Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) refers to the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms in Google Search to generate relevant, engaging, and contextualised content. This experience allows users to interact with a conversational interface that provides answers to their queries, recommends relevant information, and offers personalised suggestions based on user preferences. This is like chatbots such as ChatGPT but also leverages 3rd party websites and existing search results.
It allows for more complex and nuanced searches by leveraging advanced language processing techniques, such as sentiment analysis, entity recognition, and natural language understanding. The aim of this experience is to improve the overall search experience for users while providing them with a more intuitive and efficient way of accessing information.
Google SGE is currently only available to beta testers inside the United States but is expected to be rolled out to other locations and languages over time.
How will Search Generative Experience affect law firms and other websites?
Google SGE is likely to have the largest impact on informational search queries. Informational queries involve users searching for answers to specific questions, such as “How long does it take to divorce?” or “What are the steps for buying a house?”. For law firms, this may have an impact on traffic related to blogs or FAQ-type content, although Google does include the pages that it uses to generate the answers, so users will probably click on these to get more information.
We generally expect Google to be a bit more cautious in generating answers for questions in the legal sector. This is because Google tends to be much more cautious about giving answers to so-called “Your Money or Your Life” topics, such as giving financial, legal, or medical information. Google may hold back on generating answers for these kinds of queries out of fear of being held liable for giving false information that could have serious consequences. A recent example in the news of this is when two lawyers were fined because ChatGPT created fake cases as citations that the lawyers used in court.
Organic search results are unlikely to go away, but they may become less prominent, especially for informational queries. As mentioned above and shown in the screenshot, Google SGE includes the pages used in its answers, so there will probably be a lot of competition to be included in these results, rather than the organic results that will be shown below SGE in the search results pages.
How will Search Generative Experience affect local search?
Since local search is very important for many law firms, with consumers looking for solicitors that are near to where they live, local search results will remain an important part of SGE. As you can see with this example below from Brightlocal, the map pack will remain a prominent part of local results. In fact, it is even more prominent than it currently is:
This ultimately means that Local Search, and getting into the Map Pack, will become even more important after the rollout of SGE, as there will be less room for the standard organic links to be displayed.
What can law firms do to ensure their websites stay relevant after Search Generative Experience rolls out?
As mentioned in the above sections, Google will probably be extremely cautious about offering AI-generated advice on legal topics, so it is possible that results may not change as much for the legal sector as other sectors where there is less risk of false information causing very serious problems.
Google will almost certainly use existing content that is in their index and will cite that content to avoid falling foul of copyright law. Continuing to ensure that your website has high-quality content will make it more likely that your website’s information is utilised and cited in SGE and that you still show up in the organic search results that will be shown below SGE.
For the time being, we wouldn’t recommend making any major changes in advance of Search Generative Experience rolling out; continue to write high-quality content that is more likely to be featured in SGE answers, increase the authority of your website with digital PR, and improve your local citations to improve your prominence in the map pack.
If you have any questions about what the Search Generative Experience means for your law firm, or you'd like to discuss our search engine optimisation services, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0117 325 0200.