How to Rank in Google’s Search Generative Experience (AI Overviews in Results)


How to Rank in Google’s Search Generative Experience (AI Overviews in Results)

James Norquay

James Norquay

17 Jan 2024

When we first tested Search Generative Experience as part of Google’s Search Labs we knew big changes were coming for SEO. 

While this wasn’t a groundbreaking thought, we didn’t have the data to back it up. However, after getting more hands-on experience with SGE / AI Overviews we can start to back this claim up. 

Find out what we’ve learned from testing SGE and how you need to start changing your SEO strategy if you want to know how to rank in Google’s Search Generative Experience. 

How To Rank in Google’s Search Generative Experience

From our early tests, first and foremost you want to make sure you’re seen as a trusted source and designing your content to match what people are searching for. You’ve got to really get what users are after and shape your content to meet those needs. Creating visual content such as videos and images can also boost your chances of showing in the snapshot. 

There’s much more detail that we’ll go into, including some tips on how best to do it. This comes with the understanding that Search Generative Experience is still in its early days. But, we do have the benefit of being an agency, working and testing things across multiple websites with a range of clients. 

Build Your Websites Authority

With SGE, Google is effectively sharing information under its name so it needs to make sure that the website is trusted. The idea of building authority shouldn’t be something new for SEOs, but it is becoming increasingly important. 

This is evident with E-E-A-T. Google has explicitly stated that authority and trustworthiness are necessary for all websites. It’s not just about having heaps of backlinks; it’s about being the go-to spot that people can count on for accurate and useful stuff. 

One way in which we’ve experienced success is Digital Shelf Optimisation. This is optimising everywhere on the internet where your brand can appear. Take a look at our branded search; Prosperity Media and you can see that SGE is pulling information from multiple sources. 

When all your appearances on Google follow the same theme it seems to give more credibility to your website. Consider optimising your digital shelf in the following places:

  • Social media
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Business Profile
  • Your About Us page
  • Related industry sites

The more information there is about your business online, the more trust signals there are. This doesn’t just work for the standard search engine results page, but it also carries weight when trying to rank in SGE.

But, how does this help with ranking individual searches?

Well, you also need to become an authority on the specific search query. This can be achieved through topical relevance. 

Become Highly Relevant

Trying to provide Google what it wants has always been the main objective and it’s the same motive with SGE. One quick way you can do this is by reverse engineering what’s already ranking in the snapshot. When you know that, you can tailor your content to match it.

From our experience, you’ve got to be specific with what people are searching for. Your aim should be to make sure when someone asks Google a question, your content is the answer they’re looking for – clear, easy to understand, and right on the money.

This doesn’t just include your H2s, the pages you post can also be more specific. While we would still recommend steering clear of thin content, short, targeted posts seem to perform best from our tests when compared to the long-form posts of yesteryear.

Depending on the SERPs, to rank in SGE, rather than post one cluster post it’s better to break that down and start building out topical relevance. 

Instead of “Long Distance Running: History, Benefits & Tips”, try breaking that into three separate posts. This seems to help SGE to find the content it’s looking for. As the algorithm gets more sophisticated, perhaps this becomes less of an issue. However, highly relevant and targeted posts seem to be ranking better for generative AI. 

Keeping your content fresh and up-to-date and re-indexing through Google Search Console should also be a part of your workflow. 

Write to Google’s Guidelines

Writing to Google’s guidelines hasn’t always been the best way to rank. We’ve previously seen things like keyword stuffing and strategic placement work. However, with Google coming down harder on generic content thanks to AI writers, the tide is changing. 

Google released the Helpful Content Update as well as a Core Algorithm update. If your site gets hit then the classification of poor-quality content was site-wide. This is why it’s become important to write to Google’s guidelines as if your site gets hit, the chances of ranking are near impossible unless you recover it. 

Head to Google Search Central to see the full guidelines. The main takeaway should be creating people-first content. 

Multimedia for More Chances of Ranking

We’ve seen a variety of results showing in the snapshot. This includes:

  • Text
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Podcasts

So if you want to have more chance of showing at the top, then you need to create multiple forms of media. 

When you create these follow the standard best practices such as embedding videos and images into your blog posts. Remember to make sure the alt text is relevant to the images. 

