Aug 30, 2023

A Marketer’s Guide to SGE

Charlotte Pearse

Artificial intelligence is evolving every day, and new AI tools are always emerging as the technology advances. 

Whether you love it or hate it, it’s important to stay up to date with AI, as it can have a great impact on how workplaces operate. Google Search Generative Experience, or Google SGE for short, is one of the latest AI developments, which was first announced at the Google I/O conference on May 10th, 2023.

This tool will change the way Google searches happen and what web content is  pushed to the forefront. It therefore has the potential to significantly impact how we find information on Google service, as well as any businesses with a stake in the web content world— so, a lot of businesses.

Those who work in marketing in particular will want to know about Google SGE, especially after Chat GPT made waves with its AI-generated content earlier this year. Does Google’s shiny new program have the potential to put marketer’s positions at risk?

Well, we only know so much about Google SGE to date, and the program has of course not been released as of right now. By learning about how it works now, you will better be able to prepare yourself for the potential results.

Keep reading to learn what we know about Google SGE so far, and how it may affect businesses.

What is SGE?

So, what is Google SGE? In a nutshell, it’s a search and interface program that will integrate AI-generated results when you make a specific online search. 

Up until now, Google’s well-known search engine has always created a list of existing websites that may provide the answers to your query based on the presence of specific keywords. The ranking of the indexed data depends upon Google’s ever-changing algorithm.

Google SGE, previously referred to under the codename of Project Magi, uses a large language model to come up with content and answers to searched questions. It specifically uses the Pathways Language Model, a “transformer neural network” that allows AI to make changes and improve user search results.

Other brands are also investigating the possibility of integrating AI into their search engines— Microsoft has reportedly been experimenting with incorporating aspects of ChatGPT into Bing.

Employees at Google claim that SGE is designed to supplement the search engine as it already exists, but it’s still a big development. So, what will this change about the way Google works?

You would start the same way, by typing your query into the search engine bar. Normally, this would generate results based on Google’s PageRank algorithm and occasionally boosted sponsored posts. 

After going through SGE, the AI will present you with a quick blurb of information that seems most relevant to your specific question.

This first blurb, referred to as an “AI snapshot” will pull from multiple sources instead of being a quote from a singular website. Its purpose is to give you a concise answer to all parts of your question.

An image of Google search results for the term "analytics" on a smartphone.
When you conduct a Google search it will come up with a screen that looks something like this— a list of hyperlinked websites so that you can consider all your options before clicking one. Naturally, Google’s own analytics website shows up first due to the way the algorithm works right now.

Google isn’t trying to dissuade you from clicking on other web content. The snapshot will link three pages it pulled from on the right side of the screen. You can also click on what Google dubs the “bear claw” to find out which source each sentence of the snapshot came from in case users want to learn more.

The Search Generative Experience AI will also offer you likely next steps, such as questions directly related to the one you already searched. It also offers a “conversational mode” that functions similarly to an AI chatbot, and provides additional detail and resources on your original search if you choose to communicate with it.

Unlike with a regular Google search, conversational mode will remember your previous query and use that to inform what resources it shows you since the AI knows that the two searches are related.

Google has not yet released a specific date that SGE will become available through the Search Labs link they provided, though in their initial announcement in May they made it seem as if it will be sooner rather than later. Regardless, SGE will likely only be available in English and to users in the United States at first.

Search Labs will be accessible on Google, iOS, and Android mobile devices as well as via the Google Chrome app on desktop.

Google has highlighted shopping and “vertical searches” on their platform as something that SGE could have a large impact on, as the snapshot created by the AI will provide users with both product options and things you may want to consider before purchasing.

The announcement of Google SGE has made people think about changes to more than just online shopping, however. Much like Chat GPT and other AI programs that preceded it, SG E could very well have a huge impact on business practices.

What Will SGE do for Businesses?

Though still in development and not available to the public, Google SGE will definitely impact businesses upon its release.

Google hasn’t said a lot about what changes SGE will bring, but one factor that’s important to consider is how SGE will affect ad placement. According to Google, “ads will continue to appear in dedicated ad slots throughout the page.”

In an example query result all ads were shown at the top of the page prior to the AI snapshot and labeled “Sponsored” for transparency. 

