Here’s how search generative experience will change user search behaviour and how you can adjust your search strategy to ensure you stay ahead of the trend on AI assistant embedded search results pages.
TL;DR: Search Generative Experience (SGE) is an upcoming feature in Google search that uses AI to provide interactive and conversational search results. It will generate responses based on user queries and provide references to the source websites. To adapt your search strategy for SGE, consider the following:
- Focus on displaying expertise and trustworthiness in your content to be considered as a viable source by SGE AI.
- Optimize long-form content to gain additional exposure from sections related to a topic.
- Collect product reviews to provide human experiences alongside AI-generated information.
- Add more context to simple informational queries by providing additional relevant details.
- Write content in a conversational tone, address follow-up questions, and consider user needs.
- Identify high-quality featured snippet content and review pages that rank for featured snippets.
- Y.M.Y.L (Your Money or Your Life) topics may have slower adoption due to information reliability concerns.
- Continue focusing on creating high-quality content and enhancing user experience with visual elements.
- Use structured data markup, such as JSON-LD, microdata, or RDF-a, to help search engine crawlers understand your content.
- Anticipate user search refinements and create content that addresses related follow-up questions.
- Monitor SERPs and adapt your content based on the types of queries displaying SGE.
- SGE will continuously adapt and learn, so implementing these recommendations early will help you gain coverage when SGE is fully implemented.
What is Search Generative Experience?
At this stage, search generative AI sounds a little like an advanced scraper, that’ll be returning spliced web content initially, before entering chat mode where users can create a dialogue with questions about topics and products with answers provided by an AI trained language model.
These re-hashed answers will be served to users, presumably with reference links guiding them to the source websites as references.
The initial result may be similar to how Google displays featured snippets or how it scrapes song lyrics from various sites for lyric queries.
However, with a big change incoming at the top of SERPs there more than likely are some changes to your organic search strategy that you should look to begin implementing now to help ensure your website is considered as a viable source of information and inclusion in Google’s generative AI search features.
Search generative experience is being made available to a limited set of users who’ve signed up to the search labs experiment in Google Chrome (initially limited to US users).
Here are my recommendations for how SGE might change organic search and what you can do to ready your website for the upcoming changes.
Use References, Stats & Data
More than ever before, ensuring content on your website displays and is written with appropriate levels of E.E.A.T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trust) will be critical to earning coverage within content produced by SGE AI.
You’ll want to make sure your content displays clear examples of your experience within your chosen topic, with a deep and detailed knowledge of your sector, knowledge of your products with detailed feature lists and instructions on using and caring for your products.
If you work on a reviews website or a website based on knowledge and expertise of a specific topic, ensure that you’re showing your experience and expertise in the content you produce. Use images you’ve taken of products yourself when reviewing them, rather than defaulting to stock images. Display content elements like authorship credentials and expertise if you’re sharing knowledge related to your areas of expertise.
Optimise your existing long copy content
SGE (search generative experience) could offer an opportunity for sites to gain additional exposure in search engines from additional content relevant to a topic from further down the page. Currently, the value of content buried deep in pages can be more limited and surfaced infrequently compared to above the fold content.
SGE, with the right optimisation, might be an effective way to gain additional exposure from sections related to a topic. i.e. provided content is optimised to cover a long tail search query and your domain is high authority enough, you could gain exposure even from a longer, skyscraper page.
Gain Product Reviews
AI and language models may be great at giving you an overview of a topic, product or service but human users will still want to know the specific experiences of other humans who have purchased and used your product or service.
AI can be very useful for helping search engine users to understand the factual elements of a topic, product or service but human reviews will still be imperative in the decision making process for human users searching the internet.
If you can, focus on gaining reviews for products and services you offer to allow your website to be:
- a viable source of reference even if AI and language models begin to scrape reviews
- make these reviews accessible and build them into your valuable product pages or sections of the site that create value for you
- When reviews begin to get referenced by AI tools, you could see Google AI dropping traffic right onto your converting pages where you display reviews, if they’re referenced for your products or services.
Collecting reviews should be a critical part of your ongoing SEO activity if it isn’t already, start today.
Develop Simple Informational Queries and Add More Context
If your website is focused on simple informational queries that can easily be answered by an AI or language model, then you may want to consider adding depth to the topics you cover on your website.
Rather than just giving factual responses like singular date strings or specific metrics try to add context to the question like the search query.
If your website is focused on simple queries, related to specific facts like: “when was the battle of Waterloo” try to add additional context.
The Battle of Waterloo took place on June 18, 1815. It was an important battle during the Napoleonic Wars because it marked the final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Battle of Waterloo took place near the town of Waterloo in the present-day country of Belgium. The battle itself lasted around 9 hours…..
Additional content provided it is high quality, can help make your site a more viable prospect for additional coverage and potentially gain the initial reference spot if you address multiple follow up queries.
