Will Search Generative Experience Nuke Niche Sites

Will Search Generative Experience Nuke Niche Sites?

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Just yesterday, Google revealed new details about their Generative AI coming to search at their Google I/O event.

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Short named SGE, this essentially puts AI responses at the top of SERPs.

It is the AI equivalent of what we know now as “featured snippets”.

There has been tons of discussion about it already, including my own reaction which you can watch on YouTube here:

As the dust settles, and I’ve had a chance to calm the F down about it, I’m not as concerned as I first was.

This does seem like a huge change to search coming. But it could be a year away before we really feel it being implemented to regular search.

Google iterates these things slowly, and always has with new features. Many of them are small, and you just don’t notice them until… there they are.

SGE will begin as an opt-in on Labs, for testing, at first.

Later, it’ll probably become an opt-in, for US searchers, and then globally.

That’s likely when the real world testing occurs and Google gets real data about how this could impact search.

At the end of the day, Google cares about their pockets. So this needs to benefit their biggest revenue streams.

From what I hear, ads that appear on Google searches (SERPs) are worth somewhere around 70% of their income. Which is billions.

That’s those ads that people are paying for as ‘Sponsored’ at the top of the search.

So before implementing something that changes that dynamic for searchers, such as confusing them and changing too much too fast, will hurt their pockets.

Those ads aren’t going anywhere, and they are definitely going to show above Generative AI ‘snippets’.

Then you have the Gen AI block, which is huge by the way, before you get to the “first” result.

It’s unclear yet as to whether the Generative AI sites suggested in that block are actually the “top 3” of the SERP, or just what the Generative AI uses for their AI answer, or something else — none of it is clear.

As, currently, they’re not showing links indicated as “Sources” of information.

So, in some way they are ‘borrowing’ information from people’s websites to show on the SERP and I expect to keep them there.

More time on Google makes Google look better for the consumer, and more time on Google theoretically means more time seeing ‘Sponsored’ ads.

Google does still have an arm in people clicking through to websites, though, and landing on websites to see ads.

Not only Google Adsense, but Google Ad Exchange accounts for something massive like 80-90% of ads you see across the internet.

So they are earning when someone lands on your website that is showing ads, but it only accounts for something like 10-20% of their billions of revenue.

Therefore theoretically less incentivised to keep visitors clicking through to content sites.

Which is, obviously, where a lot of us are concerned.

In this current version they are showing thumbnails alongside Generative AI snippets for three websites consistently, which may bring in the need for better titles and better thumbnails (I’m thinking more YouTube click bait).

Extremely attractive images and faces on thumbnails might be really impactful.

But that’s mostly considering desktop, where you can still see those sites suggested in one screen.

On mobile, it’s not looking good, as those links are pushed down below a Gen AI block that takes up 80% of the screen space. Agh.

This isn’t all doom and gloom, but I think it’s critical that we all start thinking about niche sites differently.

Some have been saying it for months, even years, about building a real brand.

That doesn’t have to mean becoming a powerhouse organization and trying to compete with Forbes or Men’s Health.

But it does mean things like having a consistent and trustworthy persona behind a site, and the links and leverage from other sites (backlinks, but also more than that).

Having a diverse existence on the internet, where you’re clearly visible, popular, and supported by fans on social channels and communities.

As the announcement also showed plenty of ‘Perspectives’, which appear to be a lot of human faces in things like Shorts and video based content, that too is going to become more important.

Some have been saying this stuff or a long time, it’s time to listen!

Personally, I’m glad that I began this year getting stuck in to social, finally. And especially video for my niche site.

There are two great reasons to do that:

  1. Create this authority over your niche as a brand to support your SERP rankings
  2. Extend your following and traffic sources beyond just Google for diversification if things go south

Jacky Chou made a good point that click-throughs could be expected to drop down to half of what they currently are on Google search.

But if that is the case, it could mean that more clicks are going elsewhere. Like over to ‘Perspectives’.

Which is Shorts, video, and maybe new mediums we haven’t realized yet.

So, the moral of all of this is…

Start building the authoritativeness of your niche site into a wider reaching brand.

Consider social, video, collaborations, and making genuine connections to open up these opportunities.

Good luck out there!

If you have thoughts about SGE and ‘Generative AI’, I’d love to know what you think — just drop me a reply.

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