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Opinion: Preparing for Google’s new search experience

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The digital landscape in 2023 has been dominated by one prevailing theme: the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence. Following the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, technology giants like Microsoft and Google haven’t been far behind, with Google unveiling two new products: its Bard chatbot and the Search Generative Experience. This innovation marks a pivotal shift in digital marketing and how users search the web.

SGE is an AI-driven chatbot integrated into Google search, poised to redefine how users interact with search engines and search engine optimization. This new search feature is designed to respond to queries with AI-generated answers, placed prominently above the traditional search results.

The introduction of Google’s SGE arrives at a crucial juncture where estimates find Google already commands approximately 90% of the search engine market share in the United States. Any changes Google implements, like SGE, have far-reaching implications for the majority of internet users and businesses.

Given Google’s market position, how it chooses to integrate and prioritize AI-generated answers will fundamentally reshape SEO strategies and how information is accessed and consumed on a broad scale.

The significant changes in the search results layout mean that the once-dominant blue hyperlinks will now be secondary to AI-provided information and sponsored advertising. Users can engage in a more interactive search experience with follow-up questions, enhancing usability and value of search results.

The introduction of SGE heralds a seismic shift in the SEO landscape. Early indications suggest a spectrum of impacts on website traffic – some sites may see dramatic increases, while others could face steep declines. Although much is unknown about how SGE will display websites moving forward, it’s believed much of website traffic will come from a so-called snapshot carousel rather than through organic links. The results in the carousel can vary widely, as some sites that don’t show up in traditional searches will appear there. It’s all based on what Google determines to be the most credible and authoritative sites as it relates to a particular query.  

This unpredictability underscores a vital need for adaptability and strategic foresight in SEO practices.

To navigate this new terrain, it’s essential to focus on Google’s updated content guidelines and a framework dubbed EEAT, for experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. Websites must prioritize content that is authoritative, credible, deeply engaging and helpful to users. This involves:

  • Showcasing expertise and experience. Ensure content is crafted by knowledgeable professionals and backed by credible sources.
  • Building trust. Use customer testimonials and up-to-date, accurate information to establish your site as a reliable resource.
  • Enhancing metadata. Create compelling and concise meta titles and descriptions that accurately reflect your page content.
  • Utilizing schema markup. Implement structured data to provide search engines with more detailed information about your content, enhancing visibility and user experience.

A strategic approach is key in adapting to SGE. Start by analyzing individual pages that drive significant organic traffic using tools like Google Search Console to identify the main keywords for each page and put together a plan to optimize for them. In this process, AI tools like ChatGPT can be invaluable allies, offering insights for optimization and comparing your pages with competitors.

As we edge closer to the widespread launch of SGE, expected at the end of 2023 or early 2024, the only certainty is there will be an impact on SEO. However, the foundational principles of good SEO remain as relevant as ever. These fundamentals have guided us through two decades of continual evolution in the digital world, and they will be crucial in navigating the changes brought on by SGE.

The imminent arrival of SGE represents not just a challenge but an opportunity – to refine our SEO strategies, embrace new technologies and prepare for a future where AI is integral in how we search for information online.

It’s a future that demands our attention, adaptability and a steadfast commitment to quality in the ever-evolving realm of digital marketing.

Ryan Simmons is the SEO manager at Campaignium LLC, a digital marketing agency in Springfield. He can be reached at ryan@campaignium.com.

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