Write content in a conversational tone
Given Google’s emphasis on the conversational nature of SGE so I’d recommend you aim to;
- keep content as succinct as possible
- make content easy to read and accessible for users (use paragraphs, single thought sentences,
Conversational search is new, something that was always attributed as likely to take off with voice search, but this never really happened. Considering follow up questions users might ask and including content to answer these follow ups will also make sense. i.e. “buy [branded product] online” might lead a certain percentage of searchers to follow up with “how much does [branded product] cost?” and subsequently “how can I get [branded product] cheaper?” content that could effectively and succinctly cover the topic will become more valuable, as well as effective journey paths for users navigating to these pages. Following a query.
e.g. “Getting [branded product] cheaper may be difficult because it is an expensive” – wouldn’t be as useful an answer as ” [branded product] is considered as expensive by some but this is due to the high quality nature of the product. If you want to save money you could always get last year’s version of [branded product] or look consider this [brand b] version of the product” – with links to the relevant pages and content could be considered a better, more helpful answer and more likely to be referenced or extracted by SGE AI.
Google does suggest that there will be a balance between the tone of AI content in conversational mode because of the risks of allowing AI language generation increased fluidity.
However, SEO content has, for a long time, performed better when it addresses the user reading it and considers their needs, rather than presenting a factual only account of information.
Your content should always be trying to assess the impacts various changes have on users and weighing up what may be best for them.
Identify High Quality Featured Snippet Content
Where you may see coverage in Search Generative Experience Earliest is on pages that already rank with featured snippets. Featured snippets are the answer boxes that commonly display at the top of a SERP.
Here’s an example of a featured snippet for the query; “what is a featured snippet”
The information is pulled from the developers.google.com website and included in a prominent position in SERP.
You should review featured snippet content and pages as “high potential likelihood of SGE features”. It may be that SGE almost completely replaces featured snippets but references top results or displays some FS content as part of initial responses.
Finding featured snippets is easy, to discover yours:
- open Google Search Console
- export your search queries for a page, section of the site or all of your queries over a date range you want to assess
- sort your spreadsheet with your data by CTR (click through rate) high to low
- exclude your own brand queries (write a formula or use custom regex when exporting your keywords to exclude brand queries)
Featured snippets usually have click through rates exceeding 10%, so they should be easy to identify from your GSC data when sorted correctly.
Searching will help confirm if you’re ranking in the featured position.
We may not see it quickly in health due to data voids and Google’s aversion to risk on YMYL sites.
Google also reference
There are some topics for which SGE is designed to notGoogle SGE documentation 2023
generate a response. On some topics, there might simply
be a lack of quality or reliable information available on the
open web. For these areas – sometimes called “data voids”
or “information gaps” – where our systems have a lower
confidence in our responses, SGE aims to not generate an
Google is suggesting it will limit the fluidity of language models used for AI powered snapshots to help reduce inaccuracies. So don’t expect the AI reference to be producing Hemingway style prose.
Google is keen to avoid misinformation in critical topics like health, finance, legal and civic or governmental sectors, so these results will likely be limited initially.
Continue to Focus on Creating High Quality Content & Enhance User Experience
Add images, stats, infographics and more to help give useful visualisations and relevant images a chance of getting featured in SERPs where search generative AI is implemented.
If there’s an opportunity to surface content on your web pages away from the written text, you’ll want to maximise your chance of gaining exposure.
Do this by including relevant and useful visual imagery related to topics your website discusses. Create how to use your product infographics and use high quality unique images that represent the benefits and features of your products.
Include relevant schema markup and alt text for visual content too!
Markup your website pages with detailed structured data
Structured data is still going to be critical and likely could become even more vital to search engine crawlers. As search generative AI searches for more detailed information and aims to understand even more nuance on the web, ensuring your content is optimised to deliver an efficient and comprehensible precis of your web pages will be vital.
Mark up as many of your website page features as possible with your chosen structured data markup, including; images, logos, content features like FAQs, how to instructions and product data with product schema markup.
We recommend JSON-LD but microdata and RDF-a are both likely to be supported.
Anticipate User Search Refinements
Google is suggesting that SERP information provided by the AI tool will update as the user enters chat mode and asks follow up questions.
Identifying commonly occurring questions that your users might have after entering an initial search query and then curating your content to cover these related follow up topical questions could help your content gain exposure.
For example, a user asking for “the best DSLR camera for beginners” might follow up their initial query, depending on the content they read, with something like:
“What is the difference between Canon EOS and DSLR camera?” – if you create content that answers this query, your site is in with a chance on intercepting that user on their journey by helping to improve their knowledge of what is a new and complex topic.
One of the best ways to identify potential follow up queries is through “People also ask” boxes found in existing Google SERPs.
These boxes once opened display multiple additional questions to more you engage with them and can be useful for putting together content briefs and document outlines for your content strategy.
You should also try to put yourself in the “shoes” of your users, pretend to be a novice on your topic and think about questions you might ask as beginner, then consider follow up questions.
If you have an existing, engaged audience, user research to discover common questions and misconceptions could also be useful.
Monitor SERPs and Adapt Your Content
When SGE goes live, assess the types of search queries that are displaying SGE as part of the SERP experience and understand what is working for publishers and retailers across a spread of different search terms.
With this understanding of what features and content types websites are adding to their pages, you’ll be able to generate ideas for your website that could earn you increased exposure from SGE.
Similar to how Google updates work now, SGE will likely continuously adapt and learn from information available and adapt different ways of displaying it to users.
Unlike Google updates, it’ll be much faster in how it iterates and displays content, so getting started now with my recommendations will be the best way to ensure you quickly start earning coverage when SGE experience becomes a reality in search engine results.