Google Search Generative Experience – Navigating AI Opportunities & Challenges
Google announced new generative AI search features that change how searchers find information. It introduced the Google Search Generative Experience. This may be where inductive reasoning replaces search as we know it. The coming changes are both exciting and arriving at a fast pace. This commands updating your search marketing and web strategies like never before.
One year ago at Google I/O 2022, Sundar re-emphasized the organization’s commitment to organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful. This week’s Google I/O 2023 demonstrates remarkable progress towards that goal via the stunning new Google Search Generative Experience.
Table of Contents
- What is the Google Search Generative Experience?
- What is the Google Search Lab?
- How will Searchers Benefit from SGE?
- What the SGE Revolution Means
- Google Bard rolls into Google Search
- New synthesized featured snippet results
- A more granular and personalized search
- Bard & SGE integrate with Google Maps
- Google SGE includes links to sources
- It remains essential to have strong E-E-A-T
- YMYL query answers remain highly scrutinized
- SGE encompasses Vertical Search that assists retailers
- SGE offers more visually-rich options
- Refinements to Google’s Helpful Content System
- The Google Page Experience Signal
- SUMMARY: Embracing the All New AI Google Search Engine
What is the Google Search Generative Experience?
The Google “search generative experience” (SGE) is a revolutionary update to what we have known as “Google Search”. According to Google, it is powered by generative AI and will directly integrate into Google Search. “The new Search experience helps you quickly find and make sense of information. As you search, you can get the gist of a topic with AI-powered overviews, pointers to explore more, and ways to naturally follow up”. 
This will be a conversational mode for searchers. A person can experience how its AI stitches together the context of the query and its follow-ups to reformulate it for better query alignment. Being new, we are all on the journey of discovering what it will be like to use the SGE. Diving in, testing, and patience will eventually help us assess the real impact.
Google revealed plans to infuse its traditional search engine with more advanced artificial intelligence technology. This revolutionary change will gradually rollout. Notably, it’s occurring three months after Microsoft’s Bing platform tapped into similar artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
Google, owned by Alphabet Inc., begin testing its own conversational AI chatbot called Bard. We had early access to use it after being accepted from a waitlist. Now Bard is available in over 180 countries and additional languages. It also leverages the PaLM-2 language model versus the LaMDA it started with. The AI in Google’s emerging search engine will also use the technology known as a Multitask Unified Model (MUM).
The improvement is significant. As the long held leader in search, it now seems to have a bright future in the forthcoming AI-driven revolution.
“We are at an exciting inflection point. We are reimagining all our products, including search.” – Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai in recent weeks.
This deliberate and strategic approach reflects that Google wants to move forward “responsibly” and with Search Lab’s user input. It is very cautious about “fabricated” or misleading information that sounds authoritative. This includes developing its fact-checking capabilities.
What is the Google Search Lab?
Along with other I/O announcements, Search Labs was introduced. It is a lab for early-stage experiments where the tech giant can gain feedback for users. Individuals are either invited or may sign up to test Google’s new products and ideas as they are further explored and developed. Accepted individuals may trial how SGE works and communicate directly with the teams working on it.
Additionally, Google says, “Search Labs will introduce new, fun, and creative ways to engage with Search and explore information. Search has long applied robust processes for human input
and evaluation to train and improve our ranking systems, and we’ve applied many of those well-tested principles and learnings to how we train and evaluate SGE”.
I am honored and grateful that John Mueller, Google’s Senior Search Analyst & Search Relations team lead, invited me to participate personally.
The focus is much about making it faster, easier, accurate, and more personalized for people to enjoy the new Google Search. An on-going process of development and testing is expected without a declared end date.
How will Searchers Benefit from SGE?
When using SGE, users will find that their search results page has familiar web results elements; however, they will be organized in a new way to help them
get more from their initial search. Srinivasan Venkatachary and collaborators have published a PDF providing an overview of SGE. We learn the following.
With SGE, people using Google Search will be able to:
- Ask entirely new types of questions that users never believed that Search could answer.
