Impact of SGE on SEO

Alexandre Hoffmann 29/04/2024 8 minutes
SEO

Imagine a world where search engines not only deliver links but also provide summarised answers directly to you. This isn’t science fiction; it’s Search Generative Experience (SGE).

Chances are, you may already be familiar with the concept of SGE and our blog post discussing its impact on paid search. This time, we, as an SEO agency, shift our focus to Search Engine Optimisation.

SEO is undergoing a transformation driven by current events, with artificial intelligence (AI) taking centre stage. Tools like ChatGPT and Gemini are just a glimpse of this exciting future.

So, whether you’re already familiar with SGE or just starting, this blog post will explore the essence of SGE, its impact on SEO, strategies to boost your SEO performance and what this means for the future of digital marketing.

Without further ado, let’s delve into this.

What Is SGE?

SGE leverages AI to understand complex, natural language queries (like ChatGPT) and provide informative summaries directly on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). This eliminates the need for users to click through multiple websites.

It’s currently in the experiment stage in a handful of countries and was expected to roll out in the UK this year. However, on 4th April 2024, Google was reportedly considering only releasing SGE on a premium version of their product given the threat that AI-powered search poses to its advertising model.

Even with this development, Google is continually refining its algorithm in line with changing user behaviour, so it’s important to be prepared to adapt your SEO and content strategy to one that Google will favour in all of its forms, be it the SERP we are used to or a revolutionary one such as SGE.

How does SGE work?

SGE utilises cutting-edge AI technology to enhance search functionality. Here are some features on how it works:

AI-powered snapshot

SGE will display AI-generated summaries (“Snapshot”) at the top of the SERP. Traditional sources like links remain accessible to the right of the SERP or within the Snapshot itself.

The AI in the Snapshot analyses a user’s search query, understands its intent and context and then identifies the most relevant and high-quality information from various sources.

Enhanced exploration

Vertical experiences offer additional options and features related to the search topic. For specific queries with multiple viewpoints, SGE presents “Perspectives” within the SERP.

Focus on safety

SGE currently excludes sensitive topics like finance and health (considered “Your Money or Your Life”) to ensure user safety.

Source: https://blog.google/products/search/generative-ai-search/

For SEOs wondering about their featured snippets disappearing, there’s no need to worry about that.

As shown in the graphic, we can see featured snippets alongside SGE. Think of SGE as a partner in crime to your featured snippets, not its replacement.

So, if an AI answer isn’t convincing enough, users can still rely on your featured snippet for a reliable source.

What does SGE mean for SEO and digital marketing?

The emergence of Google’s SGE undoubtedly presents a shifting landscape for SEO and digital marketing. While the full impact of SGE in SEO remains to be seen, here are some key areas to focus on:

Quality is king

High-quality, in-depth content is now even more critical for ranking well in the realm of SEO for SGE. Google prioritises content users find valuable and trustworthy and this focus was further emphasised by Google’s core update on 5th March 2024, which cracked down on low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%.

To ensure your content aligns with Google’s values, focus on building Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

But what is E-E-A-T?

Introduced as E-A-T in 2014, later innovated with an extra E in late 2022, E-E-A-T stands for:

  • Expertise: Does your content demonstrate a deep understanding of the topic? Is the author of the topic recognised as an authority in the field?
  • Experience: Do you have personal experience with the topic? This is important for YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) websites like health or finance. These sensitive subjects require the most accurate and helpful information to ensure user wellbeing
  • Authoritativeness: Is your website considered a reliable source of information? Is it credible with testimonials and includes citations from other reputable websites?
  • Trustworthiness: Does your website appear legitimate and trustworthy? Are there clear contact details and privacy policies in place?

By focusing on these four pillars, you can create content that Google sees as valuable and trustworthy, ultimately increasing your chances of ranking higher in search results.

Additionally, understanding Google’s Search Quality Evaluator (SQE) guidelines will offer you valuable insights into what makes a website successful, which can enhance your SEO efforts.

SQE guidelines are essentially a roadmap for website owners created by Google. By understanding these guidelines, you will gain a deeper understanding of E-E-A-T and the many topics and themes that will influence your SEO practices and contribute to more chances of appearing in SGE’s various SERP elements.

User engagement takes centre stage

As user behaviour adapts to search, prioritising user experience will be key for SGE in SEO and moving forward even with the SERP as it stands.

Here are four key questions you may want to ask yourself:

1. Is your content structured for clarity?

Users crave information presented in a way that’s easy to grasp. Structure your writing with clear headings, subheadings, and concise language. This clarity not only enhances the user experience but also helps search engines to understand what your content is and rank it accordingly which can enhance visibility.

To further emphasise the importance of content clarity, according to BrightEdge15% of search queries don’t produce a result in SGE or an AI-powered response. This suggests that SGE isn’t always the best or the only way to answer a user’s question. Therefore, writing quality content for the 15% of missing queries will be key to ensure you are maximising your visibility not just in SGE but elsewhere in search.

