It has been 25 years since Google launched its search engine, revolutionizing how people access information on the web. Throughout that time, Google has continually developed new ways to improve its search results and make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.
With advances in generative AI technology, Google is again changing how we use its search engine by unlocking entirely new types of questions that can be answered via Search.
With this latest breakthrough in AI-powered technology, you will have an even more comprehensive understanding when making complex decisions – all while ensuring a wide range of information remains accessible from your fingertips.
Let’s take a look at this latest Google innovation, what it means for your search experience and its implications for the future of marketing.
Not Just Another Co-Pilot for the Web – It’s a Search Generative Experience
If all this sounds familiar, that’s because another company unveiled a similar technology in 2023: Microsoft. Pegged as your co-pilot of the web, Microsoft Bing’s Chat feature pioneered generative AI into the search experience, increasing Bing’s web traffic right after Chat’s release.
Of course, Google must protect its core business (Search Ads). Hence, their release of an eerily familiar feature.
Their counterpart is called Search Generative Experience (SGE). While it may sound like a handful, it makes it “easy for people to dive deeper on the topic they’re learning about,” says Google in their blog post.
“Search Generative Experience is the new generative AI created by Google that helps improve users’ search experience by providing concise, easy-to-understand answers to users’ queries, using corroborated information from reliable web sources,” said Ken Romero, Thrive’s SEO Strategist.
Basically, Google Search scours the web to help you:
• Understand a topic faster
• Discover new viewpoints
• Complete tasks more efficiently
Take a look at this Google search asking for a comparison of two U.S. national parks and which one is more family-friendly:
In the new Search, Google collates information it finds from the web and gives you its own insights on these two national parks. It offers reasons why you may want to choose one park over the other. In this case, you’ll want to go to Bryce Canyon because it has two paved trails that allow for dogs.
Next, you’ll find a section below that generative AI that suggests your next steps and the pages you might want to visit to find more information about these two national parks.
All these generative AI content and suggestions sit on top of organic search results after Google finishes “generating” its answers.
However, SGE won’t generate answers if it’s confident enough about its response. This happens when there are data voids or information gaps that Google simply won’t be able to fill. If you’re planning to enlist Google’s help for something dangerous, it won’t help you either. SGE won’t generate an AI response if it feels like you’re venturing into harmful territory.
What’s important to take note of about Google’s take on their search experience is they still want people to go to websites with valuable content. That’s why there are a lot of content suggestions (and, yes, Ads) on their generative AI.
This answers a serious concern about AI chatbots: how will publishers and website owners monetize Google Search? Well, Google cleverly integrates your content into their AI powered search if they deem it good enough.
What We Know So Far
So, is it any good? Will it become one of the best AI tools out there? We don’t want you to take our word for it, so here’s what we know so far about Google’s AI-powered search experience.
It’s Different From Bard
There have been rumors about tons of features and integrations that Bard will get in the future. Some even speculated that Bard would eventually replace Search as your go-to resource for information. Turns out, they’ll be two separate products that offer distinct experiences when getting information from the Internet.
The first noticeable difference is their interface. Google’s new AI powered search retains most of what we know and love about Google Search, with more visual flair and interactive elements on top of organic search results, like:
• YouTube Stories
• Video Clips
• New design cues and colors
While Bard also has the same material design that we associate with the rest of Google’s ecosystem, Bard functions like other AI chatbots with an interface resembling ChatGPT’s. It’s not designed to give you organic search results unless it uses software integrations.
Converse With Your Search Box
This is the best feature we’ve seen with Google’s generative AI integration.
Now, you can ask Google for follow-up questions after receiving its initial answers and suggestions. This is handy when you don’t want Google to just give you search results without context. For example, you can ask what dog food is best for a Labrador. Once it generates answers, you can then ask, “What about nutrition?” and Google will generate more information about nutrient-rich food that helps your Labrador stay healthy.
Unlike ChatGPT and other AI chatbots, though, Google’s AI-powered Search won’t have some kind of personality, often refraining from addressing itself as “I.”
You’ll find yourself conversing with an awfully boring Google bot but with a good set of answers (more on that later).
Better Shopping Experience
Whether you’re a serial shopper or just someone who likes to window shop every now and then, this Google innovation makes product searching a breeze.
We’re not talking about more products on one page. We’re talking about Google giving helpful advice and insights when choosing among a sea of products. It’s like having a personal assistant that can cross-reference the features of a product with those available in other stores, giving you the best deals available.
Google achieves this using its growing archive of over 35 billion product listings called Shopping Graph. It’s constantly changing with new listings over time, so you can expect its generative AI content to be just as dynamic and fresh.
Ads and Blue Links Are Still There
For publishers and advertisers, this AI-powered search still presents opportunities to monetize Google.
After all, SGE wants to improve your search experience, not replace it with generated content. Therefore, you’ll still see links to sources on the side and below them.
In the GIF below, you’ll see that Search’s generated answers are boxed with websites linked through images so you can dig deeper into these products and websites yourself.
Ads will still be part of your search experience with “dedicated slots throughout the page.” You’ll know when a displayed result is an ad or not, just as you would with the old Google search experience.
If you notice, the colors of these generated answer boxes depend on the user’s journey and intent. If you’re using Search for more informational data, the box color would be green. On the other hand, if you’re using Searching for shopping, it would be light purple. It’s just another touch in Google’s interface that makes the experience more enjoyable.
