11 SEO Strategies That Rank for SGE Results
What would you say if you had a 30-second elevator ride to pitch an idea to a client?
That 30-second pitch shouldn’t be an all-inclusive overview of your business, with a detailed analysis of breakroom coffee, your favorite email software, and why casual Fridays are the best.
It’s just a highlight of the best features. The listener can then respond if they want to hear more.
SGE now offers an elevator pitch for search engines called a search generative experience (SGE). SGE gives the highlighted, summarized version of the search query answers for those who want a quick answer.
Then, if the information piques their interest, they can continue scrolling to learn more.
Is your interest piqued? Then keep scrolling.
The natural next question digital marketers ask themselves is, what does that mean for marketing content? Will this negatively impact traffic if users can now see answers without clicking on content in search results?
Here’s a deeper look into SGE, what it is, and how to perform SEO strategies for SGE so you can use it to generate more traffic.
What Are Search Generative Experiences?
Google SGE uses AI to summarize the most valuable information from top search results into a browsable section at the top of search results pages (SERPs). It is the latest change in Google’s search engine optimization.
It isn’t like snippets, which copy and paste exactly from articles. Instead, it uses several sources and generates a summary based on several authors.
SGE benefits include:
- AI-generated summaries of search results
- Follow-up questions for digging deeper into a topic
- Connecting with shopping or local searches
- Actionable ways to use information
- Online and generated images connected to searches
SGE is still in its infancy and hasn’t become mainstream yet. However, the experiment is available in over 120 countries and territories and seven languages, so it’s moving quickly toward Google’s regular search experience.
If you want to know when Steve Jobs released the first iPhone, you probably don’t feel like sifting through pages of search results. You only want one thing: a date.
SGE could pull up an image of the first iPhone, a quick answer to when Steve Jobs released it, and related questions you might have about the first iPhone to help you dig deeper.
Quick. Convenient. Concise.
However, if you were writing a book on the transformation of technology, you could use the suggested questions, recommended further reading links, or scroll down the search results page to find the familiar list of traditional search results.
Image from Google
Top SGE Ranking Factors for SEO Strategies
What factors influence whether or not your content is part of the SGE section on Google? Here’s a look at the key elements of SGE that will impact ranking.
SGE builds a search experience around the audience and their needs. It’s all about what search engine users want most. AI aims to use user intent, browsing history, and dozens of other factors to always display the most relevant results in the most user-accessible and friendly way.
Because of this audience-centric goal, SEO will focus even more on how user-friendly your content is and examine how well it aligns with the user’s intent.
This element might surprise you, especially considering SGE is an AI-run system. Why would AI prioritize human-written content?
It’s looking for human content written for other humans. If a person wanted an AI-generated response, they could look on ChatGPT or Google Gemini and skip Google Search entirely.
What makes Google Search unique over AI generative tools is its ability to access ideas from around the world and tap into other experts. When Google sees human content with original ideas, stories, and expertise, it is more likely to highlight that in these SGEs.
In addition, content written for humans will also stand out above other content.
But isn’t all content written for humans? Well, it should be. But how often are we so caught up in SEO algorithms that we end up writing for Google rather than the person performing the search? It’s a habit even the most experienced content marketer sometimes falls into.
Human-written content is written first for the people.
SGE pulls and summarizes key ideas from content. Which of these two ideas would you find easier to summarize for someone:
Idea 1: Going to the beach is a fun experience because you can relax on the sand. You can also spend time in the ocean. Don’t forget all the delicious boardwalk restaurants.
Idea 2: When you go to the beach, you can:
- Relax on the sand
- Swim in the ocean
- Eat at delicious boardwalk restaurants
While Idea 1 is engaging, Idea 2 is easier to remember and summarize. Good content has a mix of both. While you want fun, engaging content (no one wants to read a giant grocery list of ideas), you must summarize thoughts into lists, clear headings, and quick definitions from which Google can browse and pull.
Long-tail keywords have always been essential in SEO. They are popular now because they have less competition but will play an even more significant role going forward.
Looking back at that iPhone image, you’ll see three questions at the bottom of the SGE result. These three questions help people dig deeper into the topic and are also long-tail keywords.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
If you are writing content answering those questions, you’re more likely to appear highlighted in response to an SGE question.
When you choose a topic related to a keyword (or phrase your audience often searches), you will want to target two other very specific types: synonymous and semantic.
