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Drive growth with account-based marketing

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Drive growth with account-based marketing

E-commerce has been on the rise for years but has had explosive growth during the pandemic. Traditional B2B demand gen models are becoming outdated as privacy regulations are more stringent and fewer people are willing to give up their personal information.

Because of this it’s essential to have an Account-based marketing (ABM) strategy. This focuses on targeting top potential customers and uses both marketing and sales initiatives to capture the prospect’s interest and nurture them through the buying journey. Here’s a guide on how to do that.

As many e-commerce businesses experienced firsthand, COVID-19 caused a boom in online shopping. What was already a high-growth industry has catapulted into hyper-speed as the world adapted to changing regulations, societal norms and customer needs. While the rapid growth across global e-commerce markets and categories is projected to even out to pre-pandemic numbers, that time is still far off. We will continue to see large upticks in e-commerce growth worldwide in two to three years.

Drive growth with account based marketing

Most of the B2B buying journey is conducted anonymously until the buyer gets closer to the point of purchase, which is why a tech-driven “zero-touch” demand gen strategy is critical for growth. And with ABM tech platforms becoming mainstream, it is much easier to implement (think of platforms such as Marketo, Pardot, and HubSpot).

Pro tip: Before I go deeper, instead of looking at an ABM program as a lead scoring initiative, it’s best to shift to a mindset where you look at ABM as a sales intelligence initiative. It’s about uncovering prospect behavior and weighting sales intent/intel and brand engagement rather than “funnel lead scoring” (engagement is a better metric to forecast revenue).

The shift and the case for ABM: Anonymous buyer’s journey

In our always-on, buy anything anywhere world, customers want their buying experiences to be personalized, dynamic and convenient, and B2B buyers are no different. As a result, many businesses are trying to reinvent themselves, adapt to new business models and technologies, adhere to new consumer expectations, and keep pace with their competitors.

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It’s a great time (and opportunity) for a B2B company to support those shifts — but it’s tough to get mindshare (let alone wallet-share). More and more, the buyer journey is conducted digitally:

  • Two-thirds of B2B buyers say they are now “self-serving” more information before contacting vendors.
  • 63% of purchases have more than four people involved in the buying group (up from 47% in 2017).
  • The number of buying interactions during the pandemic jumped from 17 to 27 (the number of buying interactions reflects one individual’s buying journey to obtain information about competing offerings or providers).
  • 74% of B2B marketers say they are seeing customers taking more control over the buying process.
  • 62% say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list — based solely on digital content.
  • 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to sales.

When you consider the above, you start to understand why a “zero-touch” approach is so important; it allows the prospect to buy the way they want to buy and not necessarily the way you want to sell. And that’s where ABM comes in. A zero-touch approach that still delivers the highly personalized and curated experiences B2B buyers want.

What to aim to achieve with ABM

Aim to identify a composite pattern of digital cross-channel account behavior that suggests interest and enables a very focused sales engagement into those targeted segments/accounts. Specifically:

  • Translate ABM brand awareness from target accounts into website traffic.
    • Continue to hyper-segment accounts that demonstrate interest with a secondary tactic and messaging (e.g., a case study, additional zero-touch tactics/assets, etc.)
    • Implement funnel-based personalization through funnel/DRIP system.
    • Optimize ad spend and activity towards accounts showing website and ad engagement.
  • Evaluate the impact on traffic to points of conversation (such as the “Contact Us” button or a “zero-touch” contact form) and re-target accounts that don’t convert.
  • Meet pipeline objectives and key results (OKRs) for ABM campaigns.

