Graphical image of AI searching

At the end of March, Google released Search Generative Experience (SGE), its AI-powered overview feature, to a subset of US users. Excitingly, this is the first time this technology has been tested outside of the search engine’s search lab experiment. While SGE has yet to launch in the UK, this development signifies the beginning of the tool’s integration into Google’s main search interface.

In other words, SGE is here to stay. If businesses are to maintain (and increase) their online visibility, understanding and adapting to this transformation is essential.

AI Isn’t Going Anywhere

There have been few introductions to the digital landscape (and the world for that matter) as revolutionary as AI technology. From the meteoric rise of Open AI’s Chat GPT in 2022 to the ongoing implementation of Google’s Gemini ecosystem, these tools continue to transform the ways in which user’s create, discover and share content online. That said, while there are a multitude of AI tools that can be used to assist marketers in ideation, content creation, reporting and analysis, this article concerns itself with the impact of AI search. Specifically, Google’s Search Generative Experience. 

Before we dive into AI search and its implications for digital marketing, however, I want to provide a little context. 

Last month, Google appointed Liz Reid as their head of search, taking over from Pandu Nayak. Having been at Google for more than 20 years, Reid has led the company’s efforts in the development and implementation of AI tech, such as SGE and multisearch. This change is particularly telling of two things:

  1. The future of Google is going to be AI focussed.
  2. SGE (or an iteration of SGE) will become intrinsic to modern search.

This evolution signifies a new era for Google search, in which adaptability and success go hand in hand. If businesses are to thrive in this new age, they must gratify SGE’s requirements.

SGE: A New Era For Search

If Liz Reid’s word is anything to go by (which it is), SGE will soon become a staple of search. We’ve been talking about what these changes will look like a fair bit recently, but for those unfamiliar, here’s a brief recap. 

Above all, SGE represents a significant shift away from conventional search methods and towards a much more conversational experience. With the introduction of concise, easily accessible snippet results and generative answers, user journeys will become much more self-contained, reducing the frequency of traditional click-through browsing. In fact, SGE is anticipated to decrease CTR by as much as 30% for both organic and sponsored content.

This movement away from the status quo of search is exacerbated by the fact that SGE takes up a lot of SERP space; organic, paid and sponsored entries are all pushed further down page one to make room for Google’s generative results section. The reason for this is clear: by providing users with easily accessible, generative answers to their queries, Google hopes to become the destination as well as the journey. 

Now, it would be natural to assume that SGE results exist as an amalgamation of high ranking sites and reputable sources, but this isn’t the case. I’ll explore this in further detail shortly, but it’s worth noting that 93.8% of generative links come from sources outside of the top-ranking organic domains. 

Naysayers and pessimists will tell you that this transformation marks the end of digital marketing as we know it. I would argue the opposite; SGE represents a golden opportunity for businesses to fine tune their digital strategies and emerge victorious in this new era of search.

Strategy & Content Creation: A Human-First Approach

A women looking at phone with coffee in another hand on railway platform

In order to properly understand what it is that Google is looking for, it is crucial that we understand what Google is trying to achieve. In their own words, the tech giant’s mission has always been “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Now, more than ever, this accessibility and usefulness comes into play; SGE places what it believes to be the most useful information in relation to a specific search in the palm of user hands. In other words, Google wants businesses to create content for their audience, not Google.

Contrary to the outdated teachings of SEO traditionalists, SGE is far less concerned with clumsily incorporated keywords and obscurely positioned tables of content, and much more interested in sites that show visitors a ‘great, satisfying experience.’ As far as content is concerned, businesses should focus on the creation of pieces that actually answer their users’ questions.

Regardless of industry or niche, ask yourself the following:

  • What do your audience want to know?
  • How can your specific knowledge and expertise answer their queries?

Now, before you throw everything you thought you knew about web content out of the window, I want to clarify that the introduction of SGE is by no means a usurpation of Google’s helpful content guidelines. Rather, it reinforces the need for expertly crafted pieces that align with the search engine’s E-E-A-T requirements. Gone are the days of boilerplate listicles and generic informational content; in order to effectively market your business in a world of AI search, the information you put out must be unique and value-adding.

In other words, prioritise the creation of content that aligns most closely with users’ search intent. Be this navigational, informational, commercial or transactional, the important thing is that Google recognises your content as the answer to user queries.

Schema Structured Data: Auditing & Implementation

Additionally, in preparation for SGE (and broader AI-driven search technologies) businesses should focus on enhancing schema structured data. Coupled with high-quality people-first content, a properly implemented schema markup will ensure that search engines are able to properly locate, identify and categorise your content. This can improve the way AI generates responses to user queries by ensuring it picks up the most relevant and accurate information from your site.

Businesses should ensure their schema markup is comprehensive and up-to-date, covering all key aspects of their content. This might include using specific types such as organisation, product, or FAQ schemas to detail elements like prices, dates, or locations. This structured approach not only aids in delivering precise data to SGE but also improves visibility and may help maintain traffic and relevance in a search landscape increasingly dominated by AI-generated content summaries and answers.

Future Proofing Your Business

Whilst the above is by no means an exhaustive list of applicable techniques for the optimisation of sites for AI search engines, it should highlight the importance of human-first content creation. As Google strides confidently towards a world of conversational search, businesses and content creators should strive to become relevant voices in such discussions. 

Here at Superb Digital, we pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve, future proofing our clients’ businesses via the planning and execution of high quality content and technical SEO. 

Book a discovery call to discover how we can help your business to reap the rewards of AI search today.