What does the new Google mean for purpose-driven brands?
By Rebekah Mays
Published June 16, 2023
In early May, Google unveiled “Search Generative Experience” – a whole new way of getting answers on Google.
What’s so different about SGE?
Mainly, that AI will start answering search queries.
Google wants to keep users on its platform — and not let them leave for ChatGPT, Bing, or other platforms. So it’s integrating conversational AI to improve the search experience.
It looks like this:
When will SGE roll out?
Currently, SGE is in experimentation in the US, and you can sign up to try it out.
We don’t know yet when it will roll out for all users – but things seem to be developing quickly since Google has already made updates to SGE since its initial announcement.
Is SGE a problem for businesses that rely on organic search traffic?
It’s not necessarily a problem – but we do need to prepare now.
The good news is that in the new interface, Google still includes organic links to websites. It does this in the “AI snapshot,” as well as in the standard listing of websites below the snapshot.
The other good news is that Google is putting more emphasis on personal experience and authority — so creators that have first-hand experience in a given topic will be featured front and center.
The bad news for businesses is that the generated AI answer takes up quite a lot of search real estate. This means the normal organic listing gets pushed down when the AI answer shows up.
This could mean fewer clicks to your website — so brands may see traffic decrease.
Website publishers have also been reporting that the AI answer sometimes scrapes their content and quotes it without attribution. Hopefully this attribution will improve, but this lack of attribution is definitely a problem!
Is there a silver lining to SGE?
I think so! Any time there’s a big change like this, there are usually opportunities as well.
If you prepare, you might be able to outrank your competitors for the first time.
If you can pivot during these changes, you might be able to create a stronger content program than you’ve ever had before.
And from what I’ve seen, most of these changes will encourage businesses to create better content. This is a good thing considering there’s still so much bad SEO content out there.
Will SGE affect my business?
If you’re already getting traffic & revenue from Google, yes, it might affect your business.
If you’re not yet getting much traffic or revenue from organic search, the update won’t affect you as much. (Although it will impact any pending or future SEO campaigns.)
What are the implications of SGE for purpose-driven businesses?
I believe that purpose-driven businesses are in a place to succeed in this time of change.
Why? Because the more generous and helpful you are with your content, the more you can gain from content marketing and from SEO in general.
This generosity is in the DNA of purpose-driven brands, so “helpful content” is a natural extension of their brand purpose.
Great content looks like:
- Helping customers understand how they can get from where they are to where they want to be
- Taking the time to incorporate research and expert advice in your content
- Not pushing prospects to make a purchase before they’re ready
- Encouraging prospects to make a purchase when they are ready
- Matching the content you create with their search intent
- Giving them information and support at no cost
Doesn’t this type of content feel like a perfect fit for purpose-driven brands? I definitely think so.
Given Google’s increased pressure on brands to create “helpful content,” (such as during their Helpful Content update last year) brands that prioritize excellent content creation are doing the smart thing from a search perspective.
What are some ways my marketing team can prepare for SGE?
We’ve talked about the big picture, so let’s talk tactics. Here’s what you can do now to start preparing for the new Google:
1. Make an educated guess about how SGE will affect your industry and business model
SGE will not work the same for every type of business or industry.
For instance, in testing so far, users have found that AI answers don’t come up as much in health and finance as much as in other industries. This might be because Google doesn’t want to be liable for giving inaccurate information about “your money or your life” topics in AI.
In the B2B world, traffic is already deceptive, since it can be hard to detect who is a random visitor and who is a business buyer.
So if you already have a sophisticated B2B content strategy in place, you’re probably pretty well positioned for this update.
2. Don't abandon SEO strategy — it's even more important now
Since SGE is still developing, we can’t prepare for every little detail just yet. But we *can* improve our content, dial in our strategy, and make sure new content adds value to our prospects and customers.
The worst thing you could do right now is to lay off your marketing or SEO team (looking at you, tech companies!) or stop spending on marketing altogether.
Keep your marketing team if you want to ride this wave, and consider bringing on additional support from SEO and digital marketing professionals to get a strategy in place.
3. Don't just spit out SEO content — look for unique angles
Organic search is probably about to get more competitive. With AI taking up so much space, the holy grail might not be to “rank number one” but to grab one of those top few spots in the AI snapshot.
What kind of content will AI feature in that snapshot? Probably unique, authoritative content that supports the AI answer.
In one example Kevin Indig has shared, for instance, the AI answer to the search for “corporate credit card” talked about the benefits and risks of a corporate credit card. The first article highlighted in the AI snapshot was specifically the “risks of corporate credit card.”
Take this as encouragement to embrace a unique perspective on topics. For a more advanced strategy, reverse-engineer AI answers to identify topic opportunities.
4. Prioritize middle-of-the-funnel content
As Eli Schwartz points out in his newsletter, traffic that faces the biggest threat comes from generic, easy-to-answer questions. So don’t build your whole SEO strategy around the simplest queries.
Embrace the more complex queries and topics — especially ones that engage prospects in the buying process.
This way, you have more to offer the searcher when compared to an AI answer. And you can weave in your personal experience to provide more value than what the AI answer can provide.
Instead of: “What is sustainability?” (Top of the funnel, competitive, dictionary definitions will appear first.)
Try: “How can I create a sustainable marketing strategy?” (Middle of the funnel, less competitive.)
Instead of: “What is a B Corp?” (Top of the funnel, there’s a definitive answer.)
Try: “Is it worth becoming a B Corp?” (Middle of the funnel, gives an opportunity to highlight personal experience.)
This will take some experimentation, but don’t be afraid of those lower-volume, higher-intent keywords.
5. Balance content relevance with keyword volume
Speaking of lower-volume keywords, remember that keyword volume is just one of many factors to consider when working on a content distribution strategy.
What’s most important is creating content your customers need to move forward with their goals.
Stick with a few pillars that are core to your brand, and explore the many different sub-topics your brand can address. Consider keyword volume, but always match this with how relevant the content is for you and your audience.
6. Lean into personal experience and expertise
Now is the time to double down on personal experience and expertise in your content. This is something AI can’t replicate, so it automatically makes your content unique.
Include personal stories and anecdotes, results from your own research, original quotes from experts — anything you can think of that sets your content apart from the AI answer and from your competition.
SGE is still in development, and no doubt we’ll uncover new opportunities and challenges in the months ahead.
But don’t wait for a drop in traffic before you start taking action — revisit your SEO strategy now using the tips above.
If you need professional help, you can book a call with me to discuss whether a project-based SEO strategy sprint is right for you.
You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter, where I share SEO and content tips especially for purpose-driven B2B marketers.
It’s tough to keep up with everything going on. But if you stay on top of this, you’ll ensure your business can not just survive the new Google, but come out stronger than ever before.
About the author
Rebekah Mays is the founder and owner of One Generation, a digital marketing agency offering SEO and content “sprints” to grow traffic and leads for purpose-driven B2B brands. Ready for more traffic so you can make a bigger impact? Get in touch.