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ABM program governance: Ground rules

It’s time to make friends! ABM requires rules of engagement between everyone involved (particularly marketing, sales and IT) to work as painlessly as possible and drive alignment throughout the organization. Misalignment is a problem because it affects every phase of ABM — planning, execution, and measurement. This can be solved by aligning on goals and incentives. Determine the ABM Team, and sit down to figure it out:

  • Cadence of team touchpoints: Weekly updates, monthly check-ins, quarterly reviews.
  • Updates: Audience and account data updated bi-weekly
  • Audience naming conventions: Vocabulary can vary from department to department; ensure consistency to keep the data clean.
  • Account grouping: Agree on classifying e-commerce companies (SMBs/SMEs, Enterprise, etc.) beforehand.
  • Hierarchical taxonomy: Ensure the prioritization of the audiences is clear and documented.
  • Opportunity weighting: Sales and Marketing need to align on sales intelligence weighting at the account level (company) and the contact level (individual).
  • Progression: Agree on how e-commerce audiences are operationally and philosophically tagged and moved through the buyer journey.

Ideal e-tailer profile

Defining your ideal customer profile (ICP) beforehand is critical. Meaning, what types of e-tailer buyers are present in the ecosystem, and which ones should you be focused on? How are you tiering targets? Some factors to consider:

Segmentation tips:

  • Hyper-personalize where possible (where people know you).
  • Segment where possible (where companies might not know you but have common attributes so that you can craft language around their e-commerce sector).
  • Create more mainstream messaging if you don’t know the sector and therefore need something a little more general.

Marketing and sales need to work together to identify, select, and prioritize target accounts. The buying group will also have to be identified; as an example, in a buying group of four, who is:

  • The user: Usually, the actual user of the product (focused on workflow).
  • The influencer: Researches the different options available through the buying process (focused on best practices and vendor comparisons).
  • The decision-maker: Usually the manager of the influencer (focused on ROI).
  • The IT subject matter expert: The person who must determine any impact on tech infrastructure (focused on seamless operations/integration).

Personas

Buyer personas are a semi-fictional representation of your ICP, based on market research and existing customer data. Why use them?

  • The information that goes into creating a buyer persona helps to personalize your target customer, building a clear picture of the real people who buy products or services
  • A company’s expertise touches a range of audiences with various needs. Audiences may not see the immediate value if content speaks to what the company does vs. what it does for its specific audiences

Targeting WITHOUT personas puts more onus on the prospect to decipher your offering and complicates the customer experience, eroding confidence and trust. Targeting WITH them improves the customer experience, shortens the decision cycle, and maximizes the impact with more targeted content.

There are many persona templates available online; here is an example of one HubSpot offers:

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Content strategy

Inbound is guided by the philosophy that every customer is on a quest to accomplish something, and as marketers, our job is to act as trusted advisors to help them get where they need to go. The goal of inbound, then, is to create one-to-one relationships with customers (new and existing) that have a lasting impact on them and your brand. ​

​Inbound marketing is about building value and trust, NOT about selling.​

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​Content delivers the message of your inbound marketing strategy; in other words, content acts as the voice of your brand while helping customers on their quest to solve a problem. The content strategy should empower your e-commerce customers to entertain and educate them, as it contributes to creating the long-lasting relationships that inbound marketing is focused on.​

Inbound marketing seeks to produce content that follows a three-step methodology: attract, engage and delight. When layered onto the steps in a typical buyer’s journey, the result shows the pathway for converting strangers to your brand into promoters of your brand. Consider deploying this framework:

1646964349 541 Drive growth with account based marketing

But how to do that as effortlessly as possible? Automation.

Programmatic and tech

The power of ABM is due to the advantages of digital marketing; automating data collection and connection enables the customization of interactions with those customers. It also allows B2B marketers to reach large volumes of customers with greater precision and personalization.

Tech now makes it easier to identify the e-commerce customers most likely to spend and have a high spend. It isn’t about developing an extraordinary number of leads. It’s about sales intelligence that allows you to develop the leads that really matter.

