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February 27, 2024

Google is updating its search engine with generative AI: How should B2B tech companies prepare for this?

Google AI, SGE, Generative Artificial Intelligence, Search Generative Experience, Google Search Updates

This article provides an in-depth look at Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE) introduction and its impact on B2B tech companies, particularly concerning SEO and Google Ads strategies. It highlights the critical need for developing deep, insightful, and customized content that addresses genuine user inquiries. Additionally, it advises a strategic shift in advertising approaches towards emphasizing user intent and personalized searches, aiming to enhance online visibility, brand recognition, and distinctiveness in an increasingly user-friendly and informative search ecosystem.

Alex Hollander
Digital Marketing Coach | Agency Trainer | CEO

AI-driven technological innovations are redefining how we search and discover results on the internet, prompting Google to respond by introducing the Search Generative Experience (SGE). This initiative aims to use AI to enrich searches with more information and context, thereby improving how users find and interact with online content.

In terms of business impact, you must prepare to avoid losing impressions, clicks, and SEO rankings on your website. The challenge now is to create content and advertisements that are trustworthy, helpful, and customer-focused. 

Let's take a closer look at the update so you and your team can plan a successful strategy to overcome this challenge. 

First, what’s the update about?

We're not talking about a single update, but rather a series of updates aimed at something known as Search Generative Experience (SGE). 

SGE is an artificial intelligence (AI) feature that provides users with more comprehensive and informative search results. The AI's role is to generate cohesive text summaries of information gathered from various sources, eliminating the need for users to click on individual search results and assisting them in better understanding complex topics. This new approach makes it easier for users to find answers to their questions. What does that look like? Here's an example.

Think about a user asking Google, "Cloud computing adoption by industry"

Google shows this:

As you can see, people will be given suggestions for next steps, as well as the option to ask follow-up questions. When they tap on these, they are taken to a new conversational mode where they can ask Google questions about the topic they are researching. Following the summary, the most relevant results to the search query will be displayed.

The context will be carried over from question to question, resulting in a more natural and intuitive search. People will also find useful starting points for web content, as well as a variety of perspectives to explore.

And what about the ads? Well, if anyone is looking for a "HR software", the results will be like this:

Google will use SGE to help customers find exactly what they're looking for. Following a search query, users will receive a summary of key factors to consider, as well as products that meet the criteria. So, the ads will appear after that information.

The latest updates

At the time we wrote this guide, Google's most recent updates on this front are Circle to Search and an AI-powered multisearch experience. 

Circle to search allows people to search for anything on their Android phone's screen without switching apps. Users can simply make a natural gesture to select images, texts, or videos, such as circling, highlighting, scribbling, or tapping, and Google will find the information. Furthermore, Search and Shopping ads will continue to appear in their designated ad slots throughout the results page.

The AI-powered multisearch experience is the enhanced Lens search, which now allows people to take a picture of something and ask a question about it with the Google app, resulting in an AI-powered overview that gathers the most relevant information from across the web. 

Other recent tests are focused on AI's ability to understand natural language, allowing people to ask questions more naturally and intuitively. At the same time, the AI generates content directly from search results. Here are some examples:

  • Translating phrases with multiple meanings: SGE could assist in disambiguating phrases with multiple interpretations by highlighting potential meanings and allowing users to select the correct one.
  • Customizing Chrome themes: Text descriptions could be used to create personalized browser themes based on the desired mood, style, and subject matter.

All of these tests are happening right now in Google's Search Labs. 

How can you keep track of what's coming up? Join Search Labs

Search Labs is an initiative that tests early-stage features and collects user feedback before they are widely implemented. It serves as a testing ground for novel search experiences, including elements of the Search Generative Experience (SGE). Currently, Search Labs is available in a few countries and languages, but not worldwide. You can check its availability by clicking here or by going to your device's "Labs" icon in the Google app or Chrome desktop.

