Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to redefine how we interact with technology. In early May, Google announced plans to supercharge its search engine with generative AI. This powerful new technology is intended to make it easier for users to understand a topic, discover new viewpoints, uncover more insights, and get things done faster.

But with any new technology, businesses rightly want to understand the impact it will have. To ensure our clients are on the front foot and help them navigate this period of rapid change, we decided to take another deep dive to find out:

  • How Google is updating its search experience to incorporate AI
  • The potential opportunities and implications for businesses that rely on search

What is generative AI in search?

Before we dive into the new updates, it’s important to understand generative AI and how it works. According to the AI Accelerator Institute, “Generative AI is a system using user input to output text, images or sound.”

Heard of a little invention called ChatGPT? This tool is a great example of generative AI (and possibly the easiest to understand) - you enter a prompt into the chat, and it generates plain text in response to your query. Easy!

Integrating generative AI with search engines will mark the next big evolution in how humans are accessing information on the internet. With a shift to interactivity, Google will scour the internet for the most relevant pages, and its AI will use the information it finds to provide a unique response to a query. Google calls this integration the Search Generative Experience.

What is Google's Search Generative Experience?

Search Generative Experience (SGE) is an experimental version of Google’s search engine that uses AI to generate answers to complex questions. Think of it as a power-up for existing search engines, designed to help users quickly and efficiently resolve their queries.

There are three ways that Google is using AI to enhance the search experience:

📸 AI snapshot: Users provide a more complex query, and Google generates a tailored response.
💬 Conversational mode: Users can ask follow-up questions while the search engine retains the context of the original search.
🪜 Vertical experiences: The search engine provides more product details and a preferred list of product features in commercial searches.

Let's dig into these in more detail!

AI snapshot

Let’s say you’re comparing two locations and want to know which is more suitable for families with young kids and a dog. You plug your query into Google, and you might get results that answer part of your question.

To help enhance the user experience, SGE uses AI to generate a snapshot - a unique response that relies on information from several sources simultaneously.


Source: Supercharging Search with generative AI

While this feature is designed to help people get responses to their queries faster, it also encourages users to explore more content. In the top right, the AI tool has included three thumbnails that link to the articles it used to generate the response. Featuring in these thumbnails could be an excellent opportunity for businesses that prioritise creating helpful content to appear higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Conversational mode

However, if you’re like most people, searches typically don’t just end after one query. That’s where Google’s new conversational mode will come into play!

Recently showcased live at Google I/O, this feature is designed to answer follow-up questions while maintaining the original search context. In a standard search, a search engine treats each query as its own request - but with conversational mode, you can dig deeper into a topic with follow-up questions and responses that align with your original query.

This feature could be a significant content opportunity! If you optimise your content to show for these types of searches, you could be opening your site to more qualified traffic (more on that later). The conversational mode is activated by selecting ‘ask a follow-up’ or one of the suggested next steps under your original snapshot.

Vertical experiences

Thanks to generative AI, vertical experiences are also getting an upgrade!

When users make a commercial search, Google will generate a list of features that should be considered for that product or service. When the user asks a follow-up question in conversational mode, the search engine will generate a list of potential products or services, including a product description, reviews, prices and a thumbnail. This update will make shopping for products and services much more personalised and relevant to users!

How generative AI in search will impact brands

Undoubtedly, generative AI will revolutionise how users engage with content online. But how will it impact businesses? In our dive into the world of AI, we found three areas where we anticipate generative AI will have the most impact.

Enhanced personalisation for individual users

It’s no secret that Google has always prioritised sharing high-quality, value-driven content with users - and we anticipate this will only continue with generative AI. With search becoming even more personalised, businesses should look to creating high-quality content designed to solve user queries.

However, Google is yet to release details on how to rank for these new features. At Brand chemistry, we’ll watch for these updates and share them with our newsletter subscribers as soon as they cross our desks!

Potential loss of organic traffic

With snapshots soon to be the focus at the top of SERPs, it’s likely that organic traffic to your website is going to see a drop. While the thumbnails that form part of the snapshot will generate some traffic, it’s still too early to determine what results these will achieve - and how difficult it will be to rank for them! 

With the ability to ask follow-up questions, there is also a fear that users will get all the answers they need from the generated responses rather than scrolling down and clicking through to other sources. Only time will tell! 

Traffic qualified by artificial intelligence

But not all these features are bad news for businesses! As users refine their searches and look for solutions to their queries, they will likely be more educated and qualified when they reach your site. Optimising your website to capture more qualified users could increase your chance of higher conversion rates.

How to prepare for generative AI in search

While much is up in the air, businesses can take proactive steps to prepare for the generative search updates, such as:

  • Encouraging employees to explore and experiment with generative AI technology
  • Prioritising the creation of high-quality, user-focused content that solves queries
  • Ensuring product content is optimised for search - including images!
  • Optimising your website for search conversion
  • Keeping on top of upcoming search engine updates to be prepared for changes
  • Join the waitlist to trial the Search Generative Experience (currently only available to US residents)

By doing so, businesses can position themselves to adapt and leverage generative AI in search to gain a competitive edge in the market. 

Streamlining content production and enabling creatives to focus on more value-driven work are among the many drawcards of AI marketing tools. But along with all the buzz surrounding these technologies comes questions and concerns of ethics. Watch our on-demand webinar to learn how to effectively and ethically use AI in marketing. 

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