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6 minute read

Earlier this month, Google previewed what could be one of the largest changes to the search engine in its history – a radical shift that could compel brands to overhaul their entire digital marketing strategies given Google’s dominance in the online space, with nearly 95% market share across all search engines.

Google will use AI models to combine and summarise information from around the web in response to search queries, a product it calls Search Generative Experience (SGE).

Source: Google

Google’s new Search Generative Experience (SGE) could constitute one of the most significant changes to its search engine yet. Using artificial intelligence (AI) to generate summaries and responses to search queries, Google may soon be displaying paragraphs of AI-generated text atop its results page, rather than the traditional search engine experience – Ads at the top, search results below that, ads at the bottom.

Although this change is currently in testing and not widely available (currently only open for testing in the US), website publishers — including real estate businesses — are expressing concern. There are fears that if AI-generated summaries become Google’s default search result presentation, it might reduce traffic to their sites, keeping users on instead.

This shift would intensify the longstanding tension between Google and the websites it indexes. Instead of simply reproducing content in snippets from other sites, Google’s AI will now generate human-like text and responses after learning from vast swathes of the web. Critics argue that this approach could be detrimental to publishers who invest time and resources into creating high-quality content.

Given the dominance of Google in the daily online life of so much of the world’s population, it’s not an overreaction to say that we may be standing on the brink of a transformative moment that could prompt the most profound re-evaluation of digital marketing strategies in history.

What do AI-generated search results look like?

In adding generative AI to search, Google could have taken the route of Microsoft Bing, replacing the Search results page entirely with a ChatGPT-style messaging system.

Instead, it’s tried to incorporate AI-generated answers into the results page.

What Google calls an “AI-powered snapshot” appears at the top of the Search results page.

This is an AI-generated summary a few paragraphs long, including links to sites, intended to corroborate the information presented.

Below this, the snapshot presents a list of potential follow-up questions.

There’s also the option of another view, which breaks the snapshot down into its sentences, with a link to the sources for information for that specific sentence.

Search results in the conventional format of organic links appear below the snapshot, but they’re a long way down the page.

Given most people tend to click on the first few search results they see and rarely scroll down the page, it looks like the days of simple blue links dominating the top of the search results could be coming to an end.

What This Means for Real Estate Businesses

For Australian real estate agents and their marketing teams, this change could affect how your website content is accessed and interacted with by potential clients. Google’s goal is to keep users on their platform longer by providing more immediate answers to their search queries, which could result in fewer users visiting your site if your website lacks high-quality content.

This development underscores the importance of being proactive about your digital presence. Real estate businesses need to stay abreast of these changes or engage a reputable digital marketing partner who is, and consider how to optimise their online content, ensuring that it remains impactful and useful even if an AI is summarising it.

For businesses that rely on Google Ads, the new search interface might influence the performance of their ads. As the layout of search results pages changes, the visibility and position of ads may change as well. If ads are placed alongside AI-generated responses, users may be more likely to interact with the AI responses than the ads, potentially lowering click-through rates and ad performance.

Leaving your website, SEO and digital presence ‘as is’ could have dire consequences on your digital presence when Google rolls out SGE across the world.

While Google states that its AI doesn’t take information directly from websites, it does corroborate its responses using links to various sites. Therefore, producing high-quality, original content that Google can link to remains essential for businesses moving forward. However, for those real estate businesses whose websites remain ‘static’ with not much in the way of regular high-quality content being published consistently, this change could see them disappear from Google search completely.

Navigating the AI Frontier

The introduction of AI into Google’s search engine also brings legal considerations. Some publishers are contemplating whether they can prevent AI firms like Google from using their content to train their models. A number of companies have faced legal challenges from data owners, and the right to scrape web data for AI remains a contentious issue.

As a real estate business, it’s important to remain aware of this evolving legal landscape. Being informed about potential changes to copyright law or data access policies can help you protect your content and ensure it continues to benefit your business.

Preparing for the Future

With such a significant shift in the world of online search on the horizon, it’s vital for real estate agents and their marketing teams to be proactive, stay informed, and take steps to ensure your website and digital presence are optimised for this ‘new normal’.

The first step is to embrace curiosity and keep an eye on these changes. As Google continues to test and roll out its AI-based search, it’s important to understand how this will impact your digital presence. Ignoring this shift or assuming it won’t impact your business could lead to a sudden and surprising drop in online visibility and website traffic.

Collaborating with a forward-thinking digital marketing team is another crucial step. If you don’t have the time or resources to stay updated on these changes, ensure that you’re working with a team who does. A dedicated team will monitor these developments, understand their implications, and adjust your digital marketing strategies accordingly.

Here at Stepps, we are already looking ahead and working proactively on behalf of our clients. We’re keeping close tabs on the rollout of Google’s AI-based search and exploring strategies to ensure our clients’ websites and digital content are best positioned to maintain high visibility and reach.

While we can’t predict every detail of how Google’s new search interface will work, we can use our experience and expertise to make educated predictions and adjustments. Our priority is to ensure our clients stay ahead of the curve, and we’re committed to meeting this challenge head-on.

Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Focus on Quality: Create high-quality content that provides value to your potential customers. Google’s AI will need to corroborate its responses with links to authoritative sites, and your high-quality content can serve this purpose.
  2. Embrace AI: Consider how you might leverage AI within your own business. AI can streamline your operations, personalise customer interactions, and help you stay competitive in an AI-driven landscape.
  3. Stay Informed: Keep abreast of the evolving legal and technological landscape. Understand the potential implications of AI scraping and potential changes to copyright law on your business.

Remember, the goal remains to provide valuable and relevant information to your potential customers. Even as the mode of delivery evolves, the importance of quality content remains central to your digital marketing strategy.

At the end of the day, it’s about adaptability. Those who keep up with the changes and find innovative ways to engage with potential customers will continue to thrive in the real estate market.

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