Search Generative Experience and The Future of SEO


Search Generative Experience and The Future of SEO

James Norquay

James Norquay

14 Sep 2023

It was only a matter of time before Google released their version of AI search. 

We’ve been involved in SEO for over a decade now and it could represent one of the biggest changes to search in a long, long time. 

So now is as good a time as any to start the discussion—what does Search Generative Experience mean for the future of SEO? But before that, let’s take a look at what Search Generative Experience actually is and how it looks…

What is Search Generative Experience?

Search Generative Experience (SGE) is a feature that Google will be rolling out to its search engine that uses generative AI to better address the way in which users search and change the way in which search results are displayed. 

For decades Google has been using AI to better understand search queries and provide more relevant results. However, these updates have largely been under the surface and impacted the aesthetics of Google minimally…until now. 

Some search results can now include ‘snapshots’ which use generative AI to display overviews that can include a variety of content such as text, videos, products and links. 

Snapshots will be at the top of search results and represent one of the biggest changes in search for both users and SEOs in recent years. There’s more on this and how to get access later, but first let’s take a look. 

In Google’s Search Generative Experience PDF, they describe the capabilities of SGE.

  • Ask entirely new types of questions that you never thought Search could answer
  • Quickly get the lay of the land on a topic, with links to relevant results to explore further
  • Ask follow-up questions naturally in a new conversational mode 
  • And get more done easily, like generating creative ideas and drafts right in Search

To better illustrate what SGE means for you, we signed up for the early release and began testing search results. 

What Does SGE Look Like?

SGE is still in the early stages and Google is experimenting with how it works and how it looks. For now, there are a few general things that we’ve noticed. 

  1. Snapshots don’t automatically generate for every search. For some searches it requires you to click a ‘Generate’ button, for other searches there’s no snapshot at all. 
  2. There are still 10 search results on page one under the snapshot. 
  3. Information in the snapshot doesn’t always come from sites in the top 10 of the searched keyword. It appears Google is pulling it from additional but related sources. 
  4. Featured snippets are still available, they appear under the snapshot.
  5. Snapshots display all types of content pulled from everywhere on the web; websites, social media, Google Business Profiles and YouTube

SGE for Ecommerce

When searching for products the snapshot appears below the paid advertisements. Google has already stated that SGE won’t be affecting the placements of paid ads. For most commercial searches information is included to help with the buying decision. 

Interestingly, the articles and sites that were included in the snapshot, weren’t always in the top ten results for the searched keyword. This could be an opportunity for your articles to get clicks from keywords they wouldn’t have before. 

This highlights the importance of creating thorough content that does more than just answer the main search query. 

The snapshot would initially appear like the above with the option to expand it. Once expanded it will show products. 

As you can see, the results of this are a bit hit-and-miss. Sometimes it shows products that aren’t relevant and in some cases completely incorrect. 

SEO Tip: For some searches, Google is including “Good for…” tags such as the one below. It’s unclear where Google is pulling this from but it would be a good idea for retailers to start including keywords like this on product pages. 

SGE for Branded Searches

To see how SGE performs for brands we started by searching our own name: Prosperity Media. 

SGE performs very well in this case, the information is accurate and it looks good giving searchers lots of information to choose from. 

What’s evident here is that SGE is pulling information from all across the web. In this snapshot, there’s information from a range of sources:

  • Our website
  • Other websites where we’re mentioned
  • YouTube
  • Social media
  • Google Business Profile
  • Google Maps

SEO Tip: Digital Shelf Optimisation (DSO) will be key in getting the best results from SGE. DSO is making sure that every place where your brand can be found online is up to date and optimised. 

Now would be a good time to ensure your Homepage and About Us page contain a succinct but detailed description of your company. Don’t forget things like social media bios and Google Business Profile. 

SGE also took information from Semrush’s website where we’re listed as one of their partners. Improving your connections across the web with things like Digital PR will also become more important for building trust and authority. 

