Google recently announced their Search Generative Experience (SGE)., a new way to bring generative AI into search. SGE works to personalize and innovate the search journey by pulling key information from multiple sources and presenting it in a snapshot. This snapshot is intended to allow users to perform detailed searches from the start.
Now that SGE is rolling out (currently in the US and hopefully soon globally), it’s set to shake up the search world in a number of ways.
As a matter of fact, Greg Sterling of Near Media has suggested, “Search Generative Experience will transform the way users interact with SERPs.” Local products and products are likely to be two of the hardest-hit segments.”
We’ve compiled what we know so far about SGE for local search, what the experts are saying about it, and how it might impact both users and businesses in the future.
So what is it?
Expressed in a simple way? Say goodbye to “barbers near me” and say hello to “barbers offering traditional wet shave and trim packages in Boston.”
The snapshot returned to the searcher is intended to provide a comprehensive, detailed answer to the user’s query – no matter how complex the question (within reason, of course… but hey, who are we to doubt Google?). The response is generated using various Large Language Models (LLMs) such as MUM and PaLM2, so users can, in Google’s words, do the following:
• Ask entirely new types of questions you never thought search could answer
• Get a quick overview of a topic, with links to relevant findings for further exploration
• Ask follow-up questions naturally in a new conversation mode
• And do even more, for example by generating creative ideas and drafts directly in the search
But don’t worry – this is not the end of the simple search. Google SGE seems to respond just as well to classic searches like “brewpub near me.”
These results can then be augmented by what Google calls “conversational mode,” in which users are asked further questions that follow natural questioning (or at least what Google’s AI predicts):
Google SGE vs Bard
Previously, Google was launched bard, an “experimental conversational AI service” that helped users understand search by answering user questions. Bard relied on “draw[ing] Gathering information from the web to provide fresh, quality answers.” Bard sits independently of Google’s search engine and is described as a “helpful and creative contributor” who inspires your imagination, increases your productivity and brings your ideas to life. Essentially, Bard is a creative AI assistant that helps you generate content and ideas. SGE, on the other hand, is a whole new approach to search designed to transform the user’s search journey from the first click.
What does SGE look like for local search results?
SGE has started rolling out and we’ve tried a few local searches in the US. So far we’ve noticed a few important things:
- SGE results are displayed in a colored box with the note “Generative AI is experimental”. The quality of the information may vary.”
- The results show a 5-pack similar to the existing local package.
- The 5 pack includes a brief description next to each pack result; This sometimes includes reviews.
- In addition, a carousel of cited results is displayed over a view of a map with locations pinned.
- At the bottom of the SGE results, we see a “Request a follow-up” prompt with additional prompts to continue the conversation.
- In some cases, Google offers the traditional local package along with a prompt that provides the user with an AI-powered response.
What do experts say about SGE and local search?
SEOs jumped at the chance to dig deeper into SGE to see what it looks like, how it works for the end user, and what it might suggest for people working in the SEO field.
Amanda Jordan, RicketyRoo, found that results vary between the New Pack and the Local Pack:
I see several options for locals here. You’ll get very different local business recommendations if you make your request directly or chat with AI.
— Amanda Jordan (@amandatjordan) May 26, 2023
Others noted the significant overlap between SGE outcomes and traditional local group outcomes.
Sterling Sky’s Joy Hawkins noted that the SBU results provide visibility to companies already in the local pack. However, she has found that “the two lists do not match identically.” Sometimes the map in the AI box has a broader map view that shows different companies than the local pack.”
Aleyda Solis expressed a similar sentiment: “The SGE returns the least useful result I’ve ever seen: pretty much a duplicate of the map pack that Google is already showing in the top two organic search results anyway.” Not useful.”
How will BrightLocal respond to SGE?
“As a local business, understanding your ranking in search has always been difficult. Your business can appear in multiple results types, including traditional organic results, the local package, knowledge panel, map results, video results, and even local service ads if you monitor them.
It’s not that easy for local businesses to say, “I’m #4 on Google.” With the introduction of SGE, we now have a whole new set of results to monitor and report on. The monitoring aspect is pretty straightforward, and we’ll be updating our ranking tools to include these new result types shortly. We see different deals and different order of results in the SGE pack compared to the local pack. Even the amount of local results displayed in the SGE varies by query.
All of this adds to the complexity that marketers face when it comes to determining how their clients are performing on search, and our team is intensely focused on reducing that complexity and providing clarity.
Overall, I think monitoring your rankings will continue to be a valuable data point to monitor, but the ultimate proof of success lies in lead and revenue generation, and the clarity of these metrics is less distorted by changes in Google’s UI.”
What does this mean for local businesses?
Because comprehensive results are at the heart of SGE, Google has placed a focus on vertical experiences, including local search. According to Google“SGE will provide context about local places, leveraging AI-powered insights that make it easy to compare and explore options.”
Provisionally Research of Near Media found that most local searches appeared to return a snapshot with five or more listings and a carousel. Clicking on individual entries opens a knowledge window. Clicking on any of the carousel items takes the user to the company’s website.
SGE also allows for more specific comparisons of companies:
Andy Simpson, Digital Law Marketing, even found out that SGE uses content from Google reviews in his answer, so processes like assessment management maybe more important than ever:
— Andy Simpson ???????? (@ndyjsimpson) May 26, 2023
take that away? Local businesses shouldn’t be afraid of SGE. In fact, it’s still quite possible that SGE will offer small businesses more ways to get in front of customers, at least in part because of the dual local package.
While this may give your competitors more opportunities, we encourage you to keep optimizing your listings and keep your business as visible in organic listings as possible.
We know that SGE displays business descriptions, images and ratings in the results. So make sure they are up-to-date and relevant.
While SGE is fundamentally something to keep an eye on, for now, the best thing to do is move on Local SEO best practices while Google continues to experiment.