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The Influence of Google’s Search Generative Experience on Advertising

Apr 25, 2024 | 2024, April

A recent study has investigated how Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) influences ad placements within Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This research, carried out by the SEO platform SE Ranking, reveals that:

• Ads are predominantly found at the bottom of search results, regardless of whether an SGE snippet is present or not.
• Compared to shopping ads (carousels), ads placed at the top of the SERP are more likely to be accompanied by SGE snippets.
• Shopping ads (carousels) tend to be positioned above the SGE snippet.
• Industries such as Fashion and Beauty, along with Ecommerce and Retail, have a higher propensity to display shopping ads.

The significance of analyzing Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) on ad placements in Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) cannot be overstated for businesses and marketers. This understanding is essential for making informed, data-driven decisions to optimize marketing strategies effectively.

In their investigation, SE Ranking scrutinized 100,000 keywords across 20 different niches, which varied in search intent and volume. This comprehensive analysis aimed to shed light on the frequency of Google’s AI-generated responses, the extent of content within the SGE, patterns of linking, differences across niches, and how ads are placed.

The results of the study, which focused on instances where SGE snippets containing text were displayed (18,455 times), revealed several key findings:

• Ads were found at the top of the SERP 4,280 times, accounting for 23.19% of the cases.
• Ads appeared at the bottom of the SERP 6,499 times, making up 35.21% of the instances.
• Shopping ads, presented as carousels, were observed 2,660 times, or 14.41% of the time.
• Notably, in 5,016 cases (27.17%), no ads were present alongside the SGE snippets with text.
• These insights offer a valuable perspective for optimizing ad placement strategies in the evolving landscape of search engine results, influenced by generative AI technologies.

The study further delved into the interaction between different types of ads and text-based Search Generative Experience (SGE) snippets. The findings highlight the diverse ways in which ads are integrated with SGE responses, emphasizing the dynamic nature of ad placements in Google’s SERPs. Specifically, the research uncovered:

• In 1,018 instances, both shopping ads and ads at the top of the SERP were present alongside SGE responses.
• Shopping ads were found alongside text-based SGE snippets in 2,660 occurrences.
• There were 3,262 cases where only ads at the top of the SERP were shown with text-based SGE snippets.
• Additionally, the study noted the flexibility of carousel shopping ads, which can appear in various positions relative to the SGE snippet, including above, below, or even in the sidebar. This versatility in ad placement offers advertisers multiple ways to capture the attention of search users, depending on the context and content of the SGE snippet.

The research also explored where shopping ads are most commonly placed within the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) featuring the Search Generative Experience (SGE). The findings indicate a pronounced preference for positioning shopping ads above the SGE snippet, underscoring a strategic approach to ad placement that likely aims to capture user attention effectively before they engage with the generative content. Specifically, the study reveals:

• Shopping ads were positioned above the SGE snippet in 2,969 instances, which represents 80.72% of the time. This overwhelmingly favored placement suggests advertisers and Google prioritize this location to maximize visibility and potentially the effectiveness of the ads.
• In 502 occurrences, amounting to 13.65%, shopping ads were found below the SGE snippet. Although significantly less common than the above placement, this still represents a notable strategy for engaging users who have scrolled past the initial generative content.

• The least common placement was in the sidebar, with shopping ads appearing here 207 times, making up only 5.63% of cases. This suggests that while sidebar ads are an option, they may not be the primary focus for advertisers aiming to leverage the visibility offered by SGE SERPs.
• These insights into ad placement preferences provide valuable information for marketers looking to optimize their ad strategies within the evolving landscape of search engine marketing, particularly in the context of generative AI technologies.

SE Ranking’s commentary on their findings emphasizes the dynamic and rapidly evolving nature of Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) and its implications for search engine marketing. The spokesperson highlighted the importance of staying vigilant and responsive to changes, which seem to occur almost daily. This point was underscored by a comparison to their earlier study from late 2023, where only 4% of keywords did not trigger an SGE snippet, a figure that has since increased to 12.3%. This shift indicates a significant change in how often SGE responses are generated, underscoring the fluidity of the landscape and the need for continuous research to keep abreast of these developments.

From Google’s perspective, Philipp Schindler, SVP and CBO of Google, shared insights during Alphabet’s 2023 Q4 earnings call that ads will remain a crucial component of the new Search experience. Google is committed to experimenting with new ad formats that are native to SGE, aiming to enhance commercial journeys by presenting relevant ads alongside search results. Schindler’s remarks also suggest that Google has observed positive user engagement with ads positioned both above and below the AI-powered overviews, indicating these placements offer useful options for users to connect with businesses and take action. This aligns with Google’s broader strategy to integrate advertising seamlessly with new technologies and search experiences, ensuring that ads remain relevant and beneficial to users.