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Rise of the Machines: Is AI the Future of Google Search?

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Rise of the Machines: Is AI the Future of Google Search?
While ChatGPT might be the most mainstream and well-known form of AI, they certainly aren't the only platform to throw their hat in the ring. 

Testing Google’s New Search Generative Experience

By: Delaney Wiggins, SEO Strategist

2023 is shaping up to be the year of Artificial Intelligence (AI). While ChatGPT might be the most mainstream and well-known form of AI, they certainly aren’t the only platform to throw their hat in the ring. 

Earlier this year, Google released its first glimpse at its new Search Generative Experience (SGE), a new integration between its traditional search engine and cutting-edge artificial intelligence. While the platform is still in its early stages and will not be released until much later, I have been able to test it in Google’s Search Labs feature, giving me an early glimpse of what we can expect from the future of Google Search.

These insights are based on my experience with the platform, supported by extensive research and testing. The truth is, we are still determining how this feature will work once it debuts. We hope that by introducing and testing this new platform in its early stages, we can help you feel confident and prepared for these changes. 

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What is Generative Search?

By now, you’re likely familiar with at least one form of generative AI. ChatGPT, Bard, and other language-learning models study text to understand common language patterns and structures better. By analyzing human language, a machine can predict a user’s needs, answer complex questions, or hold a conversation.

Google’s new Search Generative Experience takes these language-learning models a step further, combining the capabilities of Google’s AI model with the world’s largest search engine. While Google has always had access to millions of sources and web pages, Google is now using these sources to learn how to answer user questions on its own.

Let’s take a look at an example. 

If I type “how to teach my dog to roll over” in the Google search bar, Google will first try to answer my question through generative AI, providing me with the basic steps for training my dog. 

Generative Search results for "How to teach my dog to roll over"

To supply this information, Google crawls sources across the web to find the most likely answer. Through this learning process, Google also discovers different follow-up questions a user may have, such as “How long does it take for a dog to learn to roll over?” Subsequently, Google offers these questions as a suggestion and provides additional sources of information that may be helpful in a user’s search journey. 

If you scroll past this section of the search results page, you’d find the standard paid and organic search listings. 

It’s also important to note that generative AI only appeared for some searches I tested. In some cases, your query may be too general to qualify for an AI search. For example, the search “dogs” returns this message: An AI-powered overview is not available for this search.

What Can I Do to Prepare for Generative AI?

In these early stages, estimating how generative AI will truly impact search performance is difficult. Based on my own experience with the platform, some best practices may help with the transition toward generative search. 

Write for Your Audience, Not Robots

In general, Google is moving toward a more human approach to content (ironic, isn’t it?). Google’s goal has always been to help users in their search journey to ensure that users continue using Google as their primary search engine. 

While plenty of SEO best practices are important, Google penalizes sites that try to game the system. If your website is filled with “fluff” or “throwaway” content or has obvious or forced use of keywords, Google may not display your website to its users. 

Writing authoritative, meaningful content is how you stand out. It’s how you build your brand and show the world who you are and what you have to say. A million brands can repeat the same basic content, and Google knows this. Their goal is to show their users the content that truly matters. 

Support Your Brand Through Other Google Platforms

Google Business Profiles, Google Merchant Center, and Google Ads are all helpful tools that can build your brand and increase your traffic. When users search for products or services online, generative AI may highlight specific business listings and shopping ads, in an attempt to help the user quickly find what they’re looking for. 

In an example where I searched for “dog collars,” Google provided several Google Merchant Center product listings.

Generative Search results for what to consider when choosing a dog collar showcasing how this may effect SERP results

Expanding your digital presence and visibility through these Google platforms increases your potential to appear in a wide range of generative searches. 

Don’t Forget the SEO Basics

In my experience with generative AI, I noticed that Google often pulls relevant sources to recommend to its users. This feature highlights organic sources at the top of the page, a highly-coveted position. 

Generative Search results showcasing how results are ranked for "How to teach your dog to roll over"

How can you ensure that your website appears in generative search? At the time of writing, Google still needs to release a definitive answer for this. However, based on my experience testing the platform, the pages that generative AI highlights are pages that are also ranked within the top 5 or 10 organic search results. This means that pages with strong organic performance were more likely (i.e. not guaranteed) to be boosted to the top. 

Stay Ahead of the AI Curve with BECK

In summary, generative AI is the future of the web. Although Google’s Search Generative Experience may not be the precise platform that completely transforms organic search, changes are imminent, and it’s more important than ever to have a comprehensive digital strategy in place.

About Beck Digital

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Over the last 20 years, Beck Digital has crafted more than 3,000 custom digital solutions for leading Fortune 100 and 500 companies across multiple industries, including healthcare, nonprofit, technology, luxury real estate, and financial industries, among others. Our recommendations stem from our profound expertise and experience across multiple channels in numerous industries. We work seamlessly within your team to ensure the solutions we develop speak to the essence of your brand and drive customer engagement every step of the way.

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