What Is Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) and How Does It Affect SEO?

SEO is an ever-changing landscape, especially with rapid advancements like artificial intelligence and now with Google’s Search Generative Experience adding new layers of complexity.

Recently, a report by Insight Partners made a rather alarming prediction: Organic search traffic will decline a lot due to Google’s new experiment they call “Search Generative Experience” (SGE).

But is it time to hit the panic button? Let’s dissect the situation and what it really means for businesses and digital marketing professionals.


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Kim Cooper
Director of Marketing, Amazon Alexa

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What the Heck Is Search Generative Experience?

Search Generative Experience (SGE) is a new way to search the web using generative AI. Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence that can create new content, such as text, images and code. SGE uses generative AI to provide more comprehensive and informative answers to your search queries.

For example, if you search for “how to make a paper airplane,” SGE will not only provide you with a list of links to websites with instructions, but it will also generate a step-by-step guide with images and videos. Or, if you search for “what is the meaning of life,” SGE will provide you with a variety of different perspectives on this question from philosophers, theologians and scientists.

Here are just a few of the ways SGE is intended to help search engine users:

  • Understand complex topics quickly: SGE can generate summaries of complex topics, such as scientific papers or historical events, in a way that is easy to understand. This can save you a lot of time and effort, especially if you are new to a topic.
  • Compare and contrast different options: SGE can help you compare and contrast different products, services or ideas. This can be helpful when making decisions, such as which car to buy or which university to attend.
  • Get creative: SGE can help you generate creative ideas, such as recipes, blog post topics or even code snippets. This can be helpful if you are looking for inspiration or if you need to get started on a project.
  • Add to Sheets function: This feature allows you to “insert a search result directly into a spreadsheet and share with friends. It’s your perfect research companion for planning a trip and adding info to your itinerary, or keeping track of other information you’ve found on Search.”:
SGE add to sheets feature

SGE is still under development, but it has the potential to revolutionize the way we search the web. By making it easier to understand and learn from information, SGE is meant to help streamline the search process and help users get the answers to their questions faster.

Here’s an example of how SGE might look in the SERPs:

how SGE might look in the SERPs

This SGE search format – basically a combo of Google search and ChatGPT is not unlike Perplexity.ai:

Perplexity AI search Perplexity3

Related Content: Generative Engine Optimization (GEO): The Future of SEO

SEO vs SGE

While SEO is an established field with well-defined practices, SGE represents a new frontier in search, driven by advancements in generative AI. As SGE continues to evolve, its impact on traditional SEO practices and strategies will be an area of ongoing interest and adaptation for professionals in the field.

Here’s an at-a-glance look at the differences between SGE and SEO:

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Examples of How SGE Is Being Used

These examples illustrate how SGE is currently being used in different industries:

Retail and Ecommerce:

  • SGE can provide detailed product overviews, reviews and recommendations to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions.
  • It can also generate personalized shopping lists, gift ideas and style recommendations based on user preferences and search history.

Travel and Hospitality:

  • SGE can deliver tailored information about local attractions, restaurants, hotels and transportation options based on a user’s location and search context.
  • It can also provide real-time updates on flight status, hotel availability and other travel-related details.

Healthcare and Wellness:

  • SGE can offer summaries of medical conditions, treatment options and lifestyle advice, while also providing disclaimers about the need for professional medical advice.
  • It can help users research symptoms, find nearby healthcare providers and understand medication information.

Finance and Banking:

  • SGE can assist users in understanding financial concepts, comparing products like loans and credit cards, and providing personalized budgeting tips.
  • It can also help users research investment options, plan for retirement and manage their personal finances.

Education and Research:

  • SGE can provide concise overviews of academic topics, generate study guides and practice questions, and connect users with relevant educational resources.
  • It can also help students with research tasks, such as summarizing key points from sources and suggesting additional materials to explore.

For example, it allows users to fine-tune their translation attempts by offering a choice of meaning in the words they’re looking up:

Image6

These are just a few examples of how SGE is being leveraged across different industries to enhance the user experience by providing more personalized and efficient access to information.

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SEO’s Future: A Decline in Traffic?

According to Insight Partners’ analysis, the SERPs are increasingly dominated by Google-owned properties and paid ads, pushing organic results further down the page.

They predict that SGE will impact the amount of traffic being funneled to websites.