Crawl before you walk before you run. If you have a smaller contact list (e.g.,

  • CRM structure
  • Email system
  • Deal flow/lead platforms
  • Data modeling
  • Ad performance dashboard

However, once your target lists grow (100–1,000s contacts), you’ll want to look at platforms that can do programmatic ABM:

  • Marketing automation (e.g., HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot)
  • Predictive analytics (e.g., Bombora, 6Sense)
  • ABM ad-targeting platform (e.g., Terminus, Demandbase)

You’re not alone in figuring it out!

1646964349 246 Drive growth with account based marketing

Roles and responsibilities: Friends, not foes

Marketing and Sales need to work differently if ABM is going to work and drive alignment (i.e., more collaboration and fewer silos). Marketing needs to develop personas for both a) individuals and b) buying groups and use those personas to engage with prospects deliberately and proactively. Sales should shift from a fragmented, manual process and lean into the automation made possible through tech. As stated earlier, the shift from being lead-centric to account-centric is key, and using combined sales and marketing data will yield better intel.

Measurement

Data is used to make decisions and help companies reach their goals — but data collection in 2022 has become drastically different with customers now aware of how much data they’re giving up and with the dramatic changes to data privacy initiated by the likes of Apple and Facebook. 

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The rising importance of zero- and first-party data has changed how e-commerce businesses collect information from consumers. However, e-commerce companies must prioritize collecting this data to sustain the marketing efforts required to succeed.

It will also require marketers to shift and look at metrics differently. It is time to move away from tracking traditional (and at times, vanity) metrics like impressions, CPMs, click-through rates, web traffic, etc. and move towards tracking that speaks to revenue:

  • Program performance (target account activity, opportunities, pipeline)
  • Program strategy (revenue, win/loss rates, funnel velocity, cross-sell and up-sell, and retention)

In summary

E-commerce businesses face many trends and challenges when striving to succeed in this rapidly evolving marketplace.

Now you know how to use tech to identify cross-channel account behavior, translate Account-Based-Marketing brand awareness into website traffic and evaluate its impact on points of conversation that will drive growth. ABM is key to competing in today’s B2B world, and it works — because a more targeted, personalized, and exceptional customer experience always does.

Developing an ABM strategy that focuses on targeting top potential customers and uses both marketing and sales initiatives to capture the prospect’s interest and nurture them through the buying journey is now a foundational part of any go-to-market plan.

Account-based marketing: A snapshot

What it is. Account-based marketing, or ABM, is a B2B marketing strategy that aligns sales and marketing efforts to focus on high-value accounts. 

This customer acquisition strategy focuses on delivering promotions — advertising, direct mail, content syndication, etc. — to targeted accounts. Individuals who may be involved in the purchase decision are targeted in a variety of ways, in order to soften the earth for the sales organization. 

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Why it’s hot. Account-based marketing addresses changes in B2B buyer behavior. Buyers now do extensive online research before contacting sales, a trend that has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of marketing’s tasks in an ABM strategy is to make certain its company’s message is reaching potential customers while they are doing their research. 

Why we care. Account engagement, win rate, average deal size, and ROI increase after implementing account-based marketing, according to a recent Forrester/SiriusDecisions survey. While B2B marketers benefit from that win rate, ABM vendors are also reaping the benefits as B2B marketers invest in these technologies and apply them to their channels.

Read next: What is ABM and why are B2B marketers so bullish on it?


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Drive growth with account based marketing

Theresa is the President of McMillan, an independent creative agency headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, with offices in NYC that specializes in the brand experience for a global clientele. She’s responsible for plotting the pragmatic course of action through business development, strategic services offerings and industry partnerships that define the agency’s growth and corporate strategies. Theresa’s been a B2C and B2B marketing professional for more than 25 years, honing her craft in the consumer-packaged goods, software and advocacy sectors and is a strategist-by-trade, which has amplified her life-long passion for pulling things apart to see how they work. She brought that insatiable curiosity to McMillan in 2007, building the agency’s strategic services practice from a one-woman operation into the guiding force behind successful projects for Intuit, LexisNexis and Trend Micro, and becoming President in 2018.


