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Google Expands SGE to Users Who Haven’t Signed Up – What Does It Mean for Brands & Marketers?

Google Search Generative Experience

So far, Google’s SGE feature has only been accessible by those who’ve signed up to it through Google Labs. But now, SGE’s AI-generated overviews are visible in Google’s main search results for a small selection of U.S. users.  

This comes as part of an initial testing period to gather feedback from users who have not specifically opted in to SGE.

Remind Me – What is Google’s SGE Feature?

Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) feature is a new AI-generated search engine model, which was launched in November 2023. 

Those who signed up to it now sometimes see AI-generated answers above Google’s usual organic results. It looks like this:

Screen capture of Google SGE providing a family with holiday advice
Image courtesy of Google.

These AI-generated answers are pulled from a handful of articles, with links to the articles prominently displayed to the right of the overview. 

The idea? Users are able to gather useful information at glance, with a view to digging deeper via links and suggested follow-up questions if they want to. 

What’s Happening with SGE Now?

Google is currently testing SGE on a small subset of U.S. users who haven’t signed up to the feature. In a nutshell – they’re testing the waters to see how the general population will react to this new model. 

Recently, rumours have been swirling that SGE will officially launch soon. There are also rumours that Google will make users pay for AI-assisted search. As a result, if the model is rolled out, this will arguably be the biggest change we’ve seen in search for the past decade or so.

At present though, it’s important to stress that Google is simply running tests on a selection of queries that it thinks will benefit from AI overviews. It’s also testing different variations – so different users may see different results for the same queries.

It’s worth noting that, so far, the SGE feature hasn’t exactly been flawless – as proven by its attempt to provide AI-generated travel itineraries. These suggest that at least some AI answers leave a lot to be desired in terms of quality and accuracy. For example, according to Google, Washington DC is a great place to try undercooked chicken:

In Philadelphia instead? Apparently you should spend all morning looking at the Liberty Bell. But… you shouldn’t visit Independence Hall, which is just across the street:

Plus, it’s been spotted that the new SGE algorithm has recommended scam sites within its AI-generated responses. These have included fake iPhone giveaways, browser spam subscriptions, unwanted Chrome extensions and tech support scams.

Still, for its part, Google has said that it has received ‘incredibly positive feedback’ for the billions of SGE-answered queries so far.

And if one thing’s certain, it’s that the search giant is working hard on next-steps for SGE among other yet-to-be revealed AI changes. So…

What Does This Mean for Brands and Marketers?

As highlighted above, if SGE is rolled out to the wider population, it’s going to have some pretty big implications for brands and marketers. 

This is largely because AI-generated overviews will push organic search results further down in results pages. And considerably so; a study by Authoritas found that an AI overview box pushes down the first organic result by over 1500 pixels. Some paid ads may also be affected. 

With this in mind, it is now the general consensus that sites will get less overall traffic as a result of SGE. 

This means brands and marketers will need to adapt to new, SGE-tailored search strategies. They may need to focus more on long-form content, for example. As well as the utilisation of expert insights and more dynamic, multimedia formats.

This all comes as part of a wider clamp-down on scaled, poor-quality, and duplicate content – read our summary of Google’s latest algorithm update to learn more. 

Concerned about what implications SGE will have for your website? Get in touch with our organic search experts today. We can guide you through Google’s ever-shifting algorithm and product updates, helping you to stay ahead of the curve with targeted search strategies that drive results. 

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  • Tom Brook

    Tom has more than 10 years of experience working in copywriting, content strategy and PR. Over the years, he’s led one of the largest copywriting teams in the UK and has worked on a freelance basis for some of the country’s biggest brands.

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