- Quickly provide an overall lay of the land on a topic, with links to relevant results to learn more.
- Ask additional related questions naturally in a new conversational mode.
- Be able to accomplish more easily, like generating creative ideas and drafts right in the Search interface.
Here is a statement directly from SGE developers and collaborators.
“By using a variety of models across the feature set, we are able to further optimize and fine-tune the models to meet the unique needs of users and help them throughout their information journeys.” – Google’s new way to search with generative AI
“Generative responses are corroborated by sources from the web & when a portion of a snapshot briefly includes content from a specific source, we will prominently highlight that source in the snapshot. In this example, the first link matches that & it also shows in expanded view. It’s the first link to the right of the snapshot. I’ve put a box around it. Also notice the other box at the end. When you see this, you can click through all the corroborating sources without going to expanded mode.” – Danny Sullivan, Google Search Liaison
What the SGE Revolution Means
SGE means to provide smarter and simpler Google Search Experiences
While the Google I/O keynote’s main focus was on AI across multiple Google products (Workspace, Cloud, Android Pixel 7A, and a revamped Pixel Tablet), there are significant, revolutionary changes coming to Google search.
Challenged by Bing and ChatGPT, Google seems to be advancing along parallel paths. It announced its new Google.com search experience, as well as several enhancements to Bard AI. New competors seeking dominance in the generative AI space are rapidly emerging. SpaCy is just one example.
SpaCy, an open-source library for commercial-level Natural Language Processing in Python introduces “spacy-llm” a new extension for integrating LLMs into structured NLP pipelines. It lets devolopers work on a modular system for fast prototyping, prompting and turning unstructured responses into robust outputs for various NLP tasks. What is most exceptional, no training data is required! 
Google started the session on how its search will change by announcing that it will produce a “smarter and simpler” interface. While this means for the user, it may well mean that SEOs must also be “smarter and harder” to attract clicks on search engine result pages (SERPs).
How the SGE revolution may change Google Search:
- Google Bard is rolls into Google Search.
- New synthesized featured snippet results.
- A more granular and personalized search.
- Bard & SGE integrate with Google Maps.
- Google SGE includes links to sources.
- SGE encompasses Vertical Search that assists retailers.
- It remains essential to have strong E-E-A-T.
- YMYL query answers remain highly scrutinized.
- SGE offers more visually-rich options.
- Refinements to Google’s Helpful Content System.
Google Bard rolls into Google Search
The company is aware that many people alredy engaged directly with LLMs, including through experiments like Bard, and other generative AI software services. SGE applies LLMs to purposefully train and complete tasks while attempting to apply generative AI responsibly.
From what we see in the Google Search Lab and the examples provided, it is not focused on navigational queries. The content this combined from of search displays is more related to informational queries and some retail-related queries. The SGE is capable of anticipating and responding to the searches intent.
Since this is the core of its servcies, the adoption process is trying to stay competitive as well as adhering to AI safeguards.
While the percieved benefits of AI are undeniable and potentially revolutionarry, SGE carries obvious risks. Like hesitant SEO at embracing this change, there are concerns about ownership, remaining competitive, and maintaining quality and content creativity and helpfulness. Many are looking at how to adapt content strategies in preparation for the new Google Search.
“We are rolling out SGE thoughtfully as an experiment, and in accordance with our AI Principles. We took extensive steps and a careful, considered approach to develop this experience responsibly, leaning on protections and approaches that we’ve honed for years in Search. – Sundar Pichai
Chief Executive Officer of Google during Google I/O 2023
New synthesized featured snippet results
From initial trials and write-up, the Google Search Generative Experience will produce even more featured snippets than we’ve seen so far. Sites that already understand how to engage people on Google’s real estate are a step ahead. From initially stepping into the Search Lab, the UI seems inviting to content creators, news publishers, business owners, digital marketers, and SEO professionals.
The SGE intends to reimagine how people interact with and discover information. From what we see so far, the new layout includes more Google rich featured snippets.
