A content strategy that offers specificity, authoritativeness, granular answers to questions, and video content will help brands prepare for Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) rollout. Read on to learn how SGE will affect rankings and traffic.

Every marketer knows the struggle to keep up with Google’s algorithms. But this year brings an even more transformative change to search as we know it: Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE).

The SGE is Google’s shift to include AI-generated search results that summarize answers from multiple sources in the search engine results page (SERP).

Alissa DeGeorge, Google-certified SEO manager at HawkSEM, shares her expert predictions for the SGE’s effects on rankings, and how brands can adapt their content to maintain strong search performance.

What is Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE)?

Google’s SGE is a new change to its SERP. It places an AI-generated synthesis of the highest-quality and most informative search results and sources, before organic results.

SGE results are set to appear on every device, including iOS and Android, and every browser that uses Google, including Chrome.

So, if you currently rank #1 for the keyword “project management software for small businesses,” you’ll still maintain your top organic ranking. However, you’ll fall a touch further down the page to make room for the SGE results, which now come first.

A man is using a notebook computer to searching for information. A virtual screen of the Search website browser for finding data on the internet. Global network, search engine optimization technology

Google describes SGE’s AI-powered overviews as snapshots of information to help you access more diverse and comprehensive content quickly. (Image: Adobe Stock)

Is this the same as AI tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT?

This generative AI platform generates answers to queries from online sources in a conversational manner through natural language processing.

While ChatGPT offers convenience, it sometimes risks accuracy with outdated sources. DeGeorge says they’re not the same — here’s the difference:

“The SGE pulls in information from live sources that you can click on and visit yourself to verify,” she explains.

Google describes SGE’s AI-powered overviews as snapshots of information to help you access more diverse and comprehensive content quickly. It includes links to additional resources, featured snippets, and dedicated spots for sponsored-labeled search ads as well.

The snapshot also gives you the added functionality to ask follow-up questions, where you can refine results to fit more specific preferences.

DeGeorge shares an example of what it looks like for our client Foursquare’s “movement SDK” product:

movement sgk overview google search result

“This is a technology that app developers use, so it’s a pretty niche query,” she says. “Foursquare’s movement SDK product page and other web pages on their website relative to this product are ranking in the top positions for this query (“movement SDK”).”

These same product pages also show up in Google’s AI-powered search:

google ai-powered search result

Don’t see this on your SERP? That’s because Google’s SGE isn’t fully live yet.

What stage is Google’s generative AI search in right now?

Currently, SGE is still in the beta-testing phase, accessible only to a select number of accounts via Google Search Labs, a platform where Google tests various new technologies and experiences.

The full SGE search experience is set to roll out in mid-2024 in the United States. First, Google needs to finish training its large language models (LLMs), ensure privacy and accuracy, and solidify a fluid conversational mode.

How will Google’s SGE affect rankings and performance?

SGE results come before organic traffic, meaning your goal of securing the #1 spot will need to adapt once the SGE goes live.

One study found that the largest SGE result placed 37 URLs above the organic search results. And an SGE snapshot will show up in pretty much every SERP — at least, for over 86% of queries.

No doubt, this will affect clickthrough rate (CTR) and traffic. But your hard work in SEO won’t be in vain. DeGeorge points to a necessary mindset shift around SERP performance from rankings to real estate.

Instead of thinking:

“I rank #1 for this keyword.”

Marketers will shift how they see performance to:

“How much of the SERP am I taking up and how often am I showing up?”

Here’s an example from our client Vintage Tub, who currently ranks in position #2 in the SERP for the query, “what is the average size of a clawfoot tub:”

But Vintage Tub also shows up in these same search results and SGE results once we activate Google’s AI search:

DeGeorge’s goal for clients is to achieve multiple placements in the organic search results and SGE:

“As the SGE combines information from various sources to present answers to users,” explains DeGeorge, “if multiple pages from your website are consistently featured as primary sources in the SGE, your website is perceived as the most credible authority on that particular topic.”

How to prepare for the SGE rollout

We get it; keeping up with all these advancements in Google’s search is more complex than keeping up with the Kardashians’ dating life.

