In a recent webinar conducted by NP Digital, David Shapiro, their SEO specialist said
This analogy is a good description of the frequent frustration and seldom joy Content and SEO folks face when trying to make brands “surface” on Google.
Just when we think we understand what it takes to rank, the rules of the game change.
Generative AI is called game changing for a reason. It has shaken the very foundation of what we all knew worked. The status quo has been challenged and how. We can no longer see work, especially in the digital world, with the same lens.
And Search is no exception.
Search Generative Experience (SGE) is transforming the Search experience with Generative AI. It is currently hiding in plain sight in case you haven’t noticed it on the Google homepage.
The beaker icon on the top right corner, that is your current gateway to the Beta version of SGE.
When you sign in with the Search Labs feature and Google something, you will see a box on top with the word Generating.
And the generative results look something like this –
The answer to your search will get highlighted among all the result options for your immediate attention and use.
Keep It Specific, Suitable
With SGE, Google’s attempt is to scour every online source looking for the best possible answer to user queries, which may be a comment on a forum, a snippet in an article, or a post on Quora or Reddit. This also means that the content we create needs to be more specific for it to be more useful. This should always have been a requirement but in the times of Generative AI, it takes on a whole new meaning. Tools like ChatGPT make it easy to create content which is generic blah blah. Things that sound good but are not always true. With AI it is easy to create content but hard to create relevant content that is new and fresh.
Credible Content by Humans
Which brings us to Google’s E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) requirement for assessing Search Quality based on the expertise of content creators. People with first-hand experience or expert knowledge of the topic/product/service being queried are the best people to talk/write about it. Users querying Google want to hear from human authors who will give credible information and fresh perspectives. So, Google’s SGE will reward Authorship now more than ever.
Most organizations keep content last on their priority list. Some outsource its creation while others give it the royal ignore altogether. Majority of the content flooding the internet is written by hired writers who rehash/reword published content available online. The Authorship ask by Google needs brands to have people on the inside writing articles to showcase first-hand organizational experience and thought leadership. Organizations need to reconsider the importance of content as a lead generator, especially as a medium of earned media.
Among all of these changes, the biggest and most noticeable one is the visibility of results. The SERP is no longer fixated on a linear arrangement based on ranks. There are multiple results in the top real estate based on what answers the user query most efficiently. This includes Paid, Organic, Social, Knowledge Graph, Rich Snippets and SGE. Ranking highest for specific keywords is no longer the end goal. Instead we must create comprehensive content for specific topics keeping the user intent and experience in mind. This is also known as Semantic SEO.
To capture the right audiences, monitor their use and convert potential leads, content marketers should try and understand the likely intent of the search. Audiences expect hyper-personalized results and with the way Google is testing SGE, they will deliver.
Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah, co-founders of HubSpot authored a book called Inbound Marketing in 2009, back in the days when SEO was reigning supreme. Even now with the unexpected takeover of SGE, SEO is going nowhere. The old principles still apply. An excerpt from their book is a wise concluding note straight from the experts.
In 2024, we could consider replacing rank-worthy with SGE-worthy and find a more user-friendly avatar to replace the Rank Nazi for Google.