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How To Build a Communication and Implementation Plan

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How To Build a Communication and Implementation Plan

You learn about a C-suite decision that will have a transformative impact on your content marketing team. Perhaps, the announcement included one or more of these directives:

  • “We must produce more content and manage multi-platform distribution with greater agility. We plan to add ChatGPT to our editorial capabilities and implement a headless CMS.”
  • “We’re updating our three-year business strategy and need all teams to align their operations around achieving a new set of goals.”
  • “We’ve been acquired. We will be merging many of our business units and will need to relaunch our website so we can tell a more unified story.”

Or maybe it’s another substantive shift in strategy or operations. As a content team leader, whether excited or terrified, you must get your team on board and ensure the initiative succeeds.

Transformational changes are nearly impossible to implement without a clear plan that communicates the desired destination, the motivation to pursue it, and the path to reach it.

Jenny Magic, marketing strategist and professional coach, shares how to do that in a Content Marketing World presentation she co-developed with Melissa Breker.

You can watch the conversation (beginning at 2:30-minute mark) or scroll down to read her recommendations to gather support, clear obstacles, and keep efforts moving in the right direction.

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5 sabotages that disrupt transformational changes

Every organization has unique conditions and challenges, but Jenny points out five common barriers that prevent the successful adoption of new priorities and practices:

  • Forced change. When workers don’t understand or agree with the change, they won’t invest in the process, especially if it requires a lot of effort or a long-term investment.
  • Misaligned goals. You can’t sell a change that benefits the company if employees don’t see how it helps them reach their personal or professional goals.
  • Group-speak. Your team may nod in agreement when the CEO says, “We’re all going to do this together, right?” But that enthusiasm might not hold when the boss’ eyes are no longer on them.
  • Rushed process. Team members already overwhelmed with responsibilities don’t give new tasks top priority. Jenny says if you can’t take something off their plate, communicate they won’t be pressured to rush it through.
  • Lack of team alignment. Everyone must be on the same page regarding the direction, intention, and actions required. Without this alignment, tasks fall through the cracks, and all the hard work may not lead to achieving the goal.

Forced change, group-speak, rushed processes can all disrupt transformational changes, says @JennyLMagic via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For your change mission to succeed, your communications plan should account for how you’ll address (or avoid) these obstacles. These details will minimize the friction, lack of participation, and flagging enthusiasm you could have experienced during implementation.


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Plan for the transformation journey

Jenny shares a three-part approach she uses to help her consultancy clients get big ideas off the drawing board, onto team members’ priority lists, and into the marketplace.

1. Establish the destination: What’s changing, why, and what’s involved

To get your team to join the journey of change, they need to know where they’re going. Create a change summary to help with that. The simple map summarizes the relevant details about the change, the phases of implementation, and the benefits gained when the goal is reached.

First, identify the most critical details to communicate. Answer these questions:

  • What’s the nature of the change? What is being done differently, and what does that mean for the business and team? What isn’t changing that might be the stability anchor?
  • Why is it happening? Why does the organization think this change is critical? Why is now the right time to do this?
  • Who’s involved? Who will the change affect? What will they be expected to do? What about their roles, processes, and priorities? Why would they want to participate, and why might they be reluctant?
  • When will it happen? Will the change occur all at once or gradually? What happens at each stage, and which ones will require the content marketing team’s involvement?
  • What are the expected results? What is the organization looking to achieve? What benefits or advantages will it bring? What will the company and team see when the goal is reached?

With these answers, you can build a change summary to share in stakeholder and team member conversations. Any spreadsheet or presentation tool will do, though you can create a template based on the document Jenny uses for her client engagements (below).

The summary of what’s changing appears at the top of the page and details of the most critical elements appear below it. Bulleted notes detail what to expect with each element and the benefits for the business and your team. Lastly, a general timeline outlines each project phase.

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1675915485 242 How To Build a Communication and Implementation Plan

2. Load up the crew: Gather support and communicate benefits

To achieve the change goal, all players must agree to travel together and move in the same direction. “If our team is not aligned on where the heck we’re going, there’s literally no chance we’re going to get there,” Jenny says.

Team members who immediately see the value in the initiative might follow your lead without question. But some key players may need a little more convincing. Jenny offers a few ideas to get them on board.

Enlist the support of an active, visible sponsor: Social media shows putting the right influencer behind your pitch can move minds. The same goes for pushing through a big change within an organization. Research from Prosci finds projects with an extremely effective sponsor met or exceeded objectives more than twice as often as those with a very ineffective sponsor.

If you have the support of senior team leaders and high-profile company personnel, ask for their help socializing the change to others. They might seed relevant information in their newsletters and other content they share internally or help shape your change activities and messaging to improve their appeal.

Translate organizational goals into personal motivations: Some team members may reluctantly participate because they perceive an impact on their role. For example, workers may think the added work will strain their already demanding schedules. Others may be skeptical because of negative experiences with similar changes in the past or disbelief that the change might benefit them.

A series of stakeholder conversations can help identify the significant concerns and disconnects that might prevent them from engaging. They also can reveal specific challenges and motivations that you can address with more resonant and appealing messaging.

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Translate organizational goals into personal motivations so team members can see how they’ll benefit, says @JennyLMagic via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Some marketing tools you use to influence an audience can help you facilitate those conversations. For example, Jenny says, personas can surface critical insights about who may be impacted by the change and what it might take to nurture them onto the path.

Her personas checklist includes these questions:

  • Who’s leading the change? Do any key sponsors directly relate to the persona’s role?
  • Will this persona be impacted more or less than others?
  • Will they need information more frequently or in greater detail?
  • What reactions will they have?
  • How will you approach training for this persona? What support will be provided?
  • At what phase of the change will they be most affected?