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Only 6% of global marketers apply customer insights to product and brand

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Only 6% of global marketers apply customer insights to product and brand

While many brands talk about focusing on the customer, few do it. Less than a quarter (24%) of global brands are mapping customer behavior and sentiment, according to Braze’s 2024 Customer Engagement Review. What’s worse, only 6% apply customer insights to their product and brand approach.

“At the end of the day, a lot of companies operate based on their structure and not how the consumer interacts with them,” Mariam Asmar, VP of strategic consulting, told MarTech. “And while some companies have done a great job of reorienting that, with roles like the chief customer officer, there are many more that still don’t. Cross-channel doesn’t exist because there are still all these silos. But the customer doesn’t care about your silos. The customer doesn’t see silos. They see a brand.”

Half of all marketers report either depending on multiple, siloed point solutions to cobble together a multi-channel experience manually (33%); or primarily relying on single-channel solutions (17%).  Only 30% have access to a single customer engagement platform capable of creating personalized, seamless experiences across channels. This is a huge problem when it comes to cross-channel, personalization.

The persistence of silos

The persistence of data silos despite decades of explanation about the problems they cause, surprised Asmar the most.

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Screenshot 2024 02 27 140015
Source: Braze 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review

“Why are we still talking about this?” she said to MarTech. “One of the themes I see in the report is we’re still getting caught up on some of the same stumbling blocks as before.”

She said silos are indicative of teams working on different goals and “the only way that gets unsolved is if a leader comes in and aligns people towards some of those goals.”

These silos also hinder the use of AI, something 99% of respondents said they were already doing. The top uses of AI by marketers are:

  • Generating creative ideas (48%).
  • Automating repetitive tasks (47%).
  • Optimizing strategies in real-time (47%).
  • Enhancing data analysis (47%).
  • Powering predictive analytics (45%).
  • Personalizing campaigns (44%). 

Despite the high usage numbers, less than half of marketers have any interest in exploring AI’s potential to enhance customer engagement. Asmar believes there are two main reasons for this. First is that many people like the systems they know and understand. The other reason is a lack of training on the part of companies.

Dig deeper: 5 ways CRMs are leveraging AI to automate marketing today

“I think about when I was in advertising and everybody switched to social media,” she told MarTech. “Companies acted like ‘Well, all the marketers will just figure out social media.’ You can’t do that because whenever you’re teaching somebody how to do something new there’s always a level of training them up, even though they’re apps that we use every day, as people using them as a business and how they apply, how we get impact from them.”

The good news is that brands are setting the stage for the data agility they need.

  • 50% export performance feedback to business intelligence platforms to generate advanced analytics.
  • 48% sync performance with insights generated by other platforms in the business.

Also worth noting: Marketers say these are the four main obstacles to creativity and strategy:  

  • Emphasis on KPIs inherently inhibits a focus on creativity (42%).
  • Too much time spent on business-as-usual execution and tasks (42%).
  • Lack of technology to execute creative ideas, (41%).
  • Hard to demonstrate ROI impact of creativity (40%).
Screenshot 2024 02 27 135952Screenshot 2024 02 27 135952

Methodology

The 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review (registration required) is based on insights from 1,900 VP+ marketing decision-makers across 14 countries in three global regions: The Americas (Brazil, Mexico, and the US), APAC (Australia, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea), and EMEA (France, Germany, Spain, the UAE, and the UK).

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Crafting Effortless Sales Through ‘Wow’ Moments in Experience Marketing

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Crafting Effortless Sales Through 'Wow' Moments in Experience Marketing

Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing

In an era where consumers are bombarded with endless choices and digital noise, standing out as a brand is more challenging than ever. Enter experience marketing – a strategy that transcends traditional advertising by focusing on creating immersive, memorable interactions. This innovative approach leverages the elements of surprise, delight, and reciprocity to forge strong emotional connections with customers, making the sale of your core product feel effortless. But how can businesses implement this strategy effectively? This guide delves into the art of crafting ‘wow’ moments that captivate audiences and transform customer engagement.