Synonymous keywords are phrases that mean the same as your keyword. By covering those, you can increase your chances of ranking for a keyword by addressing the topic multiple times without keyword stuffing.
For example, if you use a keyword mentioning spaghetti, you might replace it with pasta and noodles to cover more ground.
Semantics are a little different. Instead of words that mean the same, semantic keywords are related keywords. Some semantic keywords might include Italy, sauce, meatballs, and marinara in the spaghetti example.
Those terms help Google place the keyword in context and avoid misranking your keyword. Since Google is all about pulling the most relevant results, if you have enough semantic variations in your content, Google SGE’s algorithm will be far more likely to trust your content is relevant than someone else who might not mention related keywords as much.
Optimized User Experience
Technical factors continue to play a role in SGE ranking. Think about mobile-friendliness, page speed, and security. If those items on your page aren’t top-notch, website visitors will likely leave your site.
If Google’s algorithm sees an easily browsable website with fast page load speeds and industry-leading security, it is more likely to recommend visitors stop by that site.
An industry standard for optimal website speed is keeping your desktop page load speed under 2.5 seconds and your mobile load speed under 8.6 seconds. When pages take longer to load or offer clunky experiences, users struggle to find the information they need or grow frustrated with the experience.
This can lead to poor reviews and high bounce rates, ultimately giving your SEO a negative hit.
Optimization should extend beyond the desktop site and include mobile browsing experiences – especially since there are 6.84 billion smartphone owners worldwide.
Diverse Search Results
When you think about search results, you most likely think about content with titles popping up in a neat column. Google has been slowly expanding what you can search beyond just content. There is also a tab for images, videos, shopping, and more.
Now, SGE brings many of those elements to one space for an even more immersive search experience. Items like local SEO, product SEO, and image Alt-Text will matter even more because they could appear at the top of Google’s primary search results, bringing in even more traffic.
What Is the Goal for SGE Results?
When you perform SEO, your goal is clear. You want to optimize your content so that Google’s algorithm can properly index you, then show your link near the top of search results (preferably on the first page). That top ranking drives more traffic.
For SGE, you still want to rank in search results, but that’s not your only goal.
You also want to rank in SGE results. SGE results are there so people can browse information without clicking links, but there’s still a lot of traffic potential if you play your cards right.
Here’s what those results look like:
Appearing in Carousel Links
The top three positions are SGE carousel links. These are the links AI promotes to corroborate AI’s summary. These links are most likely to gain traffic because they are not only at the top, but Google highlights them as recommended further reading.
Appearing in SGE Answers
SGE answers are similar to what you already see in Google’s “People also ask” questions. These are AI-generated answers to common questions, followed by a link for further reading. This is another highlighted spot to capture traffic.
Appearing as a Product Result
Part of SGE includes product recommendations. Since products aren’t relevant to all searches, they won’t appear consistently.
However, if you’re an e-commerce brand, you’ll want to position your product with keywords, reviews, and brand name authority, so they are Google’s recommendation to search engine users.
Appearing as a Business
SGE will also sometimes recommend businesses. You’ll receive branded search results from informational searches.
This will be especially noticeable when you perform local SEO, as Google is likelier to pull your business as a local recommendation.
What Are Some Limitations with SGE Results?
While SGE seems like the Superman of search engine results pages, it has its kryptonite. Take a look at a few areas where SGE is still improving:
- Misinterpreting information: AI cannot discern meaning and may come to the wrong conclusion about the information it pulls from websites.
- Showing bias: AI summarizes ideas others have written. If the content AI pulls from is biased, it may reflect it in its summary.
- Sharing opinionated content: Google avoids personal opinion and only operates on facts. However, AI cannot discern the two and may sometimes pull opinions and state them as facts.
- Duplicating or contradicting results: AI does not have critical thinking skills to identify duplicate or conflicting ideas or information.
The Future of SGE and Its Impact on SEO
Google is investing significantly in AI. SGE is only one example of this move toward artificial intelligence experiences.
The Role Gemini Will Play in SGE
Google recently unveiled the rebranding of Google Bard to Gemini, representing a much deeper goal. While Bard was a chat tool similar to ChatGPT, Gemini offers a world of opportunity.
Gemini will soon be available in Google Search.
Why is that important?
According to Google’s CEO, Gemini is one of the main drivers of SGE. It’s making SGE faster and more accurate. While there’s still some uncertainty around the future of SGE and when (or if) it will become the default search experience, we do know Gemini is jumping into the deep end of Google searches, so you WILL see AI impacting your search results.
