In May, at their I/O conference, Google announced huge plans to integrate their AI into search. They promise to be some of the biggest changes we’ve seen in long while.
First off, some caveats. I’ve watched the recording of Google’s announcement and have not tried the new features myself yet. I wanted to let you know about the proposed changes in a quick read, rather than 2 hours’ worth of video.
Once it’s released and we try it ourselves, we’ll report back with more thoughts, predictions and solutions.
Enough of that, let’s get to it.
TL;DR (Too long: didn’t read.)
- Google is integrating their AI into search and other Google products. This is called SGE – Search Generative Experience.
- It’s AI will generate answers for most* informational searches.
- If the answers are accurate and satisfactory, we may see less people click through to websites.
- The new feature brings chat to search too. You can ask Google follow on questions from your original search.
- The Google Shopping experience is changing too, with a much more integrated experience.
- Google ‘Perspectives’ is coming soon, where social media and forum posts are easily accessible from the SERP Google’s way of integrating the human touch to search.
- Timelines are unknown at this stage. Only users in the US have access to the BETA programme throughout June 2023
I have also put together a 12 minute video which explains what it’s all about and how it could change us buying hot pink dresses, with matching shoes – for good!
Getting our heads around Google SGE.
How does Google SGE work?
Google SGE has PaLM, which is a giant language model. It’s impressive because it’s been fed tons of text and code, so it’s got the ability to understand and reply to even complex questions.
Here’s how it works: When you type a search query into Google, that query gets zipped over to PaLM. PaLM then puts its ‘thinking cap’ on, crafts an answer, and then – bam! – this answer appears right at the top of your search results page.
The benefits of Google SGE
There looks like there could be several benefits to using Google SGE. First, it can provide quick and accurate answers to your questions, even if they are open-ended or complex, without having to delve into a website. THink of it like a featured snippet on rocket fuel.
Second, Google SGE can generate answers in a conversational format, which makes it easier to understand and find out more about your subject.
Personally, I love the way it looks too. The experience seems pretty seamless and useful.
The limitations of Google SGE
Google SGE is still under development, so it has some limitations and we are still learning about it. It’s changing every day as the model learns too. First, it may not be able to answer all questions correctly and rather embarrassly, when Google was annoucing this update, the answer it gave was infact, incorrect. Red faces in Google towers.
Second, it may sometimes generate answers that are not relevant to the search query. This isnt new though, we’re used to seeing some irrelevant results within the search results!
Third, Google SGE can be slow to generate answers, especially for complex questions but Google have rolled out an update to try and improve the speed. Many users were incredibly frustrated with how slow it was and Google responded with an update in June to combat this.
In Google’s words, AI’s moving front and centre.
What do they mean by that?
There are four major learnings I want to share with you now:
1 – Introducing SGE – Search Generative Experience.
Soon, when you search an informational query into Google, Google’s AI will generate an answer. Here’s a screenshot of what we might expect. In Google’s example, they’ve searched “what’s better for a family with kids under 2 and a dog, Bryce Canyon or Arches National Park?”
As you can see, the generated answer by Google is taking up huge amount of the space of the page (pink box), which is very interesting from an SEO and Paid Ads perspective.
At the top right (yellow box), you’ll see three panels, all of which are an opportunity for people to click through to relevant articles or pages. This is our new ‘top 3’ organic results.
Towards the bottom of the AI generated result, there’s a button (green box) which allows you to ask a follow up question, and in turn, starts a conversion with the AI. More on that in a bit.
After the AI Generated panel, the results we’re used to seeing then appear (blue box). But as you can see, it will take a lot of scrolling to get there.
We can expect better answers within the search engine results page, which could mean there’s less of a need for people to click through to websites. We might expect less people clicking through – but until we try it ourselves and look at the data – we’re unable to confirm this.