Since Search Labs provides a preview of SGE features that are still in development, users can interact and provide feedback on how these features work and how they can be improved. They are now looking into how SGE can provide AI-powered overviews for specific searches such as product comparisons or local places. It uses data from Google's knowledge graphs to help users compare and explore options more efficiently.

How does SGE affect B2B businesses? 

One thing is clear. Google has stated that they will continue to send valuable traffic to websites across the internet. However, given the changes, the standard is higher. 

SEO implications

If after typing a query, people will see a summary followed by a list of websites, you should create useful content that goes beyond the summary. SGE summaries appear at the top of SERPs, pushing traditional links down and potentially reducing organic website click-through rates (CTR). According to beta data, SGE appears in 81% of queries, with 67% open and in the top spot, potentially reducing organic positions 1-3's visibility by 54%.

Thus, the value of content is critical in this regard. Also, your traditional SEO keyword research may have to change into a list of real questions written more naturally and intuitively, so that your content appears first when people type them.

Ads implications

As previously stated, Google's new approach is to associate products with natural questions, so if SGE summaries provide users with enough information directly on the SERP, they may be less likely to click on ads. In short, SGE may drive users toward "informational" rather than "commercial" clicks, affecting campaigns aimed at direct conversions.

Also, SGE can influence user intent by clarifying their searches, so you must align your ads with those questions and consider all of the ways your product can be found. This includes the product description, features, categories to be labeled, images, and all of the information about what you intend to sell. 

SEO plan to adapt your content to SGE

Now, the goal of your SEO strategy will be to create content that truly resonates with your audience. That means that content must answer natural and intuitive questions while also being useful, rich, people-centered, and far more valuable than an AI summary. 

Step 1: Questions come before answers

Consider which problems or questions you want to address with your content. Make a list of them with your team, ask your clients for assistance with this task, and put it in a worksheet so you can think about how to respond and include that question in your content. 

Step 2: Rethink your topics

Dive deep into your topic clusters and refine them to provide unique insights, diverse perspectives, and comprehensive comparisons that go beyond the obvious, resulting in real value for users. Such content naturally aligns with SGE's preference for detailed information, paving the way for increased visibility in search results.

Step 3: Improve the accessibility 

This includes organizing information with clear headings, subheadings, and bullet points, as well as incorporating visuals into the text. These elements not only make the content readable but also reflect SGE's skill at summarizing key points, making it easier for AI to understand and highlight the most relevant information to users.

Another strategic layer is the implementation of structured data using relevant schema markups. This not only contextualizes your content for search engines, but also increases the probability of it appearing in SGE summaries by providing clear, machine-readable information about the content's focus, structure, and purpose.

Also, make it mobile-friendly. This includes ensuring fast loading times, responsive design, and clear navigation to cater to the growing number of users who access content on the go.

Step 5: Focus on long-tail keywords

SGE's summaries may not fully address these keywords, which delve into specific topics, allowing detailed, organic content to stand out. This emphasis on specificity not only caters to niche audiences but also aligns with Google's AI models, which prefer content that covers a wide range of information relevant to the query.

Step 6: Make it simple

You must simplify complex technical topics so that AI algorithms and a diverse audience can understand them. The key is to simplify intricate ideas without losing their essence, ensuring that the content remains engaging and informative.

It's critical to use a straightforward writing style that breaks down complex ideas into manageable chunks. This includes using clear definitions, avoiding jargon, and using examples that are relatable to the target audience. This approach not only helps SGE accurately summarize and feature your content, but it also improves the user experience by making information more accessible. 

Step 7: Analyze your traffic

Analyzing traffic to determine how SGE competition affects clicks, improving content quality to exceed what SGE summaries provide, and leveraging AI tools for content creation—while maintaining quality control and human oversight—are all steps toward achieving this goal.

