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Put These Call-to-Action Tips on Your Favorites List

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Put These Call-to-Action Tips on Your Favorites List

Content can take your brand almost anywhere it wants to go.

But if you want your audience to take steps beyond viewing or reading, you need to show them where to go next. And that means creating a compelling call to action (CTA).

To help you achieve the results you want from your CTAs, I’ve gathered ideas and tips for the strategic fundamentals you’ll need. Review those, then keep reading for tactical tips and examples for making your copy more compelling, layouts more appealing, and campaigns more successful.

Set your audience on the right path with a compelling call to action, says @joderama via @CMIContent @semrush. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

Plan your approach strategically

You can’t ask consumers to act until you know what specific action you want them to take – and what might interest them in doing so.

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Determine your target goal

Before you write your CTA or plot where and how to place it in your content, you need to decide the goal. Start with the consumer actions that deliver the greatest benefit to your business now.

Focus on the goals your business cares about most, typically one of the ones CMI founder Joe Pulizzi outlined:

  • Sales
  • ROI
  • Decreased costs
  • Improved customer loyalty and retention

But revenue-related conversions aren’t the only meaningful actions. You can focus CTAs around content marketing goals, like sending more traffic to your website, increasing downloads of lead-gen content, encouraging viewers to join your communities, or growing a subscribed audience.

Revenue-related CTAs aren’t the only meaningful actions. Think about #ContentMarketing goals, like driving more traffic to your site, increasing downloads, etc., says @joderama via @CMIContent @semrush. Click To Tweet

Make your offers contextually relevant

Take the audience’s context into consideration when planning your CTA and crafting the copy.

For example, imagine a consumer scrolling through their Instagram feed on their phone, and a picture of a trendy outfit from your summer catalog catches their attention. A CTA to visit your e-commerce site for more details about the clothes would be a natural fit, while a CTA to download the catalog might be too much to ask in this setting.

You’ll also want to make sure your CTA aligns well – message, tone, topic, and imagery – with the content it’s connected to. Continuing with the clothing example, a high-quality photo of someone wearing that trendy outfit to a summer BBQ could trigger FOMO (fear of missing out) feelings – and a click to your mobile storefront. Asking them to download a lengthy report on sustainable fabric sourcing practices would be out of place.

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Lastly, whenever possible, match your CTA copy to the mindset and intent of your targeted consumers. Remember engaging with a content asset isn’t necessarily a signal that the consumer is looking to make a purchase right now (or at all) – especially for a high-consideration product like a car or an enterprise software solution. So, if you send an email to sales-qualified leads with a CTA for a 25% discount, it might be the perfect catalyst to buy. But if the email goes to everyone in your database, stick to lower-level commitments like downloading a white paper or attending a virtual product demo.

Match your #CTA to the mindset and intent of your targeted consumers, says @joderama via @CMIContent @semrush. Click To Tweet

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Communicate clearly, succinctly, and convincingly

Calls-to-action point consumers to attractive offerings that might enhance their trust and satisfaction with your business. But if your CTAs derail their purpose, confuse them, or fail to deliver on the expectations you establish, you risk losing their attention for good.

Follow these creative tips to give your calls to action their best chance of success:

Keep them focused and short

Avoid inserting multiple calls into a single piece of content – there are only so many requests a reader will consider before they lose their focus. Get right to the point with brief, succinct statements that won’t confuse readers. Also, Pawan Deshpande says if you’re using a CTA button, long strings of text won’t have the same positive visual impact as a short one.

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Provide clear direction 

Beginning your CTA with an active verb – like “Subscribe to our newsletter” or “Download our app” – tells consumers exactly what action you would like them to take, while vague statements like “Learn more” could lead to confusion or disinterest.

Be transparent about what happens next

Will clicking disrupt their content experience by taking them to an off-site page? Will that page contain the information they expect, or will they have to search around for it? Will they get direct access to the download your CTA referenced, or will there be a form? You may not have the space to include every detail of the experience that follows the click, but avoid ambiguity by using words like “register,” “sign up,” or “visit our site” to help set clear expectations.

Select words that set intentions

If your content’s purpose is to drive an immediate conversion, Shane Barker recommends creating a sense of urgency with words like “now,” “instant,” or “today.” If your message is meant to make your customers feel unique or special, he says using words like “custom” or “exclusive” can help convey that they’ll receive VIP treatment.

Use your available space wisely

Shane also points out that if your CTA comes at the end of a blog post or email, outlining your ask in a detailed sentence is acceptable. However, if you’re placing it elsewhere in your content or on a dedicated landing page, he says it’s best to limit the CTA to five to six words.

For social media content, available space and formatting options vary. Get familiar with each channel’s specifications before you publish or critical details may get cut off. Notice how the text gets cut off in the Doodly ad below to read: “Create Doodle Videos With Doodly. Zero Technical or De…”. Confused consumers are less likely to click.

A Doodly ad showing a green background with a white chalk outline of a man holding a laptop with the words "80% off!" on the laptop screen. The title of the ad reads "Easily Create Doodle Videos". The subhead reads "Special". The CTA below the image is cut off. It reads “Create Doodle Videos With Doodly. Zero Technical or De...”

Copy is cut off in Doodly’s CTA, which can confuse customers and make them less likely to click.

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Show ’em the money (or other attractive benefits)

Who doesn’t wonder “what’s in it for me” when they see a promo touting a brand’s amazing features and competitive advantages? Focusing your CTA copy on the benefits consumers stand to receive can communicate greater personal relevance – and increase their interest in clicking.

For example, in this sponsored Facebook spot, BuzzSumo smartly syncs up its offer of a helpful content toolkit with a discount-centric CTA to sweeten the deal: “Feeling stuck? BuzzSumo’s all-in-one content toolkit can help generate ideas … Save now with 20% off annual subscriptions.”

BuzzSumo Facebook Sponsored post showing a blue box with the copy “Feeling stuck? BuzzSumo’s all-in-one content toolkit can help generate ideas … Save now with 20% off annual subscriptions.”

BuzzSumo aims to boost subscription purchases with a CTA that offers a 20% discount.

Brain training app Elevate doesn’t offer a discount, but its Instagram post features a checklist of attractive benefits that gives gamers a glimpse of what they might achieve if they install the app: Read faster, write more clearly, and speak with confidence.

1655203724 448 Put These Call to Action Tips on Your Favorites List

Elevate’s checklist of benefits illustrates the value of clicking its CTA.

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Perfect your placements

CTAs can’t do their jobs if consumers don’t notice them. So, marketers need to design and position them for optimal findability, appeal, and usability.

Some things to consider:

  • Don’t overwhelm your copy. Stuffing a CTA in the middle of short snippets of text, like a collection of curated quotes or a bulleted list, can disrupt the flow of your content, making it hard for readers to follow the story. Among his CTA tips for content curators, Pawan suggests placing calls within longer sections of copy, instead – for example, a detailed explanation of why the quotes you’ve cited are relevant.
  • Make them easy to spot and read. The above advice also applies to the visual aspects of your CTAs: They should fit with the accompanying content without getting lost. Think brightly colored buttons that grab attention but don’t stray from your brand’s style guide. Adjust the fonts and colors as necessary for the copy that sits on top of the buttons, so it’s clearly readable against the background.
  • Make them mobile-friendly. Mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated 4% of global website traffic in 2021. Your CTAs should follow best practices for mobile-responsive content. Make buttons large enough that visitors won’t accidentally click on the wrong spots, and double-check that your copy doesn’t get cut off on a small screen. Consider using click-to-call features or substitute drop-down selections for detailed forms so mobile users don’t have to type a lot to accept your offer.

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Grab extra attention with unique designs and special features

Speaking of opt-in form alternatives, Treasure Data CMO Tom Treanor shared some formats commonly used to drive subscriptions that can be adapted for other marketing goals. Below are a few of his suggestions for making your CTAs more visible, dynamic, and inviting. (You can find additional ideas in his article on ways to get more opt-ins from your content.)

The pop-up

“The pop-up is one of the most familiar opt-in forms for a good reason,” says Tom. “Even the data scientist of HubSpot found it increases email opt-ins without hurting anything else.”

That lesson can be observed in this pop-up CTA with the message: “Do You To Convert Your Abandoning Visitors Into Subscribers?” followed by yes and no buttons to register for a free 14-day trial.