SGE for Commercial Keywords

Commercial keywords such as ‘Best of’ or ‘Review’ are the main earning potential for affiliate sites. More than that, they also provide excellent bottom-of-the-funnel keywords for any company that has a product or service. 

In reality, they perform in a similar way to ecommerce keywords. There’s a slight difference when you search for a specific product as Google will show multiple retailers that sell the product. 

This might be good for third-party sellers and independent retailers as Google also seems to be showing options outside of big-name retailers and brands. 

For everyone else, it’s difficult to see how this doesn’t translate into a decrease in clicks. We’ll talk about this later in more detail, but after using SGE for a while; it’s not as bad as we first thought. 

SGE for Informational Keywords

SGE isn’t just a visual change, it’s also changing the way in which people can search. Search queries can be more detailed than ever and informational searches might be one of the best use cases for SGE. 

For some search queries, it makes it unnecessary to use the top 10 search results altogether. For others, the snapshot simply acts like a featured snippet. Searchers won’t be able to get all the information they need from it so they will still need to click onto websites. 

We also noticed that these kinds of informational searches had the most variation in whether SGE was available or not. Even for simple queries it sometimes didn’t show up. 

SGE for Local SEO

Another area where SGE really excels for the searcher is local SEO.

Although the layout of the snapshot is similar to the standard Google results, the options underneath are different. 

This isn’t always the case but more times than not our test search results have been slightly different when comparing SGE results with a standard search. 

This makes sense as in the above example the snapshot is pulling information from Google Business profiles, the reviews and the search results. Whereas in the standard search results, the options are coming solely from Google Business. 

SEO Tip: If you haven’t already guessed, Google Business is important for your local business. But there also might be more opportunities to publish pages for your website that target local and specific keywords. Before, these results would have likely been low down the results page as you’re competing with Google’s ‘Places’ and huge roundup sites like Tripadvisor. But now, it gives your business more chance to appear front and centre in the snapshot. 

SGE for YMYL Searches

YMYL or Your Money Your Life topics such as finance and health are considered the most sensitive topics by Google. This can be seen not only in our tests but also as mentioned in Google’s SGE PDF.

Snapshots will still appear for some YMYL topics but it will likely include a disclaimer from Google.

SEO Tip: To display results on these subjects Google is looking for information that is corroborated by reliable sources. This emphasises the need for your website to display E-E-A-T more than ever. We’ll go into how you can do that later in this post. 

How Does SGE Work?

SGE uses language learning models (LLMs) to work in a similar way to ChatGPT through prompts and responses. 

The main difference is that SGE is inextricably linked to Google’s dataset which allows it to display text, videos and links from any website that is on Google. 

There are a few parts to SGE that Google breaks down in the following format.

AI-Powered Snapshots

We’ve talked a lot about these in the section above; they’re how generative AI results will be displayed in the SERPs. 

The way in which they appear may change as Google continues to roll out updates. Already you may have noticed the colour of the snapshots does change based on the type of search. 

Conversational Mode

Perhaps the feature of SGE that will change search the most is something Google is calling ‘conversational mode’. 

This really highlights the fact the SGE is much more than just an aesthetic change and is now following the generative AI capabilities of prompts and responses similar to ChatGPT. 

You can see our local search earlier was displayed with relevant follow-up questions and also a search bar to ‘ask a follow-up’ question. 

Our initial search for cafes in a specific location was followed up with suggested questions about parking. The closest thing that Google had before this was the ‘People Also Ask’ section, and this appears much more useful and useable. 

SGE conversational mode can:

  • Go beyond the snapshots and answer follow-up questions and provide links to additional resources.
  • Answer more complex questions strung together with multiple “and”s in one search query. For example: “Parks in Sydney that have free parking and allow dogs”.
  • Uses AI to carry over context from previous questions to influence and reformulate future answers.

Vertical Experiences

Google wants to make searches related to verticals such as shopping or local search easier for users. 

If a user is searching for a product Google will provide related information to help them make a decision. In Google’s eyes, this will help consumers to make buying decisions easier and faster. 

