How will SGE impact SEO for businesses and agencies

March the 14th May 2024, Google finally dropped to the public the news we industry specialists knew since a couple years to come. The arrival of SGE (Generative AI Search Experience). In a nutshell, this means that the above the fold of most searches, in the future, will be served with AI-generated answers rich in context, media, videos, explainers, carousels, maps, charts, and more.

Understandably, this will change the future of search forever, and of SEO too. Or not? Here are my predictions based on what we know so far.

What is Google SGE

Google has taken a significant leap forward with its Search capabilities, introducing the new Gemini model, tailored specifically for AI-powered search. The Gemini model merges advanced functionalities like multi-step reasoning and multimodality with Google’s robust search systems.

Now, AI overviews are being integrated into general search results for U.S. users, with the rollout expected to reach over 1 billion users by the end of the year. These overviews can be fine-tuned in terms of language and detail, making them more user-friendly and personalized.

Additionally, the Gemini model excels at managing complex queries. For instance, you can ask for the best restaurants in Italy, including their specialty dishes and proximity to major landmarks, and get a detailed response. It also provides practical planning assistance for everyday needs, such as generating customized meal plans with recipes sourced from the web.

Google is also launching AI-organized results pages, which group useful information under unique, AI-generated headings, offering diverse perspectives and content types. Initially, this will cover dining and recipes, with plans to expand to other categories like movies, books, and shopping. Moreover, Google’s new visual search feature allows users to utilize video content for their queries, streamlining the search process and saving time.

For more details on Google’s innovative search features and the Gemini model, check out Google’s official blog here.

Video courtesy of the Google Blog

What kind of searches are served trough SGE?

As Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) evolves, its impact will become increasingly apparent across various business verticals, with significant implications for SEO strategies. According to studies and insights gathered from various sources, industries such as healthcare, ecommerce, B2B tech, and education are seeing varied levels of AI integration in search results, which significantly influences organic traffic patterns​ (Search Engine Land)​.

Interestingly, SGE’s effect is not uniform across all sectors. For instance, while healthcare queries show a high percentage of AI-generated answers, the finance sector experiences a much lower integration, suggesting a cautious approach in areas dealing with sensitive information​ (Search Engine Land)​. This makes me giggle a bit (and worry a lot) when you think at the fact that Lily Ray shared this on here LinkedIn:

All in all, from the data we have today, the introduction of Search Generative Experience (SGE) notably disrupted ecommerce, electronics, and fashion sectors the most, although it affected all business verticals to some extent.

Which businesses are going to be affected worse?

So, in my opinion we shouldn’t focus too much on how Google is going to show the results, but on how people search. This has always been the winning strategy. Focus on people, and how to adapt your inbound strategy to get the right people, at the right time, for the right search intent.

Media & Publishers

As an example, I believe that SGE is going to serve very well a 1 click query like:

“who won yesterday’s match between Napoli and Roma?”

“how do you calculate cost per click?

“How to make Pinacolada?”

You see, to better serve user experience (and Google is all about that), you want to give an immediate answer to that search, without any CTR to some sites with tons of ads and what not. That’s why I think the first and foremost vertical to really take a deep hit, is going to be the publishing and media (magazines, news websites, and so on).

These kind of businesses entirely rely on programmatic advertising, and for sure it’s a grime time for their existing content.

Part of E-Commerce, Wellness and Fitness websites

Other queries that SGE will serve well are ones on fitness, wellness, and some online shopping, but not all of it (meaning, discovery search, but not bottom of the funnel queries):

“What’s the best workout routine for a 6 months period to develop calves? Add some nutrition tips too”

“I want to eliminate meat from my diet, but I don’t know how to respect all of my nutrition macros”

“What are the best brands for natural non toxic skincare?”

“Best Christmas Gifts ideas for 2024”

So yeah, understandably these kind of queries can only benefit from SGE. Bravo, Google. So also discovery for e-commerces, and likely fitness and wellness sites are going to be impacted significantly.

Online free tools

I don’t know about you, but I love online tools. Calculators, chart generators, image-video-audio converters, you name it. These nifty utilities are there at our disposal to help throughout the day with our job and tasks. In exchange, they render advertising (that we all ignore). Well, this is going to change.

Infact, SGE is perfectly capable of serving all of these results, straight in the above the fold of SERP, and it can do that very quickly (and it will be quicker in the future.

Will Google entirely replace Search Engine Results with SGE content?

No, it won’t for 2 reasons:

  1. as I mentioned earlier, when we look at large numbers of queries, SGE servers mainly one click queries. This is informational intent that wants to be satisfied in a split second. No, it won’t take away your conversions in terms of lead generation, or ecommerce revenue in my opinion. Other things might though, like the rearranging of ranking in SERP that we recently saw. It may also cause the number of results pages to decrease significantly.

    Just think, as an example, at this website. If you needed a hand at configuring and testing consent mode v2 in gtm, you couldn’t get that from SGE. You’d still click the generated result, to inspect the article and go through it step by step.
  2. The other reason is based on the fact that Google bases a lot of their revenue on search ads. Self explanatory (sorry, I’m trying to keep this short).

Not all queries can be answered in a second; especially when a user is actively looking for a product or a service, they won’t just be satisfied with pretty graphs and charts and some pictures and cards. No, they want to buy the product, or they want to get the service that solves their issue.

That kind of traffic will still exist, and it’s the traffic that performance marketers and SEO’s are, after all, after.

Will this disrupt search? Yes, for sure.

Will it disrupt many online businesses, projects and things that were working great before? A good percentage, yes.

Is it ethical towards small and medium businesses? No, not a bit.

Will technical marketing survive this? It’s actually an age of opportunity, in my opinion, but there’s going to be a lot of turmoil.

What were the clues that this was about to happen

Well the clues were all there both from a technology industry advance, and a google core update themes standpoint.

Obviously AI has been the core of research in the past years, but it’s an ongoing field of research since 1956. It was just a matter of time until it reached Google b2c products. The same applies to cookies, by the way.

Then, when OpenAI released to the public its Chat GPT model, the race begun and the push to show Gemini was very strong.

Look at Google’s Core System Updates rollout, and think about them in the context of what Generative Search needs in order to work properly (and the environment it creates, with it).

To me, it’s clear that there’s been an active demotion of websites that exist to generate cheap traffic to render ads, and there’s been an accent and uplift in websites that present fresh content that only human experts can produce. And that’s what AI needs. Human expertise. They need our fresh ideas, ideas that come from real life, a life AI doesn’t have, both to train their models, and both to serve humans contextual content based on aspects AI just can’t make out quite yet.

I honestly don’t think so. Everyone who knows me know how much I am “against” AI, in terms of what it’ll do to our youth when it comes to the very idea of what “thinking” means. I am not a fan of machines when we are not completely in control, and when those in control are unreliable.

Having said that, I think AI will need to keep feeding on data, to gain fresh insight, and keep its answers top-notch. How can it do so, if it stops to sample from direct experiences of authoritative humans? Also, the other reason why I don’t think blue links are going to disappear, is that many people want to find information and pieces of information which are contextual to their need of the moment. There’s no way AI can address all of this; it’s science, not magic.

This is true at least as we don’t all have a chip in our brain. Then, I think SEO will have bigger problems 😉

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