Given the recent releases in generative AI, we were very excited to watch Google’s I/O conference on May 10th. As expected, Google gave a preview of how Google search and search engine results pages (SERPs) would look in the near future with the help of Google Bard (Google’s generative AI chatbot / text technology).
We recommend watching from minute 43 to 53 here:
What was perhaps most striking and impactful in Google’s keynote to the future of search is the upcoming inclusion of a generative AI text response as an expanded top organic result that will summarize multiple website results. Think of this as a much higher quality ‘featured snippet’ – but instead of scraping raw text, it will be an intelligent summarized answer to users’ complex queries.
What does this mean for the future of organic search ranking, traffic, and SEO?
Our initial take is as follows:
- Traditional organic listings are not going away. They are and still will be a significant opportunity for traffic and conversion in the near and mid-term future. However, it’s important to watch how user behavior may change with the inclusion of Google’s search generative experience. Depending on user adoption, we could see a dramatic shift in how the Google SERP looks in the coming 12-24 months.
- So long as Google is using web-content to train the generative AI answers, there will be ways to optimize to improve the chances of our own content being used in the generation of the answer responses. At the moment, from our initial observations, Google’s search generative experience responses typically are using sources that are already ranking at the top of the organic results. Therefore, for now and likely the near future, our focus will continue to be ranking as well as we can in traditional organic listings hoping to bring in organic traffic and be best placed for generative AI response inclusion.
- Given that Google is (and likely must) include a reference and link out to the sources that helped generate the response, there are still major opportunities for website traffic as part of being included in the generative AI response. This is not dissimilar to optimizing to rank in a featured snippet currently.
- For many years, Search Engine Optimization has been moving away from only optimizing towards traditional ‘ten blue link’ listings, and towards a more integrated holistic approach of trying to show up across ‘vertical search’. Be it featured snippets, people also ask, organic shopping, images, local maps, or any of the other seemingly endless array of search elements that pop up – SEO will continue to be about optimizing for the entire SERP experience. Google’s search generative experience response box will be yet another piece of real estate for which to optimize.
Performance Marketing (PPC):
- The backbone of Google’s revenue are ads on the SERP (search, shopping, etc). We don’t see this changing. We’re quite certain that any widespread rollout of the search generative experience would have already included CTR testing from Google to ensure that ads get similar clickthrough as they do now. While CTR might fluctuate, we don’t foresee the opportunity for leveraging Google search ads materially changing any time soon.
- There may be added opportunities to have sponsored listings inside the generative response. In other words, if the content on your advertised site or landing page is good enough to be included organically in a generative AI response, perhaps it might be eligible to be listed as a ‘featured’/’sponsored’ source of the response. To be clear, this was not demonstrated on stage at Google I/O, but it’s a possibility of how ads may start to show up inside this new technology. Another way to think about how this might work is similar to how Dynamic Search Ads campaigns work now.
- The potentially elongated, conversational nature of search that may come about from having a conversation with a generative AI search bot may actually increase the amount of impressions or chances to serve an Ad. It’s obviously very early days, but it’s worth considering that each re-query to the chatbot may act like a brand new search, effectively retriggering new ad-units and thus driving more opportunities for advertisers.
To be clear – these are all quick ‘hot takes’. The situation is extremely dynamic and fluid. However, one thing is for certain, generative AI will be a major part of search engines in the near future and we at Kahena are excited to see how we’ll be able to leverage our experience in search engine optimization and marketing to help our clients play in this new playground!
Some further reading: