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Google’s Search Generative Experience will transform content

By Callum Steenson, SEO Account Manager



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May 17, 2023 | 7 min read

Generative search should force marketers to rethink their approach to both keyword research and content, with more conversational, ‘snackable’ content, writes Reprise’s Callum Steenson.

Snacks aisle in grocery store

Natural language models in search will fuel the evolution of snackable content / ün LIU

Google I/O is where the search engine pulls back the curtain on its latest innovations, and the event on May 10th was no exception – with AI unsurprisingly taking the spotlight.

How Google plans to integrate AI-led technologies into its search engine has been a significant talking point in recent years, with that discussion intensifying in recent months as the industry started playing around with ChatGPT. At the I/O conference, we got to see just how AI is going to start influencing search results, and what it means for SEO.

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Google’s SGE

One of the key announcements was that of Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE), essentially a generative AI functionality that will be much more adept at answering more complex, conversational, and multi-clause queries than traditional search. In the future, you’ll be able to ask, as per the example Google demonstrated, “what’s better for a family with kids under three and a dog: Bryce Canyon or Arches”, rather than breaking that search down into possibly three separate searches: ‘family days out’, ‘dog-friendly days out’, or ‘Bryce Canyon vs Arches’, as you might expect today.

As part of those results, which will be displayed above the ‘traditional’ search results, users will be presented with options to dig deeper into the results, and to ask follow-up questions – an option that will open a conversational mode where the user can discuss the topic with an AI chatbot.

A typical search interaction evolves from a relatively simple, often single-clause keyword query, into a much more immersive experience, for example:

Recommend a dress for a wedding reception in Majorca that can be delivered next day.

Results: Formal dresses that would be comfortable to wear in warm weather from retailers with next-day delivery options.

Which shoes would go well with that dress?

Results: Matching shoe options.

The user search experience is going to transform, but so is the content that Google is going to deliver as part of that experience.

The functionality that Google demonstrated at I/O also included a ‘perspectives’ tab, which opens up the search experience across far more mediums and channels. That could include user review platforms, long and short-form video content from channels like YouTube and TikTok, blog posts, discussion board and forum conversations, and social media content.

This will turn search results into a much more diverse, immersive, and ‘snackable’ experience, where the traditional rules of what makes good content are likely, in many circumstances, to be turned on their head.

A game-changer for content for search

These developments highlight just how SEO is already (and so it must continue) breaking out of its performance marketing channel silo and instead, becoming a more collaborative, multi-medium marketing experience channel.

These announcements are set to fundamentally change how brands and search marketers think about key elements of search marketing strategy, namely keyword research and understanding how their target audiences engage with search, products and brands – as well as the content that will be needed to reach them.

The introduction of natural language models in search will fundamentally change how users interact with search engines and as generative AI becomes more prevalent in the search results, it will incite more natural, long-tail queries, compared to the traditional keywords or questions we see today. That puts the pressure on brands to understand both what those search patterns and keywords will be, and the audiences behind them.

But it is also going to change the content that brands create in order to act on that understanding and deliver the search experience that users will come to expect. Brands are going to have to break away from traditional methods of content planning and production and develop more agile, multi-channel and immersive content that meets the needs of users, as well as the expectations of Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines. The blog-only approach isn’t going to cut through.

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Changing search indefinitely

Of course, this is very early days for AI-generative search results, but the direction of travel is very much clear. Google is wanting the search experience to be much more interactive, immersive and conversation and whilst that doesn’t mean the end for SEO and SEO principles as we know them, it does change the optics of how brands should be trying to engage audiences through search.

The brands that win will be those that put audience, and audience experience, at the forefront of their strategy and really get an understanding of what it is their customers are searching for.

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