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Answered: Your Google Search Generative Experience Questions

Google launched its Search Generative Experience (SGE) in mid-May, leaving many to wonder what impact it would have on Search and Google Ads. I've compiled your questions and used current information to provide answers so you can stay on top of this new development.

Jul 27, 2023

7 m read

Google’s AI experiment has many wondering about the future of search. Will AI make it harder to get your content seen? Is SEO still relevant with SGE? How will AI in search impact organic traffic?

If you’re not sure what elements of your site to optimize or how your pages will fare in an SGE world, read on.

What is Search Generative Experience?

Search Generative Experience is the name Google has given to its AI-integrated search experience. When a user enables it, SGE appears above organic search results.

screenshot of Google's search generative experience for "orangutan" search

I searched “orangutans” to generate the above screenshot. It automatically gave me an SGE response with a summary about orangutans. 

At the top right (circled in blue) is a button allowing you to see where Google pulled the information in the AI description. Most of it will be from the three pages depicted beneath the button. 

At the bottom of the SGE panel, you’ll see a darker button (the color of the SGE box changes) that allows you to continue your search with follow-up questions or phrases. You can also click on a suggested question.

Here’s what the citation panel looks like:

screenshot of google's citations for SGE

In some cases, the text is pulled directly from the cited sites (rather than being written by AI). Google has received a lot of complaints about this, with some calling it plagiarism. This is a work in progress, though, so we’ll see if Google opts to alter how it cites and credits sources.

Now let’s test out the “Ask a follow up” feature. 

screenshot using the "follow up" feature; asking "why endangerd" in google AI

After clicking the button, I simply wrote “why endangered,” because let’s be honest, it’s always easier to search in fragments than write out complete sentences. Anyone that’s done keyword research knows that most searches don’t feature a complete question or statement.

screenshot of Google bard response to "why endangered" for orangutan search

Google understood the assignment. Without any context, it was able to determine that I wanted more information about orangutans. If it didn’t, I would’ve gotten something like this, which just talks about why animals become endangered:

SGE search for "why endangered" without orangutan context; shows info about why animals become endangered

(Out of curiosity, I clicked on “What is the #1 most endangered animal?” It’s the Javan Rhino. I don’t tend to fall prey to suggested searches, but Google got me there.)

The reason I went down this Orangutan AI journey is that my youngest is a big primate fan — he loves gorillas and orangutans. So I figured I’d search for a toy while I was at it. I simply typed “stuffed animal” in the follow-up box, and Google continued the thread.

screenshot of follow up question "stuffed animal" with stuffed orangutan listings

Google pulled in several plushies I could buy. Since these are products and the stores are specified in the rich-snippet-style listing, the citation information is blank. Also, because I was in the follow-up/ chat feature, I didn’t see any Google Ads, which I thought was interesting.

When I ran a new search for “orangutan stuffed animals” (outside of the follow-up feature), the Ads appeared before the SGE suggestions.

example of ads above the SGE panel for the stuffed animal search

One thing to note: SGE results aren’t static. I ran the initial orangutan search again and got a different result. The description is different, as are some of the sources. I imagine Google is testing out which descriptions, pages, and suggested questions lead to more engagement.

screenshot of orangutan SGE results from a different search

Who has access to SGE?

As of late June 2023, anyone 18+  with a personal Google account can access Search Labs and turn on Search Generative Experience while using Chrome. Workspace accounts are not currently eligible.

How can I turn on SGE?

If you want to access SGE, open up Chrome and make sure you’re signed into a personal Google account. Go to Search Labs and toggle the slide button on.

screenshot of turning on SGE in Search Labs

SGE results will now appear when you run a Google search while using Chrome.

Is SGE available on all searches?

SGE doesn’t show up for all searches, but Google is increasing the number of searches it appears on.

Screenshot of google search that doesn't provide a Google AI result

In some cases, SGE is displayed automatically for those who’ve turned it on. Other times, Google provides a prompt allowing users to determine whether they want to see the SGE result. 

screenshot of generate button for google AI search results

You can run a search once and receive an SGE box, then run it on another day and get the “Generate” box. Since Google is testing multiple features, there doesn’t seem to be any hard rules about which searches receive SGE content and which don’t. However, YMYL searches do appear less likely to receive the SGE treatment.

What searches feature SGE?

SGE appears on a variety of searches, including product searches, basic informational queries, and local queries. If you want to learn whether your website is being cited or featured in SGE, use your personal Google account to access Search Labs and turn it on. This can help you stay on top of upcoming changes to SGE and provide you with a front-row seat to the evolution of Google’s AI functionality.

Can users turn SGE off?

Currently, users need to opt in to Search Generative Experience through Search Labs. It can be turned off in Search Labs as well. Not all accounts are eligible to access Search Labs, so it’s not clear how many people currently have access to SGE.

SGE is slated to be in testing through December 2023. After that date, Google may roll it out for all searches. 

Does SGE show Google Ads?

Right now, Ads are showing up above SGE responses. Google is working on incorporating Ads into SGE, so placement may change over the next few months, and some users may see Ads within SGE before other users.

Screenshot of how google search results show ads and products in Google AI results

SGE is pulling in products, though. Using Google Merchant Center may increase the chances of being featured in both Google Shopping and SGE. And, of course, we always recommend using product schema when appropriate. This can help you secure a rich snippet that shows the average star rating for your product, the price, availability, and more.

Here’s what Google had to say about Ads upon launching SGE:

quote from google about search ads appearing in SGE

Where does SGE get information?

SGE pulls information from Google Business Profiles, Google Merchant Center, and the internet. Some information that SGE presents was previously highlighted in a SERP feature. For now, the SERP feature still appears in search results beneath the SGE box.

example of Google AI pulling info from a featured snippet in search results

Here’s another example. The following two images are for the same search. The SGE result was provided first and then the local pack. All three restaurants in the local pack appear in the SGE result but in a different order. SGE also included additional restaurants.

screenshot of local results in a google ai search
screenshot of google local 3-pack

Can I optimize for SGE?

While SGE was advertised as a way to provide answers to complex questions, its scope has been expanded to include a variety of additional searches. There’s no guaranteed way to show up in an SGE answer. However, if you want to increase the chances of being cited:

  • Publish quality content that provides in-depth information about topics related to your industry. Focus on information gain — basically, provide content that others aren’t. Use schema when appropriate! 
  • Optimize your content for featured snippets. It’s clear that SGE is pulling directly from some featured snippets, so increasing your featured snippets may help you get featured in an SGE response.
  • Optimize your Google Business Profile and encourage customers to leave reviews. While SGE’s local list differs from the 3-pack, it still seems to pull most of the same information.
  • Add products to Google Merchant Center. When you use the Google Merchant Center, you provide Google with the information it wants to share with searchers, which can increase your chances of being featured.

Will SGE affect my organic website traffic?

Google is still testing SGE. However, as Google rolls it out to more people and on more searches, it will likely affect organic traffic for particular top-of-funnel searches. Basically, since it will answer simple questions right at the top of Search, querents may not click on a link. This has already happened with plenty of keywords that host a SERP feature, so we can expect an increase in no-click searches. 

Here’s what Google said when presenting SGE:

google quote

Can I stop Google from using my content for SGE?

There is currently no way to stop Google from using your content or citing it in SGE. You may be able to use a nosnippet tag to stop Google from using your content as a featured snippet, which may get pulled into SGE, but there’s no guarantee it will keep it out of SGE. Google is fielding some complaints about how it’s using text directly from web pages (rather than generating “new” text), so this may change over time.

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