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Google announced their new search layout with generative AI on 10th of May and it will transform the way we search and gain visibility on Google.

If you are a Flow client or marketing leader at a SaaS startup and want to talk about the future of search, book a time here.

Search up until now

Over the last few months, we have seen several big changes transforming the search landscape:

  • Google search might be losing traffic to ChatGPT and Bing. 

  • Google is already actively using new search features that reduce visibility for organic results, e.g. more ads, visual grids and product carousels.
  • Due to the increase of AI generated content, search results have been getting more competitive over the last six months.
  • And the latest and biggest news: Google announced their new search layout with generative AI on 10th of May and it will transform the way we search and gain visibility on Google.
  • One note: AI is not new to search. For the full context of how Google uses AI in search, check Laura’s article here.

Now: Search Generative Experience SGE

Google announced their new search layout with generative AI on 10th of May.

Most important links:

Preview of the new search

Changes and impact

In Google’s words:

With Search Generative Experience, people will be able to:

  • Ask entirely new types of questions that you never thought Search could answer.
  • Quickly get the lay of the land on a topic, with links to relevant results to explore further.
  • Ask follow-up questions naturally in a new conversational mode.
  • And get more done easily, like generating creative ideas and drafts right in Search.
  • With SGE, Search ads will continue to appear in dedicated ad slots throughout the page. 

In Flow’s words:

With Search Generative Experience, we will:

  • Experience a reduction in visibility and clicks to organic results since they are being pushed below the fold.
  • Rethink content optimization and work towards being featured in the sources and links within SGE.
  • Optimize across different media types, e.g. video, social mentions and authors to gain visibility in new search features.
  • Update our thinking around common SEO metrics such as keywords and rankings to reflect the new search behavior and user flow.
  • Adjust our Google Ads strategy. Alphabet (Google’s parent company) makes a majority of their revenue from ads. They will find and maintain a way to make this revenue. Ads have been very prominent in the mockups of SGE. We will need to adjust focus, budget and reporting accordingly. 

Search Generative Experience will transform the way people search and use Google. Read Kevin Indig’s article here for deeper insights.

Think back to the first introduction of Google maps on the search results page, shopping results or featured snippets. All these updates decreased click through to the classic 10 blue search result links.

Furthermore, when we think about the search landscape as a whole, Youtube is the search engine for how-to content and videos, Amazon and Ebay are the go-to search engines for shopping. 

ChatGPT and SGE will need to find their place and use case in the search universe, but they have already changed how we understand and use search today.

Our SEO specialist Helene Jelenc shared insights and details on her Wallflower Studios podcast episode from 17th of May.

Timeliness

Google: We are rolling out SGE thoughtfully as an experiment, and in accordance with our AI Principles

You can currently only experience this via their lab:  labs.google.com/search  – there is a waitlist!

The new layout is supposed to roll out in the USA first for Chrome desktop and mobile users.

This means the time to rethink your search marketing strategy, make changes and start preparing is now. Your will need to educate your marketing organization, get executive buy-in and adjust your strategic focus. You will build of your hard work in content and SEO over the last years but business as usual is likely not going to make you resilient for the transformation to come.

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What this means for your startup

Organic visibility

  • We will likely experience more zero click searches over the next few months as SGE provides answers to search questions directly on the search results making it unnecessary for the user to continue to a website. 
  • We will experience longer, more detailed and specific search requests than ever before. Keep in mind that search has been getting more long-tail for years.
  • We will likely experience decrease click through rate even if your rankings remain stable since SGE and other new search features push the classic organic results out of sight.
  • Search marketing will shift towards optimizing towards all search features, incl. chatbot answers. We will need to understand how to “rank” for SGE answers and how many clicks can realistically be won when listed as a source.
  • On the short term, we will likely review and adjust strategic focus and priorities between paid and organic campaigns. Ads have been very prominent in the mockups of SGE. Backlinks and a strong domain rating might be the differentiating factor when Google tries to estimate trustworthiness of a website in the sea of AI-generated content – at least  in the upcoming months. 
  • We will likely experience an increase of importance of bottom of funnel content since complex B2B tech buying decisions will need insights beyond a chat answer. We will likely prioritize buying guides, competitor comparisons, customer stories and landing pages to capture this existing demand.

On the long term, we will focus on creating meaningful content that generates unique insights for your ICP. See section: Human expertise vs AI. 

SGE provides helpful synthesis of relevant insights and information (Source) – not unique or new stories.

Today, all marketers have access to the same SEO solutions, competitor analysis and content optimization tools. The cost for longform content has sunk to basically zero with the launch of more and more AI writing tools every day. These AI text generators as well as the new SGE all draw from the same repetitive articles as everyone else. Content will be cheap, long and rankeable – but it will not be memorable.

Our goal with content marketing has always been to make sales easier in the future.