The data that the AI can generate for shopping searches includes:

  • Reviews
  • Ratings
  • Prices
  • Product images

It can do this because of Google’s Shopping Graph which has 35 billion product listings stored. Local searches will have similar results with context about local places in search results. 

Whether this is as successful as Google desires remains to be seen.


Google will continue to keep search ads in the same place for now, although they state that they’ll continue to test and evolve advertising. 

One other thing that will continue is all ads will be labelled with “Sponsored”. Any adverts that appear in the AI snapshot will be clearly labelled. 

It’s likely that when SGE comes into full effect the only way to appear above it in the search results will be paid advertising. It could be a good time to start experimenting with paid ads if you haven’t already.


SGE now means that Google is more than just a search engine; it can create content. 

The generative AI means that you can get creative with it and ask it to produce different types of content.

A few examples of the types of content SGE can produce:

  • Short paragraphs
  • Social media posts
  • Headlines
  • Taglines

It should be noted that Google has currently put constraints on the creative side of SGE. This is to ensure that it’s being used responsibly and they can improve it steadily. We imagine by the time SGE gets released to the public that this side of SGE will get ramped up significantly. 

From our initial tests, the content did fall into the trap that most AI content does which is being fairly generic, but we were quite impressed with its output already. We asked it to write a paragraph about the future of SEO. 

The principles of AI content still apply; you would need to use a plagiarism checker to find out how unique it is. It would also need to be fact-checked.

Google is really starting to make headway in competing with other generative AI models and with their dataset you wouldn’t back against them. Things from 2024 and beyond are going to get interesting for sure. 

User Experience

SGE has been integrated into Google’s existing user interface and for the most part, it does it well. It looks pretty slick and it has a variety of content that the searcher can choose from. 

There are also some good signs that Google are updating things as they go. Initial uses of SGE didn’t give credit via links to the sources Google was using for its AI generations. However, most of the time, where applicable, Google now includes drop-down arrows that provide links as citations to the websites it gets the information from. 

The Current Known Limitations of SGE

SGE is far from perfect and Google knows this. The reason why it’s available to test is because they need more data to improve it. 

Some of these limitations are limitations of SGE and others are of LLMs in general. You can expect the limitations of SGE especially to be continually fine-tuned as things develop. 

For now, here are the known limitations: 

Misinterpretation During Corroboration: SGE has pulled the correct information to cite, but the AI misinterprets the language so the overview has a slightly different meaning. 

Hallucination: A common issue encountered with LLMs where it will sometimes output factually incorrect information. 

Bias: SGE may appear to present a bias because it tries to corroborate responses with high-quality and high-ranked results. These top results tend to have the same viewpoint which can appear as a learned bias but is actually a bias of search results. 

Implied Personas: SGE will try to remain neutral and objective in its tone, however, it is a reflection of the web. If all the results say one thing, it might sound like the SGE has a certain persona.

Duplication or Contradiction: Again, because SGE is using the search results to build its answer, you may see some duplication or contradiction from the search results. 

Speed: It takes a few seconds for the snapshots to load and in some cases, it requires a button to generate. When search results are available instantly, will users wait before scrolling past it? 

Important Dates for the SGE Rollout

The testing for SGE opened to some users on the waiting list in May 2023. A few months after that it appears that there’s no waiting list and users can sign up for it as long as they meet the criteria (see the below section). 

So one thing that is clear, is that as 2023 progresses Google is looking for more and more testers to use SGE. 

Right now, the only other date we have is the end of 2023. Google has stated that the SGE experiment will run until the end of 2023. After that point, it’s assumed that SGE will be rolled out to the wider public but there’s no official word on that from Google. 

If that happens it’s likely that there may be a gradual rollout. However, considering that this is an experiment it’s possible that the rollout could change as 2023 progresses. 

How to Get Early Access

To get early access to Search Generative Experience you need to sign up to Googe Search Labs. 

Search Labs is where Google is making early-stage experiments available to gather feedback. Currently, there are a few different experiments that you can sign up to. 

