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How Conversion Funnels Create a Better Customer Journey + How to Optimize Yours

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How Conversion Funnels Create a Better Customer Journey + How to Optimize Yours

Conversion funnels are a fundamental concept in sales. Personally, I like to visualize the funnel as that big scary slide you wanted to try as a kid. You saw your friends whizzing down, which sparked your interest. You watched how much fun they were having, doing your research. And then the benefits of having fun outweighed your fear, so you climbed up and flew down.

Customers take a similar journey through your company’s conversion funnel when evaluating whether or not to buy from you. You have to pique their interest, build trust, and encourage them to take action.

In this post, I’ll explain what conversion funnels are and how they impact your customer journey. Then, you’ll learn how to optimize your funnel to increase the number of people who make it to your conversion point at the bottom.

All leads begin at the top of the funnel. As they learn more about your business, they move down and get closer to purchasing your product or service. This conversion process is called a funnel because companies often have more leads than they do customers, making the top of the funnel a larger pool of people than the bottom.

Understanding how people flow through your conversion funnel is essential to being an effective marketer or salesperson because it helps you engage leads, answer questions about your business, and address concerns. It also lets you organize leads into categories and create customer touchpoints that can entice each group to convert.

That’s why every funnel should be designed for how your customers buy, not how you sell. The focus is on providing such a great experience within the customer journey that you convince them to convert.

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Before diving into the details of how to analyze and optimize your funnel, we need to talk about an important aspect of this process: the customer journey.

Customer Journey

The customer journey complements the conversion funnel, but it’s not the same thing. Unlike the generalized, linear conversion funnel, customer journey maps show the individual and circuitous paths people take from the moment they discover your brand to the time they make a purchase.

Let’s say you’re a food blogger who sells cookbooks. Here’s how your customers’ journeys can differ.

  • Customer A sees and clicks on your banner ad, visits your blog, reads an article, signs up for your newsletter, gets a discount email, and purchases a cookbook.

  • Customer B sees your cookbook in a bookshop, buys it, makes the recipes, visits your blog, and subscribes to your newsletter.

The outcomes for Customer A and B are essentially the same, but the journeys and touchpoints are different. So if you know the different ways people enter your funnel, you can optimize for those entry points. That way, you can meet potential buyers where they are and entice them to convert.

That said, most funnels have similar points that ultimately lead to conversion. Let’s take a closer look at each stage of this process.

Conversion Funnel Stages

The top-middle-bottom funnel is a classic model used by sales teams, which focuses on sparking interest, informing potential customers, convincing them to purchase, and building loyalty so they become repeat buyers.

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Traditional Conversion Funnel Stages

  • Top of the funnel (TOFU): This is the awareness phase. A potential customer enters the TOFU when they engage with your brand, oftentimes through your website, an ad, an email, or social media.

  • Middle of the funnel (MOFU): This is the consideration phase. The potential customer knows about your brand and engages with it in order to learn more. They may sign up for your email newsletter, follow you on social media, or download guides and templates.

  • Bottom of the funnel (BOFU): This is the conversion phase. A prospect is here right before they purchase, which means you’ve given them good information and relevant touchpoints. Help them convert by making it easy to purchase, offering a trial, outlining pricing, or sending a discount for their abandoned shopping cart.

Let’s see what this looks like visually in the examples below.

Conversion Funnel Examples

HubSpot started off with the traditional conversion funnel structure, using marketing efforts to serve as the top of the funnel. Those leads were then passed further down the funnel to the sales team.

While some conversion funnels are simple, others can be incredibly complex. There are several conversion models you can use to suit your business needs, ranging from a simple three-stage funnel for smaller operations to complex, multi-stage sales funnels for enterprise-level companies. Let’s explore some of the most common models.

Three-Stage Marketing Funnel

Conversion funnel example basic

  • Awareness: Get visitors to your website. Attract them with quality blog posts or through social media.

  • Consideration: Use that great content to entice your new visitors to sign up for your newsletter.

  • Conversion: Now that prospects are familiar with your brand, persuade them to make a purchase by offering a discount code for first-time buyers.

AIDA Funnel

Conversion funnel example AIDASometimes called a “purchase funnel,” the AIDA model expands on the basic three-stage structure.

  • Attention: In addition to blog posts and social media, you can use targeted ads to draw visitors to your website.

  • Interest: Pique the prospect’s interest in your product by showcasing the goods. Use case studies to show how your product has helped other businesses. Have notable press mentions? You’ll want to showcase those as well.

  • Desire: Your prospects like you, now you must make them want you. Gain their trust and create an emotional connection. Continue to serve them content that helps them visualize how your product would fit into their lives and why they need it.

  • Action: Now’s your chance to get them to convert. One way is to offer a free ebook, trial, or tool that’s only accessible if they fill out a form with their contact information. If your goal is to get them to purchase a product, you could give them a promotional offer to persuade them to buy.

The detail of your funnel depends on your sales process — the longer your sales cycle, the more complex your funnel. If you have a short sales cycle, your funnel tends to be simpler.

Think about how long it takes to sell $2,000 B2B software versus a $20 t-shirt. The software purchase usually requires months of sales calls, marketing materials, FAQs, and demos. Each of those is a specific point in your conversion funnel. But potential buyers may only need five minutes to figure out that the t-shirt is the right color and fit before purchasing. The touchpoints required here are taking it off the rack and trying it on.

