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By Claire Shaw

May 15th 2024

Social media

What SGE could mean for Affiliate Marketers

May 15th 2024

SGE (Search Generative Experience) is not recent news; we’ve been aware of Google’s new AI approach to search results for some time, and it’s now currently available to US users, with a general rollout expected later this year.

When performing a Google search, SGE will provide you with an instant summary from referenced websites, designed to provide users with more relevant, accurate, and personalised information, as has been the purpose of Google’s recent Helpful Content Updates for many months.

While there is a lot of speculation about how exactly SGE is going to affect marketers, particularly through SEO and affiliate publishing, there aren’t any definitive answers yet. So how can you prepare?

How Google SGE may affect Affiliate Publishers

Studies have shown that Google displays a Search Generative element for 86.83% of all search queries, and shifts the no.1 organic listing down and out of sight on an average desktop view. This could see a huge impact on the effectiveness of organic listings and the traffic generated from them.

The top industries effected by SGE include:

  • Healthcare - 76% of queries triggered SGE
  • E-commerce - 49%
  • Technology - 48%
  • Education - 44%
  • Restaurants - 36%
  • Entertainment - 36%
  • Travel - 30%
  • Finance - 17%

Zero-click searches will increase

‘Zero-click’ searches are generated by the user gaining the information they need directly from the SERP, rather than having to click through to a website. By having SGE provide users with their answers directly, rather than having them navigate to a website, affiliate publishers could potentially see a large drop in organic traffic by up to 30%.

What this means is businesses will need to optimise their content to the highest possible quality to ensure that SGE is returning results from their own websites, as SGE values high-quality content over thin and unhelpful webpages.

During the testing period, studies showed that for most queries, SGE actually replaced the featured snippet, which has been a grail position for SEO marketers for many years.

The more pages you have that support rich snippets, the higher the chance you have of featuring both on SGE and the SERP. You can see if your page supports featured, or ‘rich’ snippets, using this Google tool.

Paid ads will dominate

Paid ads remain at the top of the search results page, directly above, below, and sometimes even within the new SGE section. While there may be a decrease in the CTR on ads (up to 30%), since users can now potentially get their answer straight from the SERP without having to click on a link, it’s still a key place for visibility and potential earnings.

Promisingly, if an ad does generate a click, it’s more likely to lead to a conversion, since the ad will be highly targeted and relevant to the context of the search query and any subsequent follow-ups. However, competition is sure to intensify due to the lack of ad space in the new SERP format, and will probably result in higher costs as well.

Paid ad marketers may need to shift their strategy to include long-tail and broad match keywords in order to cover the more conversational way of searching that SGE is bringing into effect. As top-funnel keywords are predicted to be more impacted than bottom-funnel keywords, with these more general queries more likely to be answered within SGE, it may be vital to maintain a good CTR.

Thin content will be invisible

Thin content is defined by Google as content that has ‘little to no value to the user’. Content that lacks structure, depth, originality and quality has been penalised by Google for a while now, especially since their Helpful Content Updates, and SGE will make these pages essentially invisible once it comes into effect.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to put a content overhaul into place. By following Google’s guidelines, you can ensure that your content is high-quality, useful, and most importantly, visible to the search engines.

Follow-up function could impact Keyword Research

For years, marketers have been able to research and integrate keywords into content with the focus of matching a user’s search query. However, with the addition of the ‘follow-up function’ in SGE, which enables a user to literally ask a follow-up to their original search query, the semantics of a user’s search is going to become far more important than just matching their query with a keyword.

Comprehensive research into a user’s full customer journey will need to become part of every marketer’s strategy in order to return the best results for their queries.

Space on the SERP will shrink

Although it’s a known staple, there may not be 10 organic search results on a SERP for much longer. With more real estate on the page taken up by paid ads, SERP features, and SGE itself, marketers will find themselves fighting for a reduced percentage of the SERP.

The inclusion of discussion forums in an effort to provide unbiased content could further reduce the space available on page 1, and for competitive terms, marketers may be competing for only 20% of available space.

No SGE tracking

Currently, Google Search Console doesn’t appear to take SGE results into account yet, and there’s no report on whether this will be included in the future either.

AI-powered search engines will probably mean that KPIs for measuring performance will have to be tweaked, taking alternative methods and tools into account for reporting on visibility.

What Measures can you take to prepare for SGE?

While SGE is not available in the European region right now, due to ongoing legal issues, these measures not only help to prepare for a potential (and perhaps inevitable) rollout, but put into place optimisations that can only help you grow your affiliate business.

Create an App

There are lots of benefits to creating an app for your business, including:

  • Building a stronger brand
  • Providing a better user experience
  • Strengthening customer relationships
  • Increasing your visibility

In anticipation of SGE, an app can be a vital way of building a loyal customer base and brand without having to rely on organic traffic.

A great app serves as a brand ambassador for your business, providing unique value, engagement, and personalisation for users. It also allows you to connect with customers directly through push notifications, instantly providing important news on things like sales, promotions, and new releases.

Optimise your product pages

  1. If you’re not already using it, insert structured data (otherwise known as schema markup) into your product pages to help the search engine understand and categorise your content. You can read our article here on how to implement structured data on your website.
  2. Make use of reviews, comparisons, and feedback on your product pages. Google will favour pages in SGE that provide the user with a comprehensive overview, including other people’s opinions and experiences with a product.
  3. Consider tagging your products to add another element of comparison. For example, you could cluster shoes as ‘Good for running’, ‘Waterproof’, and ‘Sustainably made’, or books by genre, or make-up by colour, etc.

Improve your content

Hone in on Google’s E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) principles to provide the highest possible quality content for users.