1675915485 604 How To Build a Communication and Implementation Plan

Jenny also recommends using your marketing communication and engagement tools. For example, the simple tracking sheet she developed (below) can help visualize the audience, delivery formats and channels, optimal messages, and approval and final sign-off requirements to mention in your stakeholder discussions.

1675915485 927 How To Build a Communication and Implementation Plan

Choose the right messenger – and a customized message: Sometimes, a disconnect occurs not because of the message but because of the message’s deliverer. For example, employees expect to hear about significant corporate initiatives from executives and senior leaders. But for changes impacting their day-to-day responsibilities, they may prefer to hear from a manager or supervisor who understands their role.

Other times, preventing a disconnect could require tailoring the message to the team’s needs. Jenny suggests focusing on the direct benefits once the initiative is activated. “Consider how it might help them further their career, address something they’re struggling with, or offer an opportunity to explore an area they’re passionate about,” Jenny says.  

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Surface hidden issues with confidential interviews: Valid concerns can remain hidden, especially for team members who are reluctant to voice their objections in team meetings. Working one-on-one with a neutral or external moderator – someone with no stake in the decision for change – might help them open up.

Ensure they know the confidential interview results will be aggregated so no individual responses will be identified. “It’s really helpful to get that confessional energy,” Jenny says. “It can help you surface individual reservations, causes of their reluctance, and personal motivations. “

A confidential one-on-one interview with an external moderator can help surface concerns from reluctant team members, says @JennyLMagic via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Jenny shares in her checklist (below) some preliminary questions for a moderator to assess during a confidential interview:

  • How does the individual feel about the change?
  • Is it the right change?
  • Is it the right time?
  • Is it supported enough to succeed?
  • What risks do they predict?
  • Do they have ideas about how we could reduce obstacles and challenges?
  • What lessons from past change efforts can they share with us?
  • Could they become a change champion?

1675915485 564 How To Build a Communication and Implementation Plan

The process can fuel opportunities to shift messaging, positioning, or delivery approach to help the outliers see how the change can benefit them and get them more excited about participating. Jenny says it can also reveal valid concerns that need to be solved so they don’t hinder progress.

3. Hit the road: Position and prepare your team for success

Big changes are always risky. They disrupt the status quo, and if they involve multiple teams and business functions, some changes may feel like a win for some at the expense of others.

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Taking a few extra steps before executing your plans can keep those issues from diverting the goal or leaving any team members stranded along the way. “This is where we establish commitment and accountability and think about what could go wrong and how we’re going to deal with it,” Jenny says.

Own up to what you do and don’t know: Ultimately, you can’t plan for every contingency. “You’ll lose trust rapidly if you pretend you do,” Jenny says. She offers a few communication tips to set the right expectations from the start:

  • Be clear and candid: Directly address what you do know, don’t know, and what is and isn’t possible with this change. Outline how you will communicate status updates and new information as they arise.
  • Be receptive: Don’t take resistance personally. Listen to your team’s questions and respond to their feedback with an open mind.
  • Be visible: Socialize progress across your team’s preferred communication channels, and make sure everyone knows how to reach you if they encounter a problem. You can regularly host town hall meetings, road-show presentations, or open forums to ensure everyone stays informed and has a chance to share their thoughts.

Position project requirements as opportunities and advantages: Jenny suggests exercising creative thinking to help concerned team members see the new responsibilities as a chance to benefit personally.

For example, if they need to learn additional skills to accomplish their tasks, provide in-house training or access to third-party educational tools. Position the opportunity as a chance to expand their capabilities to help them be more prepared for this change and to advance their careers in the long run.

You can also use the big change to rethink your org chart and rebalance team member responsibilities. “Every single person has work that they hate on their to-do list. I’ve found folks become more open if they’re offered an opportunity to do a task trade-off,” Jenny says.

Incentivize the journey – not just the destination: A lengthy and gradual implementation process should include incentives at regular intervals to motivate team members to stay the course.

Rewards can be specific and tangible, such as bonuses or loyalty program points. Or they can be intangible, such as shoutouts during monthly meetings or in internal newsletters. Arrange team happy hours or give comp time for extra hours worked. These appreciation efforts can make the added burden feel worthwhile.

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Overcome obstacles in predictive planning: An element of science exists in the journey of change. You can’t reach your destination if the forces of resistance are stronger than the forces propelling you forward.

Jenny shares an innovation tool from a company called Gamestorming that can help quantify the balance of those forces at each phase. By working through this force-field analysis, you can take steps to ensure the winds of change will be in your favor.

An example of how it works is shown below. In the center, an illustration represents the change you want to implement – transitioning from hierarchical to more transparent hubs.

1675915486 793 How To Build a Communication and Implementation Plan

On one side, the forces of change – all the elements of the vision that characterize the importance of the change and how it works in your favor – are listed. In this example, those forces are:

  • Improve long-term revenue
  • Help meet market demand
  • Satisfies customer expectations
  • Addresses current unsustainable costs
  • Give a competitive advantage in the marketplace

On the other side, the forces of resistance – conditions and constraints that may prevent realizing the vision – are listed. In the example, these forces include:

  • Company culture
  • Time constraints
  • Viability of new tech
  • Client adoption
  • Current costs

Rank each element’s impact on the project’s success on a scale of one to five.  Then add the rankings on each side and compare the scores to see whether you have a stronger chance of success than failure and identify where efforts should be made to overcome obstacles.

Plan the journey for a smoother arrival

Convincing your team to jump aboard the organizational-change train is rarely easy. But with a clear operational plan, aligned support, and open communication, you’ll help them see the benefits of participating and get them excited to reach their destination.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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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.

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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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