Because Google is still testing SGE, we may still see some changes from what the research phase has revealed. That is, after all, the point of soft launches and research.
Google’s strategic move of launching Gemini before SGE paves the way for SGE. It will help Google see how users interact with AI and allow Google users to feel comfortable with AI before SGE becomes mainstream.
Gemini’s data will undoubtedly influence how SGE will look when it becomes the standard search experience.
How Google’s New Tech Will Impact the Search Experience
What might change with SGE, and what might remain the same?
Currently, SGE only works well for certain types of queries. It isn’t yet ready to become the default for all search results. For example, SGE shines brightest when responding to questions. However, if someone were just to search “Arctic Fox” or another generic term, SGE may struggle.
What does the user want to know about the Arctic Fox? Are they looking for images, places to see the fox, or just information? Or are they looking into the hair products by the same name? Which would be most relevant?
There is very little information in that generic search, so SGE is more likely to provide an irrelevant response or overly broad response.
Google is already aware of this and is looking for new ways to use SGE for every situation and query, not just responding to questions. Google has already shown snippets of what is possible through AI search tools, such as Circle to Search, which allows users to circle items in pictures or on pages. Google will automatically pull up results for that image.
So, is SGE powerful, and will it change search? Yes.
But will it be the only player transforming the search experience? No. SGE is just one piece of a much larger Google Search transformation.
What Should Marketers Expect from the Change?
The question on many marketer’s minds is, “Will SGE impact search traffic?”
The most truthful answer is there is no way of knowing.
If you think logically by looking at past changes, like Google snippets, we can guess that websites will see a slight decline in traffic. After all, when visitors see answers neatly summarized at the top of Google, they have no reason to look further.
However, I view this as an opportunity rather than a challenge. In fact, SGE presents two distinct opportunities.
The first opportunity is to stand out from the other search results. SGE offers highlights for further reading, encouraging users to click on those links. Those links look more authoritative than the others since Google recommends them, which usually leads to more positive responses.
If you can optimize your content enough for Google to recommend your links, you could earn that prestigious spot and see MORE traffic than if you blended in with the masses by having content that looks the same as the second, third, and even tenth results.
I also see another potential benefit from SGE. You will have a better pulse on the visitors who land on your page. You know that most visitors aren’t looking for a quick answer. You may even see your bounce rate drop since the visitors who scroll down Google and click on links are more serious researchers and less likely to see their answers and immediately leave.
As a result, you should write higher-quality content to appeal to those researchers. They aren’t interested in an AI-generated response. They want quality, in-depth information, and you can be just the person to provide that knowledge.
SGE Checklist: 11 Ways to Optimize Your Content for SGE Results
SGE requires combining what has already been working for SEO and a few new tweaks to help you rank in those high-traffic SGE areas.
Here are ten tips to get you started with SGE SEO and adapt to the new AI technology transforming the Google Search experience:
1. Perform Audience Research
Spend time getting into your audience’s minds.
What are they thinking? What motivated the search (their intent)? What questions will they most likely ask to trigger the SGE results?
When you understand what your audience would ask, you can curate content in direct response to those questions so it’s more likely to appear as a link in an answer.
2. Prioritize Audience Intent
User intent will play a much more significant role in SEO. We touched on this earlier when discussing how Google built SGE around the user’s experience.
What that means for you as a marketer is your keyword research should involve user intent data. Tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs will give you an idea of the intent behind searches. Most searches will have one of four intents:
- Navigational: The user is looking for a specific website or page.
- Informational: The user is looking for answers to a query.
- Transactional: The user is looking to purchase something.
- Commercial: The user is looking for information about products.
SGE currently appears to be mainly targeting informational queries. But, as we explored earlier, Google has much larger plans for Google Search, and if SGE grows, it will eventually envelop all four user intents.
When you create content in response to a search query keyword, be sure the content is relevant for the user based on their intent.
For example, product comparisons and links would be most appreciated if you’re writing for a commercial keyword. However, throwing in too many sales links in an informational post will be off-putting to the reader who wasn’t looking to buy but instead just find information.
3. Create E-E-A-T Content
Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) remain crucial to SEO, even for SGE results. SGE prioritizes content it deems most valuable and highest quality. After all, the content isn’t just in the search results. It now receives a place of honor, almost like Google is giving it a personal stamp of approval.
To gain that spot, write with authority and incorporate personal anecdotes and opinions.