2. Is your content optimised for featured snippets?

Users prefer concise answers to their questions without the need to sift through information on a website. Featured snippets appear on the SERP currently to concisely answer a user’s question, pulling information directly from a website and portraying it directly in the SERP. To appear in featured snippets, content needs to be direct and to the point, answering user intent in a focused manner.

This SEO best practice not only positions you for featured snippets but also boosts your website’s visibility in search results and can drive potential traffic. Featured snippets will remain a focus in the current Google SERP and it seems in SGE too.

For your featured snippets, remember to pick out a high-quality main image that will hook the reader into clicking. These will be your golden ticket to driving traffic from your featured snippets.

3. Do you have an understanding of user intent?

Uncover the “why” behind a user’s search query. What information are your users seeking? Be sure to tailor your content to directly address their needs by offering value and answering questions comprehensively. This will improve your chances – both on SGE and on the current SERP – of Google serving your content to answer a given user query.

4. Is your website technically sound?

Focus on Core Web Vitals (CWV) to address issues like loading times, interactivity issues and visual instabilities.

As mentioned by Google’s guidelines on CWV, here are the best practices when optimising for user engagement:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This measures loading performance

To provide a good user experience, aim to have LCP occur within the first 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load.

  • Interaction To Next Paint (INP): This measures responsiveness

For a good user experience, aim for an INP score of less than 200 milliseconds.

  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This measures the stability of visuals

To provide a good user experience, strive to have a CLS score of less than 0.1.

The benefits of SGE for SEO

While many in the SEO sphere view SGE as a potential threat to traditional SEO, a closer look reveals a more beneficial relationship.

Here are three ways in which SGE can benefit your SEO efforts:

Information teasers

By providing concise answers to the user’s initial query, SGE acts as a springboard for further exploration. These information teasers spark user interest and encourage clicks to your website for deeper dives. This targeted approach leverages SGE’s strengths while driving valuable traffic to your content, ensuring you reach users actively seeking the in-depth content you offer.

Enhanced brand awareness

While featuring in SGE doesn’t directly establish social proof, it positions your brand in front of a wider audience actively searching for relevant information. This exposure can significantly boost brand awareness, making your brand a familiar and trusted name in the user’s mind. Increased user engagement with your website due to SGE exposure further strengthens this positive brand perception, potentially leading to an increase in brand loyalty and potential conversions.

Long-tail advantage

SGE excels at summarising broad topics. This creates an opportunity for your website to shine with in-depth explorations of long-tail keywords that users will increasingly use in SGE. By targeting these specific searches, you can attract users seeking a deeper understanding and establish yourself as a trusted authority on the subject.

The disadvantages of SGE on SEO

While SGE offers some potential benefits, SEOs also recognise some drawbacks that we may need to adapt to.

Here are two key considerations for how SGE may affect SEO performance:

Demanding corroborative content

SGE prioritises comprehensive content with strong evidence, which can place a higher demand on SEO strategies. For you to compete in the generative AI landscape, focus on in-depth pieces of content with unique insights and strong supporting evidence.

By doing this, you’ll not only be well-positioned for SGE, but you’ll also be providing a better user experience overall. This can lead to improved rankings for your SEO efforts, increased brand trust and ultimately, a stronger organic SEO presence not just on SGE but on the current SERP too.

Reduced Click-Through-Rates (CTR)

As SGE condenses information directly on SERP, users who find their answer within the summary may be less likely to explore further, potentially leading to decreased website traffic which can affect your SEO efforts.

Will SGE kill SEO?

As we’ve seen, SGE does have some drawbacks for SEOs, however, research by Search Engine Land offers a reassuring truth…

Only 4.5% of the time do URLs in SGE summaries directly match results from the top 10 organic searches.

As a result, your SERP position is not the sole factor in securing a featured spot within SGE. Instead, the quality of your content is what determines whether SGE will feature it.

The same research also shows that a whopping 93.8% of SGE links introduce URLs entirely different from the top 10 organic results. This is an eye-opener, and it opens doors for websites of all sizes.

By aligning with Google’s best practices, using E-E-A-T and consistently delivering valuable content with strong corroborative evidence, you can increase your chances of appearing in SGE and featured snippets, which can have a significant effect on your SEO campaigns.

What does SGE mean for the future of SEO and digital marketing?

The rise of SGE isn’t an apocalypse for SEOs, but a redirection.

In recent core updates, Google states they’re tackling low-quality content with up to a 40% impact on search results, which further emphasises this shift.

Now, the focus is on high-quality, unique content that demonstrates E-E-A-T. This will become your SEO goldmine, which will drive your success for years to come.

Remember, user experience reigns supreme…

Optimise your SEO strategy with your customers in mind. Answer their questions, deliver the content they seek and make it all user-friendly.

By focusing on these core principles for the future, you’ll thrive in the new era of generative AI search.

The Future of Search is here and with it, a dynamic landscape for SEO specialists. While SGE presents new challenges, it also unlocks a treasure trove of opportunities and rewards for those who can adapt. The focus on understanding your user and their search intent remains crucial in all changes from Google.

Are you prepared to harness the power of SGE and elevate your SEO strategy? Get in touch with us today to stay ahead of the curve as these transformative changes unfold on Google.