The Basics of Experience Marketing

Experience marketing is an evolved form of marketing that focuses on creating meaningful interactions with customers, aiming to elicit strong emotional responses that lead to brand loyalty and advocacy. Unlike conventional marketing, which often prioritizes product promotion, experience marketing centers on the customer’s holistic journey with the brand, creating a narrative that resonates on a personal level.

In today’s competitive market, experience marketing is not just beneficial; it’s essential. It differentiates your brand in a crowded marketplace, elevating your offerings beyond mere commodities to become integral parts of your customers’ lives. Through memorable experiences, you not only attract attention but also foster a community of loyal customers who are more likely to return and recommend your brand to others.

Principles of Experience Marketing

At the heart of experience marketing lie several key principles:

  • Emotional Connection: Crafting campaigns that touch on human emotions, from joy to surprise, creating memorable moments that customers are eager to share.
  • Customer-Centricity: Putting the customer’s needs and desires at the forefront of every marketing strategy, ensuring that each interaction adds value and enhances their experience with the brand.
  • Immersive Experiences: Utilizing technology and storytelling to create immersive experiences that captivate customers, making your brand a living part of their world.
  • Engagement Across Touchpoints: Ensuring consistent, engaging experiences across all customer touchpoints, from digital platforms to physical stores.

Understanding Your Audience

Before diving into the intricacies of crafting ‘wow’ moments, it’s crucial to understand who you’re creating these moments for. Identifying your audience’s pain points and desires is the first step in tailoring experiences that truly resonate.

1709033181 544 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 544 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing

This involves deep market research, customer interviews, and leveraging data analytics to paint a comprehensive picture of your target demographic. By understanding the journey your customers are on, you can design touchpoints that not only meet but exceed their expectations.

  • Identifying Pain Points and Desires: Use surveys, social media listening, and customer feedback to gather insights. What frustrates your customers about your industry? What do they wish for more than anything else? These insights will guide your efforts to create experiences that truly resonate.
  • Mapping the Customer Journey: Visualize every step a customer takes from discovering your brand to making a purchase and beyond. This map will highlight critical touchpoints where you can introduce ‘wow’ moments that transform the customer experience.

Developing Your Experience Marketing Strategy

With a clear understanding of your audience, it’s time to build the framework of your experience marketing strategy. This involves setting clear objectives, identifying key customer touchpoints, and conceptualizing the experiences you want to create.

  • Setting Objectives: Define what you aim to achieve with your experience marketing efforts. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, boosting sales, or improving customer retention, having clear goals will shape your approach and help measure success.
  • Strategic Touchpoint Identification: List all the potential touchpoints where customers interact with your brand, from social media to in-store experiences. Consider every stage of the customer journey and look for opportunities to enhance these interactions.

Enhancing Customer Experiences with Surprise, Delight, and Reciprocity

This section is where the magic happens. By integrating the elements of surprise, delight, and reciprocity, you can elevate ordinary customer interactions into unforgettable experiences.

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  • Incorporating Surprise and Delight: Go beyond what’s expected. This could be as simple as a personalized thank-you note with each purchase or as elaborate as a surprise gift for loyal customers. The key is to create moments that feel special and unexpected.
  • Applying the Principle of Reciprocity: When customers receive something of value, they’re naturally inclined to give something back. This can be leveraged by offering helpful resources, exceptional service, or customer appreciation events. Such gestures encourage loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.
  • Examples and Case Studies: Highlight real-world examples of brands that have successfully implemented these strategies. Analyze what they did, why it worked, and how it impacted their relationship with customers.

Best Practices for Experience Marketing

To ensure your experience marketing strategy is as effective as possible, it’s important to adhere to some best practices.

