In this episode of Talk Marketing Made Easy, John McDougall and John Maher talk about Google’s new generative search experience. They explain that it offers AI-generated responses with citations as well as the usual ads and links. Then, they speculate about its potential effects on the future of SEO.
John Maher: Welcome to Talk Marketing Made Easy. I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with John McDougall, and today we are talking about the Google Search Generative Experience. Welcome, John.
John McDougall: Good afternoon.
What Is the Google Search Generative Experience?
John Maher: So we’re taking a first look, John, at this new thing that Google just announced, new AI search results, et cetera, kind of like ChatGPT. Maybe you can explain a little bit about what the new Google Search Generative Experience is and how it differs from traditional search engines.
John McDougall: So Google is bringing AI right into their search engine. It’s basically like a new Google, if you will, and ChatGPT upset the apple cart, if you will, pretty recently. People are flocking to it. Bing had a pretty good rollout with it, and Google didn’t have a great rollout with Bard with some errors and things like that.
I think now they’ve gotten their act together. They have two-thirds or something of the world’s AI geniuses working for them, so they are the masters of AI. But publicly, they got criticized for some of the things that they were rolling out and people praising Bing, Microsoft and OpenAI and ChatGPT, all this stuff.
So anyway, this is a way to bring that right into Google, and you can get on the waiting list, or you can just look at some examples we’ll post of the visuals of it. And you can just ask a question and get an instant answer, if you will, but in this case, an AI-driven answer, right at the top of the search results or above the search results. So the really good news is they also give links to a few sites that were used to make that result.
AI-Generated Responses With Citations to Search Queries
John Maher: Citations of where they got the information from.
John McDougall: And that’s really cool because publishers and SEOs are worried like, “Oh my God, is a chatbot going to make it so SEOs can’t do their thing?” But…
John Maher: Right, like Google’s just stealing my content, putting it in the results, and I don’t even get any credit for it, or I don’t get any clicks to my website from it. But in this case, they’re displaying the information, and then over on the right, they’re going to cite where they got that information from. So that if you want to dive a little deeper, you can go click on one of those links. And so you could get clicks to your website.
John McDougall: And there’s even a toggle button to dig even deeper, and then you can just scroll down for regular results as well. So it’s pretty well integrated. I’m happy to see that because again, the last thing I’d want is, oh, I love SEO and search engines, and I like to dig deeper.
I would hate to just have ChatGPT replace Google entirely. That would be really weird to me. It would also screw up our whole SEO business, and a lot of people would be pissed. Why would we generate content if you’re just going to steal it and give people instant answers and not even send them to our sites? That would be ridiculous.
So I think I’m pleased in the sense that visually it’s very cool. It does a good job of taking the best of AI, well, chatbot type of thing, using these vast amounts of data to quickly give you an answer. That’s cool, but definitely being able to go and dig deeper is also good. So that’s how it’s working visually.
The Usual Search Engine Results Below the AI Response
John Maher: And I think I said this when we talked not that long ago about Google Bard, and we were comparing that to ChatGPT. I said, “I can see where the next step beyond this would be to incorporate this into the regular Google search and maybe, when you do a search, Google will decide whether or not your search warrants an AI type of answer. And if it does, it would display an AI answer up at the top above the search result, the regular search results.”
And that’s exactly what they’re doing here. It seems like when you do a search, sometimes they may display an AI type of answer, if they think that maybe the way that you phrase your search, is it a type of question. Whatever it is that you are doing as a search, Google can figure out, will this be an AI answer or a regular search answer? And like you said, then the regular searches are going to be below the AI thing at the top. So you still have the regular search engine results below it.
John McDougall: Yeah.
Your Money or Your Life: Potential Limitations of the Google Generative Search Experience
John Maher: So do you have any concerns, or are there any limitations associated with the Google Search Generative Experience?
John McDougall: To follow-up on what you were just saying is, if you ask what’s the best stock to pick today, or what should I do if my toddler has a super high fever for a few days, that’s a your-money-or-your-life answer, YMYL. So Google probably won’t show that because they don’t want to risk killing someone or bankrupting them. So there’s-
John Maher: Anything where the answer, if it’s wrong, might make you lose money or hurt you. They want to be very careful with that.
John McDougall: So what you were just saying about they’re going to make choices of what searches are appropriate for a chat answer has something to do, certainly part of it will be that-
John Maher: Certain topics that will be off limits maybe.
John McDougall: Right. And I think they are still exploring that, but your-money-or-your-life things, you would certainly need to be super authoritative to come up there. And I think, in general, it’s almost like you’ve got to be top three in Google now, not top 10.
