Navigating SEO Transformation with Google’s SGE Perspective

4 min read

Proficient SEO practitioners are well-versed in handling uncertainty, as it is an inherent part of the profession, given that the algorithms governing website performance are closely guarded secrets.

However, the introduction of Search Generative Experience (SGE) has introduced an element of anxiety, even for the most experienced SEOs. Simply put, SGE represents both a paradigm shift and a rapidly evolving target; Google’s integration of SGE is an almost daily unfolding process.

So, what do we currently understand, what can we anticipate, and how should we prepare? In this article, we’ll delve into the following topics:

  1. The current status of SGE.
  2. Potential shifts in user behavior.
  3. The skills SEO practitioners need to sharpen to seize the opportunities presented.
  4. Strategies for establishing an insurance policy that ensures your brand remains relevant.


Where Do We Stand with SGE?


From a user experience (UX) perspective, Google has scaled back the initial prominence of SGE, which used to dominate most search engine results page (SERP). This was likely their plan from the start – to test a maximalist approach and observe how users adapt to the new environment.

Looking at it from the user’s viewpoint, not every query triggers the display of SGE. When I conducted ten queries covering various topics, I still awaited results featuring SGE. This emphasizes that SGE is still being rolled out, and all stakeholders, including users, SEO professionals, and Google itself, are continuously learning as it evolves.

For SEOs, SGE is akin to the black box within the more prominent black box of Google’s algorithm. While we can offer informed recommendations for navigating the SGE landscape, much remains to be seen.


How Might User Behavior (and SEO) Evolve?


I’ve had discussions with numerous individuals apprehensive about SGE’s potential dominance on their SERPs. This surprising reaction combines concerns about AI’s overwhelming influence with a general resistance to change.

With recent PR challenges Google faces in the advertising domain, this situation creates a perfect storm.

However, Google will likely introduce SGE gradually, much like they did with featured snippets, the knowledge graph, and similar features.

After numerous interactions, it will become the norm. Furthermore, I expect the quality and utility of results to improve over time.

As a user, I’m already finding SGE beneficial. For instance, when seeking synonyms for a particular word, I visited Thesaurus.com. Now, I can input the word and ask Google to provide synonyms, and AI promptly generates a list, saving me time. Such tasks are relatively straightforward.

However, for more intricate matters, content crafted by humans remains the preferable choice.


What Skill Set is Required for SEOs to Leverage SGE?


Now, we venture into the realm of speculation. SGE won’t favor SEO practitioners who employ strategies vastly different from those used for keyword and query-related searches. There will be significant overlap in the required skill set.

That being said, for certain SEO professionals, the central question of harnessing SGE for the benefit of their brand may boil down to “How can you produce exceptionally high-quality content that Google can utilize as a source for its AI,” rather than “How can you generate valuable content for end users?”

Writing for AI versus human users may entail subtle yet meaningful distinctions.

I approach this issue in a manner akin to dealing with featured snippets. The objective should be to convey trustworthiness and utility to Google.

Based on what I’ve observed in SEO content featured in SGE for my clients, it often involves structured data (which is easily digested by Google) or resides within pillar pages that provide comprehensive coverage of the topic and function as authoritative resources.

In essence, this content resembles what ChatGPT might reference when responding to specific questions, but it avoids the ChatGPT style, which adds minimal value to the discussion.

When I contemplate writing for SGE – which could bring significant benefits, such as elevating your content from the lower ranks of the SERPs to top-of-the-page SGE positions – I think of incentivizing AI to direct users to your website.

This may sound counterintuitive because Google has advised SEOs against creating content solely for ranking. Nevertheless, my ultimate goal remains unchanged from the pre-SGE era, which is to provide genuine utility to the end user.

Suppose there’s a new skill that needs to be acquired. In that case, it’s understanding how large language models (LLMs) generate responses and recognizing the elements the model cannot deliver, which humans must contribute. These elements encompass personal insights, experiences, anecdotes, and more.

While AI can indeed remix these inputs and generate aggregate responses, a significant degree of nuance and context may need to be recovered in the process.

In a nutshell, the strategy involves identifying the gaps in AI-generated answers and ensuring that you address these gaps to offer enhanced value.


Leverage User-Generated Content as a Risk Mitigation Strategy


At the other end of the content spectrum lies user-generated content (UGC).

Significant updates by Google in September and October generated substantial discussions on various platforms, including X and SEO forums, regarding the potential amplification of user-generated content (UGC) in SERP results.

Though I haven’t witnessed a notable surge in its visibility within SERPs, content derived from platforms like Quora and Reddit (mainly from my perspective, focusing on B2B/SaaS) holds inherent value.

If you aim to strengthen a facet of your SEO strategy to safeguard against potential impacts from SGE, considering user-generated content (UGC) could be a savvy and somewhat underutilized move.


SEO and SGE: Preparing for the Future


In a broader context, the fundamental principles of SEO, such as systematic testing and navigating through uncertain terrain, will be more critical than ever when strategizing in a landscape dominated by SGE.

Stay closely attuned to your preferred industry resources.

Document changes within the Google ecosystem and your strategies to discern emerging patterns.

Recognize the pivotal role of human insight in delivering added value to users.

While it may not guarantee absolute success, you’ll establish a robust foundation that facilitates smoother execution of strategic adjustments.

If you’re still grappling with complexity and confusion, explore our monthly SEO packages. Our team of experts is here to assist you.

Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]