start to lean into more long-tail phrases.

Why?

  • they tend to convert more

  • they provide opportunities to include more "broad,” surface-level or short keywords into one long-tail phrase

  • this will be the content that will start to populate in SGE’s AI snapshot results

This also shows us that most importantly, even in the world of AI, this is where being a human and having human input still wins. Because humans can and do produce and publish unique ideas, thoughts, and perspectives.

Whereas those who solely use an LLM like ChatGPT to produce their content (without including any new and original thoughts or perspective, coupled with thousands of others doing the same thing), they will all be left with the same (if not close enough to the exact same) content that thousands of others are also publishing to their website.

So, when SGE then uses its AI to scan the web to locate the most ideal content to provide in its search results or AI snapshot, it’s more than likely not going to choose something generic that has been published by thousands of different people, all saying the exact same thing.

Instead, it’s looking for content that is helpful, and more likely to provide a concrete answer from someone that is able to expand upon a topic and demonstrate that they are an authority in their industry or specific field (simply put, they know what they’re talking about).

Ultimately, this means that ongoing efforts are still as important as ever in the world of SEO.

Ongoing efforts

There’s a common misconception that all you have to do is optimize your website for SEO once and you’re good to go. Hate to break it to you, but this simply is not true.

First, understand that SEO integration ensures that your website itself is fully optimized to be indexed by search engines; (this tells search engines or lets Google know that there is content published on the internet that needs to be crawled and indexed). But this doesn’t mean that just because you optimized your website once, all of a sudden, you’ll be on the first page on Google.


It takes ongoing efforts, time, and energy to start to get your website to rank and to improve SEO.


For example, blogging.

Blogs are great for SEO as they give you the space to include relevant keywords and helpful content for visitors. They also help to position your site as a leader in your industry as blogs provide the opportunity to make your website a relevant site that has the answers to your customer’s or industry’s common questions or queries.

Another example of ongoing SEO efforts is through social media and content marketing.

There is a correlation between social media and higher ranking in search results as social media is a great tool to use to drive traffic to your website and naturally enhance SEO (however, correlation does not mean causation).

But when you think about it, it makes sense.

For example, using social media is a great way to increase brand awareness simply by creating content and posting it to the internet for others to see. Not only will people begin to come across your brand, but they will become more familiar with it.

Social media is also a great way to increase your overall online presence. The more platforms that you’re active on, the wider the audience you will reach, and again, more and more people will become more familiar with your brand.

SEO and success

To see real success in SEO, first determine a domain level content strategy.

A domain level content strategy is a high-level vision of the overall website's theme that guides content creation to meet specific business goals and objectives. A strong domain level content strategy should be based on a core theme, be aligned with your brand’s values, goals, objectives, mission, and vision.

Doing so will help to guide things such as keyword research, determining which platforms to engage on, and will help establish content pillars (or categories) for content creation.

Additionally, this will help you to link related content to each other, on and off your website, to increase authority around topics, enhance user experience, and be consistent with strong branding.

Overall, a successful SEO strategy involves incorporating both on-page and off-page SEO techniques, a strong domain level content strategy, and a quality content marketing strategy.

Coupled together, this will all help to increase your website's ranking, drive more organic traffic to the site, and establish your site as a trustworthy and authoritative source in the eyes of both the audience and search engines.

Do you have an SEO strategy in place that you are fully confident in? If not, grab a spot on our calendar to help you 1:1. We’ll take 75 minutes and dive deep into your strategy, build out a plan and ensure that your online presence is well optimized and that you're making the most out of your time and energy in order to effectively market your business.

Interested in learning more at your own pace? Check out our 1-hour course SEO Made Simple for all the basics you need to know about SEO.




written by:

Adriana Leos

Chief Creative Officer

vznayres

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