4. Structure Your HTML Content
A solid page of 1,000 words with no breaks or headings can be overwhelming for a human to read – and we have critical thinking skills to identify the meaning behind the words. When AI sees a solid text wall, it cannot see the main points and may struggle to pick out key ideas.
Organizing information using keyword-optimized headings, bulleted lists, bolded text and clear intros with the main topic. This structure is more pleasant for your readers to peruse and for Google to scan and pull a primary topic and surrounding data from without misinterpreting what you’re saying.
5. Implement Rich Snippets with Schema
Structured Data with Rich Snippets helps Google more easily interpret and pull information from your content for search results. Rich Snippets enhance results by displaying more eye-catching than normal search results… which in return can lead to a higher organic CTR. Examples of Rich Snippets pulled from online content include People Also Ask (PAA), recipe reviews, and How-to’s.
6. Perform Local SEO
Local SEO has been trending for the past few years as Google began placing more emphasis on local search results. It allows small businesses to surpass the big kids on the block and land a top-ranking space in local searches with less competition.
In 2022, 87% of consumers used Google to research local businesses, and another 98% read online reviews for local businesses when researching companies.
SGE continues to highlight local results, such as local businesses.
7. Invest in Technical SEO
Technical SEO refers to the backend of SEO. It’s your website’s structure, page load times, user experience, and navigation.
When you perform technical SEO, you create a site that is easy to navigate with quick load speeds. Google notes this positive experience and is more likely to highlight content from that site than one with a dozen ad pop-ups, excruciatingly long load speeds, and website navigation from the ‘90s.
Perform a site audit to find areas that are impacting your technical SEO, such as broken links, page errors, and poor page load speeds. Regular audits help you address those issues before they begin impacting your SEO.
8. Build Your Online Reputation
Your online reputation reflects what others think about you.
You might say you have the authority to share your personal experience, but at the end of the day, it comes down to whether you can back those words up.
When others also say you are a reliable brand, Google takes note. That’s why backlinks will give your site a noticeable domain authority boost. That authority will continue influencing what Google pulls for SGE and promotes as a link.
9. Use Long Tail Keywords
Long tail search queries are precise, which means less competition. Having exact match long tail keywords will play an even more significant role as those long tail keywords will match questions in SGE’s carousel area.
When you answer long-tail keyword questions, write for SGE. SGE writing will be concise, to the point, and very clear. It should be something AI can analyze and pull from as a top-page result. Well-structured content like bulleted points or lists is convenient for AI to incorporate as quick answers.
If you want to know how to succeed with SGE, look at what your competitors wrote. Check what content appears in SGE sections and try to replicate that format and style in your content.
Image from Search Engine Land
10. Reevaluate Your Ad Spending
Google Ads have been a go-to strategy for many marketers frustrated with organic search results. Marketers have benefited since they can boost their content temporarily, which might be the engagement you need to help Google start noticing you in organic results.
The average medium and small business often spends seven times as much on PPC ads than SEO.
However, that may be changing. SGE has yet to reveal the final face of ads. Google is still testing the best placement for ads and how they may look. Currently, ads appear seamlessly in search results with a small “sponsored” tag. There is no guarantee they will look the same way with SGE.
What that means for businesses is that you should focus where you know Google focuses — your organic search.
With so much uncertainty around Google Ads, you can’t trust that the channel will remain a reliable method for generating traffic in the future. But you do know Google will be pulling results from organic search content, so it may be time to adjust your budget and spend more time and effort on your organic content. Then, you can change your ad spend as needed once you see how SGE displays Google Ads and whether they will still be the powerhouse money generator they have been in the past.
11. Regularly Update and Adapt Your SEO Practices
SGE is not the default search experience yet. And, it might look different than it does now when it does become the default experience.
Just because it may change or isn’t entirely here doesn’t mean we should sit back and wait for its arrival. You should begin optimizing your content today to stay ahead of the change. We know enough about SGE and Gemini powering SGE to understand how to adjust content.
For the best SEO practices, you must continue updating your SEO optimization as you learn more about SGE.
Continually monitor SGE developments and adjust accordingly to stay proactive in your strategies and ensure that your content is ready for change as it occurs.
Prepare Your Content for SGE
SGE may still be in its infancy, but it’s receiving positive attention and will soon become a common part of your search engine results page.
Is your content ready for SGE?
We can help you tweak your website and content so you not only dominate your SEO strategies today but will seamlessly transition to SGE ranking, staying ahead of your competition.
Contact us for a FREE consultation.
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