They foresee that organic search traffic will decline by 15-25% due to Google’s evolving algorithm and the introduction of this “new experiment,” Search Generative Experience:

Google SERP with search generative experience

But how accurate is this projection?

Here’s an interesting stat: Insight Partners’ study found that only 57% of links cited by SGE are from the first page of organic search results. Furthermore, they note that the evolution towards a zero-click SERP could mean less overall traffic reaching your web page.

Danny Sullivan’s Counter Argument

While Insight Partners may paint a somewhat gloomy picture, it’s worth considering other perspectives.

Danny Sullivan, the public liaison for search at Google, once pointed out that Google has driven more traffic to websites each year since its inception — even considering all the changes to its algorithms. The essence of this argument is that although Google is capturing a larger share of clicks for itself, its sheer growth and popularity mean that there’s still plenty of organic traffic to go around.

So what’s the X-factor many people are missing?

Google’s changes are designed to improve user experience.

For instance, when you type in “Los Angeles weather,” Google directly shows the weather data instead of directing you to a weather website. Although this reduces the number of clicks going to websites, it increases user satisfaction, driving more search queries and, consequently, traffic over time.

Screenshot of today's weather from Google

Search Generative Experience is considered to be the next frontier in search experience, especially with Google increasingly using AI in its algorithms.

As a step towards adapting to this new landscape, Insight Partners recommends signing up for Google Search Labs and engaging with SGE to understand how it impacts search behavior and results.

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Not doing anything about this could put you at a disadvantage, especially since Google plans to roll out SGE in limited circumstances for additional data collection and product tweaking.

Potential Challenges and Solutions with SGE in SEO

The SGE impact on SEO presents several potential challenges for businesses accustomed to traditional search engine optimization strategies. These include:

  • Understanding the Technology: The foundation of SGE lies in complex generative AI and natural language processing technologies. Businesses must grasp how these technologies work to understand how their content might be presented in search results.
  • Content Strategy Adaptation: SGE might prioritize the quality, context and comprehensiveness of content differently than traditional SEO, which could mean businesses will need to focus more on the depth and breadth of information rather than on keyword optimization and backlink strategies.
  • Loss of Direct Traffic: Since SGE can provide answers directly in the search results using AI-generated responses, users might not need to click through to a website for more information. This could lead to a decrease in direct traffic, affecting websites that rely heavily on page views for ad revenue or engagement metrics.
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  • Predictability and Control: With SEO, businesses have a clearer understanding of how changes to their website and content might influence their search rankings. SGE introduces a level of unpredictability, as it’s not entirely clear how generative AI models decide to synthesize content from various sources.
  • Measurement and Analytics: Tracking the effectiveness of content and understanding user behavior may become more complicated with SGE. Traditional metrics like click-through rates and keyword rankings might not fully capture the value or performance of content within a generative search framework.
  • Keeping Up with Evolving Algorithms: As machine learning and AI algorithms behind SGE continue to evolve, staying informed and adapting to these changes can be challenging. Businesses will need to remain agile and possibly invest more in ongoing learning and strategy adjustments.
  • Competition for Featured Snippets: With a potential increase in the value placed on being the source of information for featured snippets in an SGE context, competition for these spots may intensify. Businesses will need to refine their approach to securing these coveted positions.
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  • Ethical and Privacy Concerns: Generative AI’s use of content to train models and generate answers raises questions about copyright, data privacy, and the ethical use of information. Businesses must navigate these concerns carefully, especially those in industries with stringent regulations.

Addressing these challenges requires businesses to be flexible, innovative, and proactive in their approach to content creation and online presence. Here are some practical solutions and mitigation strategies that brands can employ:

✅ Invest in Understanding AI and NLP: Educate your team about generative artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and how they impact search. Understanding these technologies can help in crafting content that aligns with how SGE processes and presents information.

✅ Evolve Content Strategies: Emphasize content that demonstrates your expertise and authority in your field, which is likely to be valued by both traditional SEO and SGE. Prioritize creating in-depth content that thoroughly answers user questions and covers topics comprehensively.

✅ Diversify Traffic Sources: Do not rely solely on search traffic. Expand your presence on social media, email newsletters, and other digital platforms to drive traffic and engagement.