1655203724 44 Put These Call to Action Tips on Your Favorites List

An example of a CTA formatted as a pop-up from HubSpot.

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The pop-up is one of the most familiar opt-in forms and for a good reason. Even the data scientist of @HubSpot found that it increases email opt-ins, says @RtMixMktg via @joderama @CMIContent @semrush. Click To Tweet

The slide-in

Tom says slide-ins create dynamic movement, which can help draw the viewer’s attention. He also reminds marketers that timing your slide-in is important: “You want to catch visitors before they click away.”

He shares an example from AppSumo, which slides into view with an attractive offer of insider knowledge – “Learn exactly how I grew AppSumo to 700,000+ subscribers” –followed by a space to enter an email address and receive that information.

1655203724 734 Put These Call to Action Tips on Your Favorites List

An example of a CTA that slides into view from the side of the screen.

The footer CTA

“Once people have finished reading a great piece of content, they are more likely to consider other offerings from your brand,” says Tom. The footer option capitalizes on this concept. “You can use it with a lead-magnet offer or message that invites people to get similar content by subscribing.”

In this example from Fleet Feet, the footer includes a built-in CTA reading “Join Our Newsletter” with a field to enter an email address.

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1655203724 697 Put These Call to Action Tips on Your Favorites List

An example of a post footer CTA from Fleet Feet.

Use tech and personalization to your advantage

If you’re ready to take your CTAs further, apply some of these more customized approaches. Their benefits range from simplifying the design and implementation process to enhancing personal resonance.

Leverage the power of tech

In a recent post on improving sales enablement content, Ann Smarty recommended a few tech tools that can make CTA customization and implementation easier:

  • Vcita lets marketers create customizable and contextual widgets that help ensure that CTAs appear in content where they’re most relevant and appropriate.
  • Finteza offers the ability to dynamically serve different CTAs depending on what page the visitor first lands on, the site they were referred from, or prior actions they may have performed on your site. Marketers choose which site pages the modules appear on and the campaign length.

Get up close and personal

You can use CTAs to gather first-party data (an increasingly important goal as privacy regulations limit third-party cookies). For example, Los Angeles-based media site LAist targeted voters with the sponsored Instagram post shown here. While the “Learn more” CTA is standard fare, it’s paired with a political matchmaking quiz to help users determine which of the seven candidates on the primary ballot align most strongly with their views on key issues.

1655203724 788 Put These Call to Action Tips on Your Favorites List

LAist cleverly tempts readers to click the CTA to get personalized election guidance with the copy: “Meet your Mayor – A political matchmaking quiz for LA voters.” The visual catches the eye with circular headshots of each of the seven candidates.

Go beyond the obvious

Shop now, sign-up, register today … spend a few minutes perusing your social feeds and you’ll see a dozen ads using these simple imperatives. You might have a better chance of standing apart and capturing their clicks with an unexpected approach.

For example, cosmetics company Il Makiage is building its brand on a try-before-you-buy model. In keeping with that concept, the company featured a “Watch the transformation” CTA on a recent Instagram post, which clicks through to a video of @realbettymaxwell trying the brand’s makeup.

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1655203724 599 Put These Call to Action Tips on Your Favorites List

The CTA in this Il Makiage’s social spot creates intrigue with the promise of an exciting transformation.

 

1655203724 363 Put These Call to Action Tips on Your Favorites List

Consumers who click through on the Il Makiage CTA see the brand’s products in action.

In her sales-enablement discussion, Ann Smarty offered another unique CTA approach: the in-content form. “It’s designed to feel more like a one-on-one interaction than an institutional form completion,” says Ann.

She shared this example of WordPress plug-in Conversational Forms, which lets visitors answer one question before a new question appears.

1655203724 985 Put These Call to Action Tips on Your Favorites List

A sample of WordPress plug-in Conversational Forms. Image via Wpforms.com.

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Stop using institutional field completion forms. A tool like Conversational Forms from @easywpforms lets visitors answer a question before a new question appears, says @SEOSmarty via @joderama @CMIContent @semrush. Click To Tweet

Create CTAs that compel customers to act

Despite their simplicity, effective CTAs involve a lot of strategic and creative decisions. Are you giving your CTAs the attention they deserve? Have any tips we may have missed? Let us know by posting a comment.

