Tuesday, May 21, 2024

5 Important Observations about the Evolution of AI Search in April 2024

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There’s a lot of evolution in AI search happening in April!. As we move into May, we are seeing strong signals that Google is refining SGE to go live. BrightEdge Generative Parser™ continues to monitor how AI is changing search with a focus on Google SGE as well as AI-First engines like Perplexity.  In fact, we are seeing Perplexity work more on honing its trusted sources and anticipating the follow-up questions users have .

To date, we still don’t have an official general release announcement from Google, but from what our BrightEdge Generative Parser™ has detected over the course of the month, there is evidence that a lot of changes are still happening.  We’re seeing SGE become more concise and even withdraw from areas that could make way for paid results. For marketers who are considering how to manage their paid and organic channels, this could provide some clues on how to optimize between the channels.

1. SGE started showing for significantly less queries at the end of the month

Starting around the middle of the month, we saw Google significantly pull back on the results where they were showing SGE results. The drop was largely at the expense of Opt-In results, which are usually the most common type of result to appear. Collapsed results seem largely unaffected by this shift.

There is no official word from Google on this drop, but it does suggest that marketers may see less impact when it goes live. We saw Google increase Opt-in results on the 21st of April, which suggests that this could still be part of an ongoing test. Regardless, such a drastic shift in visibility for SGE indicates that experimentation is still occurring, which could be due to stress testing SGE for deployment or making way for new formats of SGE in the future.

2. A sharp drop in product viewers on SGE

Since we began tracking Google SGE results in November, we’ve observed various modules emerge and then sunset. Currently, there are four primary types, each serving specific types of queries: a viewer specific for apparel queries, a carousel that groups products together, a standalone product viewer with expanded content and a value card which is like a condensed version of a product viewer. The product viewer, a general array of products that SGE displays, helps users browse through them. This has been the most common way for SGE to display products. However, on the 21st of April, we saw a significant drop in this type, while Product Carousels (which occupy less space on the search results page) and Product Viewers specific to apparel began to increase.

Product Viewer Results like these started to decline on April 21st:

Apparel Carousels began to increase:

Product Viewers Specific to Apparel Began to Increase:

 

There are a couple of reasons this could be occurring. One, it could suggest that Google is looking for ways to reduce the space that SGE results occupy in the search results (more on this later). It could also indicate that space is being cleared to test paid results. This would make sense, as we saw Google experiment with inserting product listings into SGE results late last year.  To date, we haven’t detected a result specific to paid. Regardless, if this trajectory continues, we may see Product Carousels overtake the product viewers in May, which would significantly reduce the real estate on a search result page for product searches. For more details on how to ensure your content is optimized for a product carousel in SGE, refer to our Ultimate Guide to Google SGE.

3. Sharp increase for Yelp on Perplexity

One thing that differentiates Perplexity from Google SGE citations is that, rather than relying on the entirety of Google’s index, Perplexity gives priority to a curated group of trusted sources. This means that marketers interested in driving referral traffic from Perplexity need to pay attention to which sites Perplexity is citing most frequently. In April, the BrightEdge Generative Parser™ detected some significant jumps in visibility for Yelp:

This has a couple of implications. First, it implies that Perplexity is increasingly relying on user-generated content to support their answers. It also suggests that locations are playing a more significant role in how Yelp addresses queries. For marketers who need to drive traffic to specific locations, this indicates that Yelp will play an increasingly important role in how Perplexity assists users. Ensure your presence on Yelp is optimized and up-to-date, as it becomes more crucial in this emerging engine’s responses!

4. SGE continues to get smaller 

Last month, we observed that Google SGE results were appearing smaller on the screen. This trend has continued, with Google experimenting with smaller display sizes towards the end of this month. As mentioned earlier, we are witnessing a shift to carousel-style shopping results, which tend to take up less space on the screen, a change that seems to be validated by recent observations. Ultimately, as we approach a broader release, this trend towards a smaller footprint suggests that traditional organic results will continue to play an important role and remain visible for most users. It also indicates that SGE is becoming more effective at delivering valuable answers in concise ways.

5. Warnings about Generative AI being experimental

Since Google rolled out SGE, it has supplied certain queries with warnings about the nature of the results. These warnings mostly concern content that could be misconstrued as medical or financial advice. Warnings are also issued for queries that could potentially relate to illegal activities or things that may be dangerous. However, a new warning emerged in April that seems to be broadly applied. Now, Google is reminding users that Generative AI is experimental:

This warning is being broadly applied across keywords in all the industries that BGP is currently tracking:

While this doesn’t necessarily warrant actions from marketers, it does suggest that Google is exploring ways to differentiate generative AI results from traditional search results. This could be a necessary step for advancing SGE results to live deployment, stemming from feedback gathered during tests conducted outside of the experimental phase last month.

The future of AI Search looks promising!

With more concise and deliberate results in SGE, coupled with prominent user-generated content in Perplexity, it appears marketers have plenty of opportunities to unlock value in both traditional and AI-powered results. With the broader release of SGE pending and Perplexity’s continued growth, it’s important to stay informed about the latest trends and learn how these new technologies are delivering results. To keep abreast of these advancements, we recommend regularly consulting our Ultimate Guide to SGE and our Guide to Perplexity, ensuring you have access to the latest insights and thorough analyses.

 

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