  • Personalization at Scale: Leverage data and technology to personalize experiences without losing efficiency. Tailored experiences make customers feel valued and understood.
  • Using Technology to Enhance Experiences: From augmented reality (AR) to mobile apps, technology offers myriad ways to create immersive experiences that surprise and engage customers.
  • Measuring Success: Utilize analytics tools to track the success of your experience marketing initiatives. Key performance indicators (KPIs) could include engagement rates, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction scores.

Section 5: Overcoming Common Challenges

Even the best-laid plans can encounter obstacles. This section addresses common challenges in experience marketing and how to overcome them.

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  • Budget Constraints: Learn how to create impactful experiences without breaking the bank. It’s about creativity, not just expenditure.
  • Maintaining Consistency: Ensuring a consistent brand experience across all touchpoints can be daunting. Develop a comprehensive brand guideline and train your team accordingly.
  • Staying Ahead of Trends: The digital landscape is ever-changing. Stay informed about the latest trends in experience marketing and be ready to adapt your strategy as necessary.

The Path to Effortless Sales

By creating memorable experiences that resonate on a personal level, you make the path to purchase not just easy but natural. When customers feel connected to your brand, appreciated, and valued, making a sale becomes a byproduct of your relationship with them. Experience marketing, when done right, transforms transactions into interactions, customers into advocates, and products into passions.

Now is the time to reassess your marketing strategy. Are you just selling a product, or are you providing an unforgettable experience? Dive into the world of experience marketing and start creating those ‘wow’ moments that will not only distinguish your brand but also make sales feel effortless.


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The Current State of Google’s Search Generative Experience [What It Means for SEO in 2024]

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The Current State of Google's Search Generative Experience [What It Means for SEO in 2024]

SEO enthusiasts, known for naming algorithm updates after animals and embracing melodrama, find themselves in a landscape where the “adapt or die” mantra prevails. So when Google announced the launch of its Search Generative Experience (SGE) in May of 2023 at Google/IO, you can imagine the reaction was immense.

Although SGE has the potential to be a truly transformative force in the landscape, we’re still waiting for SGE to move out of the Google Labs Sandbox and integrate into standard search results. 

Curious about our current take on SGE and its potential impact on SEO in the future? Read on for more.

Decoding Google’s Defensive Move

In response to potential threats from competitors like ChatGPT, Bing, TikTok, Reddit, and Amazon, Google introduced SGE as a defensive maneuver. However, its initial beta release raised questions about its readiness and global deployment.

ChatGPT provided an existential threat that had the potential to eat into Google’s market share. When Bing started incorporating it into its search results, it was one of the most significant wins for Bing in a decade. In combination with threats from TikTok, Reddit, and Amazon, we see a more fractured search landscape less dominated by Google. Upon its launch, the expectation was that Google would push its SGE solution globally, impact most queries, and massively shake up organic search results and strategies to improve organic visibility.

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Now, industry leaders are starting to question if Google is better off leaving SGE in the testing ground in Google labs. According to Google’s recent update, it appears that SGE will remain an opt-in experience in Google Labs (for at least the short term). If SGE was released, there could be a fundamental reset in understanding SEO. Everything from organic traffic to optimization tactics to tracking tools would need adjustments for the new experience. Therefore, the prospect of SGE staying in Google Labs is comforting if not entirely reliable. 

The ever-present option is that Google can change its mind at any point and push SGE out broadly as part of its standard search experience. For this reason, we see value in learning from our observations with SGE and continuing to stay on top of the experience.

SGE User Experience and Operational Challenges

If you’ve signed up for search labs and have been experimenting with SGE for a while, you know firsthand there are various issues that Google should address before rolling it out broadly to the public.

At a high level, these issues fall into two broad categories including user experience issues and operational issues.

