Google’s new search generative experience (SGE) has many B2Bs scrambling to predict how it will impact their businesses. As the beta phase in Google Labs concludes in 2023, anticipation builds for the official rollout of SGE in the second quarter of 2024. To demystify its potential impact, our team has diligently conducted research and testing, delving into the nuances of how SGE will influence page visibility, web traffic, search behaviors and the B2B buying journey. Stay tuned as we unveil insights and strategies to navigate this groundbreaking evolution in search technology.
B2Bs generate 2X the revenue from organic search than all other channels combined
12% of B2B web traffic comes from paid search
Google holds 85% of the desktop search engine market share
Google holds 93% of the US mobile search engine market share
What is SGE? Search Generative Experiences defined
SGE refers to modern search technology that combines traditional search functionalities with advanced AI-driven generative capabilities. Rather than retrieving and displaying existing information, SGEs actively generate new content, insights, answers or data based on user queries. This includes text, images, videos, code and other forms of media. SGEs provide more interactive, personalized and creative responses, making the search process more user-friendly and engaging. These advanced technologies prioritize the user experience.
How do SGEs work?
SGEs rely heavily on AI, language learning models (LLMs) and machine learning (ML) algorithms to understand and interpret complex queries and then generate new responses that go beyond simple search results.
The modern search experiences represent a significant shift in how information is compiled, processed and presented to users:
- Scraping and aggregating data: SGEs, like any advanced AI-driven search system, scrape and aggregate data from a vast array of online sources. This includes websites, databases, journals and other digital repositories.
- Leveraging diverse data sources: These systems are designed to pull information from both traditional and non-traditional sources, encompassing a wide variety of formats and structures. This could range from structured data in databases to unstructured data like blog posts or social media content.
- Processing data instantaneously: SGEs often process data in real time or near real time, ensuring that the information they generate is up to date. This is particularly important for topics that are rapidly evolving.
- Continuously improving: These systems learn from user interactions and feedback, continuously improving the accuracy, contextual relevance and quality over time. They can adapt to user preferences, offering a tailored and enriched customer experience.
How does Google’s SGE appear in search?
To truly understand how SGE will impact search behaviors, we tested the beta version in Google Labs. Here’s what we’ve observed.
Some searches don’t generate SGE results; Google explains that this happens when there isn’t enough information to compile a knowledgeable response to your query. Still others will generate SGE results, but only if you request that Google answers your query in conversation. Most searches, however, generate results in Google’s generative-AI window, which is truncated with a drop-down to “show more.”
Google’s generative-AI window has replaced Sponsored Ads at the top of the results page. Snippets show up directly below this window, followed by People Also Ask. Organic search results fall below.
Figure 1. An example of how SGE appears in the search results page
The generative content provides a summary best answer to your query next to a linked snapshot of source pages through which you can scroll. Because responses are compiled from multiple sources, it’s difficult to determine what source provided what information. However, citations within the generated response link to information sources. Conversational prompts have the potential to keep follow-up queries within the search window.
Perhaps one of the more interesting observations of our exploration is that rank in search results doesn’t correspond to the snapshots in SGE. Instead, pages that rank in snapshot provide the most clear and helpful response. This presents interesting opportunities for businesses to grab that first position in the snapshots.
This experience has changed since the beta SGE launch and we expect it to differ by the time SGE rolls out.
Figure 2. An example of the SGE window
Figure 3. An example of how SGE cites sources with snapshots
How might Search Generative Experiences impact SEO and online business?
Our SEO and business experts weigh in on the potential impact of SGE on SEO and online business. Here’s what they had to say:
Decreased organic visibility: With SGEs taking up prime real estate on SERPs, businesses may see a significant drop in organic visibility. This could impact not only traffic but also brand awareness and the effectiveness of organic search as a channel for customer acquisition and engagement.
Transforming demand gen tactics: If buyers start spending more of the awareness stage in search, businesses are likely to alter demand generation strategies to gain that coveted first snapshot position in the SGE window. Additionally, B2B marketers may increase alternative awareness-boosting tactics, like digital ads and social media.
Shift in click-through patterns: As SGE begins to pull information from top-ranking pages and cite them, users might change their click-through patterns. They may rely more on the initial content provided by SGE, potentially reducing the clicks to individual sites.
Changing content strategies: The possible decline in the importance of organic SERPs may push businesses to adapt their content strategies, emphasizing unique and authentic content that can still rank or be cited by SGE. Because the nature of search tends to be more B2C – conversational and personalized – more B2B brands may adopt “think B2C, act B2B” content strategies.
New competitors and models: The entrance of new search competitors with different business models could disrupt current SEO practices and ad revenues. These competitors might not rely on traditional ad networks or SEO signals, prompting a need for businesses to adapt to alternative discovery and monetization methods.
