SGE, AI and the Evolving Face of Search (Part 1)

Before we explore the intersection of SGE, AI and Search, consider a real-world scenario:

Let’s say you’re looking to surprise your daughter, an avid gamer, with a special birthday gift. You settle on upgrading her gaming headset. Your Google searches have yielded a ton of choices, organic and paid, but you’re no gamer. You have no idea what features to look for or brands to consider.

How do you easily decide without looping her in and spoiling the surprise?

Excited Gamer Girl is Playing Online Video Game on Her Personal Computer. Room and Personal Computer have Colorful Warm Neon Led Lights. Cozy Evening at Home

This exactly the type of challenge Google is seeking to solve with its most current innovation, Search Generative Experience (SGE).

What is SGE?

Rolled out in May of 2023 and in testing mode until December, SGE is a new version of the Google search engine results page (SERP) that integrates AI-generated content in response to user queries. In order to formulate its response, the AI utilizes information from various sources, including Google Business Profiles, service and product reviews, photos and other sources of authoritative content.

At this time, SGE mainly appears in place, product, and “general knowledge” queries, and testing is limited only to individuals who’ve been approved by Google Search Labs.

How does SGE use AI to generate a search results page?

Here’s an example of the query mentioned above: What are the best gaming headsets?

SGE Vertical Experience - labeled
Labeled screen grab of an SGE results page.

The current version of SGE appears at the top of the user’s SERP with a disclaimer: “Generative AI is experimental. Info quality may vary.” Under the SGE pane is the normal SERP experience you’re accustomed to: a mix of organic and sponsored results, product or business listings, a map (if a place-focused search) and the “People also ask” panel.

Visually, results may vary slightly depending on the nature of the query, but our testing for product and place-focused searches revealed a few common features:

  • The AI’s Answer appears first. The answer is normally brief and is intended to be conversational and helpful. In this case, since we’re doing a product-related search, the AI attempts to define the qualities of a good gaming headset. This information is generated from authoritative sources and high quality reviews (see next bullet).
  • The Content Carousel is to the right of the AI’s answer. The carousel represents a publisher’s best opportunity to appear in the SGE pane because Google’s AI has been “trained” to look for high-quality, authoritative, expert-driven content and reviews to use as reference material for its response. More on this in Part 2 of this series, “Where & How Does SGE Use Product Reviews?.”
  • The Vertical Experience for product and place-focused queries appears under the AI’s answer. In this case, the AI has pulled product listings from Google’s Shopping Graph that meet its definition of the “best gaming headsets.” The products listed here typically have good user reviews, have key features and specs identified by the AI and are well reviewed by experts.
  • The Ask a Followup panel appears at the bottom of the SGE pane, giving users a chance to pose their query a different way or ask for additional information. Asking a followup question launches the user into a new SGE pane.

Next up, let’s chat a bit about how product review content factors into an SGE result.

Don’t get blindsided by AI and search. Learn more about SGE from EVG, get help evaluating your content, or start improving your search engine presence! Contact EVGMedia now to get started.

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