Recently, Google has started to roll out a new addition to SERPs – the Search Generative Experience (SGE). By leveraging language models, Google can predict and generate search results that go beyond merely matching keywords to delivering comprehensive, personalized results that align more accurately with users' needs. This powerful technology has effectively transformed the way information is found on the internet, with profound implications for SEO.
As Google becomes more adept at interpreting and responding to user intent, SEO strategies need to evolve to stay effective. This means that content creators and SEO professionals must focus not just on keywords but also on creating high-quality content that truly addresses user needs and intent.
“But, Curtiss, what does this mean for Paid Media? What should we be doing? Should we pause our Paid Media campaigns and focus on SEO?”
- I’m glad you asked. Keep reading.
- NO! Do not pause your Paid Media campaigns and rely solely on SEO.
The Advantage of Paid Media in SGE
To start: Do not think of SGE as an enemy. SGE is an ally. A counterpart. Much like SEO + Paid Media, or Facebook + Instagram, or Chicken Wings + Hot Sauce.
While organic visibility may change with SGE, Paid Media has its own advantages that continue to make it relevant. Here are the main ones we want to highlight:
You can laser-focus your Paid Media campaigns (whether Search, Discovery, Pmax, Social, Programmatic) on specific audiences with increasing accuracy, reaching users actively interested in your product or service. Options range from targeting based on In-Market, Affinity, or Third-Party audiences, or even creating audiences based on keywords and even allow us to exclude audiences from our targeting. While SGE might make it harder to rank for certain organic keywords, paid ads allow you to bypass the noise and land in front of your ideal customer.
Data-Driven & Actionable Insights
Paid Media platforms like Google Ads and Meta Ads offer a vast wealth of real-time data and analytics. You can see what resonates with your audiences, test different ad formats and creatives, and continuously optimize your campaigns for maximum impact. Sure, SGE can personalize search results for users, but your paid campaigns allow you to personalize your brand message for specific audiences.
Immediacy & Control
Give me a landing page, an ads account, and a credit card, and I can get you to position 1 on the SERP today (most of the time; some restrictions apply). In addition, since we decide what message to include in our ad copy, we have the control that unfortunately SEO does not. The example I always give is Black Friday ads. Since SEO takes time to make its way up the SERP, you’re hard-pressed to find a brand doing SEO around their Black Friday offering. For Paid Media MOST brands run Black Friday ads, some target EVERYONE that is searching, others dial-in their audiences, targeting users who’ve previously visited specific pages on their site. Regardless of the targeting method, paid media allows you to show up when you need to for important sales, promos, and events.
SGE is all about information. Paid Media campaigns give you the opportunity to tell unique brand stories, make emotional connections, and drive brand loyalty. With AI powering the landscape in front of us, a human touch is critical in creating compelling messages and standing out in a crowded SERP to reach users with the right message at the right time. ::cough:: retargeting based on pages visited or products bought ::cough::
If you're wondering what that image is in this section, it's a quick and dirty DALL·E 2 image created by our Director of Marketing with the (admittedly, very lazy) prompt "a clever digital paid media banner ad promoting the services of the digital marketing agency named Be Found Online." Without a brand book, brand guidelines, and human eyes guiding the design, this isn't even close to brand standards (and the text is unintelligible).
Lead Generation and Conversions
While SGE prioritizes informative content and (from what we’re seeing) aims to keep users on the SERP, paid ads excel at driving on-site conversions. Through paid ads, you can target your campaigns to capture leads, generate sales, and track user journeys from click to purchase and everywhere in between. SGE can guide users along through research and consideration, but your paid ads are what helps close the deal!
Adapt Your Paid Strategy to the Age of SGE
Search. Search. Search.
Take a look at the SERP. What does SGE look like for your brands? For your competitors? Look at the topics and questions/search queries that SGE is ranking for in your space. Take notes and integrate those themes into your ad copy and creative to seamlessly align with SGE Trends!
Don't Just Target Broad Keywords
Look at intent-driven keywords and incorporate long-tailed phrases and question-based keywords into your campaigns. (Don’t forget negative keywords!) Using these new keywords will attract users who are already doing research and are considering solutions and services like the ones you’re offering.
Okay, kind of, but not AI like you’re thinking. Utilize dynamic and responsive ad copy and formats to see what resonates with your audiences in the SGE environment. Test new images, test videos, use all 15 headlines, use all the characters or only use half the characters. The possibilities are endless! Your goal is to create messaging that grabs attention and stands out from SGE/organic results.
Leverage Your Data and Insights
There’s a wealth of data in your paid platforms that helps you to understand your audiences, optimize your campaigns, and optimize your strategies. And don’t get siloed! Running Google Ads but not LinkedIn Ads? That’s fine. You’re still using the LinkedIn Insight Tag, right? Right?!?! Come on! It’s free information about people coming to your site and you can use it to find new audiences in Google Ads. Looking at SGE, while it might present new insights about user behavior, your paid campaigns allow you to take action on those insights and tailor your messaging and copy accordingly.
Roll With the Changes
Change is constant, especially with Google. SGE isn’t the enemy, it’s simply another change to the SERP that we as marketers need to embrace. Leveraging the strengths of paid media, our tried and true practices, and our data to fuel our evolving strategies, we can coexist with SGE much like we’ve been doing with SEO all along. (And if you’re not coexistings with SEO, please read this.)
Got specific questions about how to pivot your paid media campaigns? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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When Curtiss is not being a Brewmeister, brewing amazing craft beers at Big Cat Brewing Company, in Cedar, Michigan, he is BFO’s Paid Media Team Lead with a specialty in marketing automotive brands. Curtiss is known for his super-human energy and loves taking a project from start to completion. He understands the world of digital media through and through and manages to juggle multiple curveballs, be a terrific team player, and a super coach to his staff.
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