Get ahead of the curve with Google’s AI search tool

Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) looks set to revolutionize the future of search technology. But what is the best way for marketers to capitalize on this latest technology?

Although still in its nascent stage, Just Global’s VP of Search, James Harper, argues that marketers need to be ahead of the curve with Google’s SGE. 

As generative AI becomes embedded as an essential tool within the marketing function, speeding up processes and saving time for CMOs across multiple industries, the question on everyone’s lips is, what’s next? Conversations I’ve been having with marketing professionals of late invariably lead to a discussion about Google’s latest offering – improved search with generative AI. And most importantly, what will integrating AI in search mean for CMOs, who are not only under pressure these days to do more with less, but are time poor and eager to adopt technologies that will help them do their job more efficiently? 

2023: The year of generative AI

It’s not hard to see why McKinsey refers to 2023 as ‘Generative AI’s breakout year’ given until recently it was a topic that was the preserve of tech employees. That’s all changed, with their latest survey revealing that it’s now top of mind for company leaders. 25% of C-suite execs say they’re personally using generative AI tools for work, while 40% of them say their companies are likely to increase their investment in AI overall, thanks to the advances in generative AI. 

Not surprisingly, Google have decided to capitalize on this upward trend by exploring AI-powered search capabilities, but it’s worth pointing out that Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) is currently only available in Beta form, within Google’s Search Labs – and you must opt in.

But what precisely are these Google search advancements, what do they do and what are the capabilities of artificial intelligence search? In a nutshell, it takes the work out of searching, allowing users to understand a topic faster, uncover new viewpoints and insights and get things done more easily. For CMOs, that’s three boxes ticked off their checklist. And how does it work? SGE attempts to answer questions based on the AI’s index and understanding of various content sources across the web. 

AI-powered search tops the chart

Google accepts that there are known limitations with generative AI and LLMs (Large Language Models), and Search, so have pledged that they’re going to approach this brave new world of search responsibly. By training these models to uphold Google Search’s high bar for quality, the organization has committed to an ongoing process of assessment and improvement. When you consider the results of a 2023 Statista survey, which looked at the share of adults in the US who were interested in AI-related products, it should come as no surprise that Google are keen to push ahead with SGE, as the AI-powered product most recipients were interested in was search, at 49%. 

We found that generative AI can connect the dots for people as they explore a topic or project, helping them weigh multiple factors and personal preferences before making a purchase or booking a trip.

Is the end in sight for SERP results?

These latest developments from Google are not entirely new – they’ve been surfacing concise answers to questions in the form of Knowledge Panels for some time – but SGE is the next logical step, and at some point could very well replace traditional Search Engine Results Page (SERP) results.

Having said that, and with impact largely being felt in organic and content strategy to begin with, Google will have to integrate ads in some shape or form to maintain their primary revenue stream. They are quick to reassure advertisers that they still believe that ads are a vital component of how the web works – as to be expected – which is why as part of this brave new world of SGE, search ads will still appear in dedicated ad slots on the page. And there’s an additional guarantee that they’ll make sure ads, as well as B2B paid search, are distinguishable from organic search results. 

With generative AI applied to Search, we can serve a wider range of information needs and answer new types of questions, including those that benefit from multiple perspectives. We are surfacing more links with SGE and linking to a wider range of sources on the results page, creating new opportunities for content to be discovered.

SGE and the B2B landscape

You need to bear this in mind and stay on the edge of Google Ads best practices, such as Broad Match and Performance Match, because when the time comes to fully immerse in SGE, it’s these practices that will set you up for success, by enabling contextual ad experiences. In tandem with this, we’re likely to see user search behaviors change – concise, keyword-based queries transitioning to more of a conversational dialogue, between the person doing the searching and Google. 

At this stage, trying to assess the impact SGE will have on the world of B2B marketing isn’t 100% clear, given its more complex, non-linear journey toward purchase, which will always involve multiple touchpoints. For sure, the impact SGE will have on B2C is more of a foregone conclusion, but never say never. Who could have envisaged generative AI’s rapid rise in 2023? And when it comes down to a search, if a query can be answered succinctly without leaving the SERP, then it’s likely that that wasn’t a viable lead in the first place.  

Experimentation is key

My advice? Sign up to Google’s Search Labs, and have a play around with SGE, as this will give you a flavor of how this might translate into your day-to-day business activities, including B2B paid search. You’ve got nothing to lose, and potentially everything to gain. 

Picture of James Harper

James Harper

VP of Search, Just Global

Our global marketing agency has been helping clients explore the transformative possibilities of AI. Speak to our team of experts to find out more.

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