For a while I’ve been saying you’ve got to be top five because that’s where 67% of the clicks are, but that whole data study of where people click is out the window with this. This is totally new. So-
The Importance of Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-EAT)
John Maher: All of a sudden, it is going to be the AI content that’s up at the top, and there’ll be some citations. So you’d want to be there. You’d want to be one of the sites that Google grabs information from and cites you as being where it got the content from, but then the regular search results are going to be way down below now. There are going to be ads still on the search results with the AI content, too.
John McDougall: They’d be out of business if there weren’t.
John Maher: So you’re going to have ads, you’re going to have AI content, maybe you’re going to have those map listings or whatever, and then the regular search results are going to be way down at the bottom.
John McDougall: Right. So in a way, it makes SEO and what we do more valuable. And I think the irony is a lot of people are like, “Oh yeah, I can just use ChatGPT to write my blog for me.” But that AI thin content that’s just regurgitated stuff from around the internet, it does sound good the way it’s written. ChatGPT does a great job, in fact. It’s pretty amazing.
But it’s not insight from you and doesn’t show off your experience. So I think if you really want to rank in those three listings in this new world, you’d better have an authoritative site that is just chock-full of your experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness, that whole EEAT thing.
Google added that extra E mid-December last year, 2022, right after ChatGPT came out to say, “It’s okay if you used ChatGPT to help you with your content, maybe even to write content, but it better be authoritative and show off your experience.” But a robot doesn’t have experience, so that’s weird. Or is that just Google’s cryptic way of saying, “ChatGPT content is great, except it sucks.” I don’t know.
John Maher: Go ahead and try it. Wink, wink, wink.
John McDougall: Right. I don’t know. And I know that the affiliate marketing world and the black hat world and people are raving how they’re just getting AI content to rank, but I’m skeptical of that. I think Google is just going to keep getting better at detecting AI content. They’ve always looked at plagiarized or duplicated content.
So I would err on the side of doing podcasts, doing videos, and building your authority and really needing a really serious site so that you can be considered at the top there. So the SEO game actually just went up in importance and extremity of what you have to do, if it’s not bad enough already, how hard it is. I think it just probably got emphasized even more how hard you have to work.
Creating Quality Content, With the Goal of Being Cited by Google
John Maher: In order to show up, I’d imagine, in that AI content up at the top, Google wants that information to be accurate. So if they don’t think that your site is authoritative and accurate and has really good information from your vast experience or whatever, they’re not going to take your content and put you in the AI content and then give you a citation if they don’t think that your content is accurate.
John McDougall: Yeah. So hey, get on board with Talk Marketing podcasting and videos.
Personalized Search Results
John Maher: Right. How do you think that the Google Search Generative Experience will adapt to individual users’ preferences, maybe provide personalized search results?
John McDougall: So one cool thing about using ChatGPT that I like is you ask something, and then if it doesn’t give you exactly what you want, you modify, you say something again. But it’s like a conversation because it remembers what you last said, so it understands your next question in context of what you had said before.
John Maher: Right. I did one recently where I was like, “Give me a list of the national parks in the eastern part of the United States,” and it gave me a list. Then I said, “Which ones of these are within 600 miles of Boston?” And then it said, “Well, this one is this far away, and this one is this far away, so those are within 600 miles of Boston.”
So it knew, and I didn’t say, which national parks are 600 miles from Boston. I said, “Which ones of these?” just meaning these ones that you just gave me the answer to, which ones of these are 600 miles from Boston?
John McDougall: You’re talking to a robot, basically.
John Maher: But it understood that my first question, it answered, and then I gave a follow-up question, and it knew that that was a follow-up question to the original question.
Conversational Search Possibilities
John McDougall: And the search results with this are also going to be good with shopping. So I think it was Google’s example of best Bluetooth speakers for around a pool. And so it’s going to give you some ideas, but then show products right there. And then if you say, “But what about this aspect of those?” again, it’s going to remember-
John Maher: Same sort of thing. Which ones of these are under $50?
John McDougall: Exactly. Your whole buyer’s journey of discovering is a conversation with the robot, basically, but visually-
John Maher: It’s waterproof.
John McDougall: Right. But visually just cool. It’s like the new Google, so I don’t know.
John Maher: It gets a lot closer to that Star Trek computer.
John McDougall: Exactly. I always like that reference.
John Maher: You could just say to the Star Trek computer, “Computer, give me a list of this. Now, narrow it down to just this section, and then compare that to this other list and give me which ones are on both lists,” that kind of thing. And I always was like, “Oh, I would just love to have a computer that could do that kind of thing.”
John McDougall: And now we’re terrified of it because it’s here.
John Maher: We’re really close.
