Google’s Search Generative Experience provides AI-generated answers to queries. It’s conversational AI search, in other words, an AI-driven answer engine. Bard, Google’s AI chatbot, powers SGE.
Google launched a limited SGE trial in May 2023 and has since finetuned the layout and responses. A full worldwide rollout is coming, making SGE the future of search.
With that in mind, here are my observations based on extensive SGE testing.
Google’s organic results are not going anywhere, although AI-generated responses:
- Push organic results further down the page,
- Include visual elements such as related images and videos,
- Add links as references for additional info.
SGE’s AI answers are featured snippets on steroids. The answers include “Ask a follow-up,” encouraging searchers to explore the topic further.
Unlike featured snippets, SGE’s answers:
- Include products, maps, and other info based on the perceived search intent,
- Surface user-generated content such as Reddit threads, Quora answers, and customer reviews.
Moreover, SGE answers don’t always answer the query. For example, searching for “best laptops” in SGE includes results such as:
- “RAM vs. Processor — Which Is More Important to Your Business?”
- “What is the importance of a keyboard mouse with a computer?”
- “Computer Basics: Laptop Computers.”
Those results may help a searcher make an informed decision, but they don’t directly respond to the initial query of recommending a laptop.
In June, I reviewed AI-powered search engines. Instead of simply ranking results based on their relevance to a query, AI search provided a wider range of answers. That, I concluded, was the future of search. The latest version of SGE confirms that prediction.
SEO for SGE
SGE uses Google’s existing framework and infrastructure, such as:
- Indexed web pages,
- Knowledge graph, including known entities and associated concepts,
- Shopping results from Google Merchant Center using sellers’ product feeds,
- Map results from Google Business Profile, formerly Google My Business.
Thus optimizing for organic search is largely unchanged:
- Create relevant content addressing the needs of your target customers,
- Optimize product pages and categories based on those users,
- Structure the site to surface pages based on the audience,
- Use Google’s submission tools to ensure content is indexed and thus visible to Bard.
- Obtain external backlinks, as they drive Google Discover and the knowledge graph, among other benefits. Backlinks are especially important for co-citation links in SGE’s results, which place your site next to known entities, thereby making the association.
Google will likely alter SGE many times before the public launch. But SGE’s fundamentals remain and will continue relying on Google’s data. It will encourage clicks to external sites. Despite popular belief, it is not in Google’s interest to keep searchers on its site. Google’s entire revenue model (advertising) relies on clicks.
Organic Search Changes
What will change?
Organic search results will likely become more unpredictable. Thus far, SGE’s answers differ depending on the searcher, making it seemingly impossible to know what folks clicked to reach a landing page.
Buying journeys will be more complicated. This trend is not new, as Google increasingly serves diverse results that distract searchers from their initial intent. The dynamic nature of AI answers will extend journeys even more.