Important note – the AI Generated answers won’t show for all queries, only when Google can provide a better answer than the standard results we’re used to right now. And health and finance queries won’t be included, for now. It’ll be interesting if it shows for other sensitive subjects such as politics.
2 – Detailed searches (and answers)
These new Google updates allows us to search in way more detail than we do now.
It’s fair to say in most cases we search with 1, 2 or 3 words within our queries. These new updates and the conversational aspect of Google could mean people search with long phrases and sentences as they know Google will be able to answer them.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you are in the market for a new dress. You may search for something like “red dress for the spring” or along those lines.
In the future we might search “Dress for an outdoor wedding in Miami in May in a trending colour with two day delivery.”
And this is the example Google used in their I/O conference; let’s have a look at what it comes up with.
The answer is considered and detailed and shows numerous dresses that fit the bill, including the need for it to be within a 2-day delivery window. This shows how advanced Google has become at understanding a complex query.
Again, by using ‘ask a follow up’ you can talk to the chat bot, and in this example, we see “what about shoes”. Google spits out various results including a video from YouTube where someone is talking about a pair of shoes which could go well with a pink dress for a wedding in warm, humid Miami. Very clever!
3 – Google Shopping
We’ve seen a glimpse of this with the example above, but I wanted to show you another example just to demonstrate how Google Shopping may change too. In this example, someone has searched “good bike for a 5 mile commute with hills”. Google immediately understands the intent behind that and shows aspects the searcher will need to consider. It’s recognised that comfortable eBikes could be a great option because of the hills and the distance.
It then clearly shows a number of different bikes that fit the bill.
When you’ve chosen a bike and click on the result, a panel on the right appears and gives you more specific details about the bike, including reviews and price ranges. Below that, there are 3 websites which stock that bike and when clicked, goes through to the respective websites.
4 – Google Perspectives
Lastly, Google announced a feature called Perspectives. It will behave much like image search where there will be a tab underneath the search bar named Perspectives acting as a filter. Once clicked you are taken to a feed comprised of social media and forum posts relevant to the search query. This is Google’s way of introducing humans into search and encompassing the power of social media.
My initial thoughts and theories
We’re likely to see a drop in clicks through websites
In theory, the results within the Google platform will be my more helpful and accurate to what we’re used to at the moment. Because of that there’s a high chance people won’t need to click through. The other angle here is jsut how much space SGE takes up on the screen. Users will need to scroll far down the page to see the results we’re used to seeing.
Will Google enable consumers to buy products without clicking on the website?
The shopping experience looks very helpful and in depth and consumers will be able to find out huge amounts about a product without having to go to a supplier website. You can book tables, hotels and purchase reletavely simple products through Google already, so this seems like a natural step in the future. This could be another revenue stream for Google.
The fundamentals of SEO will stay the same
It looks like its going to get harder to get the top 3 results (woohoo ) but having a website with fantastic technical performance, user experience, content and authority will still be the way to achieve this. If anything, it will become more important than ever to provide your customers with the best website possible.
Perspectives = Influencer Marketing?
With the introduction of Google Perspectives, will we see a rise in influencers getting involved with marketing? Seems like a logical step for brands to domainate the search
What about Paid Ads?
With informative searches becoming more visual, ensuring you are using Image Extensions effectively will be a good start. Using stock images is already not ideal, but as this becomes more integral to the search experience – decent, original images will no doubt become more important. This also applies to product images used in Google Merchant Feeds, and with beta’s such as Showroom Ads coming up for testing as well, using more shoppable, collection based images. As Google continues to push the use of broad match, you’ll need to continue to use negative keywords effectively to ensure you target people at the best time during their customer journey. This may accelerate the change of paid search’s traditional role as a sales/ lead generator capturing people with high intent to a more full funnel channel/ tactic.
Fundamentally, if people can find more information in a SERP and we expect less clicks, CPCs may rise even further. However, as Google gets ever better at targeting people based on the goal of your campaign, as long as the return/ ROAS/ profitability continues to stack up, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue