Connect with us

MARKETING

How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing Metric

Published

on

Alternative Search Engines: Why They Matter and How to Rank on Them

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Estimated brand reach is the most important high-level metric that everyone seems to either interpret incorrectly, or ignore altogether.

Why? Because it’s a tough nut to crack.

By definition, brand reach is a headcount of unique “individuals” who encounter your brand, and you cannot de-anonymize all the people on every one of your web channels. Simply put, two “sessions” or “users” in your analytics could really be from one person, and there’s just no way you could know.

Nevertheless, you can and most definitely should estimate your brand reach. And you should, and most definitely can, use that data in a meaningful way.

Advertisement

For instance, it’s how we confirmed that:

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s dive in.

What is reach?

Reach counts the number of actual people who come in contact with a particular campaign. For example, if 1,500 people see a post on Instagram, your reach is 1,500. (Warning: Take any tool claiming to give you a “reach” number with a grain of salt. As we covered earlier, it’s really hard to count unique individuals on the web).

Impressions, on the other hand, is a count of views. One person can see an Instagram post multiple times. A post with a reach of 1,500 can easily have as many as 3,000 impressions if every one of those people see it twice.

Brand reach takes this a step further by tracking all the individual people who have encountered any and all of your company’s campaigns across all of your channels, in a given time period.

If you’re tracking brand reach correctly, every single person only gets counted once, and as far we know, that’s impossible.

Advertisement

Google Search Console, for instance, will show you exactly how many impressions your website has achieved on Google Search over a period of time. But it won’t count unique individuals over that period. Someone could easily search two different keywords that your site is ranking for and encounter your brand twice on Google. There is no way to tie those multiple sessions back to one individual user.

It would be even harder to track that individual across all of your channels. How, for instance, would you make sure that someone who found you on social, and then again on search, isn’t counted twice?

The short answer is that you can’t.

However, you can estimate brand reach, and it’s work worth doing. It will a) help you tie meaningful metrics to your overall brand awareness efforts, and b) give you an immense amount of insight into how that high-level brand awareness affects your deeper-funnel outcomes — something that is sorely missing in most marketing programs.

Using impressions as a stand-in for pure reach

We’ve accepted that we can’t count the number of users who encounter our brand. But we are confident in our ability to count total impressions, and crucially, we’ve deduced that there’s a strong relationship between impressions and reach.

Common sense tells us that, if you see changes in your brand’s total impressions, there are likely changes to your reach as well.

Advertisement

We tested this premise using one of the only channels where we can actually count pure reach vs impressions: our email marketing program.

In email marketing:

And, as we suspected, there is a near perfect correlation between the two, of 0.94.

Interestingly, there is also a near-perfect correlation between email impressions and email engagement (someone clicking on that email) of 0.87.

Admittedly, email is a very controlled channel relative to, say, search or social media.

So, I went one step further and looked at how our “impressions” in Google Search Console aligned with Google Analytics’ count of “New Users” over the course of one year (which we’ll use as a stand-in for pure reach, since it only counts users once in a given timeframe):

Advertisement

The Pearson Correlation Coefficient for impressions’ relationship to GA’s New Users is 0.69, which is very strong! In other words, more impressions typically means more unique users, (AKA, reach).

Meanwhile, the relationship between GA’s New Users and GSC clicks is an astonishing 0.992, which is just 0.008 off from a perfect correlation.

1676979051 989 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing

People much smarter than I have pointed out time and time again that GA’s user data must be taken with a grain of salt, for reasons I won’t get into here. Still, the point is that there’s ample evidence to suggest an extremely tight relationship between reach and impressions.

TL;DR: If impressions change negatively or positively, there is very likely to be a corresponding change in reach, and vice versa.

What we ended up with

Taking all of this knowledge into account, we started tracking impressions of every single channel (except email, where we can actually use pure reach) to help determine our estimated brand reach. The outcome? This graph of our brand reach as it changes over time:

1676979052 823 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing

It’s extremely rewarding to have this type of number for your brand, even if it is an estimate.

But the greatest value here is not in the actual number; it’s in how that number changes from month to month, and more importantly, why it changes (more on this later in this post).

How to track estimated reach

The chart above displays our brand’s estimated reach across all our known marketing channels. Acquiring the data is as simple as going into each of these channels’ analytics properties once a month, and pulling out the impressions for the prior month.

Advertisement

Let’s go through the steps.

1. Have a spreadsheet where you can log everything. Here’s a template you can use. Feel free to update the info in the leftmost columns according to your channels. Columns G through L will populate automatically based on the data you add to columns C through F. We recommend using this layout, and tracking the data monthly, as it will make it easier for you to create pivot tables to help with your analysis.

1676979052 942 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing

2. Access your impression data. Every marketing mix is different, but here’s how we would access impression data for the channels we rely on:

  • Organic search: Pull impressions for the month from Google Search Console.

  • Email marketing: Total number of unique contacts who have successfully received at least one email from you in the current month (this is one of the few channels where we use pure reach, as opposed to impressions).

  • Social media: Impressions pulled from Sprout, or from the native social media analytics platforms. Do the same for paid impressions.

  • Google Ads/Adroll/other ad platform: Impressions pulled from the ad-management platform of your choosing.

  • Website referrals: The sum of estimated page traffic from our backlinks each month. We use Ahrefs for this. The idea is that any backlink is a potential opportunity for someone to engage with our brand. Ahrefs estimates the traffic of each referring page. We can export this, and add it all up in a sheet, to get an estimate of the impressions we’re making on other websites.

  • YouTube: Impressions from Youtube Analytics.

Most of the above is self-explanatory, with a few exceptions.

First, there’s email. We use pure reach as opposed to impressions for two reasons:

  1. Because we can.

  2. Because using impressions for email would vastly inflate our estimated reach number. In any given month, we send 3 million or more email messages, but only reach around 400,000 people. Email, by its nature, entails regularly messaging the same group of people. Social media, while similar (your followers are your main audience), has a much smaller reach (we are under 30,000 each month).

1676979052 545 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing
We deliver many more emails (impressions) every month than there are unique recipients (reach).

Second, is Referral traffic. This is traffic that comes from other sites onto yours, but note that it excludes email, search-engine traffic and social media traffic. These are accounted for separately.

The referral source, more than any other channel, is a rough estimate. It only looks at the estimated organic page traffic, so it leaves out a large potential source of traffic in the form of other distribution channels (social, email, etc.) that website publishers may be using to promote a page.

But again, reach is most valuable as a relative metric — i.e., how it changes month to month — not as an absolute number.

Advertisement

To get the desired timeframe of one full month on Ahrefs, select “All” (so you’re actually seeing all current live links) and then show history for “last 3 months” like so:

1676979053 588 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing

This is because Ahrefs, sadly, doesn’t let you provide custom dates on its backlink tool. My way of doing this adds a few steps, but they’re fairly intuitive once you get the hang of them (plus I made a video to help you).

Start by exporting the data into a spreadsheet. Next, filter out backlinks in your sheet that were first seen after the last day of the month you’re analyzing, or last seen before the first day of that month. Finally, add up all the Page Views, and that will be your total “impressions” from referral traffic.

The video below how we would pull these numbers for November, using Ahrefs: 

Finally, you’ll notice “branded clicks” and “branded impressions” on the template:

1676979053 594 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing

This data, which is easily pulled from GSC (filter for queries containing your brand name) can make for some interesting correlative data. It also helps us with engagement data, since we count branded search as a form of engagement. After all, if someone’s typing your brand name into Google Search, there’s likely some intent there.

How to evaluate estimated reach

Once you’ve filled in all your data, your sheet will look something like the image below:

1676979054 347 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing

That’s enough to start creating very basic pivot tables (like adding up your total reach each month). But notice all the holes and zeros?

You can fill those by pulling in your engagement metrics. Let’s run through them:

Advertisement
  • Organic search: Pull clicks from Google Search Console. (Optional: I also recommend pulling branded search impressions, which we count as engagements in our spreadsheet, as well as branded clicks). New Users from GA is a viable alternative to clicks (remember that near-perfect relationship?), but you won’t be able to filter for your branded impressions and clicks this way.

  • Email marketing: Total number of “clicks” from the emails you’ve sent. We do this over opens, because opens have become less reliable; some email clients now technically open your emails before you do. Clicks in emails can be pulled from your email automation platform.

  • Social media: Engagements (link clicks, comments, likes and reposts) pulled from Sprout, or from each social platform’s native analytics. Do the same for paid engagements.

  • Google Ads/AdRoll/other ad platform: Interactions, or clicks, pulled from the ad platform of your choosing.

  • Website referrals: Referral traffic from Google Analytics (these are the people who encountered your brand on an external website and then engaged with it).

  • YouTube: Views from Youtube Analytics.

