Are you wondering what latest AI thing that has marketers worried? Well, do I have the scoop for you. On May 25th, 2024, Google introduced what it’s calling Search Generative Experience (or SGE, another fun acronym to remember). How it works is that when a user searches for something on Google, it uses generative AI to create an answer for you, essentially by summarizing an article.

(Credit: Google)

As you can imagine, this has lots of websites concerned. Now there’s even less of a need for users to click through to websites, which just sets off a cascade of problems. For DMOs, seeing that Google used a travel itinerary question as its very first example (see above) is alarming. The tech giant is taking this step because many users are skipping Google altogether, just taking such a question to ChatGPT. Scared of losing market share, the company decided to try out integrating generative AI in its answers.

I have some bad news, I have some funny news, and I have some good news.

First, the bad news that is generative AI is here to stay. In one form or another, we should expect this SGE to stick around. It makes too much sense for it not to. And, unfortunately, traditional organic search results get pushed WAY down for this AI-content — a SEO expert estimated the top link drops up to 1,500 pixels down the results page (like going from ranking 1st to ranking 10th). It’s time to start managing your leadership’s expectations for SEO performance.

(Credit: x user)

Second, the funny news. This SGE is kind of awful right now. My favorite was the Wile E. Coyote “you can stay in the air as long as you keep running and don’t look down” fail but the recommendation “you should eat at least one small rock per day” is a close second. Amazing. What happened is that SGE was using satirical articles or social media posts as its source. Unsurprisingly, Google rolled back its initiative, going from 25% of results without SGE to 65% without it. Plus, SGE results are taking up less space.

(Credit: Google)

Source: Google

Third, the good news. About 57% of Google’s 2023 revenue was from Google Search Ads ($175.03 billion), so they’re not very likely to get rid of search any time soon. We’ve also just gotten a great look into how to optimize for generative AI. Answers to conversational questions, with summaries, are going to be huge. Authoritative content with high-quality citations will likely be the ones that get chosen as the source for SGE. More than ever, that means ranking in the first 4 search results will be crucial.

Overall, we really don’t know what’s going to happen. However, trustworthy content, with credible sources, written by human experts, is almost certainly going to be preferred and excel. And, at the end of the day, while traffic is important for DMOs, knowing that potential visitors are getting reliable information about their destination is even more important.