Google SGE Updates for SEO in 2024: The Winner’s Strategy

by Manas Chowdhury
10 minutes read

Google SGE (a.k.a. Search Generative Experience) is the new AI-powered search snippet announced by the search engine giant, Google, in 2023. It seeks to give generative AI responses to search queries by the users, making search all the more convenient and hassle-free. 

However, this update is still in its experimental stage and undergoing several developments. It will continue to do so unless the company is certain that its users are getting the best possible experience in search. 

For now, you can turn the SGE on by following the given steps:

  • Open a new tab on Google
  • Click on the “Labs” option at the top right corner of your page
  • Sign in and choose the SGE option (turn it on)
  • Follow the instructions and enjoy AI-powered responses to your queries

The SGE update is growing fast, and there’s no doubt that it will revolutionize “search” in the following days. The comprehensive summary of responses generated by AI with all the key links to further information, images, and additional FAQs, will probably answer all your queries without needing any clicks. This has posed a challenge for most business owners, who are worried about their CTR (Click-through rates) today. 

There have been a few more observations that you should be aware of:

  • The SGE responses (along with their “Show More” option) take up a lot of space on the SERPs, thus pushing the website with a no.1 ranking down by almost 1,562 pixels. It is about 1.5 times the height of the viewport of an average monitor. 
  • An average SGE content consists of nearly 10.2 links from high-authority domains. 
  • About 94% of links come from valuable sources BEYOND the organically-listed domains. 
  • Organic Wikipedia results suffer a drop of 1,507.9 pixels on the viewport, and its “People Also Ask” section goes down by 8.5 positions because of SGE responses. 
  • About 66% of searches are returned by a short SGE response.
  • Nearly 34.1% of all searches on Google are responded to by a content-stuffed SGE response with a “Show More” button. 

[Note: The stats have been taken from a study by Authoritas, an eminent digital marketing platform, regarding the impact of Google SGE on the future of SEO.]  

As this is the future of Search, websites need to buckle up and pull up their socks to meet the needs of an AI-generated tomorrow. In this blog, we will give you a detailed analysis of Google SGE and tips to make the best of it. We will discuss ways to help your website hold on to its brand popularity amidst the SGE revolution. 

How does a common SGE response look? 

An SGE result generally consists of:

  • AI-generated response to the searcher’s query
  • Several links to sources for additional information
  • Like/dislike buttons 
  • Icons linking to the search engine’s lab pages
  • Follow-up questions (your suggestions or those given by Google)

Take a better look:

What is Google SGE?

As you can see in the snapshots above, a 1-minute interaction with the AI answers all the relevant queries of the user, who is searching for a particular product or looking for some information. Hence, it jeopardizes the organic search results that include websites, which used to offer that information before. 

Why should the user spend his valuable time going through the content of a bunch of websites when he can get it all in one click?

That’s exactly what Google SGE is bringing to the table.

What does Google have to say about SGE?

The company CEO, Sundar Pichai, is quite pleased with the ongoing progress in SGE. Although there is no data to suggest that it will affect organic traffic by stealing the clicks from websites, more links are added to SGE results, thereby offering more valuable information to the searchers. 

Pichai also commented on the Gemini era of Google, where SGE is all set to become faster and more convenient for users. It is already witnessing a 40% reduction in latency in US English. The CEO seems to be quite pleased with the developments in the earliest stage. He says that SGE is not going anywhere anytime soon, though there is no announcement of when it will be made available outside the Search Labs. 

At present, SGE is available in the US and 120+ other countries in seven languages in the Search Labs:

  • English
  • Hindi
  • Korean
  • Japanese
  • Indonesian
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese 

Once the SGE is applied in general search, users may find it easier to get longer, descriptive responses to complex queries, educational and research-specific. Topics requiring comparisons, multiple perspectives, and research will be covered conveniently in the AI-generated responses, thus enhancing “search” for all. 

But what will business owners do? How will they run those affluent ads that used to bring traffic to their websites? 

No worries at all! 

The Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer of Google, Philipp Schindler says that ads will continue to play a key role in the AI-generated SGE landscape. SGE is not only aiming to improve the search experience but also to give an edge to commercials and business owners leveraging the same. Currently, the search engine giant is experimenting with new formats to position the ads in the AI-powered search results. Whether those will be placed above or below the SGE responses is still unclear. But there is no doubt that ads will remain, enabling the users to connect with businesses and take necessary actions. 