Plan to adapt your ads to SGE

Step 1: Analyze current performance

Analyze campaigns' current performance to determine the specific impact of SGE on keywords and ad effectiveness. This analysis can reveal subtle shifts in how users interact with ads following SGE, highlighting which aspects of campaigns are most impacted. It also provides an opportunity to diversify targeting strategies.

Step 2: Understand the user’s intent

The key to navigating this change is a nuanced understanding of user intent, specifically how SGE alters the motivations behind searches. Ad professionals are encouraged to concentrate on intent-driven keywords, emphasizing their distinct value propositions that stand out against the backdrop of SGE's detailed summaries. This includes emphasizing exclusive deals, personalized recommendations, and other benefits that automated summaries cannot provide.

Step 3: Tailor your copy to people's questions.

Adapt your ad copy to specifically address the refined needs and questions raised by SGE. This could include using Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) and Performance Max Campaigns, both of which use Google's AI to dynamically adjust ad content and targeting to better match the changing landscape of user searches influenced by SGE. These tools enable a more flexible approach to ad creation, ensuring that messaging is relevant across a wide range of queries.

Step 4: Experiment with ad formats

Experimenting with different ad formats allows you to stand out on increasingly competitive and cluttered search engine results pages (SERPs). Advertisers can better capture user attention by incorporating images, videos, and app extensions into their ad campaigns. These dynamic and visually engaging formats can make ads stand out among the streamlined, text-based summaries generated by SGE, increasing the likelihood of user engagement. Such experimentation not only increases ad visibility, but also caters to a wide range of user preferences, potentially increasing the overall effectiveness of digital advertising campaigns in the SGE context.

Step 5: Diversify your targeting

Move beyond traditional keyword targeting to audience targeting or in-market segments, which will better connect your ads with relevant users. This strategic diversification allows ads to reach a more engaged audience, even as specific keywords become less reliable predictors of user interest as a result of SGE's summarizing capabilities.

Step 6: Track performance closely

Focus on key metrics such as clicks, conversions, and return on investment (ROI). This granular analysis sheds light on how SGE influences user interaction with ads, providing insights that can inform strategic decisions. By closely monitoring these metrics, advertisers can fine-tune their bids, targeting strategies, and ad copy to better align with the changing dynamics introduced by SGE, ensuring that their campaigns continue to perform optimally.

Looking on the bright side, how will SGE benefit your business?

The introduction of Search Generative Experience (SGE) will have a significant impact on business visibility and brand awareness. To begin, SGE summaries provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity for these companies to reach new audiences. By summarizing content that answers questions in broader terms, SGE enables B2B tech solutions to reach potential clients outside of traditional keyword targeting. This increased visibility can significantly increase a company's reach, exposing its solutions to a larger audience that would not have been reached using traditional SEO strategies.

Moreover, SGE's vertical search experiences, which are tailored to specific industries such as cloud computing and cybersecurity, allow B2B tech companies to reach a more targeted audience. These specialized search experiences are intended to cater to users actively seeking solutions in a specific tech sector, increasing the likelihood of connecting with prospective clients who are directly interested in the services or products offered. This targeted reach is invaluable for B2B tech companies that want to get their solutions in front of the right people at the right time.

Finally, SGE's ability to feature informative product comparisons opens up another chance for B2B tech companies to influence buyer decisions. Companies can directly influence potential clients' purchasing decisions by highlighting key product features and differentiating factors in comparative summaries. This aspect of SGE not only helps to educate the target audience about the unique value propositions of various tech solutions, but it also plays an important role in guiding informed decision-making processes among prospective buyers. 

Prepare for SGE updates with Effiqs

Our team is ready to support B2B tech companies by combining in-depth SEO expertise, content creation tailored to SGE's nuances, and a data-driven approach to digital marketing to ensure their solutions are accurately represented in SGE summaries, reach their target audience more effectively, and make a compelling case for their products in comparative analysis. Set up a free call with our CEO, Alex Hollander, to overcome this challenge together. 

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