Once you’ve filled in this data, your spreadsheet will look more like this:

1676979054 594 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing

Now you have some new insights that you can create pivot tables around. Let’s look at a few:

1. Engaged reach

This is the portion of your total estimated reach that has engaged with your brand. You want to see this climb every month.

1676979054 888 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing

2. Engagement rate

This is the percentage of your estimated reach that is engaging with your brand. This is arguably your most important metric — the one you should be working to increase every month. The higher that percent, the more efficient use you’re making of the reach you have.

1676979055 244 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing

3. Engagement rate by channel

This shows you the channels with your highest engagement rate for the current month. You can use this to flag channels that are giving you what we might call “bad” or “inefficient” reach. It affirmed our decision, for instance, to drop an entire display channel (AdRoll) in favor of another (Google Display). Month after month, we saw low engagement rates on the former. Diverting our spend away from that display channel slightly increased our cost per thousand impressions, but the added cost was more than offset by a higher engagement rate.

1676979055 649 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing

4. Winners and losers month-over-month

You can do this as a direct comparison for reach or for engagement. The chart below is a comparison of engagements between October (blue) and November (red). We always want the red (most recent color) to be bigger than the blue (unless, of course, you’ve pulled resources or spend from a particular channel, e.g., paid Instagram in the chart below):

1676979056 671 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing

5. Correlation data

This is where we get a little deeper into the funnel, and find some fascinating insights. There are many ways to search for correlations, and some of them are just common sense. For example, we noticed that our YouTube reach skyrocketed in a particular month. After looking into it, we determined that this was a result of running video ads on Google.

But reach and engagements’ most important relationships are to leads and, better yet, leads assigned to sales reps. Here’s an example using five months of our own data:

1676979056 322 How to Use Estimated Brand Reach as a Meaningful Marketing

While we still need more data (5 months isn’t enough to close the book on these relationships), our current dataset suggests a few things:

  • More reach usually means more engagement. There’s a strong relationship between reach and engagement.

  • More reach usually means more lead gen. There’s a moderate relationship between reach and lead gen.

  • More engagement almost always means more lead gen. There is a very strong relationship between engagement and lead gen.

  • More engagement almost always means more assigned leads. There’s a strong relationship between engagement and leads that actually get assigned to sales people.

  • More lead gen almost always means more assigned leads. There’s a very strong relationship between lead gen and leads getting assigned to sales people.

This is just one of the ways we’ve sliced and diced the data, and it barely skims the surface of how you can evaluate your own brand reach and brand engagement data.

6. Collaborating with other marketers on your team

Some of the relationships and correlations are subtler, in the sense that they relate to specific levers pulled on specific channels.

For example, we were able to figure out that we can increase branded search by running broad-match-keyword Google paid search campaigns, specifically.

Advertisement

The only reason we know this is that we meet as a team regularly to look over this data, and we’re always debriefing one another on the types of actions we’re taking on different campaigns. This structured, frequent communication helps us pull insights from the data, and from each other, that we’d otherwise never uncover.

Why this work is so worth doing

If at some point while reading this article you’ve thought, “dang, this seems like a lot of work,” you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. But you wouldn’t be right, either.

Because most of the actual work happens upfront — figuring out exactly which channels you’ll track, and how you’ll track them, and building out the pivot tables that will help you visualize your data month after month.

Pulling the data is a monthly activity, and once you have your methods documented (write down EVERYTHING, because a month is a long time to remember precisely how you’ve pulled data), it’s pretty easy.

One person on our team spends about one hour per month pulling this data, and then I spend maybe another two hours analyzing it, plus 15 minutes or so presenting it at the start of each month.

We’ve only been doing this for about half a year, but it’s already filled gaps in our reporting, and it’s provided us with clues on multiple occasions of where things might be going wrong, and where we should be doubling down on our efforts.

Advertisement

Eventually, we even hope to help use this as a forecasting tool, by understanding the relationship between reach and sales meetings, but also reach and the most meaningful metric of all: revenue.

How cool would that be?

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

MARKETING

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

Published

on

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.

Advertisement
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).

Advertisement

Get MarTech! Daily. Free. In your inbox.

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address
Continue Reading

MARKETING

Crafting Effortless Sales Through ‘Wow’ Moments in Experience Marketing

Published

on

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.


Disruptive Design Raising the Bar of Content Marketing with Graphic

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address
Continue Reading

MARKETING

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

Published

on

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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:

Advertisement

“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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address
Continue Reading

Trending