It’s Still Not Perfect, But There’s Promise
The SGE still has a long way to go as an AI powered search tool. According to a The Washington Post article, this newest AI technology generates content slowly, at least compared to other AI programs.
However, this should be expected since it provides content based on real-time search data, unlike some of the best AI tools today, which only rely on training data.
Also, it’s still prone to hallucinations. In the context of generative AI, hallucination is when your AI tool makes up inaccurate information. To solve this, SGE has a feedback button so you can flag them and other types of inaccuracies in Google’s generated content.
As an advocate of responsible AI, Google even puts disclaimers not to rely on SGE for critical information, such as finance and health.
This Google bot, like any AI tech today, still tends to give inaccurate information, although Google has taken steps to improve its AI generation capabilities.
For instance, Google implemented a five-point approach when generating answers for the user. These five factors include:
• Your information needs
• The quality of information you’re getting
• The safety of SGE’s responses
• Linking back to Google’s publisher ecosystem
• Relevance of ads in generated results
Because of this, Google’s responses may not be as fluid as other AI chatbots out there. However, you can expect that SGE is more accurate with fewer hallucinations than ChatGPT and even Bing Chat.
Signing Up on Google Search Labs
All the newest AI technology is not delivered overnight, and the same is true with SGE. This Google innovation is rolled out first to volunteer users in the United States to test its new features.
If you’re in the U.S. right now, just sign up on Search Labs to get the first peek of SGE once it becomes available for testing.
Search Labs is Google’s one project for generative AI capabilities where volunteers get to participate in Google’s experimental features, such as:
• Search Generative Experience: Use generative AI directly from Google Search.
• Code Tips: Helps you write code faster through the help of Large Language Models (LLMs).
• Add to Sheets: This lets you directly add a search result to your spreadsheet to improve your research and organization workflow.
On top of these initial projects, more experimental features will be rolled out in the coming weeks. All you have to do is sign up if you’re in the U.S. today. Don’t worry if you’re not a U.S. user, though. All these features will become widely available once Google proves its market viability.
The Future of Marketing and SEO in the Era of Generative AI
For generative AI enthusiasts, these are exciting times indeed. For marketers, however, the implications of this technology can be both liberating and threatening.
Our SEO experts give their two cents on how to navigate the ever-growing space of AI technology.
Try Out the New Search Yourself
You can’t maximize SGE if you don’t try it out yourself. Go ahead and type in the questions you have into this Google bot, and get ready to be surprised.
You can try mapping out customer journeys and determine how they’d follow up with Google Search. Remember, you can already use SGE for follow-up questions. So, optimizing for one query in a keyword cluster won’t be enough. You may also have to optimize for question-answer pairs, which is something that search engine marketing and optimization haven’t had to tackle before.
Try out the new SGE if you can, and see how your current content stacks up with these Google Search updates.
Focus on Search Experience Optimization
Search experience optimization is the way of the future when it comes to SEO.
Don Gruspe, Thrive’s Demand Generation SEO Specialist, said that “Search Experience Optimization or SXO is the practice of improving the total user experience throughout the search process by optimizing a website or online content.” In contrast, traditional SEO “is concerned with increasing a website’s visibility and ranking in search engine results.”
You no longer have to just focus on optimizing for keyword phrases or clusters but also factor in how users interact with your content and engage with Google Search.
This means better-structured data, faster loading pages, an improved user experience and the ability to answer multiple questions. All these factors should be taken into account when optimizing for search results.
Thought Leadership Matters
Thought leadership has been around for quite some time now. Chances are, you’re already using it to rank on the SERPs. However, with generative AI, thought leadership takes on a different shape. You can’t just write content that’s keyword-rich and comprehensive. As we said, you must also be able to answer your audience’s follow-up questions.
For instance, if you’re writing about a product review, consider creating an FAQ section to guide readers to get the most out of your content. Consider their main pain points and create content around that.
Gruspe recommends the following practices to enhance both your thought leadership and SEO:
• Prioritizing user experience
• Building authoritative backlinks
• Leveraging social media
• Continuously analyzing and optimizing your content for a better search experience
This is because Google wants to display the most helpful content for its users. Similarly, users only want to click links they deem trustworthy and helpful. Thought leadership is an excellent way to show your authority in the field and get people to click through your website.
Creating People-First Content
All this talk on search experience optimization and thought leadership boils down to creating people-first content.
“The integration of generative AI into Google’s search experience increased the importance of creating people-first content,” said Romero. “With generative AI’s potential to improve the relevance and customization of search results, focusing on content that prioritizes users becomes even more crucial.”
Content that is written with the user in mind, answers their questions and provides them with an outstanding experience will always be favored by Google. Think about how you can spin your content and make it even more helpful for the user.
Focus on creating content with real value, not just fluffy keyword-rich pieces.
Join Thrive’s Growth Insider Today
That’s all for our detailed look at Google’s SGE. We expect it to be just another step in a long line of Google Search Engine updates. And we’ll keep you updated on this space’s latest developments and trends.
Thrive is a leading digital marketing company with a team of experts, thought leaders and highly experienced strategists. We’re here to help you stay ahead of the competition and develop effective marketing strategies for your business.
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