“The future is AI” – as has been said by so many people in recent days – and the search engine giant is in no delay to implement its best practices concerning the same. 

Google no longer strives to provide only “answers” anymore but is planning to go beyond that and offer an exemplary, holistic experience to the searchers. Generative AI is showing positive responses for certain types of queries as of now. Pichai takes the cue and wants to go ahead with the plan to incorporate SGE in all kinds of queries pretty soon. 

AI-Assisted Searches – What People Want

According to a survey by Statista, about half of the population of US adults is totally in for AI-powered searches. The reasons are many, like unbiased results, brand recommendations, and improved ad relevance. Also, 29% of US adults prefer to make the switch to AI-generated searches, which is, quite a number considering the earlier stages. 

Besides, the global AI market is currently valued at $196.63 billion, and it is set to grow more in the following days. Do you need any other reason to incorporate AI into your marketing schemes? 

Optimizing Search for SGE 

Before we get down to the basics of optimizing advanced search for AI-generated SGE responses, let us shed light on a few things. 

All queries do not generate SGE results automatically. There are some, where you have to manually request an SGE result. Further, some queries do not generate an AI-powered SGE response at all. 

Check out the following examples to understand better. 

Automated SGE response:

Manually-requested SGE response:

SGE response “Not Available”

It is still quite early to start worrying about the changes that SGE will bring to organic search. However, if you are that kind of a business owner, who likes to see “opportunity” in every “change”, this is the best time to start preparing for tomorrow. 

How to optimize organic search for AI-generated SGE responses 

According to the latest surveys and research, SGE may cause about 30% drop in organic traffic. Moreover, AI-generated responses may appear for about 86% of search queries, posing further challenges for organic listings. 

But that is not all. The latest researches also reveal that the current top-rankers may not necessarily be shown in the AI-powered SGE responses. 

One more blow! 

So, are all those years of efforts to rank your website on the top of SERPs going down the drain? 

Unfortunately, maybe, yes! 

You need to start from scratch or upgrade your marketing strategies NOW! 

If your website is currently ranking at the top for relevant keywords, get ready to change all that. Further, in its current form, SGE results consist of multiple response boxes, optimizing all of which may take a toll on the SEO worker. If at all, it is possible to optimize the content for one or a few of the SGE boxes. You should also note that the content for each industry and niche market varies widely on the SGE responses. While optimizing, it is essential to keep these basic things in mind. 

However, we do not know yet what the final version of Google SGE will be like. For now, we can just adapt and improvise our SEO strategies based on the existing data. The following suggestions may help:

Not relying on keyword research entirely 

To date, you have been optimizing your content based on relevant key phrases that searchers use to look for products/services on Google. Well, that needs to change. As zero-click updates keep growing, keywords are holding lesser value with each passing day. Using Google’s “People Also Ask” feature is the new approach to creating content around relevant queries. Despite their zero-search volume in some tools, these are mostly accurate in revealing what most people are currently searching for. Audience research and creating content based on real-time data from surveys and research is another way to prepare for the zero-click future. 

Focusing on brand reputation across the web 

Every time your brand name is reflected on the SGE results, know it will include third-party mentions besides your website’s content. The snippet will generally consist of information about your business, its reputation as reflected on other sources, and details of products/services, including reviews. The AI search model will include all the information deemed necessary to give a holistic idea about your business to the searcher. Hence, you must protect and maintain the reputation of your brand online. Here’s how to do it:

  • Optimize brand-specific content on your website, e.g. the About Us page. 
  • Ask your “happy and loyal” customers to leave reviews on your website (or social media page)
  • Communicate relevant information about your business through structured data (schema markup)
  • Review all backlinks on your website to keep track of third-party mentions 

Prioritizing long-tail, detailed search queries

Once SGE gets rolled out in its glorious form, all top-of-the-funnel queries will more likely be answered by its AI-generated content. However, it’s the middle and bottom funnel content that will still follow the traditional organic method of visibility. It is best, hence, to curate your content around the same to get more organic traffic, and leads that depict higher chances of conversion. 

Let us show you an example. Take the keyword, “What are some things to do in LA” and check out the generative AI content on Google. 

Now, let’s tweak this keyword and make it a long-tail, more specific one – What are some affordable things to do in LA with kids under 10

See the result:

As you can see, Google SGE, in its current form, fails to give an AI-generated response to the long-tail, detailed queries. Targeting these search queries in your content increases its chances of ranking at the top of SERPs. 