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To figure out how complex your funnel is, you can look at the data and perform an analysis. This will help you flush out each part of your customer journey to create a unique visual representation of your funnel.

Conversion Funnel Analysis

Funnels are full of barriers and friction. Analyzing your funnel helps you visualize the flow of potential customers across each point.

You can see key traffic sources and high-exit pages to get a feel for how people end up in each stage of the funnel.

It’s also a way to discover barriers that cause people to leave a page before they convert. If you see a high drop-off rate on one page, for example, you’ll know to prioritize that as you work toward optimizing your funnel.

To understand your funnel, follow these steps for in-depth analysis:

1. Look for high-traffic pages with high drop-off and conversion rates.

High-traffic pages hold a plethora of useful information. Not only are these the pages people see the most, but they’re also where people decide to stay or go. Look at the pages where people drop off (aka leave) and where they convert (take your intended action). Some metrics to collect are:

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2. Discover where your best customers come from.

Not all leads are the same. Some people drop off near the top of the funnel while others make it all the way down. That’s why tracking leads is so important. When you know where your high-quality leads come from, you can analyze that touchpoint or channel to see what you’re doing right. Ask yourself:

  • How is this touchpoint different from other touchpoints?
  • What information is resonating with people?
  • What are the barriers or friction (if any)?
  • How many steps do people have to go through before converting?

Identifying what you’re doing right in your funnel is just as important as figuring out what you’re doing wrong. If you need help digging into the data, check out these sales funnel tools or look into heatmap and session recording tools for information on how people navigate your pages.

3. Create an optimization plan.

After you figure out where people are dropping off and converting, it’s time to make an optimization plan. This should include the goals you want to focus on (i.e., more leads, newsletter signups, demos, or software purchases).

Goals let you determine what you want from each touchpoint within your funnel so you can measure whether it’s working or not.

After your funnel analysis, you’ll have a list of priority touchpoints that need to be optimized. Make sure to focus on the areas with the biggest drop-off rates first.

Conversion Funnel Optimization

Every part of your conversion funnel can be optimized to increase the number of people who turn into customers. Think of conversation funnel optimization as finding out what motivates, blocks, and persuades people so you can give them the best experience possible on their unique journey.

To optimize effectively, you need to think about how to give each customer what they want at each phase of the funnel. Using the phases outlined above, here’s what to consider at each step along the customer journey.

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1. TOFU: Awareness

Issues at the top of your funnel? Take a look at how you attract new leads. Compare every channel that brings in customers (i.e., social media, search engines, your blog, and paid ads) to see which attracts the most people.

If you’re unsure how customers found you, send out a survey to ask. Look for trends in how people find new brands and put more effort into your best channels. Just make sure you’re attracting the people in your target audience.

2. MOFU: Consideration

Potential customers made it to the middle of your funnel, but it’s your job to keep them moving toward the bottom.

If you’re having trouble with this phase, look at how people learn about your business and engage with your site. Is it easy for people to navigate your site? Or sign up for your email list? Do you have relevant, rich content? Do you offer pricing and product information? Is it easy to get questions answered?

Depending on your barriers, consider these ideas for improvement:

  • Product videos and photos
  • FAQ page
  • Whitepapers, case studies, or blog posts
  • Filters and search options
  • Newsletter capture
  • Discounts
  • Check pages for loading speed and broken elements

3. BOFU: Conversion

As the final stop for potential buyers, this is the phase to turn them into customers. You should remove as much friction as possible and encourage people to take the final steps to convert.

Some ways to optimize this final part of your funnel is to make sure product or service pages are fully built out with interesting descriptions, videos, and photos. Consider your checkout process to see if people have issues with payments or abandoned carts. Make it simple for people to compare pricing and clearly outline all product features. You can also send specific BOFU emails or create ads to remind people of their desire to convert.

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Think your job is done once a customer converts? Wrong. While you may have pulled a customer through your conversion funnel, there are plenty of opportunities to re-engage them. Not only is customer retention essential for growing your business, but it’s five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain a current customer.

So, once your customers make it through the funnel, invite them to sign up for a new webinar series, download additional templates, send promotions, join a loyalty club, or follow you on social media.

Conversion Funnels Shouldn’t Be Business Models

While conversion funnels are very effective for demonstrating the customer journey for a one-time purchase, they are not a substitute for creating a holistic business model. Relying on a funnel as your business model creates a lack of alignment between each stage of the customer experience.

HubSpot transitioned to thinking of the customer journey as less of a funnel and more of a flywheel — building more momentum as customers move through it.

With the flywheel model, the momentum of your happy customers is used to drive referrals and repeat sales. It’s not a linear beginning and end, but rather a continuous cycle that allows you to generate more business.

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Tailor Your Funnel to the Customer

While the customer journey is more complex than my slide analogy, understanding how conversion funnels work can improve this flow. It can help you optimize your funnel, attract more leads, convert them to customers, and boost your bottom line. But all that requires reducing as much friction as possible.

Find what makes sense for your particular sales cycle and use your existing content and channels to stay in touch. Make sure customers value your business and want to come back because you never know who they’ll introduce to the top of that funnel.

This article was originally published May 5, 2021, and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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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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