All tools mentioned in this article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please add it in the comments.

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

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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

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

While many brands talk about focusing on the customer, few do it. Less than a quarter (24%) of global brands are mapping customer behavior and sentiment, according to Braze’s 2024 Customer Engagement Review. What’s worse, only 6% apply customer insights to their product and brand approach.

“At the end of the day, a lot of companies operate based on their structure and not how the consumer interacts with them,” Mariam Asmar, VP of strategic consulting, told MarTech. “And while some companies have done a great job of reorienting that, with roles like the chief customer officer, there are many more that still don’t. Cross-channel doesn’t exist because there are still all these silos. But the customer doesn’t care about your silos. The customer doesn’t see silos. They see a brand.”

Half of all marketers report either depending on multiple, siloed point solutions to cobble together a multi-channel experience manually (33%); or primarily relying on single-channel solutions (17%).  Only 30% have access to a single customer engagement platform capable of creating personalized, seamless experiences across channels. This is a huge problem when it comes to cross-channel, personalization.

The persistence of silos

The persistence of data silos despite decades of explanation about the problems they cause, surprised Asmar the most.

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Screenshot 2024 02 27 140015
Source: Braze 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review

“Why are we still talking about this?” she said to MarTech. “One of the themes I see in the report is we’re still getting caught up on some of the same stumbling blocks as before.”

She said silos are indicative of teams working on different goals and “the only way that gets unsolved is if a leader comes in and aligns people towards some of those goals.”

These silos also hinder the use of AI, something 99% of respondents said they were already doing. The top uses of AI by marketers are:

  • Generating creative ideas (48%).
  • Automating repetitive tasks (47%).
  • Optimizing strategies in real-time (47%).
  • Enhancing data analysis (47%).
  • Powering predictive analytics (45%).
  • Personalizing campaigns (44%). 

Despite the high usage numbers, less than half of marketers have any interest in exploring AI’s potential to enhance customer engagement. Asmar believes there are two main reasons for this. First is that many people like the systems they know and understand. The other reason is a lack of training on the part of companies.

Dig deeper: 5 ways CRMs are leveraging AI to automate marketing today

“I think about when I was in advertising and everybody switched to social media,” she told MarTech. “Companies acted like ‘Well, all the marketers will just figure out social media.’ You can’t do that because whenever you’re teaching somebody how to do something new there’s always a level of training them up, even though they’re apps that we use every day, as people using them as a business and how they apply, how we get impact from them.”

The good news is that brands are setting the stage for the data agility they need.

  • 50% export performance feedback to business intelligence platforms to generate advanced analytics.
  • 48% sync performance with insights generated by other platforms in the business.

Also worth noting: Marketers say these are the four main obstacles to creativity and strategy:  

  • Emphasis on KPIs inherently inhibits a focus on creativity (42%).
  • Too much time spent on business-as-usual execution and tasks (42%).
  • Lack of technology to execute creative ideas, (41%).
  • Hard to demonstrate ROI impact of creativity (40%).
Screenshot 2024 02 27 135952Screenshot 2024 02 27 135952

Methodology

The 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review (registration required) is based on insights from 1,900 VP+ marketing decision-makers across 14 countries in three global regions: The Americas (Brazil, Mexico, and the US), APAC (Australia, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea), and EMEA (France, Germany, Spain, the UAE, and the UK).

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Crafting Effortless Sales Through ‘Wow’ Moments in Experience Marketing

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Crafting Effortless Sales Through 'Wow' Moments in Experience Marketing

Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing

In an era where consumers are bombarded with endless choices and digital noise, standing out as a brand is more challenging than ever. Enter experience marketing – a strategy that transcends traditional advertising by focusing on creating immersive, memorable interactions. This innovative approach leverages the elements of surprise, delight, and reciprocity to forge strong emotional connections with customers, making the sale of your core product feel effortless. But how can businesses implement this strategy effectively? This guide delves into the art of crafting ‘wow’ moments that captivate audiences and transform customer engagement.