Sponsored posts appearing at the top of a Google search is hardly a new development, but advertisers are currently unable to opt out of their ads appearing under SGE results.

In addition, no method exists as of right now to track performance of advertisements through SGE separately to regular Google searches. So, you’d have to look at all of the data together.

An image of a tablet opened up to analytics software. A stylus, a smartphone, and a mug all sit beside the tablet on a wooden table.
For anyone whose business writes web content to promote a specific product or just the brand in general, it’s absolutely essential to keep an eye on analytics so that you know what works and what doesn’t. It’s especially important now, since Google SGE could have an effect on all of these numbers.

Some people are worried that Google SGE will have a negative impact on organic traffic by promoting AI-generated answers, and it's a valid concern. If making a Google search on mobile, the AI snapshot will take up the majority of your screen.

If users don’t look further than the AI snapshot, then not only will sources not linked in that blurb have less online traffic, but people also might not bother to click on the sources the snapshot pulled from, either.

Some questions won’t qualify to be answered by Google SGE, however. “Your Money, Your Life” industries likely won’t be impacted by AI for the foreseeable future. Content that falls under this category has very strict quality guidelines.

“Your Money, Your Life,” or YMYL content for short, refers to discussions of health, safety, financial security, and society. As you can imagine, misinformation on any of these topics could have drastic consequences. 

Google SGE does not answer questions that could influence users’ personal decisions on these issues, but rather works to inform these decisions. Some YMYL topics will not generate AI snapshots at all, while others will appear with caveats. So it stands to reason that businesses related to YMYL can expect less of an impact from SGE.

The business that will likely see the effects of SGE the most, however, is without question marketing.

SGE and Marketing

Google has said that their Search Generative Experience isn’t meant to take clicks— and thereby revenue —away from web content. High-quality, search-engine optimized content will still show up high up in a Google search.

Despite the fact that Google SGE may cause less hits on web content, the refining of search results means that those who do click on a website from the SGE page would be more likely to purchase a product from that site.

In addition, Google SGE reimagining the way a Google search works means that people are going to use it whether they actively go looking for AI-generated content or not.

Still, don’t overthink this new tool. Marketing content creators had to adapt when Google’s initial answer boxes started popping up, and now that answer box will provide click through links to more than just one site! If you’re strategic about how you write your content, chances are your work could claim one of those spots.

An image of wooden blocks spelling out SEO placed in front of an open laptop.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is one of the best ways to make sure that your content appears high in Google’s list of search results. By using and repeating specific sets of keywords, you can encourage more clicks. SEO keywords are the building blocks for content promoted by Google’s algorithm as it exists now, and it’s very possible that Google SGE will give SEO a boost, too!

As established, Google SGE has not been officially released yet, and even when it comes out it will probably do so in stages. Since it’s not out it’s impossible to predict just what impact it will have on the marketing world, but as a marketer you can definitely prepare yourself.

First, make sure you’re checking your click-through rates. You can do so through the Google Search Console. Click-through rates may drop once SGE rolls out, so make sure you keep track of your numbers. 

It’s also probably a good idea to get a benchmark before the program is released so you’ll know if anything changes. Likewise, stay up to date with when and how SGE will be released as Google continues to put out more information about the program. 

Google will likely make several announcements about SGE prior to its release since the program is now so highly anticipated. You may also want to consider following blogs and influencers that stay up to date on AI announcements. 

You’ve already taken a step in the right direction by reading this, but it can never hurt to continue researching. The more you know about what causes Google SGE to promote certain sites over otherwise will help you figure out what you’ll need to do to adapt your content strategy.

The release of Google SGE could also necessitate marketers and writers to be mindful about the web content they put out. Make sure that what the SGE would show first about your brand is what you want people to see, and of course pay extra attention to keeping your content accurate and current to encourage the AI to pull from it.

If certain keywords are getting more AI attention for a specific query, take that into account as you refine your SEO practices moving forward.

Perhaps one of the best things you can do right now to prepare yourself for Google SGE’s release is to experiment with the program yourself. Sign up for the SGE waitlist via Search Labs to stay ahead of the curve. When the program is finally released, you should ensure that you’ll be one of the first to try it out!