Search Generative Experience: What AI Search Means for Brands
Google's Search Generative AI is a huge change for the search engine as we know it, and for br…
It’s been a couple of weeks since Google announced the new Search Generative Experience (SGE) at its Google I/O 2023 conference. This announcement signifies possibly the biggest-ever shake up to its search product and brings AI directly into the everyday Google search experience.
Search results pages have evolved over time with a steady flow of new features. Some launched to much fanfare only to fall by the wayside never to be spoken of again (remember author images?) Whereas features such as Knowledge Panels, Local Pack and Featured Snippets have become part of the fabric of search results. But the launch of SGE is big and potentially game-changing for SEO.
There are three main components to the Search Generative Experience. In short, these are:
These aim to provide AI-generated answers to users' search queries. They are served directly on the search results pages and given prominence above traditional organic results.
In a similar vein to ChatGPT, the experience does not end with a single answer to the user's query. Users can continue the conversation directly on the search results page by asking follow up questions, with the AI understanding the context in relation to the query.
Google recognises the power of opinion, particularly from those with direct experience or expertise of a subject matter. Perspectives bring a wider range of viewpoints and opinions to the search results. Not only can these show on regular search results, there will also be a dedicated tab (like images or videos) that displays content from a wider range of sources and in more varied format formats.
The new search experience is a radical change. Some believe it may be a reaction to new platforms such as TikTok that have been stealing audience attention, particularly when it comes to informational needs. Others think it’s a reaction to Microsoft and their integration of ChatGPT into Bing. But really, there have been signs that Google has been looking to move in this direction for some time and we’re just now getting to see what this looks like in practice.
It’s fair to say this development has caused some alarm and the usual declarations that ‘this is the end for SEO’. That is far from the case but it is likely brands may well be the ones hit hardest by these changes. Chief among these is likely to be a decline in organic traffic.
It’s likely brands are going to see a drop in organic traffic, particularly for informational queries. An October 2022 study conducted by SEMrush found that nearly 26% of searches resulted in the user clicking on zero search results. With the introduction of Featured Snippets and ‘People also asked’ search results features, this number has been on the rise for some time.
With Google now displaying more comprehensive answers directly on search results pages and users also able to continue their search journey in a conversational way, the number of searches where a user doesn’t click on a traditional search result will surely continue to increase. Not only that, it also appears as though Featured Snippets and the ‘People also asked’ page features will continue to be served directly under the AI results too, further pushing traditional organic results further down the page.