If you’re using stock images, this is highly unlikely to have any benefit for your website. To have a chance to rank in SGE the images need to be original. When you get this right it ups your chances of getting more results in the snapshot. 

While this may take extra work, it also helps with overall search engine optimisation and marketing. Placing videos on your page can help with increasing users’ time on page which is a good signal to Google. 

What Is SGE?

SGE, short for Search Generative Experience, is Google’s fresh take on how we use search engines. Imagine asking a question and getting not just a bunch of links, but a straight-up answer in a similar way to the featured snippet. 

That’s what SGE is all about. It pulls together info from all over the web and presents it in a way that makes sense for what you’re after. And it doesn’t stop there – it also chucks in some links to sites where you can find out more. 

We’ve seen Google slowly releasing SGE, trying to get it right for a full release in the near future. This means you’ll see this new SGE box for most search types right above the usual results. 

Check out our guide if you want to find out more about what Search Generative Experience is and how it’s affecting SEO. 

What If There’s No SGE For My Keywords?

Even though we’ve seen Google hesitant to use SGE for YMYL topics, it’s best to assume that it’s on its way. 

We’d recommend monitoring the situation through Google Search Console by tracking impressions and clicks. If you start to notice changes, perform a Google search to see if there’s a snapshot for your main keywords. Just because your post ranks high, it doesn’t mean that SGE will automatically pick it up. 

What Does Ranking in SGE Look Like?

Depending on the type of search query, you’ll typically find four main places that your content can rank. 

The generative snapshot is brimming with a mix of words, pics, and links, and they aren’t just picking the usual top-ranked sites either.

The dropdowns from the cited text

This result type shows for almost all search queries and is the most prominent. However, it does require searchers to make two clicks to get through to your site. The information seems to be pulled from sites that are in the carousel places. 

The carousel

The three boxes that are to the right-hand side of the snapshot. These are likely to be the prime real estate when it comes to SGE. 

Product or business listicle

Typically for ecommerce searches, Google will show some kind of listicle or product boxes. This can also show if you’re looking for businesses, places or services.

Ask a follow up

Searchers can ask a follow-up question in the same style as ChatGPT. If the follow-up question matches the content that you have, then there’s a chance your page could be cited here. 

Why is SGE Important?

With Google bringing generative AI into how we search, it’s not just about being at the top of the search results. SGE shakes things up by offering AI-crafted responses with links to supporting websites. This opens up fresh chances to get our content into these AI replies, which could lead to more focused traffic heading to our websites.

Why does this matter? Because it’s about keeping your edge. Users want fast, spot-on answers, and SGE offers just that. If our content is included in the SGE box, it’s more likely to be viewed as reliable and credible. We’re competing not only for clicks but also for a spot in a more engaging and cutting-edge search setting.

Also, as SGE keeps getting better, it might start to change how people search. Folks might begin to depend on these generated responses more often, which could mean fewer clicks on actual websites. You’ve got to tweak your approach to make sure you stand out in a way that SGE values and highlights.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you rank in search results?

The first and most important thing is to create direct, targeted and high-quality quality content that meets Google’s guidelines. Whitehat SEO techniques such as on-page SEO, backlinks and websites with well-designed site architecture and topical authority can also help you to rank. 

How can I improve my search ranking?

Reverse-engineer what the pages above you are doing and look to implement that on your page. Also, make sure that your page is up to date with the latest recommendations from Google such as E-E-A-T. Signs of trust such as authoritative backlinks are something that we’ve seen success with. 

How do I optimise SGE?

Write direct and highly targeted content that is backed up by authoritative sources. 

What is the difference between SEO and SGE?

SEO is search engine optimisation; the umbrella term for optimising your website to rank high in search engines. SGE is search generative experience; Google’s generative AI that will appear at the top of search results.

How does SGE affect SEO?

Seeing as the full rollout of SGE is yet to be seen, the results are still unconfirmed. It’s predicted that most search results will see a decrease in clicks but how much of a decrease is still unknown. SEO will have to change slightly as the challenge now becomes how to rank in Google’s Search Generative experience.

James Norquay

James Norquay founded Prosperity Media in 2012 after working in the SEO & Content Marketing space for over 10 years. Prosperity works on Small to Large eCommerce, Marketplace and many other projects in Australia and the US markets.