Search Generative Experience: What is SGE and how will it impact you?

Published on February 23, 2024 by Chris Ainsworth

There are lots of questions and concerns about the rise of Google’s Search Generative Experience swirling around at the moment, so here’s what I know so far – as the SEO team and I learn more about this and more is announced by Google, we’ll be sure to keep you all updated, but if you’ve got any questions after reading this feel free to drop us a message. 

What is ‘SGE’?

A quick recap of what we know about SGE…

  • SGE is a new approach to search, impacting both paid and organic search results.
  • SGE uses generative AI to provide quick answers to search queries in-search (similar to Featured Snippets in some respects).
  • The term ‘generative AI’ refers to algorithms or models that can create content (text, images, audio, code etc)
  • SGE can answer more complex and descriptive queries.
  • SGE does not impact all queries.
  • SGE is (currently) an experimental search experience.
  • SGE is only available via Search Labs – it is not public (yet!)*
  • Search Labs is available in 120 countries – meaning it is not available in 75 countries (including the UK) the full list is here

What’s happened since the SGE announcement in May 2023?

Short answer, lots – far too much to list, but largely…

  • Experimental changes to design/layout etc
  • Experimental changes to ads/monetisation of SGE
  • Probably the most significant development is that Google is starting to test the integration of Gemini with SGE.
    • Gemini is Google’s new large language model and is supposedly far more powerful than Chat GPT4 (though that’s debatable). 

Where is SGE Right Now?

No one really knows…

  • SGE was supposed to leave Search Labs in December 2023 – that didn’t happen.
  • It was predicted that SGE would launch (either worldwide or phased) in the first week of January 2024 – that also didn’t happen.
  • SGE remains available to those 120 countries via Search Labs.
  • There has been speculation that SGE won’t launch at all based on a comment from Elizabeth Reid, the VP of Google Search. She said “This week’s launch of AI-powered insights for multisearch is the result of testing we began last year to see how gen AI can make Search radically more helpful, with SGE in Search Labs. We’ve gotten lots of useful feedback from people who’ve chosen to join this experiment, and we’ll continue to offer SGE in Labs as a testbed for bold new ideas.”
  • We do not know if or when SGE will graduate from Google Labs.
  • There is no word either way from Google; so we will continue to keep an eye on the situation and inform you if and when this changes. 

Forget SGE: What we should be doing regardless

From an SEO perspective, regardless of SGE, in preparation for its roll-out we should be doing…

Basically everything myself and my team have been saying for the last 5 years and more – way before SGE and GPT were a thing! 

The traditional landscape of SEO has changed and evolved over time.  

It’s important now more than ever to focus on building brand credibility and strength – focusing heavily on developing brand reputation and improving customer sentiment online are important strategies for building online authority and visibility. 

Yes, ‘traditional’ SEO techniques remain a core part of our industry’s future, but we need to look at the bigger picture. As a few examples, we must focus on…

  • Building topical content/domain authority
  • Showcasing E-E-A-T
  • Building Brand/Product/Service reputation & integrity
  • Improving the user experience
  • Improving customer sentiment
  • Owning the industry narrative (i.e. being the go-to source for industry information)
  • Optimising content for long-tail/descriptive search variations

The above list needs to be at the forefront of SEO strategy. If SGE does eventually roll-out, adherence to the above will help websites to maintain their positions in search. If SGE doesn’t roll-out, adherence to the above will still help. It’s a win-win situation!

Of course, as SGE develops and new information becomes available, other factors may come to light, but if we’re already focused on the above, we’ll be in an extremely strong position to flourish.

*Update – March 2024

As of 4th March 2024, there have been a few updates to SGE in the UK that you should be aware of. Google have now started to trial SGE in the UK for a ‘small proportion of logged-in UK users’. As these trials continue we’ll be keeping a close eye and determining how SGE for UK Google searches could impact websites and SERPs.