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How To Use and Promote It at Your Organization

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How To Use and Promote It at Your Organization

Language has the ability to build relationships and forge connections, but it’s equally liable for creating barriers and impacting someone’s sense of belonging. 

Using inclusive language, and having workplace conversations devoid of exclusive language, means employees are more likely to feel like they belong and can be their authentic selves at work. 

Here we’ll explore what inclusive language is and provide examples to ensure you create an inclusive workplace and inclusive marketing material and 2022 and beyond. 

 

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To explore how you might promote inclusive language at your organization, I spoke with some experts at HubSpot who have first-hand knowledge of incorporating inclusive language into their processes, products, and overall team culture.

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For instance, Hannah Fleishman, who led the charge on updating HubSpot’s Careers website to be more inclusive, told me, “Language has a big impact on our sense of belonging in the workplace. The challenge is, language is nuanced. The changes we should consider making to how we talk and write are often subtle.”

Melissa Obleada, an Associate User Experience Researcher at HubSpot, echoes this thought, mentioning, “Many of us don’t realize that our language has additional meaning hidden between the lines. Certain words can imply a certain age, gender, educational background, social class, and so much more. We see this a lot in the ways many folks write job descriptions.”

Consider, for instance, the last time you were in a meeting and a leader said, “Okay, guys, let’s get started” — do you think that automatically made female colleagues feel a little less-welcomed than their male peers? Would it have been better if he’d said “ya’ll” or “everyone”?

Alternatively, imagine you’re hiring a new person on your team and your boss tells you, “We’re looking for a good culture fit.” You know most people on your team are extraverted — does that make you unfairly biased during interviews as you seek out a “good culture fit” by looking for candidates that mirror your colleagues’ personality type?

Beth Dunn, Marketing Fellow at HubSpot, wrote a Medium piece on the topic of instilling a human voice in product content, and said, “Try not to present the privileged, tech-savvy, wealthy, able-bodied, white, cisgendered, anglo-centric male experience as ‘standard’ and everything else as ‘other’ or ‘diverse.’ Seek ways to place the ‘other’ in the center of things instead.”

Additionally, Dunn told me, “What’s great is that the English language is such a flexible, expressive language, so there are all sorts of ways to say what you need to say without indicating anything that might be exclusive. It just takes a little imagination, empathy, and practice, that’s all.”

Take job descriptions as an example — you might’ve heard by now that women only apply for jobs when they feel they’ve met 100% of the requirements, while men will apply when they feel they’ve met 60% of them.

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Fleishman suggests, “Try to avoid writing job descriptions with unattainable requirements. Using more inclusive language can be like building a new muscle; you need to get in the habit of recognizing nuances and asking yourself if what you’re saying, or writing, is accessible for everyone.”

Obleada adds that it’s not just job descriptions that you should edit for inclusivity — it’s all communication, whether through email, Slack, text, Facebook, or in-person: “When it comes to implementing inclusive language, it takes practice to shift your typical ways of speaking and writing.”

To monitor whether your communication is exclusive to certain groups, you’ll want to look at resources and tools online. For instance, Textio is an augmented writing tool that identifies whether you’re using gendered language in your writing or words with a strong feminine or masculine association. This can be undeniably helpful for both job descriptions and even emails to colleagues.

Additionally, you might consider taking a look at the Conscious Style Guide, a resource on conscious language that breaks down exclusive language into categories, including age and disability.

Finally, to identify your own implicit biases, try taking a Hidden Bias Test, like this one created by Psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia, and the University of Washington, to uncover how your biases might be inhibiting you from expressing yourself more inclusively.

If this all sounds like a lot of work to you, it’s important to note — this isn’t just about creating a more inclusive environment at work. It’s also critical for your company’s bottom line, particularly if you work for a global company or plan to expand your offerings to other regions in the future.

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Obleada explains it like this: “For some, writing and speaking inclusively may feel like a restrictive set of rules, hindering instead of helping us. In reality, it’s just the opposite.”

“Inclusive language opens up and amplifies your message to more people, making your blog post, job description, or website copy more accessible than before.”

Next, let’s explore some inclusive language examples in-practice.

1. Avoid company or team acronyms.

Fleishman told me, “Acronyms have become part of most companies’ vocabulary, but they can be alienating for new employees, candidates, or global teams.”

I personally remember how frustrated I felt when I first joined my team at HubSpot and everyone kept saying “TL;DR” in meetings. I was too embarrassed to ask what it meant. I finally Googled the term, but in the interim, the acronym made me feel separate from the larger group.

While this is a small and innocent example, there might be bigger acronyms you use every day within your team that continue to alienate new members or employees from other teams. And if your company does choose to use specific acronyms (like, in HubSpot’s case, H.E.A.R.T.), make sure you explain what it means during the employee onboarding process.

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2. Use plain language in your writing rather than expressions or jargon.

Many of us use colloquial expressions every day. For instance, I often say, “It’s just a ballpark figure” or “it should be a piece of cake,” without pausing to consider whether the listener knows or has heard the term before.

Of course, this can be confusing to other parts of the world that aren’t familiar with such expressions. If your company has global offices or works with customers from across the globe, expressions that are common to you can pose a major deterrent to clear communication. 

For instance, in Dunn’s Medium article, she writes, “We also avoid using metaphors (visual and written) that are specific to just one culture or class. So, for instance, we avoid using phrases like ‘knock it out of the park’ or ‘hit a home run,’ even though these phrases are pretty common in North America as they’re just not going to resonate outside of the U.S. Not because people will be offended by a reference to baseball, but because they won’t be as familiar, so the meaning won’t be as clear.”

