SBU/AI overviews roll out in the US

On May 14, 2024, it finally happened: Google officially started the rollout of SGE - Search Generative Experience. Under the name "AI Overviews", Google now offers AI-organized search results - a whole new way to navigate search results.

Imagine a world where your search queries on Google are met with detailed and insightful answers that don't necessarily take you to a website via a link - but actually allow you to interact with the search engine directly in the search results. That world will soon become a reality with Google's rollout of AI Overviews. But the update is also making SEO professionals sweat.

What is Google Search Generative Experience? What does it mean for the search experience? And what is my take on it as an SEO specialist? I take a closer look in this article.

(Article originally published on December 20, 2023, but revised on May 15, 2024.)

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What is SGE?

In May 2023, Google announced their newest addition, theSearch Generative Experience, which is a generative AI in search results. The idea is that when you enter your keywords, you will be presented with a so-called "AI link card" above the traditional search results.

Here you get an in-depth answer to the exact query you typed in. In this way, Google hopes that the search will become more personalized and customized to the user.

As with ChatGPT, it's like having a helpful assistant that doesn't just give you a list of links, but actually tries to understand what you're really looking for. The difference is that Google's SGE will work directly in the search results.

Therefore, when you want to do more complex searches, you don't have to split your searches into several parts and then gather the information to figure out the answer yourself. SGE will give you the answer to your exact search intent.

SGE was announced without a set launch date, but on May 14, 2024, Google dropped the bombshell with the official rollout of the technology in the US. Selected users in the US have had the opportunity to test and provide feedback on the technology since May 25, 2023, and the technology will presumably hit Denmark during 2024.

Google conversation starters

Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) is a revolutionary development in search technology. This approach allows users to ask follow-up questions, creating a more conversational and interactive search experience. Unlike traditional search methods that focus primarily on ranking results based on keywords, SGE can delve deeper into users' queries. This adds a new dimension to information gathering, allowing users to explore topics more thoroughly and get more relevant and personalized answers than ever before.

Google itself gives the example with the search "What's better for a family with kids under 3 and a dog, Bryce Canyon or arches?". Below you can see the AI-generated answer:

SGE can generate an AI answer when you search on Google

See also Google's own video about SGE:

Why is SGE coming?

It's not that Google has been late to the AI wave, but they've been overtaken by ChatGPT and have now stepped up their development of generative AI. As a result, the development of SGE has been accelerated a lot faster.

Google itself says that SGE aims to improve the search experience so you can better understand a topic, explore new viewpoints and generally get things done faster.

This evolution represents a shift towards more dynamic and personalized search results in response to changing market expectations and internal competition in search technology.

What about traditional search results?

Even with the introduction of SGE, the traditional blue search results will continue to be an integral part of the Google search engine. The search results will be supplemented with, but not replaced by, AI-generated answers. At the top of the page, your AI link cards will appear and therefore the traditional search results and ads will be pushed further down. With this, it remains important to optimize content for both traditional and AI-powered search functions.

It's also important to mention that when users do a Google search and receive an AI-generated answer, Google will highlight the sources used in the answer. These sources are links to the relevant websites, allowing users to directly visit the pages that contributed the information. This means that your website can now be highlighted as a source in an AI-generated answer in addition to being a standalone search result.

What possible changes will the SGE bring?

The introduction of SGE in Google Search is likely to bring significant changes for both users and businesses. For users, this means more intuitive and conversational search results, which can improve their experience and efficiency when searching for information.

For businesses and SEO professionals, this means a possible change in content and search engine optimization strategies. The new approach will require a deeper understanding of how AI-generated answers interact with traditional search results and how best to optimize content for both formats.

Google's E-E-A-T guidelines become even more relevant with the introduction of SGE, as this technology emphasizes the need for credible and quality content. With SGE's ability to generate answers from a wide range of sources, websites that demonstrate high expertise, experience, authority and credibility are likely to be prioritized.

This requires that content is not only SEO-optimized, but also based on in-depth knowledge and credible sources to ensure visibility in the search engine's new AI-powered format. This is especially true for YMYL websites that touch on topics such as users' health, finances or life situation.

How does AI Overviews affect SEO?

There has been an outcry in the SEO industry since Google first announced the expected arrival of SGE.

The worst case scenario has been that SGE makes SEO redundant, partly because an AI-generated search experience makes results less predictable and click-through rates will drop drastically as users get answers directly in the search results - and that companies will no longer allocate marketing money to SEO as the discipline will no longer drive website traffic anyway.

However, the main argument for the death of SEO has been that search results will now be so filled up with AI results that the classic blue links will fall so far below the fold that they will become a no man's land where no one ever clicks.

You can almost picture the tragicomic scenario: Unemployed SEO specialists lined up, arms outstretched, desperately holding homemade signs emblazoned with awkward writing: "Will do SEO for money!"

It's probably not quite that bad.

Firstly, search results have long been dominated by more than the classic blue links. Firstly, advertising is by far Google's largest source of revenue, so sponsored Google Ads and Google Shopping results have often been above the fold in search results.

In addition, featured snippets (searches where selected snippets of text matching a search are displayed at the top of the result) have only become more frequent in the last few years, just as the top of the search results are filled with image carousels (try searching for a recipe) and Google 3-Pack (especially on local searches).

Below the fold results have been a premise for SEOs for a long time.

Not least, it's important to keep in mind that AI Overviews will most likely appear primarily in informational searches. Commercial searches will probably be less affected by AI-generated results.

What you need to be aware of

  • Focus on quality over quantity:
    Prioritizing in-depth, well-researched and credible content.
  • User intent and relevance:
    Increased emphasis on content that matches user intent and contextual relevance.
  • Expertise and authority:
    The importance of appearing as an expert and authority in your field.
  • Strong online presence:
    The need to have a solid presence across different platforms, including social media and third-party sites.
  • Improved user experience:
    Websites need to be intuitive and fast to ensure a good user experience.
  • The importance of external links and recommendations:
    Focus on how a company's reputation is reflected online, including reviews and content on third-party websites.
  • Using structured data:
    Using schema markup and structured data to improve visibility and understanding of content for search engine AI.

The future of SEO?

The future of SEO is likely to focus even more on user behavior and intent, which will transform the traditional approach to search engine optimization. Technological advances, especially in artificial intelligence and machine learning, will give search engines like Google an improved ability to understand and interpret user intent and the context behind search queries.

This will mean that SEO is no longer just about optimizing for specific keywords, but also about creating content that precisely addresses users' needs and questions.

Amplify is your partner in the future of SEO

When the SGE officially launches, the rules of SEO will likely be rewritten. Our team of SEO specialists are dedicated to helping you take advantage of the countless opportunities that SGE and the future of SEO offer. From optimizing your content to developing strategies that resonate with both AI and your audiences, Amplify is your SEO agency for success in the digital world.

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