AI in SEO is actually not new. It has been solving complex problems for a long time. Savvy marketers in SEO have been utilizing AI for insights and automation for years. However, the introduction of ChatGPT and Generative AI has accelerated interest in AI and fueled new innovations such as Google's Search Generative Experiences (SGE).
To fully comprehend Google's Search Generative Experiences, it's essential to understand the backstory behind the recent changes to the renowned search engine. Google's aim is to enhance the user's search experience in every way possible.
"Looking ahead, making AI helpful for everyone is the most profound way we'll advance our mission," -Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO
During their annual developer conference, Google I/O, in May, they gave marketers a sneak peek at how they continue utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and revamping their systems and features. Google is doing this by incorporating new elements into its user interface and experiences.
As a result, the whole overall Google search experience is changing.
The Introduction of Search Generative Experiences (SGE)
Google is slowly opening up access to Search Generative Experiences (SGE) and other AI innovations via Search Labs in the US (only). This is part of its longer-term and experimental approach to AI.
Google's Generative AI Snapshot gives users a brief overview or simple answer (often to help with complex topics) and an option to dig deeper with the source thumbnails.
In a way, this looks similar to a featured snippet. It is powered by Google's large language model (LLM), its general-purpose model PaLM 2, and Multitask Unified Model (MUM). This helps it identify multiple types of content and media formats, and Google will be tuning this interface on an ongoing basis.
Results here aim to highlight content showcasing (Google E-E-A-T) real experiences of topics, products, and services. It also prioritizes experience-driven, authoritative content and recommendations. In some instances—and as AI develops—it can include genuine first-hand accounts from real people, particularly expert creators with off-site signals based on trust and authority.
The addition of Perspectives allows users (by clicking on a filter) to find and explore diverse perspectives on search. It showcases varied views via multimedia content from boards, Q&A channels, and social media. The emphasis on Perspectives is on providing valuable information based on first-hand experiences or deep knowledge of a subject.
What Do All These Changes Mean for SEO?
SGE signifies Google's shift to integrating AI into a new interface where people can engage in the platform by asking questions, getting a quick overview of a topic, engaging in a more conversational mode, and even generating creative ideas and drafts right in its interface.
For SEO, it represents another evolution of the SERP, something that SEOs have long been used to seeing and adapting to for many years.
Adapting to change is a core competency of any good SEO.
Firstly, it's important to know that SEO results are still shown in the new look results.
- Users can swiftly bypass incorrect AI Snippets to go to these results.
- Pages in AI Snapshot also appear in organic results.
- While the top result is AI, people (naturally curious) can check out the links themselves.
- Google easily guides people back to the familiar search results.
The Core Fundamentals of Technical SEO and Site Optimization Are Vital
People will always visit websites, regardless of how they get there. As Google focuses on engagement and conversions, marketers must be prepared to retain traffic and ensure that when a user finds their site, it is optimized for engagement and conversion.
All of the below will be essential:
- Site structure
- Internal site links
- Removal of duplicate content and addition of fresh new content based on (EEAT) HCU)
- Page Speed and Core Web Vitals
- Site experience – design and journey
- External links
- Error detections and fixes
Schema is no longer an option; it's a necessity.
Schema involves focusing on designing content with context to provide as many signals as possible to help generative AI models understand the context with schema. Schema is now essential, not optional, for giving context to search engines.
SEO Focus and Expanding Opportunities
It will be essential to monitor closely and understand the dynamics of AI integration in search results. SEOs must keep up with Google's updates, release statements, and guidelines on AI-generated content.
The first thing SEO' should do is:
- Monitor competition and track your Share of Voice.
- Prioritize retaining traffic, technical optimization, and website experience and performance.
- Use opportunities from more qualified leads in cases of lesser traffic.
- SGE's AI snapshots may reduce user clicks on evergreen content, so look to replace it with fresh content.
- Review and refresh content and ensure it is built on Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EEAT).
As Google focuses on multiple sources for corroborating information, it is vital to understand and optimize for conversational search intent. A combination of third-party source mentions and ensuring your content answers conversational queries accurately will be essential to influence Generative AI Snapshots.
Additional areas of focus and opportunities:
- Image optimization—especially thumbnails.
- Investing in creating authoritative profiles (EEAT) for content experts.
- Social SEO and SGE will boost UGC from places like YouTube and TikTok.
- PR and thought leadership synergy to build trust signals.
- Combining creative, content creation and supervision with technical SEO.
- Mobile optimization.
SEO teams will also have multiple opportunities to align and integrate with social, PR, brand, and design teams.
- Combining creativity with Technical SEO will become very important.
- Prioritizing unique experiences, opinions, and data-backed research is a must.
- Utilizing subject matter experts or influential voices and people within your organization will become more valuable.
- Producing a variety of content on a variety of websites will help SEO.
As AI Goes Mainstream, SEO Becomes more Valuable Across Organizations
Skilled SEOs are not only creative, but they're also technically savvy. They possess analytical skills, particularly as data-driven insights become increasingly valuable. They serve as cross-channel consultants, too. Organizations often rely on them to understand what is happening in their market.
SEO provides vital business intelligence to help organizations strategically understand landscapes and competitors. Organizations will need faster, real-time insights into what is happening in markets, plus a more nuanced/granular understanding of user intent and conversational search.
SGE and the overall evolution of search experiences actually cements the shift from SEO as a silo to a vital source of business intelligence insights. This includes the intelligent automation of website error detection and fixes. Data will be even more critical to help with content, social, and media campaigns. This is especially true as the interplay of search, brand, product, content, PR, and social is vital to success with Google's new experience.
Lemuel Park is cofounder and CTO at BrightEdge.