“Because SGE is integrated into Search alongside other results and features on the search results page, it’s possible for the output of SGE to appear to be in contradiction with other information in those results. For example, people might see a featured snippet result that highlights the perspective of a single source, while SGE represents a synthesized perspective corroborated in a range of results.” – Srinivasan Venkatachary, Google VP of Engineering
A more granular and personalized search
The update will assist searchers in making more granular searches. This will take fewer SERP clicks to get personalized answers faster. It will likely change the buyer’s search journey as we’ve known it. Fun examples were highlighted in the Google I/O talk. To offer personalized responses, SGE seeks to identifying high-quality web results that corroborate the information presented in its output.
These new generative AI capabilities are built to help searchers continue their journeys in more creative ways. The SGE goes beyond simply finding high-quality, reliable information to helping people make better use of it. The search information journey becomes more intitive, like going from searching for a specific product to helping that individual write the perfect review for it.
“These models are used in tandem with our core ranking systems to deliver helpful and reliable results. By constraining SGE to these specific tasks, including corroboration, we’re able to significantly mitigate some of the known limitations of LLMs, like hallucination or inaccuracies. We further mitigate these challenges by using our existing Search quality systems and our ability to identify and rank high-quality, reliable information.” – Google
Bard & SGE integrate with Google Maps
SGE and Google Bard are distinct entities; however, for users that continue to use Bard to conduct some searches, we’ve learned that the new SGE interface will display Google Maps within Bard conversations. This should help local searches for businesses nearby the searcher’s location. Also, new businesses can upload 3D videos directly in Google Maps.
GSE expands on more ways to use voice to search on Google Maps. Actually, all of GSE is designed to repsond to voice commands. The organization continues to reinvent its Maps and was also highlighted at Google I/O 2023. Here is a direct comment about this integration.
“…making it more visual with features like search with Live View and Immersive View for places. Now with Immersive View for routes, you can visualize every segment of a route before you go — whether you’re driving, walking or cycling. Immersive View uses computer vision and AI to fuse billions of Street View and aerial images together to create a rich, digital model of the world. With this technology, you can see all the information you need about your route at once.” – New ways AI is making Maps more immersive 
Google SGE includes links to sources
The tech giant has now stated that its SGE will include the more traditional links to external websites where you can find more extensive information about queried topics. This way, Google is pledging that AI-generated summaries will honor the hard-working authors and domains that produced the original content. This was not discernable in early previews.
To repeat, it will provide citations. This is a big deal to marketers. SEOs, and link builders. Current previews show this displaying on the right panel of its AI-generated answers. We find, so far, that this interface seeks to generate clicks from its new search results interface to trusted websites.
“These snapshots serve as a jumping-off point from which people can explore a wide range of content and perspectives on the web. SGE will show links to resources that corroborate the information in the snapshot, so people can check the information themselves and explore further. – Google provides An overview of SGE
While still tagged as an experimental form of AI technology, the company is consistently under pressure to demonstrate that its search engine will continue to link to sources. This may be necessary to maintain its leadership and support from the SEO community.
“We’ll also show more details about the creators of this content, such as their name, profile photo, or information about the popularity of their content.” – Google
SGE encompasses Vertical Search that assists retailers
Many local businesses sell products and can benefit from the inclusion of vertical search. SGE will offer new opportunities for Google Shopping. It will pull and present expansive lists of information to try to help online shoppers find the ideal products for them in real-time.
Google is publishing more about “Vertical Experiences” as its attempting to invite more user engagement within its real estate.
“SGE will also be helpful for information journeys related to verticals, like shopping or local searches, as they often have multiple angles or dimensions to explore. In shopping, for example, SGE helps uncover insights so people can make considered, complex purchase decisions faster and easier.” – Srinivasan Venkatachary and Google’s SGE collaborators
It remains essential to have strong E-E-A-T
Google reaffirms its intent to feature “expert-written” articles. It mentions “experience” and “expertise” several times in communications about the shift to the Google Search Generative Experience. You have a better chance of showing up in SGE query answers if you are recognized as a topic expert on the query.
