Google is incorporating Generative AI into its Search Engine Results Page (SERP), and I finally had some time to sit down and play with it.
Honestly, I was worried for a minute before I tried Google’s generative search because the word around the internet abyss is that bloggers and publishers are about to go extinct with this new technology.
But after tinkering with it, I feel like much of this fear-mongering hype is rather hyperbolic. I’m not a guru and not in the business of making speculative predictions, but still, I want to share my findings and thoughts as things stand, as of writing this.
Bear in mind that generative search is still in its experimental phase, so nothing is concrete. Things will change, and with that, so will my opinions and “predictions.” But, for now, this is where I’m at.
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What is Generative Search?
As of writing this, Google shows an AI-generated piece of content based on whatever you’ve searched for.
Once you have it turned on (I’ll talk about how to turn it on shortly), whenever you search for something, the top of the search result page will be an AI output of what it thinks will be useful for you. This can be distinguished by a different colored background for the generated content. This is then followed by the usual search results. See the image below for the search term, “Vacationing in Colorado during Summer.”
Sign up for Generative Search Experience from Chrome browser. Click the Search Labs Icon to get to the waitlist signup.
As you can see, the “Generative AI” search result portion takes up a significant amount of the search result page, and has three different parts to it:
- Left: a summary of what it thinks should be useful to you. Here, for our search terms, the generative AI has decided that we’d like a list of places to visit in Colorado during the Summer. So, it generated a short paragraph about activities one can pursue in Colorado during these warmer months, followed by a list of places one might visit.
- Right: A few links it thinks will be useful. So, it’s good to know that the generative AI portion is still showing some links. But these links are not necessarily always what the regular search result page shows at the top. So… not sure how the generative AI bit is pulling these links.
- Bottom: More options for users related to their search.
There have been a couple of times when the top of the page first showed sponsored products, which was then followed by the AI-generated output, and that was followed up by the regular search results. However, this primarily happened when I searched for terms considered as products.
For example, when I searched for “Black hoodies,” the first thing I saw was the typical sponsored products, then AI output, then regular search results (which in this case were more products.)
My experience with generative search so far has been mixed. There are some things I’ve found useful, others not so much. So, basically, much like all AI tools I’ve tested so far.
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Get the Search Generative Experience
First things first, try out SGE yourself. There’s nothing better than to test out new technology firsthand.
If you have a Google account, you should be able to test out generative search; but first, you have to join the waitlist.
For me, the waitlist was just a couple of days; so hoping yours would be around the same.
To join the Search Generative Experience or SGE waitlist:
- Open a new tab in your desktop Chrome browser (or open the Google app on your phone.) I opted in from my desktop browser, fyi.
- On the top-right corner, assuming you’re using the desktop Chrome browser, next to your avatar, you should see the Google Labs icon. Click it. You’ll be prompted to join the waitlist for SGE (as well as Code Tips and Add to Sheets, but we won’t be talking about those in this post.)
Sign up for Generative Search Experience from Chrome browser.
In the next few days, you should receive an email when you’re ready to test-drive SGE.
There you can turn on SGE (or turn it off if you don’t want generative search; it can be a bit cumbersome at times; I have it turned on in one of my Google accounts and off on a second account.)
Turn on Google Search Generative Experience or SGE.
What Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) Means for Bloggers
OK, now that we know what it is and how to get it, let’s talk about what generative search results mean for bloggers. Or, what I think it means for us bloggers. Will generative search make bloggers useless? I mean, will anyone even click a link when they can get what they’re searching for right on the search engine?
We can continue to speculate but that’d be useless because generative search is still in its experimental mode. I doubt Google wants to kill the publishing industry.
That said, I still want to share a couple of things I’ve gleaned from my experience with this tool so far.
SGE may be bad news for short-form, informational content creators
Think about short blog posts that quickly answer questions people may be asking or generally searching for.
For example, let’s assume someone has leg cramps and they’re trying to find out more about them. So they search for “Leg cramps” which SGE is turned on. Guess what? SGE crafts a perfectly useful and short description of leg cramps, probable causes, and what people can do to relieve them. There’s really no need for someone to click through a link to read an article about it.
Generative search result for “leg cramps.”
Even though Google links to its source material for these generative search results (the links in the top-right), I doubt most regular folks would actually click through these links when what they want to know is already right in front of them.
I’ve tested my theory across multiple niches and topics and over and over I’ve been surprised by the fast and accurate information presented to me by Generative AI.
Just for fun, I even searched for “How to deposit checks at the ATM” and voilà!!!
Generative AI search result for “How to deposit a check at the ATM.”
Bloggers who provide in-depth explanations or step-by-step guides will thrive
Not all is lost.
Short-form choppy content was never that great for blogging to begin with. Unless your primary goal was to create a niche site with short-form posts that you could monetize with ads, you won’t be missing much.
And as far as The Side Blogger and its audience (as in you, dear reader!) is concerned, I’ve never really taught that kind of blogging. I’ve always focused on showing you how to write in-depth, long-form blog posts that give readers a full picture of a certain topic.
Basically, do not create a blog post out of soundbites. Teach your readers a skill, or give them the kind of information that you cannot summarize in a short couple of paragraphs.
I’ve always said this, but if you want to sustainably create a steady income (and not just chump change from running ads) then you need to focus on writing not just to appease algorithms but to actually be helpful to your human readers in huge, huge ways! Help them be better versions of themselves. Teach them a skill that will change their lives!
Assume that you’re a personal finance blogger. Don’t just write about 15 ways to save money, for example, but also help your readers create a life of financial freedom with careful planning, investments, and self-awareness. Create a human-centric journey for your readers that generative AI won’t be able to.
[I’m not saying that you should stop creating bite-sized content altogether, but instead, make sure that you have a good mix of ultimate guides and in-depth process posts with your quick and easy tips and lists.]
How to Future-Proof Your Blog and Content Business
What happens to all the niche bloggers out there? Will their business die? Will they need to pivot to different types of content and marketing strategies?
Naah, not all is lost (even for short-form niche publishers).
First of all, pivoting isn’t as daunting as it may sound. All business owners pivot from time to time, or they risk becoming irrelevant.
That said, there are things you can do to safeguard your blogging business against AI.