- 33% of local marketers have not heard of SGE.
- 41% of marketers do not feel confident they understand what SGE is.
- 73% of marketers do not know how SGE will affect local search results.
- Just 4% of local marketers believe SGE will make it easier to appear in local search results.
If you’re anything like us, every other subject line in your inbox likely contains the words ‘AI’ or ‘SGE’ at the moment. But that’s assuming all local marketers are signed up to a variety of digital marketing and SEO newsletters, and expert sources.
When your head is buried in the day-to-day, whether you’re responsible for a small business or managing several business locations, let’s face it—sometimes you just miss stuff.
With some users already actively engaging with Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE), but many others around the world unable to get a feel for this new search experience, it got us thinking about how ‘ready’ local marketers really are. So, we decided to find out.
We polled the BrightLocal user base, including freelance marketers and representatives from agencies, single-location businesses, and multi-location businesses, to get a snapshot of how people are feeling about SGE right now.
Recap: What is SGE?
Announced in May 2023, Search Generative Experience (SGE) is Google’s new way of integrating generative AI into search results. Collating key information from a variety of sources, and presented as a ‘snapshot’ at the top of search results, it’s essentially designed to enable more detailed searches from the beginning and encourage more conversational follow-up queries.
Currently, SGE is available to a limited amount of US-based users via Google Labs, and the wider roll-out date is unknown—yet expected to be in early 2024.
SGE in action: Have a look at what local search results look like in SGE, as well as what some of the experts are saying, in our piece What Google’s Search Generative Experience Means for Local Search.
1. Do local marketers feel confident in their understanding of SGE?
Before we can understand how marketers think local search will be affected, we wanted to measure how confident they are in really knowing what SGE is—apart from yet another digital marketing acronym.
- 33% of local marketers have not heard of SGE.
- Just 17% of marketers feel they have a confident understanding of what SGE is.
We expected to see low levels of confidence in terms of understanding what SGE actually is, but we were surprised to find that one-third of local marketers have not heard of SGE at all. It reinforces the point that not everyone in the business of local marketing is fully engaged with SEO news.
Meanwhile, less than a fifth of local marketers (17%) said that yes, they do have a confident understanding of what SGE is. That leaves 50% of users that don’t have a confident understanding of SGE—assuming the 9% of ‘I don’t know’ responses essentially mean ‘no’.
2. Do local marketers think SGE will make appearing in local search results easier or harder?
While we can’t know for certain what the full roll-out of SGE will look like for businesses, we wanted to measure users’ optimism towards potential changes to local search results. Do they think it will be easier to appear in local search results with SGE, harder, or about the same?
- 4% of local marketers think that SGE will make it easier for local businesses to appear in search results.
- 15% of marketers think it will be harder for local businesses to appear in search results.
Overwhelmingly, we can see that local marketers really just don’t know what will happen. Given the general lack of understanding and awareness around SGE, this is not exactly surprising. But it does tell us that, simply, marketers are not ready for the roll-out and its effect on their businesses or clients.
What should marketers do with this data?
Well, if you’ve also been feeling unsure about what SGE will bring, then the key takeaway is: know you are not alone!
It’s going to be an interesting time as we all get to grips with the Search Generative Experience but, in the meantime, here are some key considerations and sources to help you keep on top of the changes.
Agency and freelance local marketers
If you work for an agency or freelance for local SEO clients, the number one thing you should be doing is managing their expectations for changes to come. There will likely be an adjustment period, but, as more users search with SGE, it will also learn and change over time.
Prepare your clients ahead of time so that, on day one of roll-out, you aren’t bombarded with panicked questions!
Senior SEO Specialist, Andy Simpson, summed this up nicely for us and commented on how much SGE is changing already:
“SGE (and Google’s Bard) is seeing constant updates and changes, so what we see this week can be different the following week. It’s an exhilarating time to be in the local search space, how will it change the landscape of local search and/or search in general?
At this moment in time, depending on the search query, it dominates the top of the desktop/mobile search experience, users are going to either ignore it and think “what the hell is this” until they get familiar with it OR they won’t scroll down to the 10 blue links below, and the organic SERPs will be lost to many users forever… let’s just see where this ride takes us!”
In-house marketers and local business owners
On the flip-side, if you are in-house or managing local SEO for your own business, don’t panic. As mentioned above, SGE will change as it learns, so we wouldn’t advise making any drastic changes based off of a hunch!
SEO Strategist, Dayna Lucio, highlights how SGE should reinforce the key fundamentals of local SEO, such as Google Business Profile (GBP) information, and customer reviews:
“I think it more or less is continuing to showcase the things we already stress in local SEO—provide the information that users are looking for on GBP profiles and within on-page content and continue to pay attention to reviews, because this is another way that Google is highlighting those. Like anything with Google, I expect there to be multiple tests and changes as time goes on, so its hard to say what the impact will be.”
So, the key advice here is to continue to ensure you are grounded by local SEO principles and focus on your customers.
Community, industry news, and expert sources
- If you’re not already, we’d recommend subscribing to our newsletter—we regularly round up the latest and most important news in local marketing and wider SEO practices, as well as release our research findings and expert takes on the most talked-about topics in local SEO.
- Join our community of local SEOs in The Local Pack, a group of over 2,000 strong! This is your place to ask (and answer) questions, exchange insights, and discuss new changes and challenges in local search.
- Similarly, Sterling Sky’s Local Search Forum is a goldmine of all things local search, with many prominent local SEOs answering queries and providing advice.
- Our Expert Focus series sees local and digital marketing take on a variety of topics, from AI in local search, to agency culture and client engagement.
- Follow Google Search Liaison on Twitter (sorry, X…) for updates on SGE.
Do you have any strong feelings around the future of local search and SGE? We’d love to hear your thoughts or help answer any questions. Please feel free to comment in The Local Pack, tweet us @BrightLocal, or email [email protected].
This poll was conducted within the BrightLocal tool platform and received 378 responses from our user base, including local SEO consultants, and representatives from agencies, single-location businesses, and multi-location businesses.
- Do you feel you have a confident understanding of what SGE is?
- How do you think SGE will affect local search results?