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Get Ambitious and Embrace New Responsibilities

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Get Ambitious and Embrace New Responsibilities

We spend a lot of time at CMI thinking about the purpose of content in business. It sounds funny. The purpose of content in business?

When we start work with a company on putting a functional plan around their content, a senior leader in the business (usually somebody in finance or operations) often says, “Isn’t that word content too big? Doesn’t that mean everything we do?”

“Yup. It does,” I reply, followed by an awkward moment of silence.

Without realizing it, they’ve unconsciously made the argument of why it is valuable to sort out the function of content in their company.

Now, of course, we need to back off a little from saying it covers “everything.” What we’re going to solve in a consulting engagement, one of our events, a webinar, a blog post, or even CMI University can’t encompass “everything.”

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So, I explain to the inquisitor that what we mean is by developing a strategy for content you can equate content with communication. If your content is intended to communicate and deliver value to our audiences, then it is worth putting a plan around the creation of those things. That’s a content strategy.

It’s worth putting a plan around your #content that’s designed to deliver value to your audience. That’s a #ContentStrategy, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

More than a decade ago, my good friend and CMI founder Joe Pulizzi put a stake in the ground for what would become known as content marketing. I loved that he said it so very plainly: Marketers now have the opportunity to provide “truly relevant and useful content to prospects and customers to help them solve their issues.”

The beauty of that definition is in the stated purpose. Content is purposely designed to be more than classic marketing and advertising, where content’s purpose is to persuade people to become or stay customers. In the case of content marketing, content is created to help. Full stop. In other words, the content is valuable to the audience without any context of the brand or its products.

Joe’s original definition is still reflected on CMI’s definitions page. To this day, it remains in the No. 1 position for Google searchers who ask, “What is content marketing?”

But, of course, like everything in marketing, our beloved practice has evolved.

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Tracking the evolving content ecosystem

Well before content marketing entered our lexicon, the phrase “content strategy” was a key – if not fairly niche – part of business strategy. The term arguably predates digital, but the internet, large websites, structured authoring (i.e., separating the content from its presentation), and dynamically assembling meaningful content gave momentum to the practice of content strategy.

Over eight years ago, I leaned in on my background in enterprise content and attempted to stratify the approaches of both content strategy and content marketing. Content marketing is often the biggest opportunity, the largest gap in capabilities, or the most misunderstood of practices. But it is but one piece in the larger strategic content puzzle.

Content marketing always has (and will always be) a subset of content strategy. That said, both practices have the same goal – effective, efficient business communication.

More recently, new subsets of content marketing have emerged. Whether it’s branded content, brand journalism, native advertising, or even customer experience, we’ve written to separate the signal from the noise on those approaches.

Here we are in 2022, and let’s just say the last two years have been – well – difficult. It’s been hard to get our bearings, hard to set a long-term strategy, and hard to know where to make our biggest investments.

But those disruptions also have been an accelerator. Changes in our digital capabilities, the media by which we consume content, the talent pool and skillsets, and where we do our work have pushed us to innovate. Content leaders, strategists, managers, writers, SEO specialists, technologists, AI practitioners, and data scientists have all found the optimal ways to make content in marketing and communications a scalable, measured, and exciting approach for business.

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2022 is the time to make #content a scalable, measured, and exciting approach for business, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Now we sit on the cusp of the third era of the web.

Can you even imagine what things like crypto, blockchain, DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations), and the metaverse technologies will do to our practice?

No. You can’t. Not yet.

From opportunity to responsibility

We’re evolving at CMI, too. We’re humbled at the level of innovation. In the last 12 months, we’ve seen:

So, we still fundamentally believe companies have the opportunity to operate like media companies. But, in 2022, it’s not only an opportunity; it’s a responsibility to act more like media companies.

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In 2022, it’s not only an opportunity; it’s a responsibility of companies to act more like media companies, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The subtitle of Edelman’s seminal 2022 Trust Barometer is “Societal Leadership is now a Core Function of Business.” As the authors write, “We have studied trust for more than 20 years and believe that it is the ultimate currency in the relationship that all institutions – business, governments, NGOs and media – build with their stakeholders.”

Think about that quote as I refer back to Joe’s 2009 definition of content marketing: “truly relevant and useful content to prospects and customers to help them solve their issues.”

Content marketing is at the heart of any business that wants to build trust.

#ContentMarketing is at the heart of any business that wants to build trust, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Where CMI is headed

If I can humble brag for a minute, at CMI, we have been fighting the good fight for the last decade. We haven’t always gotten it right, but we’ve had a front-row seat to what’s actually going on in the world of business content.

