Google wrapped up its I/O 2023 event and a lot of interesting announcements were made during the event. One such announcement was Search Generative Experience or SGE.
What is SGE?
Search Generative Experience (or SGE short) is Google’s integration of generative AI into their one and only search product. Google is rolling out this update to some users but not everyone since it’s still a work in progress and in beta.
How does SGE work?
Essentially, the new modification to Google’s search page will now include a ~150-word answer generated on the fly by its AI model and provide you with a ChatGPT-style answer. It does this by pulling the data from multiple sources on the web (such as blogs, news, and more.) and then compiling them into one comprehensive answer. It does also list the sources of its answer by providing the links and pages of the sites it used to generate the response.
SEO vs SGE
A lot of SEO experts are trying to understand whether this new addition will have a direct impact on SEO. To better understand if SGE is here to replace or supplement SEO we’ll need to look at how they both work and then come up with our own assumptions.
What is SEO?
I will not go into a lot of details, but in short, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it refers to the process of optimizing a website to improve its chances of ranking higher in search engine results pages, this of course includes Google, Bing, etc. Each search engine has its own algorithm to detect specific things in websites that it crawls to decide how and when to rank a website higher, or lower. Website owners spend a lot of money and effort on optimizing their websites to rank higher in search engines since it gives them greater reach and a lot of potential customers can find them if they were on Page 1 vs. Page 100 on Google or other engines.
What is SGE?
From what we know so far, Search Generative Experience will use a ChatGPT-style answer to your Google search query. So for instance, if you’re researching how to take a screenshot on a Mac, SGE will pull that information from several online sources (Blogs, and other sites) and show you the steps to take directly, without the need for your to go to each website and look for the answer. SGE will also allow for follow-up questions, so let’s say the answer was not very precise or lacks important information, you’ll be able to add additional context by asking a follow-up question.
Will SGE replace or take over SEO?
As you can see, SGE is not the next version of SEO but rather a new way that Google will display search results. In the near future, when you search on Google, you’ll still get a long list of websites that you can go through manually, but now Google will show you a generated ChatGPT-style response to your query directly above the fold (on the top of the screen).
Content Creators SGE Concerns
We can deduct from this that SGE will dramatically reduce organic search visits for the websites it generates its answer from. Essentially if I am researching “How to take a screenshot on a Mac?” And Google shows me the answer directly without the need to go into several websites, why would I ever visit these sites? Even if these sites are still listed at the top of the page. That is why, I believe that how-to, cooking, and other steps-based blogs or sites will lose significant traffic once SGE rolls out worldwide.
Legal and General Concerns
So if you have a how-to blog and write articles such as our example “How to take a screenshot on a Mac?” What will happen when Google takes the answer directly from your site and uses it on its home page while you lose traffic? It is not clear how Google will address such concerns that content producers are worried about and it’s important that they do so early on. Otherwise, this will create a mess of copyright and legal issues as this rolls out.
Try it for Yourself
To try Google SGE, you'll need to follow the following steps:
- Join the Search Waitlist by following this link
- You'll need to log in with your Google Account
- Input your details (if prompted)
- Wait for the confirmation email until you have been given access
After you have access, you'll need to sign in and use Chrome. Just go to Google and enter any search query. Wait a few seconds for SGE to generate the answer since it's not super fast at the moment. Some queries will not trigger SGE for some reason, but this may be only temporary.
For the time being, SEO is here to stay. You’ll still need to optimize your content for your blog, site, and other online content because search engine algorithms will look at the source of your site and several other factors to rank you in their results pages. SEO will also be a factor in whether your content is used for SGE to generate answers based on user queries.
Keep in mind however, that given the information we have so far, there might be a risk of losing traffic if your content can be answered in about 150 words since SGE will be able to pull that information and display it directly on the home page, therefore users will probably not bother clicking on your site.