For Search Generative Experience you will need to do the following:

  1. If you’re outside the US, set a VPN to the US as the SGE early release is only available in certain countries. 
  2. Load up Google Chrome using a personal account. Workspaces or business accounts won’t work. 
  3. Visit and scroll down to SGE. Remember, you’ll need to use a VPN every time you want to access it. A labs icon should also appear if you’re eligible.  

You can also sign up for it on Mobile on the Google app. You’ll need to meet the same criteria as above or you can look for a labs icon on Google and press that. 

What Does this Mean for SEO?

It’s always tricky to answer this question but there are a few early thoughts that we’ll split between this section and the one below: How to Prepare Your Website. 

Of course, it’s still early days and things are likely to change. But, whether we like it or not, it looks like it’s on its way so it makes sense to start the discussion now. 

Firstly, Will SGE Get Used?

In its current form SGE might be novel and interesting, but is it functional? 

Because, if the use of it is minimal the impact on websites will also be minimal. There are some early signs that people’s interest in generative AI is wavering. Since Bing incorporated OpenAI into its search engine, it seems to have failed to gain any more market share. 

The obvious response to this is “Well that’s because it’s Bing”, which is a fair response. But, even ChatGPT has recently reported a drop in users for the first time. 

While SGE feels different as it’s incorporated directly into Google, there’s still a long way to go. 

A Decrease in Clicks

If SGE does start to get used by even a small amount of Google’s user base then many SEOs first thought goes to a decrease in clicks. 

While this does seem like it will happen if SGE gets shipped to all users, it won’t be the end of SEO as some like to throw around. If anything, it will make good SEO even more valuable. 

It will continue to remove the players who aren’t serious and leave only those who are committed to providing real value to search engine users. 

Rise of The Niche Experts

While authority will still be a huge ranking factor today and in the future; what’s categorised as authority might be changing. 

Over the past few years, to combat the fact that many news sites gave their business model away for free, they’ve been spamming out loads of affiliate-style posts. Even though these posts were typically low-quality the sites would rank highly thanks to their high authority. 

More recently, Google’s search guidelines are looking to prioritise expertise and personal experience. This is further emphasised by the fact the SGE overview seems to be promoting websites with high topical relevance, which makes sense. 

This could give rise to the niche experts which would be a good thing for SEO. Although to be classed as a niche expert you’ll still need to work on getting to the top of your niche to get the full benefits. 

Search Intent

How to answer the intent behind a search is something that Google and SEOs have adapted to since the RankBrain Google Core update. This will likely develop further as search engines and websites have to get used to a new way of searching. 

The conversational search functionality might change how searches find your content. The tone, format and keywords could change slightly to better address this. However, with this being so early in the SGE experience, time and many tests will be the only way to tell. 

How to Prepare Your Website

Now is the time to start preparing your website if you haven’t already. While this is still very new to the SEO world there are some best practices that are developing. These are highly likely to be built around E-E-A-T and search intent. 

One thing that has been working well for our clients is Digital Shelf Optimisation. This is going to be the best way to look at optimisation for Search Generative Experience, especially if your business has a product or service. 

Every place your business appears on the internet is now going to be under the microscope. Although there’s a lot of opportunity here, because SGE is a representation of Google, they will only promote websites they trust. 


Experience, expertise, authority and trustworthiness make up this important acronym. 

The content on your website is going to be the best place to showcase your experience. Start by ensuring your About Us and Contact Us pages are up-to-date and fleshed out.

The About Us page should detail your employees’ experience, qualifications, social profiles and emails (where applicable). The Contact Us page should have a contact form, phone number, address and social media profiles. All of which act as trust signals for consumers and Google to show that you’re legit. 

When it comes to content such as blog posts, content should ideally be created from the unique perspective of your expertise. This means that the content is unique, interesting and factually correct. 

To further showcase this, include author bios on blog posts that highlight the writer’s experience and qualifications. Also regularly update or review content and include that information on the page. These things are especially crucial for YMYL topics.  

More than this, it’s really important to make it easy for Google to think you’re an authority on a subject. The best way to do this is to utilise a content strategy that covers every single facet of your chosen niche, or even sub-niche, before branching your content out. 