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Over the last two years, my team and I have worked directly with more than 60 of the Fortune 1,000 companies. The research team recently produced our 12th annual content marketing research that surveyed about 1,400 marketers around the globe. Lastly, despite the pandemic and lockdowns, Content Marketing World continued last year with thousands of marketers from more than 50 countries gathering both virtually and in person to talk about the strategic approach of content.

Here’s the point: We see what’s really going on in the community. And our community is you – the practitioner. We see you.

As we move into 2022 and beyond, you’ll see us focus on some of these three major observations:

1. Content marketing and content strategy will merge

Successful businesses take the function of enterprise content seriously. They recognize content is communication, and making it functional is more than just copywriting, thought leadership, storytelling, metadata structures, content management, SEO, or workflow processes. It is all those things.

Successful businesses recognize making #content functional is more than just copywriting, thought leadership, storytelling, metadata structures, SEO, workflow processes, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

We see organizations moving beyond the one or two ad-hoc content marketing practitioners to holistic, specialized teams focused on strategic content. Prepare for the great merger of marketing content, content marketing, and content operations. Content is a business strategy. Copywriting, storytelling, measurement, and structured content operations will become a single, functional strategy.

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To achieve that, content marketers will need to upskill in strategy, technology, and content structures. Content strategists will need to upskill in media operations, creative, journalism, storytelling. And everybody will need to upskill into measurement design.

2. The best content teams will enable the story

Spoiler alert: If you think you can check the content strategy box by installing a content studio of writers, designers, podcasters, and designers who are chartered to build internal capacity for the increasing demand for content, think again.

Robert’s content law is this: The need for more content expands in direct proportion with the number of resources allocated to it.

A successful strategy is integrated. Content creation, management, and measurement must be organizational strengths. All teams need to be empowered to create content for their audiences. The secret superpower of a content team is being the arbiter of good – to create, help, guide, and direct (when necessary) individuals at the edges of the business to be consistent and engaging storytellers.

I promise you CMI will be talking a lot about this in the coming months.

3. Goals and measurability will continue to frustrate

The through-line in the struggle for content to gain traction in the business is how to support goals and measure progress towards them.

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The double-edged sword is that when content grows to be a business strategy, it becomes critically important to measure, and it becomes much more complex to measure.

It is inherently difficult to precisely define value in measuring communication clearly across all parts of the customer’s journey. We have seen some performance frameworks emerge, and certainly, more will become available.

However, the operational model itself may become one of the most important measures of success. In other words, when content strategy becomes the foundational model for communication in the business, the content must work harder. Content must be reusable and scalable across multiple approaches. Thus, businesses will need to measure performance as it relates to the audience’s response and how effectively you’re saying it.

What this means for you

Our goal remains largely the same as it has since Joe wrote his seminal blog post – to advance the practice of content marketing. But if this mission is our North Star, we must enhance our focus with better telescopes.

And your future is the focus of all of this. In the ’20s, a modern content practitioner:

  • Is a leader in the organization’s communication strategy. The team is not an internal, on-demand content vending machine but part of the fabric of every customer experience with the business.
  • Understands the differences and intricacies of all operational approaches of content in the business, from content marketing and content operations to branded content, native advertising, and anything else that inherently drives the creation of media-powered customer experiences as a business strategy.
  • Aligns goals and measurement with the strategy. The content team members of today and tomorrow build audiences through owned media experiences that can be monetized in multiple ways. They drive promotional execution of content for short-term advertising campaigns. They drive engagement and shares on social media and organic search traffic from smart earned media and word-of-mouth strategies. But they also support visibility, transparency, and internal communication of the lifecycle of content – from ideation to creation, management, activation, promotion, and even archival.
  • Supports every part of the customer’s journey. The content teams are not just top-of-the-funnel sales enablement teams. They are not just SEO-focused teams driving brand awareness. They are not just customer-support organizations managing how-to videos or customer events. Content teams are the experts in delivering audience value at every stage of the customer journey.

#Content teams are the experts in delivering audience value at every stage of the customer journey, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

And thus, CMI expands our mission, our editorial coverage, our teaching, and our learning as well. You will see more coverage on topics such as content operations, structured content, technology, as well as educational content on native advertising, branded content, storytelling. And you may even see us diving into the rabbit hole of Web 3.0 and its implications on our practice.

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It’s a unified family of specific, related approaches to the strategic use of media in our business.

CMI is here to support you – the content teams, the leaders, the practitioners, the influencers – all of you who make content work in business.

Want to learn how to balance, manage, and scale great content experiences across all your essential platforms and channels? Join us at ContentTECH Summit this March in San Diego. Browse the schedule or register today. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute




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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.

1709033181 790 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 790 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing
  • 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.

1709033181 656 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 656 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing
  • 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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