Below are some significant issues we’ve come across, with Google making notable progress in addressing certain ones, while others still require improvement:

  • Load time – Too many AI-generated answers take longer to load than a user is willing to wait. Google recommends less than a 3-second load time to meet expectations. They’ll need to figure out how to consistently return results quickly if they want to see a higher adoption rate.
  • Layout – The SGE layout is massive. We believe any major rollout will be more streamlined to make it a less intrusive experience for users and allow more visibility for ads, and if we’re lucky, organic results. Unfortunately, there is still a decent chance that organic results will move below the fold, especially on mobile devices. Recently, Google has incorporated more results where users are prompted to generate the AI result if they’d like to see it. The hope is Google makes this the default in the event of a broad rollout where users can generate an AI result if they want one instead of assuming that’s what a user would like to see. 
  • Redundancy – The AI result duplicates features from the map pack and quick answer results. 
  • Attribution – Due to user feedback, Google includes sources on several of their AI-powered overviews where you can see relevant web pages if there is an arrow next to the result. Currently, the best way to appear as one of these relevant pages is to be one of the top-ranked results, which is convenient from an optimization standpoint. Changes to how attribution and sourcing are handled could heavily impact organic strategies. 

 

On the operational side, Google also faces significant hurdles to making SGE a viable product for its traditional search product. The biggest obstacle appears to be making the cost associated with the technology worth the business outcomes it provides. If this was a necessary investment to maintain market share, Google might be willing to eat the cost, but if their current position is relatively stable, Google doesn’t have much of an incentive to take on the additional cost burden of heavily leveraging generative AI while also presumably taking a hit to their ad revenue. Especially since slow user adoption doesn’t indicate this is something users are demanding at the moment.

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While the current experience of SGE is including ads above the generative results now, the earliest iterations didn’t heavily feature sponsored ads. While they are now included, the current SGE layout would still significantly disrupt the ad experience we’re used to. During the Google I/O announcement, they made a statement to reassure advertisers they would be mindful of maintaining a distinct ad experience in search.  

“In this new generative experience, Search ads will continue to appear in dedicated ad slots throughout the page. And we’ll continue to uphold our commitment to ads transparency and making sure ads are distinguishable from organic search results” – Elizabeth Reid, VP, Search at Google

Google is trying to thread a delicate needle here of staying on the cutting edge with their search features, while trying not to upset their advertisers and needlessly hinder their own revenue stream. Roger Montti details more of the operational issues in a recent article digging into the surprising reasons SGE is stuck in Google Labs.

He lists three big problems that need to be solved before SGE will be integrated into the foreground of search:

  1. Large Language Models being inadequate as an information retrieval system
  2. The inefficiency and cost of transformer architecture
  3. Hallucinating (providing inaccurate answers)

 

Until SGE provides more user value and checks more boxes on the business sense side, the traditional search experience is here to stay. Unfortunately, we don’t know when or if Google will ever feel confident they’ve addressed all of these concerns, so we’ll need to stay prepared for change.

Experts Chime in on Search Generative Experience

Our team has been actively engaging with SGE, here’s a closer look at their thoughts and opinions on the experience so far:

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“With SGE still in its early stages, I’ve noticed consistent changes in how the generative results are produced and weaved naturally into the SERPs. Because of this, I feel it is imperative to stay on top of these on-going changes to ensure we can continue to educate our clients on what to expect when SGE is officially incorporated into our everyday lives. Although an official launch date is currently unknown, I believe proactively testing various prompt types and recording our learnings is important to prepare our clients for this next evolution of Google search.” – Jon Pagano, SEO Sr. Specialist at Tinuiti

“It’s been exciting to watch SGE grow through different variations over the last year, but like other AI solutions its potential still outweighs its functionality and usefulness. What’s interesting to see is that SGE doesn’t just cite its sources of information, but also provides an enhanced preview of each webpage referenced. This presents a unique organic opportunity where previously untouchable top 10 rankings are far more accessible to the average website. Time will tell what the top ranking factors for SGE are, but verifiable content with strong E-E-A-T signals will be imperative. –Kate Fischer, SEO Specialist at Tinuiti