But all the stellar content and niche authority you’ve built won’t go down the drain. You just need to optimize your content to Google’s new norm, and DeGeorge offers tangible tips to do just that.

  1. Make your content more specific
  2. Beef up content with authoritative sources and reviews
  3. Answer common questions for SGE snippet space on your website, Reddit, and Quora
  4. Level up the conversation with video content

Walk with us as we dive into each of these.

1. Make your content more specific

Your customer funnel includes top-funnel (awareness stage), middle-funnel (consideration), and bottom-funnel (decision-stage) customers.

Brands use more strategic digital marketing tactics like PPC ads and personalized remarketing to promote a sale from bottom-funnel customers.

As for top funnel, focus on sharing informational content to showcase niche knowledge and build brand awareness.

Middle-funnel content lies somewhere in the middle, diving deeper into product features and competitor comparisons to move audiences into the bottom-funnel.

Thought leadership for top- and middle-funnel content will still be vital for your content strategy. But DeGeorge says Google will prioritize more high-quality, specific, and granular content that answers your audience’s questions:

“Companies should still produce thought leadership, more generalized pieces to showcase on their website or to promote their brand identity on social platforms,” says DeGeorge. “But the primary focus of their content strategy should be creating helpful, specific content that answers specific questions.”

Here’s an example for an ecommerce wetsuit company:

  • Thought leadership content: General articles about scuba diving
  • Specific SGE Content: How different wetsuits are designed to cater to specific water temperatures

But no matter your content, Google’s crawlers still expect clear proof of expertise.

2. Beef up content with authoritative sources and reviews

Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) already require brands to beef up their content with value to rank higher. DeGeorge says this will continue to be more critical once Google’s SGE rolls out:

“There should be a dedicated author with an author bio on every post,” says DeGeorge. “For agencies like us who write content for our clients, adding “Reviewed By” with an author bio will be key.”

Our SaaS client Datadog exhibits this beautifully by highlighting the expertise and credentials of the perspective in this blog article:

We know the author is an executive within the company, and if readers want to learn more? Datadog also links to Garcia’s Twitter account in the top-right corner, and even includes a photo icon:

3. Answer common questions for SGE snippet space on your website, Reddit, and Quora

Google’s SGE results will highlight snippets that answer common audience questions just like the organic search results. That means brands still need to offer helpful, accurate answers to long-tail queries if they want to earn those highlights.

But how do you make sure a competitor doesn’t steal the spotlight?

DeGeorge recommends competitive analysis to ensure your answers stand out:

“If competitors answer similar questions in their content, how can your response be better?,” asks DeGeorge. “Go the extra mile to provide a more intricate and helpful answer.”

Here’s what that extra mile might look like:

  • Conduct message mining: Identify FAQs from user feedback and customer conversations, and answer them with your content.
  • Include supplementary materials: Include infographic, data, and stats within your content.
  • Verify your content: Have credible experts write or review your content and make sure they have author bios on your site.

DeGeorge takes it a step further and shares ways to answer audience questions beyond your website:

“Quora and Reddit have become increasingly popular on the SERP,” says DeGeroge. “Is there an opportunity for your business here? Are you utilizing social media to answer questions?”

If not, it’s time to start.

4. Level up the conversation with video content

One benefit of generative artificial intelligence (AI) in search is the enhanced user experience. The average person might not have the time or expertise to assess so many search results at once, making the AI snapshot’s conversational summary helpful and efficient.

Guess what else shares information efficiently and conversationally? Videos.

That’s why Google’s Multitask Unified Model (MUM) helps identify relevant information in videos for new search queries, even if the video doesn’t share the query’s topic in its title or description. Yeah. It’s that good. And it will make videos, especially YouTube videos, more prominent on the SERP than ever before.

DeGeorge says videos (specifically YouTube videos) will be more prominent on the SERP than ever before.

Here’s what DeGeorge recommends for brand owners new to YouTube who want to increase their reach and authority:

  • Set up a YouTube account
  • Fill out all required details
  • Include a high-quality, professional header image and logo
  • Tell viewers what to expect in your description
  • Add links to your website and social platforms

Once you’ve got the basics down, she moves on to the actual content.