Focusing on “Real” SEO metrics, i.e. revenue

Vanity metrics, like clicks and impressions, are soon going to be obsolete with the gradual progress of Google Search Generative Experience. There is also a big doubt if the Google Search Console will be able to read such KPIs correctly in the future. You need to start focusing on real metrics, like revenue, to keep the game on. SEO experts will help generate reports based on real metrics, like the number of signups or sales so that you get a concrete idea of “results” in the zero-click world. 

How eCommerce sites can optimize SGE for greater revenue

It is time to prioritize your product pages, and not the category pages, to generate SGE responses for relevant queries. These will get featured directly in the search results under SGE AI. 

By optimizing your product pages with descriptive, informative content, you will increase your chances of getting featured in the SGE. Use short, crisp content to underline key features of your product before going down to detailed descriptions. 

In the descriptions, make sure you add:

  • Buying guides, usage instructions, product comparisons, etc. 
  • Schema markup, like pricing, rankings, reviews, etc.
  • Comprehensive product specifications 
  • Reviews and user feedback

A holistic product description will have a higher chance of being featured in the SGE results. Make sure you follow the given hacks to set your eCommerce website apart. 

Apart from these strategies, you also need to keep two things in mind:

  • Topical authority (Following the E.E.A.T. principle)
  • Enhanced linking 

Final Words

Google’s SGE or Search Generative Experience is all set to transform the way individuals seek and access information, significantly impacting organic searches worldwide. With a shift in focus to information instead of links, the SGE update has brought a frown on the face of most website owners. Till now they were enjoying top ranks on the SERPs by optimizing their content for relevant search queries (keywords). The SGE update is planning to change all that pretty soon. As zero-click searches grow in number, websites will tend to lose a chunk of organic traffic if they continue with traditional marketing tactics. 

However, business owners who can see this as an opportunity to stand out have something for a surprise. They can optimize their content for the AI-powered SGE by working on the E.E.A.T. (Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) principle, guaranteeing topical authority. Further, they can improve their link-building strategies to get featured in the SGE responses.

E-commerce sites need to prioritize product pages more now, as those may get featured as a catalog in the SGE responses. In other words, if you are ready to upgrade and change your ways, there is nothing to worry about the AI-generated responses to searchers’ queries. 

Organic traffic is still very much yours to claim!

How SGE will change the traditional search scenario?

It will prioritize solutions over links, thus partially causing “clicks” to lose their importance. As SGE is AI-generated, it will use multiple sources to create generative content that answers all of the users’ queries on a particular topic. When a searcher types in his query into the search box of Google, the SGE content will strive to provide answers directly, instead of bombarding with a series of clickable links. 

Can website owners optimize their content for SGE?

Of course, they can! One needs to understand how SGE works, what links they feature, and how they derive content from different sources for a definite search query first. If your website’s content prioritizes user queries and aims to resolve the same, the chances are high that it will be featured in the SGE responses. Follow the E.E.A.T. principle and create content that is both informative and authoritative. 

What is the difference between Google SGE and featured snippets?

Everyone is wondering the same. As SGE is still in its experimental phase, several users are mistaking it for a “featured snippet” that is already shown in Google search results. However, SGE on Google is widely different from featured snippets. 

In featured snippets, you get a fragment of content directly from one website. In the AI-generated SGE responses, you are likely to get comprehensive content from multiple sources (right now from at least two) along with follow-up questions, product catalogs (wherever necessary), like/dislike buttons, and links to additional resources. 

In its current form, you can say that the Google SGE is an advanced form of Google featured snippet. 

Are the SGE results cached?

Although there is no evidence to suggest the same, it is believed that some of the popular responses are indeed cached. It will be a long time before Google generates unique AI responses for millions of different search queries.

Is the future of all searches AI?

According to the officials, Google’s future is AI-powered for certain. Although the Google SGE is far from being the supreme AI-powered response tool, for now, it is surely upgrading. If the rumors are to be believed, the search engine giant will improve the SGE to deliver user-specific search results in the future. 

Will SGE make organic searches go extinct?

Not really! The Google SGE will streamline responses to search queries, true, but it will not hamper organic traffic to websites, if the latter optimizes their content for the AI-generated responses. By crafting authoritative content, maintaining a positive brand reputation, and leveraging link-building, website owners can increase their chances of being featured, thus maintaining their hold in the SERPs. 

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