Which site do you think Google is going to consider more of an authority? 

Site A: Creates generalised content on this, that and everything.

Site B: Niched-down content that is thorough, insightful and expertly written. 

Because Site B is niched down it makes it much easier for Google to see what it’s about. Because of this and the well-written content, it’s likely to trust it more. Once you reach this stage, then you can branch out into adjacent niches. 

To build this topical relevance and authority you can follow these four steps:

  1. Topic Clusters: Establish your pillar pages and find all the relevant keywords to build supporting pages. Search volume doesn’t really matter here, write about everything that is relevant.
  2. Internal Links: Internal links allow link equity to be passed around your cluster. The homepage and pillar page should link to one another. One supporting page should link back up to the pillar page and supporting pages should contain 1-3 links to other supporting pages within the same cluster. 
  3. External Links: When you present facts or data that isn’t yours, link or cite the source. Make sure that you’re only linking to trusted and niche-relevant websites. Think education resources and studies. 
  4. Backlinks: Niche relevant and high DR backlinks will help increase your topical and overall site authority. While it’s great to get high-quality backlinks to your pillar pages, the benefit of the topic cluster means you can also outreach for links to your supporting pages. These types of links are slightly easier to get and the topic cluster allows the link equity to be passed upwards. 


Schema markup makes it easier for Google’s robots to read the type of content you have and provide your website with rich search results. 

Here are a few of the many types of Schema markup: 

  • Person
  • Event
  • Organisation
  • Place, Local Business, Restaurant 
  • Products
  • Reviews
  • FAQ

It’s reasonable to think that if Google can better understand your site, then it trusts it more and will reward it accordingly. 

Site Structure and UX

We’ve talked about site structure with respect to blog content but another aspect is user experience and user interface. To counteract the possibility of clicks going down, you need to better prepare your site to hold onto the clicks it gets. 

This will increase the time on your site, direct users through your marketing funnel and show search engines that your website answers the search query. 

To benefit from this, you need to make it as easy as possible for users to find what they’re looking for and try to be one step ahead. What will this person need next? 

Internal linking and your site layout and navigation will be the driving force behind this. Offering free downloads and collecting emails will also allow you to remarket to visitors in the future. 

Unique, Comprehensive Content

This should have become common for content since the Panda core update but now might be a good time to review old content and keep an eye on new content.

With the increase in AI-written content, it’s possible for content to start becoming more similar. This is because AI writers can only write on what has already been written, so if your writers are using AI to create content your website might start sounding dated and generic. 

If you don’t have expert writers who can draw on their own experience then you should look at encouraging your current writers to seek out places that do. 

Platforms such as social media, Reddit and forums are great places to find personal stories and experiences. Use this to influence your content and form a unique point of view. 

Google states in its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines that it’s looking for unique content. So, it’s possible that similar to the Panda update, future SGE algorithm updates will be better at finding this type of content and will reward it accordingly. 

Will SGE Replace Traditional Search?

From this blog post, it should be clear to see the difference between Search Generative Experience and traditional Google search. 

But will SGE ever replace traditional search?

The answer, for now at least, is no. There are still a lot of things to be worked out. For example, the slowness in loading is likely to put a fair amount of searchers off. Also, it simply doesn’t provide enough information (or trustworthy information) for a lot of search types. 

Traditional search, and search engine optimisation, have faced similar fears before. When paid advertising first appeared at the top of search results, many thought it would make organic search unnecessary. 

As we know, it changed but it didn’t do what some were fearing. However, it’s hard to feel like the incoming AI isn’t going to cause big changes; because it probably will. 

But, it’s important to remember that Google needs the search results to fuel the AI. If traditional search loses its incentive for the people who create it, then it will only be to the detriment of SGE and ultimately Google’s business model. 

So buckle up because it’s going to be an interesting ride. If you want some experienced SEOs to ride along with you, then you can reach out to our team here. We can help to get your company ready for whatever Search Generative Experience and SEO has in store. 

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.