Will Google SGE Kill Organic Traffic or Transform It?

March 13, 2024

Have you heard? The Google search landscape is shifting yet again. Google’s AI-powered Search Generative Experience (SGE) is coming to Canada, following rollouts in Europe and the US. It’s going to revolutionize the way people explore the Internet by emphasizing a user-centric approach. SGE fosters seamless online explorations, creating an environment where there are less website clicks, and perhaps meaning the end of days for websites around the world. Not quite, but still…

Concerns are being raised about its impact on SEO and organic traffic. A recent study suggests that SGE could lead to an 18% to 64% decline in potential organic traffic.

While reduced click searches might seem like an SEO nightmare, the truth is more nuanced. By adapting your approach and optimizing your content, you can not only survive, but even thrive in this new era. Take solace in this–you may actually gain more qualified traffic that leads to motivated buyers who are ready to convert and purchase. But that depends on whether your website content is properly optimized for SGE.

What is Google SGE?

SGE is designed to improve a consumer’s search experience by anticipating what they’re looking for. It suggests further information that might be of interest to them, and then quickly guides them to what they are looking for.

Imagine ordering a coffee. Instead of making a generic request for a Latte, coffee drinkers order highly customized drinks to get an outcome closer to their desired request. Like this: “Can I have a medium oat milk latte, with two pumps of vanilla, extra hot?” SGE works the same way. It allows consumers to become more descriptive in the way they search and feeds their expectation for immediate answers, without them having to do extensive research.

The difference will revolutionize the way consumers interact with Google. Instead of directing someone to a website, SGE anticipates the answer they want from their search query and generates a response and supportive links directly on the search engine page.

Text, images and videos are embedded on the browser page, in addition to traditional website links. For example, if you are looking for ‘Best cheap treadmills’, you might see suggested searches for treadmill retailers. But you’ll also see embedded YouTube videos of people reviewing treadmills, or videos and social content of workout routines using treadmills.

This creates a lowered click environment, where websites aren’t the immediate destination anymore.

The Silver Lining

SGE prioritizes meeting user intent by delivering relevant, high-quality content and creating a better user experience. If your website is built to answer the most common questions a visitor may have, you won’t have a lot to worry about. While you might see a decline in top-level traffic, with the right strategy, you can position your brand as a trusted source within the SGE ecosystem.

Here’s an example of what one of our clients in the retirement sector could experience.

Think of a search where someone is interested in a retirement home. They might search: ‘What type of suites are available in retirement homes?’ The search results would generate an answer comparing residence room styles and costs. While the answer itself wouldn’t cite a source, follow-up questions like “Leisure activities in retirement homes” or “Best food in retirement homes” might present opportunities for your website to appear in search results.

Because the answers are generated by SGE, the retirement home consumer is getting a lot of their answers directly from Google. So the clicks to an individual retirement home website will decline.

But SGE still needs to find good content to generate its answers. If this retirement website is crafted using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices, it’s on the right track. It should anticipate the questions a retirement home consumer would ask and be the authority for the answers.

Optimizing your website for SGE means considering the questions your potential customers would ask and with the right technical set up. It can then increase your chances of appearing in follow-up searches and still reach the user during their research, strengthening your brand and authority. When users are ready to convert, the groundwork has been laid and they’ll be directed to your website, and more likely to take the desired action.

Five Ways to Optimize for Google SGE

Consumer purchasing journeys are anything but linear. Your audience is no longer going to one source. They’re doing research across multiple platforms. SGE further complicates the messy middle by answering directly on Google, bypassing some of the research stages a website would support.

Being present across all platforms, not just your website, is crucial. And trust is the ultimate conversion currency. If you build your website using authentic engagement and transparent communication, your brand will stand out when consumers are ready to convert and buy, even with the introduction to SGE.

Here are some ways to ensure your success.

1. Power Up Your Structured Data

The goal is to help search engines find your content better and provide your brand as a trusted resource to answer what the user is searching. Brands need to structure the information on their website pages. This involves adding code snippets that highlight key information for search engines, making it easier for it to understand the content and context.

2. Build a Strong Keyword Framework

The foundation of a successful SEO strategy in the SGE era is about building a robust keyword framework centered on question-based queries. This means going beyond just identifying traditional keywords.

You’ll now need to dive deeper into the questions and intent behind what your audience is searching. A strong keyword framework isn’t static, regular updates and research to stay ahead of emerging trends and changing user behaviour is necessary to outperform your competition.

From a content creation perspective, we’ve all been guilty of being so enthusiastic about what we do, we end up writing a little too much about ourselves–what we think, how we work, what we do, all our internal rah-rah–and not enough about what our visitors need. They need good information that helps them make better decisions. In other words, write less about you, more about them.

3. Establish Trust with Google’s E-E-A-T

Google prioritizes content demonstrating Experience, Expertise, Authority and Trust (E-E-A-T) because it suggests higher quality and reliability. That means answering consumer questions by backing what you’re sharing with experts in the field. For example, if your site focuses on medicine, articles on the way to heal after surgery should perform better when the byline is a registered doctor. That doctor’s expertise and experience build a brand’s authority and trust on that topic.

In a nutshell, it’s important to connect your company’s expertise to the blog articles that are being written. By demonstrating E-E-A-T, you build trust with both users and Google, potentially increasing your chances of appearing in SGE results and attracting high-quality traffic.

4. Ensure Your Brand Awareness is Strong

Even if it’s tempting to put all the eggs into the conversion basket, investing in your brand is crucial to SGE success.

The more high-quality brand awareness opportunities you build, the more you will encourage higher user interactions across multiple touchpoints. So yes, you ultimately want to convert your potential consumers, but buying is an emotional not intellectual process. Helping people fall in love with your brand, showing them that you empathize with what they need, amusing them, moving their hearts as well as their minds, will go a long way to encouraging their buying journey. And having a recognizable and well-understood brand increases the likelihood of someone clicking on a link to your site in the search results.

5. Build Yourself a (Good) Reputation

If you have a strong reputation–built from reviews, social media and PR–it signals trust and reliability to the search engines that you’re producing valuable, reputable content, potentially increasing your chances of appearing in SGE results.

Developing a strong strategy to obtain Google Business Profile Reviews is essential. Actively managing your Google Business Profile and responding to reviews (both positive and negative) professionally demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction. As well as ensuring reviews are met with a social media strategy that addresses any concerns.

Making SGE Work for You

SGE is here, is coming to Canada, and will change the way consumers interact with your website. But it doesn’t have to be end-of-days disruptive. There are plenty of ways to minimize the impact. We’re working with many companies right now to ensure their website strategy includes tactics to future-proof them and to be ready for SGE.

Ready to future-proof your website for SGE? Contact us to discuss optimization strategies and a winning plan for the evolving search landscape.

—Ândrea Garimort, Director and Lacey McCauley, Associate Director, Media & Analytics

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