The graphic below displays examples of colloquial words and phrases and plain language alternatives to ensure everyone understands you.

inclusive language examples: plain language

3. Refer to a theoretical person as “they” instead of “he” or “she.”

As marketers, we’re exceptional storytellers. Sometimes, however, whether you’re talking offhandedly with a colleague or delivering a pitch, you might get caught up in using pronouns that unintentionally support stereotypes.

For instance, let’s say you’re giving a pitch and you say, “We’ve found through analysis that our readers are typically in a VP position or higher, which is why we believe we should lean into LinkedIn as a strategy in 2020. For instance, let’s say our reader needs to deliver a presentation. He might turn to our blog ahead of time, but more likely, he’ll turn to LinkedIn first.”

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Your fictitious VP-level reader doesn’t need to be “male” or “female” — why not call them by the non-gendered pronoun “they,” “them,” or “their”? You can still make your point, and you won’t alienate people on your team who feel hurt that you’ve assumed that leaders are likely male.

This also relates to gendered terms that add nouns to the end of them, like salesman. Opting for a more inclusive term could be saying salesperson or sales rep. The image below shows additional examples of gendered terms and alternative phrases to use. 

inclusive language examples: gendered terms and phrases

4. Ensure your company’s designs or images reflect a diverse group of people.

When potential customers take a look at your website, you want them to see people (or figures) that look like them. Simultaneously, you want potential new hires to see themselves reflected.

Otherwise, you’re likely missing out on both potential customers, and future employees for your company.

1655827668 818 How To Use and Promote It at Your Organization

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In her Medium post, Dunn writes, “Our product illustrators try to ensure that the people we represent in illustrations are diverse in appearance, and that these different types of people are represented doing many different things (for instance, a person of color doing the talking while others listen, a woman in a wheelchair at an executive desk, etc.).”

As you scale as a company, you want to ensure your marketing materials reflect as many groups of people as possible. Otherwise, you’re unintentionally sending messages to people who don’t see themselves in your content that your brand “isn’t quite right for them.”

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5. Be mindful of terms related to race, ethnicity, nationality, and culture. 

Many terms used daily have roots in racism and discrimination, so using them can make people feel unsafe, whether in your marketing materials or day-to-day correspondence with team members. 

Some regularly used terms have roots in racism and discrimination or are taken from celebrations and sacred practices of marginalized communities. Using them in your marketing materials or day-to-day correspondence with team members can make people feel unsafe and unwelcome. 

For example, pow wow is often used informally to describe a meeting or get-together. Using it in such a way disregards pow wows as indigenous cultures’ sacred rituals and social gatherings — ceremonial events that have nothing to do with work. A simple alternative is saying stand-up, meeting, or hang-out. 

The image below displays other examples of words commonly used that are related to ethnicity, race, nationality, and culture that you can easily swap out for more inclusive terms. 

inclusive language examples: race, ethnicity, nationality, and culture terms

6. When speaking to colleagues about family, use gender-neutral labels for family members.

Obleada told me, “Inclusive language has a real impact on how ‘themselves’ folks feel they can be in a given space. As a queer woman, it makes me cringe when folks ask me about a boyfriend. Intentionally using gender neutral titles — parent, spouse, partner, child, etc. — when speaking about your or others’ families can make a big difference in how comfortable someone may feel.”

Rather than making assumptions, approach conversations with colleagues using gender neutral titles. For instance, it’s better to use “parent” or “guardian” when making conversation with a colleague since “mom” or “dad” excludes family structures such as grandparents as caregivers, same-sex parents, etc.

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7. Be mindful of medical conditions and ability terms. 

Common phrases like “turning a blind eye” are ableist and insensitive to people whose lives are impacted by medical conditions.

While likely used innocently, someone who hears such a phrase in the workplace or sees it in your marketing materials may feel unsafe and like you don’t represent them or what they care about. 

It’s best practice not to use such terms unless they’re relevant to your topic of conversation. The image below displays commonly used phrases that can be harmful that you might not have realized before and alternatives to implement.

inclusive language examples: mental conditions and ability terms

8. When in doubt, ask individuals which pronouns they prefer (but make it clear they can choose not to identify, as well).

It’s critical to note — there’s no one-size-fits-all “right” and “wrong” when it comes to language. Many people have personal preferences, especially when it comes to identity.

For instance, person-first language (i.e., “people with autism”) was introduced because many feel it’s dehumanizing to put the disability or gender orientation first, as it seems to define the individual.

However, some prefer identity-first language (i.e., “autistic people”) since they accept autism as an inherent part of their identity — identity-first language can even help evoke a sense of pride among individuals.

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(For more information on person-first or identity-first, take a look at this article by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.)

Over To You

It’s critical you avoid applying hard-and-fast rules to all individuals, since these preferences are incredibly personal. You might consider asking them what they prefer, or offering up your own preferred pronouns to create a safe space for them to do the same — but only if they feel comfortable doing so. (To learn more about etiquette when it comes to asking pronoun preference, take a look at Gender Neutral Pronouns: What They Are & How to Use Them.)

Ultimately, it’s important to remember none of us will get it “perfect” 100% of the time, but admitting when you’ve made mistakes and consistently working to communicate more inclusively are two major steps towards creating a more unified workforce, and creating deeper connections with your customers.

Remember — inclusive language is about widening your message and allowing it to resonate with as many people as possible, so it’s critical for your business’s bottom-line that you do everything you can to communicate more inclusively every day.

company culture template

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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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