Optimising for SGE
By Carrie-ann | Apr 25, 2024 | SEO

How to Optimise Your Website for SGE

Google is changing the way it approaches its search results pages (SERPs). There is talk that SEO will be disrupted but I see it as a new opportunity for genuine sites to use search engine optimisation in conjunction with SGE. Diversification of traffic is going to be really important.

Using generative AI, Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) is now providing users with fast search topic overviews without needing to click through to any of the sites listed on the SERP itself.

What is SGE?

Let’s start here by looking at an example to explore what SGE is capable of.

Imagine that you’re looking after a friend’s five year old child for the afternoon. It’s raining outside, and you’re stuck for ideas that will keep them (and you!) occupied and entertained indoors. Previously, a quick Google search for ‘rainy day activities for five year olds’ would have provided you with a list of websites that you could click on to gather some ideas. However, with SGE, the top of the SERP is already populated with a variety of suggestions that you can see without having to go to the extra step of clicking through to any of the search results.

SGE has collated what it considers to be the best suggestions from a variety of sources and, for this search, includes suggestions like ‘build a fort,’ ‘play board games,’ and ‘go on a scavenger hunt.’ Each suggestion has a clickable arrow, which reveals snippets of text taken from several different online resources that you could then click on to find more specific information.

So, SGE really comes into its own when tasked with finding answers to questions, summarising an overview of a specific topic, or how-to instructions.

It’s worth noting here that SGE hasn’t yet rolled out to all countries and is only available in Google’s Chrome browser. Users must be at least 18 years old and because it is an experimental tool, all users must actively opt in in order to see SGE results.

What are the Benefits of SGE?

Google is consistently taking steps to improve its overall user experience, so there are a number of clear benefits to the new SGE.

1. SGE Simplifies Complex Subjects

Not all searchers are looking for in-depth information and SGE is designed to help users to understand the basics of a particular topic without getting bogged down by an unnecessary level of detail.

2. SGE Provides Information Quickly and Directly

We all want access to the information we’re looking for as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Google recognises this need and has therefore ensured that SGE streamlines the process of gathering information by removing the need to click backwards and forwards across several different websites.

3. SGE is Conversational

Traditional search isn’t necessarily known for its interactivity, and this is something that SGE is directly addressing. With SGE, searchers who are looking for a bit more information beyond just the basics will be presented with suggestions for both related questions and follow-up queries, which will deliver results that contain more in-depth information.

What are the Disadvantages of SGE?

AI powered search has huge potential, however there are some potential disadvantages to its early iterations that are important to be aware of.

1. Potential Inaccuracies

All developing AI tools have the potential to deliver inaccurate results, and this also applies to SGE. Currently, Google has added a disclaimer to the SGE module in SERPs, which states that “Generative AI is experimental. Info quality may vary.”

Google obviously wants to provide its users with accurate information all the time. However, there are some searches, such as Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) searches, which have the potential to compromise people’s finances, health, safety and happiness, where accuracy is significantly more important. For YMYL searches, Google SGE displays a further disclaimer to ensure that potential inaccuracies in SERPs don’t have a detrimental impact on its users’ lives.

2. Reduced Paid Search Visibility

As SGE occupies a prime position at the top of SERPs, there are concerns that it will have a long-term impact on paid search results. Google is already in the early stages of exploring the possibilities within generative AI ads, so expect to see further testing with regard to ad formats and placements which are expected to integrate well into SERPs.

On the other hand, it could make paid search more appealing. I am unsure about the impact here.

3. Limited Transparency

As Google uses a closed AI model, it’s essentially impossible to understand precisely how key decisions are being made. There is generally a sense amongst users that we want to know how AI models are making decisions and this lack of transparency creates too many uncertainties and a certain degree of discomfort.

How Will SGE Impact SEO?

Many business owners are worried that SGE will lead to a reduction in organic traffic, which may end up being the case. After all, if searchers are presented with the information they are looking for right there in the SERP they are served, there will be no need for them to click through to any of the search results.

However, I don’t think this should be too much of a concern because SGE also has the potential to help businesses to drive more qualified leads. Ultimately, there will always be searchers looking for in-depth information, and as SGE is designed to contain summaries of the best results for each query, appearing in this part of the SERP is likely to help you to secure more clicks from qualified leads who are already interested in what you can provide.

Your Guide to Optimising for SGE

Generative AI is undoubtedly changing the way that search works, so here are some tips to consider when optimising for SGE.

1. Focus on Creating High Quality Content with Search Intent in Mind

With SGE, Google wants to provide each one of its users with seamless access to high quality, informative and highly relevant content. This means that focusing on creating high quality content is essential if you want to appear in SGE results. So, make a point to cite reputable sources and double check to ensure that every piece of information you share is 100% accurate.

It is also important to consider the intent behind every search, which can be separated into four primary categories:

– Informational intent: Searchers are looking for information that will help them learn about a topic
– Navigational intent: Searchers are specifically looking for a particular page, such as a login page
– Commercial intent: Searchers are in the research phase of their purchasing journey
– Transactional intent: Searchers actively want to complete an action

The key to ensuring that your content outperforms other pieces of content on a SERP when specifically optimising for user intent is to find ways to provide more value to your intended audience. There are many ways to approach this, including integrating more informational keywords, including a step-by-step guide, or even just delving a bit deeper into the topic than your competitors have.

SGE will only display results that it has decided will best align with the intent behind a search, which essentially means that you need to occupy one of the first few SERP positions.

2. Target Long-Tail Keywords

Currently, SGE seems to be mainly encouraging detailed search queries over shorter phrases, which means that targeting long-tail keywords is likely to deliver the best outcomes. So, if you wanted to target something like “yoga training”, you could use a keyword tool to identify relevant long-tail keywords, such as “prenatal yoga instructor course”.

Long-tail keywords are more specific than more general search terms, which often means that securing a solid ranking position is easier because there is less competition. This won’t always be the case, so don’t forget to ensure that you understand precisely how competitive each of your target keywords is and determine how likely you are to secure one of those top SERP spots.

3. Exploit Structured Data

Schema markup or structured data can be used to help search engines to better understand and more accurately categorise content online. Essentially, structured data ensures that search engines can easily digest your content, which will improve your chances of securing a solid ranking position on relevant SERPs.

4. Utilise Natural Language

As SGE is conversational, understanding the everyday language your target audience uses is important. If you are already optimising for voice search, you’re likely already on the right track. But if you’re not, spending some time researching best practices here will benefit your online visibility.

Avoiding overly formal language is essentially the key to optimising for voice search and, in turn, SGE. So, while someone might search for “best bakery in London” when conducting a typed search, they are more likely to ask “where is the best bakery in London?” when conducting a voice search. Ranking well for voice search queries involves crafting responses that sound as though a real person has heard, understood and then answered the query in a natural-sounding way.

Over the coming months and years, the ways in which we look for information online are going to change significantly.

For now, consistently optimising your website and focusing on creating helpful content that feels as though it has been written by a knowledgeable human remains key to maximising your visibility, increasing your reach, and successfully driving conversions.

If you look back on my blogs, I have been stressing the need for human-led content and real search intent to be implemented in all our client’s sites. Five years ago it was all about keywords, now it is about phrases, search intent, and understanding the psychology in which an ideal customer searches.

If I have not bored the heck out of you and you want to know more, click on the ‘Let’s Chat’ button and we can take a look at your site together and understand what the future holds for your business.