John McDougall: It’s here. It’s scary because we only see what they let us see. Elon Musk is scared of Larry Page in a way. They were buddies and hanging out late at night. And Elon said, he’s like, “Larry, we’ve got to put some guardrails on this AI stuff.” And he is like, “You’re a speciest.” “What? You mean I like the species? Yeah. I put the species before making the ultimate God Star Trek computer.” And Larry’s like, “Ah, what an idiot.”
So they battled over that. And so Elon went out and started OpenAI. I think that’s how that went. And so they’re not really friends anymore because I think Larry, it sounds like, is really aggressive with making this stuff happen.
So hopefully they both do good with it. Google’s obviously really impressive, and Larry Page is obviously a genius, but hopefully it’s for the good of humanity. There are some scary things about it, but just back down to the marketing SEO world side of it, thank God, again, that it’s a more reasonable experience. They are making an awesome thing for people to find information quickly like only Captain Kirk could have done years ago.
Effect on Keyword Research
John Maher: Right. How do you think that it changes, from an SEO perspective, things like a keyword research, so including keywords in your content?
John McDougall: It’s much more question-based than just phrase-based. So you can ask much longer questions and have deeper conversations, and people can use Siri or whatever now to just speak to their phone. And I think it already has headed that direction to a degree. This’ll enhance that.
I don’t think keyword research will totally go away, but I think those tools like AnswerThePublic and the SEMRush topic cluster, topic research tool, where it gives you common questions on poison ivy removal, you can go look at how people are searching with questions. And you’d be wise to use those in your podcast or just in your blog content.
Diversification Away From Blog-Only Content Strategies
John Maher: Do you think that we will see a diversification away from just blog-only content strategies where you’re just only using the blog and writing content?
John McDougall: Yeah, I think this puts the nail in the coffin of anyone that’s just like, “Oh, our SEO strategy is write a 500-word blog article once a week.” That’s a crappy strategy. You have to build your brand. You have to build your authority and show off your experience, and I think video and podcasts are a great way to do that.
I think just a blog strategy meaning a text blog strategy is a weak one. That’s why we like to put SoundCloud or Libsyn podcast player and YouTube video, embed videos inside of blog posts with the transcript under it and have YouTube optimization and making a popular podcast, or at least regular podcast and interviewing other people in your industry.
If you’re an HVAC company, you interview, like we did, Mitsubishi and LG and different brands. And I think that’s SEO now. And again, more important in this world where it’s so competitive to be in those top three results now. I think if you just have a text blog, I think it’s weak compared to understanding this very large world of YouTube optimization skills. I think there’s a lot to learn there. I’m still learning a lot about it, and we’re going to keep interviewing people on podcasting and YouTube for that reason.
Traditional SEO is still super important, but building your brand and showing your actual authors off, I think is critical compared to how it was in the past, where just blogging weekly worked. I think that’s less likely to be effective moving forward. It’s going to just be that much harder to get a lot of actual leads and traffic from SEO now. So we’ll see. We don’t know when this is going to launch live, but it seems to be coming.
How to Get on the Waitlist for Google Labs
John Maher: Right. So right now it’s part of what Google calls their Google Labs. So you can go…
John McDougall: labs.google.com/search.
John Maher: Right. So you can go there and sign up. I’m signed up.
John McDougall: Get on the waitlist.
John Maher: To get on the waitlist, and as soon as it becomes available, we can use it. But even then, it’ll be separate from the regular Google search for a while until they decide that it’s ready to move into the regular search results, right?
John McDougall: Yeah. And your ads that you’re running now, if you’re running Google paid ads, you don’t have a choice. They are in this new system, so you can’t opt out of that. So I’m running ads, my clients are running ads, and we’re potentially just appearing in this world, where who knows what the click-through rate is, if those ads are effective in this new thing. But it’s Google, so I’m not going to complain because they’re doing a service to the world, in a way. You make this amazing thing, but you can’t just opt out of that. You just have to go with it. It’s a new thing.
John Maher: Right. It’ll be interesting to see.
John McDougall: So sign up on the waitlist, for sure, and we’ll keep an eye on this and ChatGPT and what’s going on, because for Talk Marketing, it’s really relevant.
John Maher: Absolutely.
John McDougall: You’re not going to have good rankings with just the old school keyword stuffing or things like that.
Join Us Next Time on Talk Marketing Made Easy
John Maher: Right. All right. Well, great information, John. Great to talk to you again today.
John McDougall: All right, sounds good.
John Maher: And to learn more about Talk Marketing and the Talk Marketing Academy, visit talkmarketing.com and please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. For John McDougall, I’m John Maher. See you next time on Talk Marketing Made Easy.