Research PAA

Search results are now being provided based on the user’s intent, rather than the exact keywords they’re using. By researching PAA (People also ask) you can gain valuable insights into the questions users are asking Google right now, and plan your content accordingly.

Paid tools like SemRUSH can be used to research the questions users are asking, or alternatively, you can try the manual (and time-consuming) way of plugging queries into Google and scraping any PAAs that generate with a scraper tool.

Focus on getting high-quality backlinks

High-quality backlinks remain a key factor in boosting your website’s credibility, and therefore increase the likelihood that you’ll rank higher in the SERP and SGE results.

By creating high-quality content, your organic backlinks should increase as more people link to you as an authoritative source.

For tips on how to build a great backlink strategy, read our article here.

Add real reviews and feedback

Part of the reason Google is changing the way the results appear on the SERP is due to their focus on providing personalised and unbiased content and reviews from real people.

By adding real reviews, feedback, and comparisons to your products, services and content, you add a better user experience, and gain a better change in appearing in the search results.

Branch out on Social Media

Focus on growing your audience on social media, and think about utilising lesser-used platforms like Pinterest, Discord, and Snapchat. By engaging with customers outside of search engines, you can open a new stream of revenue based solely on social media interactions.

Connect with your audience, be regularly active, and provide useful and engaging content on your channel to build a good online reputation and highlight your brand.

Focus on Paid Ads

Switch up your strategy to include long-tail and broad match keywords and focus on bottom-funnel keywords.

To prepare for SGE, you may need to consider:

  • Optimising your landing pages.
  • Using unique images to draw the user’s attention.
  • Refining your audience targeting.
  • Adjusting your bidding strategies.
  • Utilising new features that may appear.

What you can do right now to optimise for SGE

Optimise your page speed

Google places a lot of value on speed, as part of its focus on user experience.

By using free tools like PageSpeed Insights and Google Search Console, you can investigate what elements may be slowing down your page speed, and work on correcting them.

Core Web Vitals, including Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), Interaction to Next Paint (INP), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), are a set of metrics that measure the loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of a page. By monitoring and optimising your Core Web Vitals, you can have a better chance of ranking highly in the search results.

Add author pages

Another quick and easy way to optimise for SGE is to provide Author information on your articles. By showing that your content is written by real people, you’re helping indicate to Google that you’re providing unique and ‘real’ information.

Write a small bio for each Author landing page, and optionally, add a photo for that extra personal touch.

Create unique images

Unique images stand out, and compared with the same product image copied and pasted from the advertiser again and again, will gain you more visibility and interest from users.

SGE may also favour original images for its results. Ensure that you optimise each image by giving it a relevant filename and alt text.

Create high-quality content

The average word count on articles within the first page of Google varies between 1,700-1,800 words, which is a great indicator of how in-depth your content should be.

By sticking to the E-E-A-T principles, and following a few key guidelines, you can ensure you provide high-quality, informative, and useful content to your audience:

  • Add important keywords early, and make sure the first couple of paragraphs are engaging. Consider adding statistics, or summarising the content into a bullet-point list.
  • Focus on providing the best possible experience for your reader - consider who they are, what they may want to know, and how you can provide that information.
  • Add engaging, unique, and high-quality images and videos to your content. They will be a large part of SGE, and can significantly improve CTR.
  • Structure your content with headings to provide additional context for Google’s crawlers, and a better user experience for your reader.
  • Check your facts, and provide your sources.
  • Thoroughly check your finished piece for any errors or spelling mistakes.

Presenting yourself as an authoritative expert on your subject will increase your credibility, and the chances of your content being picked up for SGE.

Give your old content an overhaul

Conduct a content audit to target old, outdated pages that can then be either removed, redirected, or updated with fresher content.

Use GA4 to check if your pages are getting any traffic, which will be the first indicator on what you should do with a piece of content. Then, using a paid tool like SEMRush, you can also check if a web page is currently ranking for any keywords, and if it has any quality backlinks to it.

  • Remove a page if: the content is no longer relevant, and there is no current traffic, no ranking keywords, and no backlinks.
  • Redirect a page if: you already have more updated or relevant content in place.
  • Update a page if: there is steady traffic, ranking keywords, and backlinks, but the content is outdated and needs refreshing.

Consider removing outdated content; it can also free up your Google crawl budget for crawling more recent and relevant pages on your website.

Focus on the lower end of the sales funnel

There are four types of search intent:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Consideration
  4. Conversion

Going forward, SGE will likely take care of a user’s awareness or interest of a subject through zero-click search, providing surface information without a user having to click through to a website.

This is why it might be wise to hone in on the consideration and conversion parts of the sales funnel when SGE comes into effect, as this is where a higher CTR is more likely.

By using long-tail keywords, you begin to drill down into a customer’s purchasing journey, matching more specific results to their query.

For consideration, provide information like:

  • Detailed descriptions of services or products
  • How-to guides
  • Demos and walkthroughs
  • Troubleshooting guides
  • Local case studies
  • Social proof
  • Comparison guides
  • Reviews

For conversion, consider:

  • Easy access to purchase or contact information
  • An easy booking process
  • A clear pricing structure
  • Testimonials

Try providing engaging elements like video content, infographics, checklists, quizzes and calculators in your content to gain a higher conversion rate.

Embrace Change

Google SGE is not the death of SEO. By staying adaptable and modifying your marketing strategy as we move forward into AI-generated territory, you can continue to effectively drive organic traffic to your website.

While search algorithms continuously evolve, key SEO principles including providing valuable content and enhancing the user experience remain essential for achieving success in online search.

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