People Also Ask and/or a new version with display QA SERPs. Demonstrations of this transition show that the new Generative AI Google Search platform will assist the searcher by offering a way to “ask a follow-up” question. It shows how it will display linear question options. Users can quickly select from one of the suggested questions they automatically populate.
“It uses AI to understand when a person is searching for something that is related to a previous question. It carries over context from previous questions to reformulate the query to better reflect the intent. – An overview of SGE by Google staff
YMYL query answers remain highly scrutinized
Google’s generative AI continues to be more selective around YMYL topics (health, finance) when determining which sources it displays. Google strategically prevents the new AI search engine from answering sensitive healthcare questions. For example, “What type of provider do I see for TMJ treatment?” — and finance-related queries will lead people to authoritative websites.
“This includes classes of queries that may be at higher risk for safety or inclusion issues and aims to ensure our protections and responses are effective across those domains.
Just as we do on Search, for YMYL topics, SGE places even more emphasis on producing informative responses that are corroborated by reliable sources. We’ve also trained the model to include disclaimers in its output, where appropriate. For example, on health-related queries where we do show a response, the disclaimer emphasizes that people should not rely on the information for medical advice, and they should work with medical professionals for individualized care.” – A new way to search with generative AI: An overview of SGE
The SGE is designed to avoid generating a response when it lacks quality or reliable information available on the open web. We think this may particularily apply to YMYL topics if AI bots cannot match an answer from a trusted source.
SGE offers more visually-rich options
From Google’s documentation on Perspectives, a new feature resembles the current Top-Story carousel that is displaying. When it populates informational SERPs in the right panel, these all are accompanied by a featured image. Its simplified-visually rich approach style within Google Search masterfully ignites immediate search selections.
In our experiments and research, product images abound with query expansions in SGE; many are auto-generated. The SGE AI-powered insights make it easy for shoppers to visually compare and explore purchase options. Also, question-answer responses include more images and video thumbnails.
“MUM has been deployed in dozens of features across Search to improve quality and help us understand and organize information in new ways. For example, we applied MUM to help people find related topics in videos, even when the topics aren’t explicitly mentioned.” –
While we’ve seen it in testings, the “About this image” feature launched at Google I/O. Google now wants you to self-label all your AI-generated images. This means adding “AI generated” with an IPTC photo metadata attribute. Google wants to help its searchers see images with labels that let users know of AI-generated images in its search results.
Refinements to Google’s Helpful Content System
Last year, Google made sweeping updates to what type of content it wants to feature. Another update is likely to come. The intent is to help surface content that Google deems as “hidden gems.” It will do this partly by focusing on individual contributors’ proven experience and expertise. This builds on BERT and is also used for Knowledge Graph Question Answering capabilities.
In tandem with its focus on the quality of information, Google threaded hints of another helpful content system update. AS SGE takes on additional tasks, it needs better to understand the content and its evaluation of quality content. It faces challenges by using its existing Search quality systems and ability to identify and rank high-quality, reliable information.
Its quality raters are more hands-on, but to leap forward in SGE search engine technology requires blending AI-powered insights and diverse human perspectives.
“We work with independent Search Quality Raters to help us measure the quality of outputs and the results displayed. These ratings do not directly impact SGE’s output, but are used to train the LLMs and improve the experience overall.” – How our Quality Raters make Search results better
Although the general public has to wait to fully experience Google’s new search engine to find answers, it looks promising. Here is a video snapshot from Google I/O to help you check it out.
The Google Page Experience Signal
The Page Experience Signal: Again, we hear Google emphasizing the user’s page experience. While revealing its new Android phone and Smart Tablet, we see how it prioritizes the mobile user experience. Recently the tech giant stated that page experience is a ranking signal but was never a ranking system.
Google Search Console (GSC) reports have and are changing; the I/O event underscores that Core Web Vitals and mobile-friendliness still play a role in ranking systems. Your GSC provides significant data that helps you understand your domain’s page experience scoring.