“Traditionally, AI tools were very good at analytical tasks. With the rise of ChatGPT, users can have long-form, multi-question conversations not yet available in search results. When, not if, released, Google’s Generative Experience will transform how we view AI and search. Because there are so many unknowns, some of the most impactful ways we prepare our clients are to discover and develop SEO strategies that AI tools can’t directly disrupt, like mid to low funnel content.” – Brandon Miller, SEO Specialist at Tinuiti

“SGE is going to make a huge impact on the ecommerce industry by changing the way users interact with the search results. Improved shopping experience will allow users to compare products, price match, and read reviews in order to make it quicker and easier for a user to find the best deals and purchase. Although this leads to more competitive results, it also improves organic visibility and expands our product reach. It is more important than ever to ensure all elements of a page are uniquely and specifically optimized for search. With the SGE updates expected to continue to impact search results, the best way to stay ahead is by focusing on strong user focused content and detailed product page optimizations.”  – Kellie Daley, SEO Sr. Specialist at Tinuiti

Navigating the Clash of Trends

One of the most interesting aspects of the generative AI trend in search is that it appears to be in direct opposition to other recent trends.

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One of the ways Google has historically evaluated the efficacy of its search ranking systems is through the manual review of quality raters. In their quality rater guidelines, raters were instructed to review for things like expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (EAT) in results to determine if Google results are providing users the information they deserve. 

In 2022, Google updated their search guidelines to include another ‘e’ in the form of experience (EEAT). In their words, Google wanted to better assess if the content a user was consuming was created by someone with, “a degree of experience, such as with actual use of a product, having actually visited a place or communicating what a person has experienced. There are some situations where really what you value most is content produced by someone who has firsthand, life experience on the topic at hand.” 

Generative AI results, while cutting-edge technology and wildly impressive in some cases, stand in direct opposition to the principles of E-E-A-T. That’s not to say that there’s no room for both in search, but Google will have to determine what it thinks users value more between these competing trends. The slow adoption of SGE could be an indication that a preference for human experience, expertise, authority, and trust is winning round one in this fight. 

Along these lines, Google is also diversifying its search results to cater to the format in which users get their information. This takes the form of their Perspectives Filter. Also announced at Google I/O 2023, the perspectives filter incorporates more video, image, and discussion board posts from places like TikTok, YouTube, Reddit, and Quora. Once again, this trend shows the emphasis and value searchers place on experience and perspective. Users value individual experience over the impersonal conveyance of information. AI will never have these two things, even if it can provide a convincing imitation.

The current iteration of SGE seems to go too far in dismissing these trends in favor of generative AI. It’s an interesting challenge Google faces. If they don’t determine the prevailing trend correctly, veering too far in one direction can push more market share to ChatGPT or platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

Final Thoughts

The range of outcomes remains broad and fascinating for SGE. We can see this developing in different ways, and prognostication offers little value, but it’s invaluable to know the potential outcomes and prepare for as many of them as possible.

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It’s critical that you or your search agency be interacting and experimenting with SGE because:

  • The format and results will most likely continue to see significant changes
  • This space moves quickly and it’s easy to fall behind
  • Google may fix all of the issues with SGE and decide to push it live, changing the landscape of search overnight
  • SGE experiments could inform other AI elements incorporated into the search experience

 

Ultimately, optimizing for the specific SGE experience we see now is less important because we know it will inevitably continue changing. We see more value in recognizing the trends and problems Google is trying to solve with this technology. With how quickly this space moves, any specifics mentioned in this article could be outdated in a week. That’s why focusing on intention and process is important at this stage of the game.

By understanding the future needs and wants SGE is attempting to address, we can help you future-proof your search strategies as much as possible. To some extent we’re always at the whims of the algorithm, but by maintaining a user-centric approach, you can make your customers happy, regardless of how they find you.

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