✅ Optimize for Featured Snippets and Rich Answers: Structure content to be easily digestible by AI, using clear headings, bullet points, and answering questions directly. This can increase your chances of being featured in snippets and AI-generated summaries.

✅ Feedback Loops and User Engagement: Encourage user feedback and engagement on your platform to gain insights into what works. User interaction can provide valuable data on content effectiveness and areas for improvement.

Predictions for Future Developments

How will SGE impact SEO?

As Google SGE evolves, it’s pretty clear that it’ll reshape the search landscape by enhancing personalization and understanding user context with unprecedented precision. This evolution will cause a shift in SEO strategies towards creating content that addresses a broader spectrum of user intents and optimizing multimodal content, including text, images, videos and audio, to be more accessible to AI’s indexing capabilities.

The emphasis on SGE based search will increasingly be on producing content that not only answers questions directly, perfect for featured snippets, but also underscores quality and accuracy.

Future developments in SGE suggest a trend towards more interactive and dynamic search experiences, including voice and conversational searches, which will challenge SEO professionals to optimize for natural language queries. Moreover, the integration of SGE with emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) hints at new frontiers for SEO, where content must be optimized for visibility and engagement within these virtual environments.

Finally, as the SGE environment expands, ethical and privacy considerations will grow in importance, and it will certainly behoove businesses to adopt transparent practices. Adapting to these changes will require a keen eye on innovation and an agile approach to SEO strategy, focusing on flexibility and the ability to anticipate the needs of both users and evolving AI technologies.

The Real Takeaway: Diversification Is Key

So, is SEO dead or dying?

Far from it. Yes, it’s getting more complex and competitive, but that’s true for many digital marketing channels. Insight Partners’ report shouldn’t serve as a prophecy of doom, but as a call to diversify your digital marketing strategies.

You should not solely rely on SEO for traffic and leads. Think about where your audience spends their time online and optimize for those channels, whether it’s social media, email or other content platforms.

And what about SGE? While it’s crucial to understand and adapt to this emerging technology, it’s also important not to lose sight of the fundamentals of good SEO and content marketing: providing value to your audience.

Search Generative Experience or not, value will always be a currency that attracts and retains audiences.

Last Word on Google’s Search Generative Experience

At the end of the day, Google’s objective aligns with ours — providing the best possible answer to a user’s query. Even as they strive to improve their algorithm and user experience, they’re not about to marginalize the content creators who make their service valuable. After all, Google needs high-quality content to retain its user base and, by extension, its advertising business.

So, is the sky falling? Probably not. But the ground is definitely shifting, and adapting to those shifts is what will set you apart in the SEO landscape.

If you’re ready to boost your online visibility and drive business growth, Single Grain’s AI SEO experts can help!👇

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SGE FAQs

  • What is Google search generative experience?

    Google SGE represents a cutting-edge evolution in search engine technology, leveraging generative AI to enhance the traditional search results. By integrating large language models similar to those used in natural language processing, this experience aims to provide more context-rich, relevant and nuanced answers to user queries.

    Instead of merely presenting a list of links, the AI-powered search feature generates comprehensive summaries and answers directly related to the query. This is particularly useful for complex questions where a direct answer, drawn from various sources, can be more helpful than sifting through individual links. It signifies a significant step in improving search efficiency and accuracy, powered by machine learning and advanced AI algorithms.

  • How do I enable generative AI in Google search?

    Enabling generative AI in Google Search typically involves adjusting your search settings to opt into the generative experience. To enable the Google Generative AI search feature:

    1. Go to the Google Labs website, scroll down to “SEARCH POWERED BY GENERATIVE AI” and click on “Get Started.”
    2. In the Generative AI section, click the “Sign Up” button to register for the feature. Note: If you get the message “Search Labs isn’t available for your account right now”, you might need to join a beta or update your preferences to access this feature.
    3. Once registered, go to the Google homepage and click the “Settings” option at the bottom right.
    4. Select “Search Settings” and scroll down to find the “Google AI Search” section. Enable it and click “Save” at the bottom.

    After following these steps, the Generative AI search results will now appear when you conduct a Google search.

    Since the availability and method can vary based on region and device, it’s recommended to check Google’s official support or help pages for the most current instructions tailored to your specific situation.

If you were unable to find the answer you’ve been looking for, do not hesitate to get in touch and ask us directly.
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