“Everything we do at Google is grounded in extensive user research. We’ve been evolving the Search user interface (UI) for many years to be more useful and accessible. To bring the power of AI to Search in a user-friendly way, we’ve built SGE as an integrated experience, applying what we’ve learned about user behavior.” – An overview of SGE
Google provides new ways searchers can find answers
Google remains strong on answering questions to satisfy users’ needs immediately in the SERP. All search marketers will feel the press to assess how this impacts the new search experience and clicks.
Today, we are testing SGE to discover how potential customers will be experiencing search results in the future. It is more important than ever to discover query answer gaps that we know are important. Then – along with continual algorithm updates – we’ll find new opportunities to gain visibility in the SERP for our clients.
There is no single page experience signal. The organization’s core ranking systems evaluate a variety of indications. Therefore, it’s essential to see the overall picture of your SEO and search marketing campaigns’ effectiveness.
Google offers new ways searchers find products
When buyers begin researching a product, they’ll gain a snapshot of noteworthy factors for consideration. They can dynamically view products that align with their search intent. Product descriptions include relevant, up-to-date reviews, consumer ratings, prices, variants, and product images.
This revamped generative AI shopping experience is based on the Google Shopping Graph. The graph currently includes over 35 billion product listings — making it the most comprehensive dataset in existance of constantly-changing products, sellers, brands, reviews and available inventory.
“Every hour, more than 1.8 billion listings are refreshed in our Shopping Graph to give people fresh, reliable results”, states Google. The May 10, 2023, Supercharging Search with generative AI article calls them “AI Snapshots”. Author Elizabeth Reid acknowledges that limitations with generative AI and LLMs, and Search, exist even today. Google will not always get it right. 
Advancements in how searchers find trusted, topic experts
In 2022, we saw many ways that the tech leader encouraged website articles to include who authored the main content. It updated its Quality Rater Guidelines with instructions to seek out author bio pages and reputation status. You can make this clearer by implementing author schema markup.
At Google I/O, it was repeatedly stressed it will favor content written by authors with expertise and experince.
“…we’re also improving how we rank results in Search overall, with a greater focus on content with unique expertise and experience. Last year, we launched the helpful content system to show more content made for people, and less content made to attract clicks. In the coming months, we’ll roll out an update to this system that more deeply understands content created from a personal or expert point of view, allowing us to rank more of this useful information on Search.” – Google 
It’s encouraging that a lessor known blog with authors providing their unique expertise on a topic – can perhaps compete better.
“You’ll now see more pages that are based on first-hand experience, or are created by someone with deep knowledge in a given subject. And as we underscore the importance of “experience” as an element of helpful content, we continue our focus on information quality and critical attributes like authoritativeness, expertise and trustworthiness, so you can rely on the information you find.” – Lauren Clark, Google Search Product Manager 
“Over the years, content on the web has exploded. There’s so much information to sort through, and so many facts and perspectives to consider when you’re trying to make decisions, big and small.
We shared today how we’re using generative AI to reimagine how you navigate this sea of information, organizing information in new ways and helping you explore the best of the web. And when it comes to what’s most helpful out of all the information on the world wide web, we know that for so many questions, you want to hear what other people have to say.” – Google Search Perspectives
“Google will generate an answer for some, not all questions, and show this animation of Google working up an answer. Google will show some of the more trusted and high-quality websites as clickable links, with an image, title and URL, right in the answer box. These sites make up part of the answer and are sites Google has a high degree of trust, enough to show them in this answer box.” – The Google Search Generative Experience – All New AI Google Search Engine by Barry Schwartz
SUMMARY: Embracing the All-New AI Google Search Engine
We find that the SGE produces featured snippets on steroids. With users urged to “dig deeper into those sources”, it becomes more important to become one of those sources. The bottom line is – we all must keep publishing quality, helpful content that real people need.
The SGE new interface may mean a drop in web traffic for many sites.
Given the significant changes ahead in SEO and digital marketing, call 651-205-2410 for help Transitioning to the New Google Search Generative Experience