April 19, 2024 in Strategy by

Soon, Google will roll out a new way of doing searches called “Search Generative Experience,” or SGE. This method is where Google will provide a ChatGPT-like answer to people’s queries, pushing the blue links of search even further down the page. In some cases, people won’t need to click the organic (or even paid) search links to get the answer for which they search. SGE is going to change SEO as we know it. 

Why you need to be aware of SGE

I’m providing this information to you to combat misinformation, rumor, clickbait, and even aggressive salespeople who claim to “know the secret to Google.” 

We don’t know precisely when this will roll out or what this will look like. There are many rumors out there. It could start as weary as May 14th, 2024. It could also become a paid feature of Google rather than available to everyone. Only time will tell for sure.

How SGE fits into the History of Google

Google has been pushing the organic search results down on their pages for several years. Instead, they filled the space with paid ads and other “helpful” features like Featured Snippets, local maps, YouTube videos, and additional ads. SGE is just the next iteration of this.

Over my many years of SEO, I’ve seen many significant changes in how Google serves websites organically. Sometimes, this leads to frustration and a decline in traffic. Remember: ultimately, Google does not make money from organic search- only paid search. They hope to frustrate marketers into throwing up their hands and saying, “I’m tired of this- I’ll just pay for traffic!”

During these significant algorithm changes (and this one), some will claim that “SEO is dead.” While it might change significantly, organic search results will remain- even if in a different form or even lower on the page in Google. 

A Productive SGE Strategy

Although SGE may impact our search traffic and customer acquisition, we will work to mitigate any loss and compensate for it using the best practices available through all web marketing. As you know, our approach to SEO has never been to trick Google- we’ve focused on doing good marketing that results in improved traffic and customers from organic search. We will continue this strategy in the SGE world.

Our Plan for SGE

Most of what we do for a productive SEO campaign will remain the same- it will survive even SGE.

Tracking and Measuring Customer Acquisition

You know how important measuring customer acquisition is to our success. We’ve abandoned vanity metrics (even “rank”) and focused on getting more customers. That’s a good thing because, in an SGE world, “rank” might not exist. However, we should still receive website visitors and customers from our efforts.

In addition, as we use analytics to watch our traffic and customer acquisition, this will help us pivot our strategy and tactics to this change in how SEO works. If we only focused on “rank,” we would be lost. Instead, we can double down on what’s working- and redouble our efforts or cut what isn’t.

Good, Unique, and Human-written Content

As you know, I’ve resisted AI-generated content. This unwillingness was in preparation for this change. When Google uses AI to provide answers to people with their SGE, they want to use something other than AI-generated content for their AI-generated answers. It’s a good thing we’ve taken the hard road to write our content! Now, we’re set up to be successful in the SGE world- rather than ignored.

Promoting Your Website on Other Sites

Productive SEO campaigns require consideration of what other websites say about your website. We call this “link building.” This tactic is even more important in an SGE world.

When another website talks about your business, we can use their ability to promote themselves to promote us. This tactic is where link building will change (a little). We would look for a link that passed link authority in the past. This authority will still be necessary in the SGE world, but an existing site’s audience might be more critical. We can promote ourselves on their site and let them promote us to their audience. 

Social media sites and apps can also help promote us. Although these links don’t “count” for SEO, in an SGE world, it’s another way of promoting ourselves on other sites. The fact is that social media is similar to search: Facebook and LinkedIn are search engines through which people can find solutions. If we connect with our audience on these platforms, we will be successful even with changes in the SGE world.

Email Remains Valuable

Many of you have existing email lists. You’ve taken the time to develop a following of interested potential customers to whom you can send informative and helpful content. In the least, this reminds them you’re there to help. At most (and occasionally), you can send them a sales pitch.

Although email marketing often gets overlooked by the glitz and glamor of cooler platforms, like TikTok, remember: you need an email address to use TikTok. Besides, when it comes to social media, you’re still renting space there. Just like Google algorithms fluctuate, so do social media algorithms. 

Instead of being captive to algorithms, email campaigns allow you to own your list. If they’ve opted into your email list, you have a list of people who want to hear from you. This list becomes more valuable during times of change, such as SGE.

Google Still Makes Money Through Paid Search

Of course, even if all other efforts fail, you can always turn to a paid search (PPC) campaign to fill in the gaps. Yes, this is one of Google’s goals: frustrate you into paying them for what you used to receive for free. However, it’s business- not personal. 

An effective PPC campaign can be a money-printing machine for most businesses once you dial into a productive ROI. 

That’s the trick. Google makes a lot of money from people’s wasted PPC budgets because someone sets up a campaign and hopes it works. Google doesn’t need your money. Optimize your campaign to ensure you get more money from it than you’re giving Google. Admittedly, this has become harder lately as Google has taken away some of our ability to manage certain dimensions specifically. In addition, as more people turn to PPC (whether out of frustration or fear), ad costs will rise as well. However, with effort, you can optimize a PPC campaign to receive an excellent return on your ad spend.

And no matter what SGE does to SEO, PPC will remain. It’s how Google makes trillions of dollars a year. 

Don’t Panic

All things must change. This is just another change. If we stay the course by watching what works (using data and not conjecture) and do real marketing (rather than trying to trick algorithms), we will continue to find customers through SGE- or whatever else comes next. 

DMWF North America 2021

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