The Basics of Experience Marketing

Experience marketing is an evolved form of marketing that focuses on creating meaningful interactions with customers, aiming to elicit strong emotional responses that lead to brand loyalty and advocacy. Unlike conventional marketing, which often prioritizes product promotion, experience marketing centers on the customer’s holistic journey with the brand, creating a narrative that resonates on a personal level.

In today’s competitive market, experience marketing is not just beneficial; it’s essential. It differentiates your brand in a crowded marketplace, elevating your offerings beyond mere commodities to become integral parts of your customers’ lives. Through memorable experiences, you not only attract attention but also foster a community of loyal customers who are more likely to return and recommend your brand to others.

Principles of Experience Marketing

At the heart of experience marketing lie several key principles:

  • Emotional Connection: Crafting campaigns that touch on human emotions, from joy to surprise, creating memorable moments that customers are eager to share.
  • Customer-Centricity: Putting the customer’s needs and desires at the forefront of every marketing strategy, ensuring that each interaction adds value and enhances their experience with the brand.
  • Immersive Experiences: Utilizing technology and storytelling to create immersive experiences that captivate customers, making your brand a living part of their world.
  • Engagement Across Touchpoints: Ensuring consistent, engaging experiences across all customer touchpoints, from digital platforms to physical stores.

Understanding Your Audience

Before diving into the intricacies of crafting ‘wow’ moments, it’s crucial to understand who you’re creating these moments for. Identifying your audience’s pain points and desires is the first step in tailoring experiences that truly resonate.

1709033181 544 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 544 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing

This involves deep market research, customer interviews, and leveraging data analytics to paint a comprehensive picture of your target demographic. By understanding the journey your customers are on, you can design touchpoints that not only meet but exceed their expectations.

  • Identifying Pain Points and Desires: Use surveys, social media listening, and customer feedback to gather insights. What frustrates your customers about your industry? What do they wish for more than anything else? These insights will guide your efforts to create experiences that truly resonate.
  • Mapping the Customer Journey: Visualize every step a customer takes from discovering your brand to making a purchase and beyond. This map will highlight critical touchpoints where you can introduce ‘wow’ moments that transform the customer experience.

Developing Your Experience Marketing Strategy

With a clear understanding of your audience, it’s time to build the framework of your experience marketing strategy. This involves setting clear objectives, identifying key customer touchpoints, and conceptualizing the experiences you want to create.

  • Setting Objectives: Define what you aim to achieve with your experience marketing efforts. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, boosting sales, or improving customer retention, having clear goals will shape your approach and help measure success.
  • Strategic Touchpoint Identification: List all the potential touchpoints where customers interact with your brand, from social media to in-store experiences. Consider every stage of the customer journey and look for opportunities to enhance these interactions.

Enhancing Customer Experiences with Surprise, Delight, and Reciprocity

This section is where the magic happens. By integrating the elements of surprise, delight, and reciprocity, you can elevate ordinary customer interactions into unforgettable experiences.

1709033181 790 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 790 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing
  • Incorporating Surprise and Delight: Go beyond what’s expected. This could be as simple as a personalized thank-you note with each purchase or as elaborate as a surprise gift for loyal customers. The key is to create moments that feel special and unexpected.
  • Applying the Principle of Reciprocity: When customers receive something of value, they’re naturally inclined to give something back. This can be leveraged by offering helpful resources, exceptional service, or customer appreciation events. Such gestures encourage loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.
  • Examples and Case Studies: Highlight real-world examples of brands that have successfully implemented these strategies. Analyze what they did, why it worked, and how it impacted their relationship with customers.

Best Practices for Experience Marketing

To ensure your experience marketing strategy is as effective as possible, it’s important to adhere to some best practices.

  • Personalization at Scale: Leverage data and technology to personalize experiences without losing efficiency. Tailored experiences make customers feel valued and understood.
  • Using Technology to Enhance Experiences: From augmented reality (AR) to mobile apps, technology offers myriad ways to create immersive experiences that surprise and engage customers.
  • Measuring Success: Utilize analytics tools to track the success of your experience marketing initiatives. Key performance indicators (KPIs) could include engagement rates, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction scores.

Section 5: Overcoming Common Challenges

Even the best-laid plans can encounter obstacles. This section addresses common challenges in experience marketing and how to overcome them.

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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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