Google Generative AI And What It Means For SEO

Over the past few years, AI has been a big topic of conversation and in May 2023, Google announced that they are bringing a cutting-edge generative AI to Google Search. Google are starting to experiment with Search Generative Experience (SGE) which, according to Google, is “an early step in transforming the Search experience with generative AI.” In this blog, we will be discussing what SGE is and what it means for SEO.   

What Is SGE?

Google has recently announced a new feature that is coming to the SERPs, this is called Search Generative Experience (SGE) and it uses AI (Artificial Intelligence) to organise web results in a new way in order to help users to get more from their search. With SGE, users on Google will be able to: 

  • ➡️Ask new, more in depth questions that search could not answer before 
  • ➡️Ask follow up questions to Google in a conversational mode 
  • ➡️Gain information about a topic quickly with links to relevant results in order to explore the topic further 
  • ➡️Get more done easily, for example generate creative ideas in Search
  • ➡️Shop for products more easily

Google’s generative AI is designed to to simplify complex search tasks and provide overview snapshots of search queries. SGE will be able to answer more detailed search queries and will also enhance the online shopping experience for users. 

What Will The Google Search Generative Experience Look Like? 

The new Google SGE will likely display an AI generated answer above the search results. The answer will be labelled as generative AI and it will provide an answer to the search query. 

The answer will be in a box and it will provide links to the websites that it has used to generate the answer, users will then be able to click on these sites in order to find out more about the topic. Below the AI answer, there will also be an option to ask a follow up question to gain more information. 

Source: Google

How SGE Works 

Google will be using generative AI which is an extremely powerful tool that can generate human-like content. In Google’s search, they will be using generative AI in order to provide useful information to users more easily and it will provide a more comprehensive overview to complex queries. 

  1. Firstly, Google will analyse the user’s search query; they will understand the intent of the query and use keywords to understand what the user wants to find out. 
  2. When appropriate, Google will then use its AI to scan the web for relevant websites that will help to answer the query. When it is scanning the web, it will be looking at the content on websites and the number of high quality links that are pointing towards the website. 
  3. Google’s AI will then generate a summary of the websites, this will help users get an overview and will serve as a “jumping-off point”, Google will also include links to the websites that it has used to gain the information so that users are able to find out more information if they wish. The summary will be displayed in a conversational format, making it easier for users to gain information and they will also be able to ask follow up questions which Google’s AI will answer.

Search Generative Experience is designed to help users search more easily; it can help to understand a topic faster, uncover new viewpoints and get things done more easily. Instead of asking Google a few different questions to get the answer you are looking for, you will now be able to ask one long question and it should provide you with all the information that you need in one place. 

Generative AI Shopping Experience

Google is also using AI to help users shop. According to Google, “With generative AI in Search, we can help you understand the full picture when you’re shopping, making even the most considered and complex purchase decisions faster and much easier.” 

The new generative AI shopping experience is built on Google’s shopping graph, which is a machine learning powered, real time data set of the world’s products and sellers. It stores billions of product listings and specific information about those products. 

With the AI shopping experience, when you are searching for a product on Google, you will be provided with a snapshot of noteworthy factors that you should consider when purchasing the product and it will also provide you with product descriptions that include relevant and up to date reviews, prices and product images. 

For example, if you are searching “Bluetooth speaker for a pool party”, Google’s generative AI will provide you with important considerations for that product, like, is it water resistant or does it have a good battery life. It will also provide you with a range of products to choose from with product descriptions, prices and reviews, making it extremely easy to find the perfect product that you are looking for!

Source: Google

Known Limitations Of SGE 

Google’s Search Generative Experience is currently in the experimental stage, and whilst it is built with a range of protections, there are some known limitations. Whilst Google have been testing SGE, they have noticed some of the following limitations, however they have said that in many cases they have already made improvements and they expect to make further progress as SGE develops. Some of the limitations currently are: 

  • ➡️Misinterpretation during corroboration – there have been some instances where SGE has identified the correct information in order to form its snapshot, however there has been a slight misinterpretation of the language which has, in turn, changed the meaning of the output.
  • ➡️Hallucination – SGE may sometimes misinterpret facts or identify insights inaccurately. 
  • ➡️Bias – SGE is trained to corroborate responses with high quality resources, these high quality resources are results that are highly ranked, and it may therefore show a snapshot that reflects a smaller range of perspectives than what is available on the internet. Therefore, potentially reflecting biases in the results.
  • ➡️Opinionated content implying persona – SGE is designed to reflect a neutral tone when it is generating output, however there may be instances where the output that it is providing reflects opinions that exist on the internet, potentially giving the impression that the model is displaying a persona.
  • ➡️Duplication or contradiction with existing search features – SGE is integrated into search alongside other results, and because of this, it is possible for the output of SGE to contradict the information from other results. This is because SGE is representing a perspective that it has gained from a range of results, whereas featured snippets, for example, will only be highlighting the perspective from one single source. 

How SGE Will Impact SEO

The integration of generative AI in Google’s search is a significant change that has the potential to impact SEO in a number of ways. SGE will take the top position in the SERPs which can be unnerving to hear if you work in SEO, however, Google’s generative AI, SGE, will be using information from websites to provide the snapshot of information and Google will be providing links to relevant websites. So, if Google provides a link to your website in their SGE snapshot, this could be great for your website and could even provide you with more organic traffic. 

So, how do you get SGE to provide a link to your website? Well, it is important that your website is optimised for SGE, below are some of the considerations that you need to consider:

  • ➡️Content – with generative AI, Google will likely be favouring websites that have high quality and in depth content. SGE will be using websites to provide information to users and it will more than likely use websites that provide high quality content that provides in depth information that it will then be able to synthesise into a snapshot on the search results. This means that websites that offer in depth, valuable content will likely be favoured and thin content, which Google already doesn’t like, will likely get penalised even further! In terms of SEO, it is therefore extremely important to provide high quality content across your website so that Google can use it for SGE. Plus, if Google is using the content on your website, they may include a link to your website, and this will be great for SEO if it is sitting at the very top of the SERPs. 
  • ➡️User experience – user experience will also be key. As SGE will offer the ability to ask follow up questions, it is important that your site offers an excellent user experience with easy navigation. If Google is providing a link to your website, it is important that the user experience, when they land on your website, is optimal as this could lead to users spending more time on your website. Another reason as to why it is important to have great user experience is for Google; if users are asking a follow up question and your site has the answer and it is easily accessible for Google to find, they may suggest viewing your site to gain more information on a related topic and this will provide more traffic to your website.   
  • ➡️Relevance – making sure that the information on your website is relevant and up to date is crucial. Google’s generative AI will be providing users with useful information and they will want to ensure that the information is correct. By updating the content on your website, it will help to ensure that your website is being seen as relevant and up to date. 

Google’s Search Generative Experience is a very different search experience from what we have seen before, however Google is going to be linking to websites with the goal of driving traffic to websites. Google stated “As we bring generative AI into Search, we’re committed to continue sending valuable traffic to sites across the web.” 

Whilst these generative AI changes that are coming to Google search may seem daunting, it is important to remember that SGE is in the early stages of development and it is expected that Google will listen to all feedback and recommendations and adjust SGE accordingly before fully launching it on Google. 

As an SEO professional, it is important to keep up to date with any developments that arise with SGE, as with any other updates in SEO (we all know that there are a lot), it is important to understand the implications that will come with generative AI and be prepared to adapt your SEO strategy accordingly. With the introduction of generative AI into Google Search, it is important to remember that a successful SEO strategy will still be about providing useful information and content to users, and this will not be changing any time soon.