For this, we need to be remembered and part of the consideration set when your ICP is ready to make a buying decision.

In the long term, we encourage our clients to prioritize unique web experiences, as well as a strong company narrative and messaging. Leverage your subject matter experts, customer stories, unique industry insights and experiences!

Human expertise vs AI

For now, Google has said that they will not punish AI-written content as long as it is useful. (Source) And whether we like it or not, AI-written content has led to more publishing of content across most industries. An impressive example is LinkedIn publishing 62.000 AI-generated articles since March 2023 (Source). 

We will likely see more and longer content than ever in the next few months. This will increase competitiveness on the search results – but also poses a problem for training and returning useful SGE answers.

But there is hope: Google has expanded the Quality Guidelines with E-E-A-T in December 2022. 

The new E stands of Experience: Firsthand or life experience in the topic. This means that Google will aim to “reward” pages where the author has actually experienced the topic they are writing about. (Source)

Google: Now to better assess our results, E-A-T is gaining an E: experience. Does content also demonstrate that it was produced with some degree of experience, such as with actual use of a product, having actually visited a place or communicating what a person experienced? There are some situations where really what you value most is content produced by someone who has first-hand, life experience on the topic at hand. (Source)

Google  announced on 10th of May: Because even in a world where AI can provide insights, we know that people will always value the input of other people, and a thriving Web is essential to that. (Source)

They are also launching a brand new search feature: Perspectives. Check the release notes here.

In many ways, Google’s focus on subject matter experts, first-hand experience and authorship is the latest step in a series of updates trying to combat spam and false information. Over the last 12 months, Google has released the  Review update (September 2022), Helpful Content Update (December 2022)  and now Perspectives. (Source)

How Flow will support you

A few days after the release of SGE, there is no certainty yet in how this will change the search landscape. We caution from those that suggest radical and rapid changes. 

Flow agency is daily keeping up with Google’s documentation, Lab results and analysis of trusted experts in search marketing. 

Over the next weeks, we will schedule in-depth conversations with all of our clients to review strategic focus, search budgets and content workflows. This change in search results is our top strategic priority from here on out.

There are still opportunities to win in search – and we are happy to be your partner on every step of the way.


What this means and how we can help:

  • Live discussion: We are happy to share this briefing in a live workshop with everyone from your organization, may it be executives or marketing teams. We are available for all your questions and concerns in the upcoming weeks.
  • Regular updates: We curate industry information and analysis to cut through the noise and make sure that you know what changes to expect and how they will affect your marketing metrics.
  • Data and analysis: We are here to back gut feelings with data. From GA4 to Search Console, SEO tools, Google Trends, your CRM and others – we help to sift through the numbers and create dashboards and data-backed stories that make sense.
  • Diversifying:
    • Google and Bing Ads: For the last three years, Flow has been providing complementary Search Ads management for our clients. Now, we offer it to all SaaS startups – existing clients, old clients and new! If you are looking for an Search Ads audit, an update of your strategy or full-service building, managing and reporting of your campaigns, book a call here or email viola@www.flow-agency.com 
    • Organic Bing: We are already monitoring Bing performance for all our clients through Bing Webmaster Tools. Over the last six months, our clients have seen an average increase of Bing organic traffic of 20.3%. The increase is steep but absolute numbers are still low: Our clients see on average 3.2% of total sessions coming from Bing. We are here to monitor changes and grow your visibility.
    • Video SEO: The preview of SGE and the new search results include a lot of video content. Google has also added video indexing to Search Console in August 2022. Flow is able to audit your website, Youtube channel and Wistia, optimize it and make the most out of your existing video content.
    • Click through optimization for images and video thumbnails: Let’s learn from the best – the creators on Youtube, Tiktok and Instagram to ensure that your media assets are getting clicks from search.
    • Entity SEO: Let’s make sure your subject matter experts are recognized in Google. We are here to advise on bylined articles, author profiles and the associated schema markup.
    • Alignment across brand properties, including social media: The launch of Perspectives makes it necessary for Google to recognize and connect your brand across all web properties.

This is the time to rethink your search strategy. This is the time to start experimenting and learning about a whole new search experience. 

Downstream search visibility is likely at the intersection of content marketing, unique messaging and thought leadership.

The Flow team is ready to collaborate and shape the future of search success with you!

P.S. Generative AI is coming to HRtech as well. Check out this article on HRbrew featuring Josh Bersin. Beamery, SeekOut, and Eightfold AI have already announced GPT interfaces.

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Author

Viola Eva
Viola is passionate about digital entrepreneurship, flow, and mindful marketing. As a marketing consultant and SEO, she has worked with clients ranging from individual digital entrepreneurs to software companies to multi-national corporates and government institutions. She is a speaker, educator, and specialist on all things SEO.
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