Create how-to videos

Time to fill up your content calendar. The good news? There’s no shortage of engaging, relevant video content topics to get a head start on the SGE.

DeGeorge recommends creating a content ideation log that launches from your existing content:

“Is there content on my website that would also serve as great video content? A great example of this would be how-to topics,” DeGeorge suggests. “Having a guide of step-by-step instructions with graphics for the user to reference, but also creating a video so the user can see it in real-time.”

NordVPN puts this advice into practice. The Virtual Private Network (VPN) provider shared an article about how to set up a secure home network:

And they demonstrate their guide in greater detail with this YouTube video tutorial:

The cherry on top?

“[You’ll get] brownie points for both SEO and user experience by embedding the video directly within the article and creating a backlink from the YouTube video to the article. It’s a win-win,” says DeGeorge.

Showcase your products

You can describe your products in a search ad, but why not help your audience picture their value even more with videos? You’ll appeal to the 66% of people who rely on video content to learn about a brand’s products, and Google’s AI in search.

DeGeorge especially recommends this tactic for ecommerce businesses:

“If you are [ecommerce brand] and don’t have a lot of SKUs, make a video on each of your products detailing the key features, benefits, etc.,” she recommends. “If you are a large enterprise and that isn’t an option, there’s the option to create videos on your top-selling products, or create more general category videos that highlight a few top-selling products in each of our main categories.”

Our client Vintage Tub & Bath highlights their gorgeous freestyle tubs and striking vanities in these videos:

But what if you don’t have any physical products to showcase? Take a page from SaaS brand Bardeen’s playbook with an animated product explainer video:

DeGeorge says while pricey, these video types are especially strong if you use them on both YouTube and your web content.

While long-form videos are the best medium for product explainers like the ones above, you can’t underestimate the power of a YouTube short in the right context.

Promote sales with shorts

Need to update your audience quickly? Maybe there’s a limited-time sale you want to put on their radar. Don’t hide the goods in a long-form YouTube video — get the word out with a viral YouTube Short instead!

Sephora does a great job with this effective, interactive video that promotes a 20% discount on fragrances:

Just this past year, YouTube Shorts crossed a whopping 50 billion daily views. But DeGeorge reminds us to be strategic:

“Shorts are disposable, and people are unlikely to watch them more than once, DeGeorge explains. “Any video that is more important or central to your brand should be a long-form video.”

But using them for quick wins along the way? No short-changing yourself there.

Connect with your audience with brand videos

Sprout Social found that 64% of consumers want to feel connected to the brands they buy products from. DeGeorge says brand videos on YouTube are great windows to your brand’s soul, and help you forge a connection with your target audience:

“Who are you? What is your mission statement? What differentiates you? This can feature either the founder or CEO, chief marketing officer, etc.,” says DeGeorge.

Here’s a HawkSEM intro video featuring our President, Rambod Yadegar:

Another example? Skincare brand Caudalie knows they have an international audience, so the brand created videos about the company vision in not just English, but many different languages to appeal to its diverse audiences:

The takeaway

If 71% of marketers think generative AI will save them hours of time, you can’t blame Google for jumping a step ahead with search.

Undoubtedly, Google’s SGE is a game-changer. It will shake up your traffic, clicks, and conversions, at least temporarily. But it also breaks open the door to achieve unprecedented visibility when navigated strategically.

Our staff of highly qualified and experienced SEO marketers know that no strategy continues to bring results when unchecked.

We expertly stay adept at Google’s algorithmic changes and audience behavior shifts — we have decades of history bringing clients an average of 4.5X ROI.

Tech will continue to evolve at lightspeed, which is why we use cutting-edge technology to build adaptable strategies.

But if you want to stay on top of Google’s SGE? You’ll need a firm hand on your content strategy that prioritizes meticulous specificity in answering long-tail queries, creative video content, and authoritativeness.

Traditional search is the past, but the future of search is bright for audiences that level up their content.

Google’s SGE can give your brand prime real estate on the SERPs when you position yourself as the leading authority in your industry. We can help you get there.

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon is an entrepreneur and writer from sunny SoCal. She leads Lyon Content, a tight-knit team of bold creatives, and crafts engaging written content that helps brands sparkle and scale.