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What is Google's Search Generative Experience

What has Google got coming up that has Marketers hanging at the edge of their seats for…  Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE).

This groundbreaking update, announced at Google’s I/O developer conference on May 10, 2023, is set to redefine our search experience. In this article, we’ll explore what SGE is, how it will impact SEO strategies and search behaviours, its current status, potential benefits, and the concerns it has raised.

What is Google SGE?

SGE is Google’s endeavor to infuse artificial intelligence (AI) deeper into users search experience. Unlike traditional search methods, which rely on web crawlers and algorithms, SGE utilises a powerful language model called PaLM 2. This model is trained on a vast amount of data to provide contextually relevant answers directly on the search results page, moving beyond the conventional ten blue links.

The aim is to transform the search process into a dialogue, making it more conversational, intuitive, and user-friendly. SGE introduces AI-generated responses to enhance the relevance of search results.

The Early Stages of SGE

As of now, SGE is in beta testing, offering a glimpse into the future of search. It is currently accessible to users in the US, India, Japan, and, with a recent update, 120 more countries. The language options have also expanded to include Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Indonesian.

SGE generates interactive AI snippets that aim to provide direct and contextually rich answers to queries. The appearance of the snippets varies based on the nature of the query, incorporating backgrounds, photos, product images, maps, quotes, and more. However, it’s important to note that AI responses are not automatic for all searches; users may need to click “Generate.”

While the beta version shows promise, it’s not without its flaws. Users might encounter issues such as incorrect data, lack of attribution, and occasional misunderstandings of intent. Nevertheless, Google’s ambition to make search more conversational through AI is evident.

Changing the Search Experience with SGE

The impact of SGE on the search experience is profound. Unlike the traditional method of asking multiple specific questions to gather comprehensive information, SGE allows users to pose broader, conversational questions and receive detailed answers in a single search.

For example, instead of asking multiple questions about a subject of interest, you can now inquire something like “Who were Merrill’s marauders?” SGE aims to handle complex informational needs in one search, providing users with a more comprehensive and efficient search experience.

Screenshot of Google AI response to a question

Accessing SGE through Search Labs

To get a firsthand look at SGE, users can join Google’s Search Labs program, which offers access to early-stage search projects. The recent update expanded this program to 120 more countries. By joining the waitlist and toggling on the SGE experiment, users can explore new and creative ways of searching, providing valuable feedback to refine this evolving search capability.

While an official rollout date for SGE is yet to be announced, insights from Google’s Search Labs team suggest the experiment might conclude by December 2023.

SGE’s Impact on Google’s SERP

SGE prototypes redefine the look and function of search results pages (SERP). The most noticeable change is the introduction of interactive AI-generated snippets at the top of the results, condensing information and evolving in real time as the AI processes the query.

These snippets take different visual forms depending on the query type – enhanced featured snippets for informational queries, local pack-like displays for local searches, and shopping carousels for product-related queries. The emphasis shifts from traditional blue links to engaging in direct conversations with the AI assistant.

Types of AI Snippets in SGE

SGE generates different types of AI snippets based on the nature of the query:

  • General Informational Queries: Conversational snippets summarising answers with links to sources.
  • Listicle-Style Informational Queries: Bullet lists with relevant solutions or steps.
  • Local Searches: Displays local business information in a pack-like format.
  • E-commerce Queries: Generates shopping-focused snippets with product recommendations.

However, not all queries trigger AI responses. Navigational queries, quick answer results, sensitive topics, breaking news, recipe searches, and explicit adult content may not generate AI-powered snippets.

SGE’s Relationship with Existing SERP Features

Questions have arisen about the fate of existing SERP features like knowledge graphs and featured snippets with the advent of SGE. Currently, both coexist, but there’s speculation that Google might streamline SERP features in the future, potentially removing redundant elements.

However, Google has not confirmed any plans to phase out existing features. For now, the chatbot responses seem to complement traditional SERP elements rather than replace them.

Bugs and Concerns Found So Far

As with any innovative technology, SGE is not without its challenges. Concerns raised within the SEO community include the lack of source attribution in AI responses, the absence of clickable links to mentioned sites, occasional provision of inaccurate information, and the handling of sensitive topics.

Google acknowledges these issues and is committed to refining SGE, addressing concerns related to attribution, relevance, accuracy, and the handling of sensitive queries. The evolving nature of this technology emphasises the need for continuous improvement and user feedback.

SGE and SEO: What to Expect?

SGE introduces a shift in the way websites are ranked and cited. Observations from users indicate that SGE may pull data from lower-ranking sites and prioritise author/creator credibility over site authority. To adapt to this change, content creators may need to focus on conversational, long-tail keywords and align their content with SGE’s unique angles.

It’s anticipated that Google’s AI will favor comprehensive, authoritative content that aligns with the standards of Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). Mobile users may see AI-generated responses dominating the screen, potentially impacting organic traffic for traditional links.

Personalised or Not? How SGE Snippets Work

There’s a common question regarding whether SGE skews results based on personal data. Google clarifies that, currently, SGE results are not personalised, and historical searches do not impact snippets. Ads within SGE responses are not yet implemented, but plans for monetisation are in progress.

Google assures users that SGE aims to provide impartial, context-based responses without relying on broader tracking or profiles. As the feature evolves, native ads may be introduced, but the initial focus is on delivering unbiased responses.

How SGE Could Affect Website Traffic

SGE has the potential to significantly impact organic search results and traffic flows. Early projections suggest that it could divert up to 30% of organic clicks away from standard listings. However, real-world usage patterns will determine the actual effects once SGE is launched.

The impact may vary across industries. Local businesses and e-commerce retailers proficient with structured data may benefit, while informational sites may see a decline in traffic for certain queries. The full extent of SGE’s influence remains uncertain, emphasising the need for SEO professionals to stay agile and creative in adapting to changes.

Industries/Websites That Could Profit from SGE

While it’s too early to make definitive predictions, some potential effects on different business types are emerging for example:

Local Businesses: May benefit from local reviews and knowledge panels.


E-commerce Retailers: Proficient with product feeds and structured data could gain traffic.

In conclusion, Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) is a paradigm shift in the world of search, promising a more conversational and contextually rich user experience. While still in beta testing, SGE demonstrates the potential to transform the way we interact with search engines, moving from traditional blue links to interactive AI snippets. The expansion of language options and countries in the recent update indicates Google’s commitment to refining this innovative search capability. However, the road ahead involves addressing challenges such as source attribution, accuracy, and the impact on existing SERP features. As SGE evolves, SEO professionals and website owners must stay vigilant, adapting strategies to navigate the changing landscape and make the most of this revolutionary shift in search technology. Read our SEO predictions for 2024 here. 

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