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Amanda Koehler

Digital Marketing Practice Director

For more than a decade, Amanda has helped Northwoods clients achieve their digital marketing goals through impactful, data-driven digital marketing strategies. Her approach is centered on careful listening, meticulous research, and a deep understanding of data analytics, and she holds certificates in both Google Analytics and Google AdWords. An experienced lecturer and webinar presenter, Amanda is one of our top digital trailguides and has helped countless students, clients, and marketers better understand the complex world of SEO and analytics. Away from Northwoods, she enjoys spending time cooking, traveling, and painting.

Will Google's Search Generative Experience Change the Way We Search?

June 26, 2023 | Amanda Koehler, Digital Marketing Practice Director

3 Minute Read

Google reigns supreme in search because it’s always been at the forefront of innovation and constantly pushed the boundaries of what search can do. Now, Google has jumped on the AI bandwagon with its all-new Search Generative Experience (SGE).

Will this new way of searching change user search behavior? And how should digital marketers and website owners respond?

What Is Search Generative Experience?

SGE is an experimental version of Google’s search engine. It uses artificial intelligence to generate contextual answers to complex questions. This new generative search harnesses the power of generative models, such as language models, to create synthetic content tailored to users’ search queries.

Currently, SGE is available only within Google’s new Search Labs feature and doesn’t activate by default . (We assume that it will activate by default at some point after the experimental phase.)  

How Does SGE Use Artificial Intelligence?

AI enhances the search experience in three ways.

1. AI Snapshot: Generates a Unique Summary for Some Longer Queries

Brief, direct queries generally get good responses and references to their sources. The query “what is the best time to go to Reykjavik, Iceland” elicits a succinct answer and links to more information. In this way, SGE results resemble the familiar featured snippets of Google Search.

A look at Google's Search Generative Experience direct query results.

Longer queries, though, still send users to websites to learn more. For example, “What is the best restaurant in Reykjavik for kids with seafood allergies?” yields: “There are many options and you can click on those options to learn more.” This is very similar to how search functions today.

An example of SGE results from a longer query.

2. Conversational Mode: Answers Follow-Up Questions While Retaining the Context of the Original Search

Let’s ask a follow-up question: “How many days in Reykjavik, Iceland are enough?” That prompts Google to take you off the original search results page and into a more chat-like experience. As you continue to ask more questions, the sources for previous search results will stay in place on the right. Users can also scroll down from generative search to find traditional search results.

An example of SGE's results when asked as follow-up question.

Google places a “bear claw” icon on each previous query answer. Clicking this new icon expands the sources right in the conversation window, so you can see even more websites to visit.

Results from an SGE search when the "bear claw" icon is expanded.

3. Vertical Experiences: Provides a Preferred List of Features and More Product Details in Commercial Searches

In commercial searches, the new SGE presents additional product features and new ways to slip ads into the mix. Eye-catching sponsored shopping ads appear above the generative search area; Google thus continues to emphasize search results pages as the most fitting placement for these types of ads.

An image of SGE results showing a list of features and more product details for commercial searches.

Scrolling into the SGE areas of the search results page raises further product information beside the  contextual answer and, below it, pricing, rates, descriptions, and product images drawn from Google Merchant Center. Clicking on them raises another popup with shopping results for this product. This arrangement gives prime screen real estate to the familiar Google Shopping experience.

SGE behavior when scrolling further into commercial search results.

How Will SGE Impact SEO?

Although SGE will change the way we experience search results on Google, we’ll continue to click through to websites to learn more. Google is committed to presenting AI answers that provide sources to information and opportunities for users to click through to learn more. And Google is clearly still committed to incorporating ads into search results.

New types of ads, tailored to SGE, might arise, but Google’s goal hasn’t changed: Provide the best answers to users’ questions. That means marketers must continue to focus solely on quality, authoritative content to ensure that your website finds its rightful place among sources within SGE.

What Should You Do Right Now?

First, sign up for Search Labs. The sooner you have access to SGE, the sooner you can start searching in this mode for your products, services, and targeted keywords.

The future of information discovery lies in Google's generative search. With its ability to generate contextually relevant content, offer personalized results, and create information on demand, generative search offers a new way of presenting and enriching information we’re used to seeing in Google search results. But Google appears committed to continuing to send users to website pages with SGE.

The bottom line? Quality content will continue to be critical in an AI-powered world.

If you need assistance creating high-quality, authoritative content to drive better SEO results for your business, our expert team can help. Reach out to us to learn more.