Google announced the release of their Search Generative Experience (SGE) for 2024, which brings generative AI into their core offering: searching and browsing the web. While the shape, pace and form of the SGE as a final product are still unknown, business owners should ensure that their organisations are ready for the change.
Our SEO team is already working with clients to test new approaches and define best practices. Here’s our checklist to evaluate your business readiness for SGE.
The AI engines powering SGE and Bard, Google’s experimental conversational AI chatbot, are not the same, but there are similarities.
Bard makes it easy to understand how a Google AI interprets your category and main queries. Just ask Bard about the best products in your category, like “What is the best hospital in Sydney?” and find the answer according to Google.
You can also ask follow-up questions, like “Why are you not suggesting this other clinic?” and “What sources are you using to rank them in that order?” to better understand the available levers that affect how this intelligence thinks about different brands.
Start benchmarking your brand across review sites
Benchmark reviews across different sites and establish the scores you want to hit. Centre your review strategy around the more urgent sites by searching “your brand + reviews” and identifying which ones Google considers more relevant.
Google’s latest round of algorithm updates focuses on Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (EEAT), shifting the focus from what you say about yourself on your site to what others say, including reviews. SGE will only accelerate this.
A nondefinitive list of these sites includes:
- Google Maps (GBP)
There will also be industry and country-specific directories and aggregators to be aware of.
For software products, the following review sites will be important.
Online retailers should focus on:
- Google Customer Reviews
- Reviews of your product on your own website
- 3rd-party sites, like Amazon
Identify follow-up questions and related content for SGE
SGE answers generally come with related, relevant content suggestions on the right and follow-up questions under the answer.
Knowing what kind of content appears on the right side gives you additional information on the type of content you should be investing in and the specific players and articles that are more likely to affect that particular response.
Google generally uses a minimal number of sources to create these responses, so influencing them becomes relatively easy as long as you’re monitoring changes.
The follow-up questions will give you additional information on your keyword strategy and user search journey and how Google is clustering questions and answers about the topic. This can help your content strategy or give you insights about your users and what they care about.
Identify conversations about your brand
The algorithm updates from 2023, including the hidden gems core update, pushed Reddit and other UGC sites to the top of the rankings, increasing their visibility. Monitoring and participating in conversations about your brand is becoming a simple best practice, but in an SGE environment, it also becomes an easy way to influence what the AI thinks about your brand.
It’s expected that Google has incorporated some kind of authority engine to weigh the importance of what people say online (.e.g. The opinion of a more trusted site will rank higher but also carry more weight in what SGE’s AI thinks about a product), so adding positive semantic content about your brand and products within these highly-ranking sites (Reddit, Quora and others) will be fundamental.
Map out affiliates, listicles and brand mentions
If you’re hoping to be part of the generative search response for “best brand of electric car”, you’ll need to review who’s ranking for that query and ensure that your brand is part of the answer. As with the previous point, higher-ranking sites will have more influence, and affiliates, review sites, and listicles will likely be the most predominant types of results.
Connecting your SEO strategy to your affiliate and digital PR efforts will ensure that you can concentrate your efforts where they’ll make the most impact and that you find synergies with tactical actions.
Future-proof your authority strategy
The last few years have seen Google adopting a more lenient approach to link-building. This has created a window of opportunity for link-building tactics that aren’t entirely kosher but can move the needle. SGE will likely benefit high-quality links and general mentions in ways that only real digital PR can achieve, making these low-quality link tactics less effective.
This means obsessing a bit less on whether links are no-follow or if there are links at all and instead ensuring Google can discover these brand mentions easily, that they can raise the brand’s EEAT and the authorship of your content writers and that they’re positioned to influence Google’s AI by becoming part of their training data.
Prepare your business to thrive in the SGE future
Ultimately, the more SEO changes, the more it stays the same. The conversations we’re having around AI today are not that different from the ones that shook the industry with the irruption of social media more than a decade ago.
As a channel, organic search will continue to drive value to your website and your brand, and you will just need to align your SEO strategy with basic principles of marketing: product, messaging and value proposition. The job of SEO is to identify where those three points could be more consistent across the web, align them whenever possible, and flag the inconsistencies when they are not.