Authority and trust as key differentiators: As the trustworthiness of content becomes more critical, content from recognized experts or sites offering unique perspectives may gain a competitive edge. This trend could lead to the increased importance of personal branding and authority building within niche markets.
Navigation of content discovery: With a potential market for tools that aid in website discovery, businesses may need to focus on being listed in various directories or platforms, reminiscent of the early web. This could also lead to a resurgence in the importance of cross-linking and community-driven content sharing.
Rethinking permission for data crawling: If search engines minimize the value of website listings, businesses might reconsider allowing their content to be crawled. This could lead to a standoff between content creators and search engines, impacting the ecosystem of content generation and discovery.
Content ownership and control: The tension between content ownership and the use of data by generative AI could lead to new norms and protocols for content sharing and indexing. Businesses may push for more control over how their content is used by AI systems.
Evolution of how-to content: Instructional content may need to evolve to incorporate personal experiences and narratives to remain relevant and valuable. This could change the nature of how-to articles, making them more story-driven and personalized.
Longevity of data relevance: The speed at which generative content becomes obsolete could increase, emphasizing the need for content to be regularly updated and for businesses to stay ahead with the latest information and trends.
How to proactively prepare for SGE
As your business prepares for the impact of SGE, it’s essential to approach your SEO, SEM and content marketing strategies with a fresh and agile perspective.
“In the past, brands didn’t experience major pressure to implement a full digital strategy. Now we have a new pressure. It’s coming from Google itself versus just competitors. So, we have to push forward. It’s going to require continual testing, evaluating, optimizing. You can’t sit back. The risk of not doing this is far greater than it ever has been.”
– Lori Cox, Vice President, Revenue Ops & Client Development
Here’s how you can adapt your strategy to get a proactive head start:
Provide a quality content experience: Google has long been pushing content creators to provide helpful, easily-understood content. SGE brings this lesson home by prioritizing content that answers questions quickly and concisely in a manner that mimics human conversation. Moreover, content that anticipates and addresses follow-up questions will lead the SGE game.
Know your audience: The most helpful user experience is made possible by understanding the needs, preferences and challenges of your audience. It’s about listening to their conversations and tuning into their frequency so you can tailor your content strategy and messaging effectively.
Develop a content pillar and cluster strategy: Organizing your content around key themes and related subtopics ensures topics are covered in depth, anticipates follow-up questions and enhances navigation for a better user experience, thus improving SEO.
Establish domain authority: Your domain’s authority is a badge of trust and quality in the digital world. With SGE, building domain authority is more critical than ever. This makes Google’s E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) framework especially vital for B2B companies, where credibility and expertise are paramount. You can establish E-E-A-T by showcasing your real-world experience, publishing well-researched expert and authoritative content, engaging in thought leadership, and building trust with website security and business transparency.
Prioritize quick-win opportunities to rank: Sometimes, the low-hanging fruit offers the sweetest reward. Identifying and targeting quick-win opportunities – those keywords and topics that are relevant but not overly competitive – can boost your visibility more rapidly. This might include specific longtail keywords that are less competitive and may attract more qualified traffic.
Optimize your website: Ensure that your website’s visuals and on-page elements are optimized for search engines. This includes using relevant, high-quality images and making sure all visual elements are properly tagged and described. Regularly check and update your website’s structured data. This helps search engines understand and index your content more effectively.
Stay agile, pivoting to adapt to changing search behaviors: Stay updated on search behaviors and adjust your content, SEO and demand gen strategies accordingly. This means keeping an ear to the ground and an eye on the metrics. More than just web traffic, you need to update your key performance indicators (KPIs) to align with the evolving search landscape, focusing on engagement, content reach, user satisfaction and lead quality.
Strategically compete for SGE rankings: Analyze what content is currently ranking in SGE snapshots for your desired search queries. Aim to provide a better response, in terms of both clarity and depth – addressing the query clearly and quickly while also providing information for the follow-up questions.
Work with a B2B agency with SEO content expertise
The addition of SGE into Google search results stands to shake things up for businesses in 2024. It’s going to be vital to have a proactive plan in place that can flex with search behaviors and KPIs. Instead of merely reacting to changes as they occur, gaining a competitive edge involves preemptively refining your website, SEO and content strategies. This preparation ensures you excel in delivering a user-friendly and helpful experience. By doing so, you position your business to effectively navigate and leverage the shifts in search trends, setting a strong foundation for ongoing digital success.
At Elevation Marketing we have over two decades of experience working with B2B companies like yours developing website, SEO and content strategies. Contact us today to discover how our B2B marketing services can help you prepare for the changes coming to search in 2024.