How we seek and consume information has undergone a BIG transformation in recent years. Artificial intelligence (AI) for schools leads the charge, reshaping your families’ searches, decisions, and even their understanding of your school.
Whether it's researching the intricacies of financial aid or searching for the best arts program, information can be dense and sometimes hard to sift through. Google knows this is a challenge, so they've introduced an innovative tool to streamline a user's search experience.
A new feature from Google is delivering search results written by artificial intelligence, combing the web, and delivering your answers on a silver platter with its Search Generative Experience (SGE).
What is Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE)?
Google SGE is a new feature that harnesses the power of generative AI to swiftly provide answers to what they're looking for online. Sounds like regular old SEO, right? The difference is that SGE uses AI to generate a unique response to a user’s search, drawing information from several sources at once.
Instead of just links to websites on the search engine results pages (SERPs) or showing snippets of information, Google SGE can write answers in full responses, a function similar to OpenAI’s AI-powered language model, ChatGPT.
To be clear, AI and machine learning are different, and this difference is important, especially when considering AI's role in search engines.
Think of it as a souped-up version of Featured Snippets, but instead of extracting information from websites, SGE employs generative AI to provide direct answers from organic search results. While it’s currently only available in the US, India, and Japan, SGE is still in its experimental phase and hasn't yet rolled out for all users.
How does this change things? A Google search for a school's tuition or a program for those with learning differences might not drive as much organic traffic to your school’s website in the near future. Instead, users will find Google answering their questions through generative AI, and the feature could possibly remove the need for clicking on links altogether.
Bad news for your school’s organic traffic, right?
Similar concerns came about with Google’s Featured Snippets. Typically, websites earning the coveted “snippet” spot often saw a high search engine ranking and high click-through (CTR) rates because they were optimized for what users wanted — remember, Google rewards those using SEO best practices.
How Can Search Generative Experience Assist Users?
Think of the parent swamped with lengthy articles while researching your school or its curriculum. That's where "SGE While Browsing" jumps in. It's crafted to enhance a user's interaction with long-form content. As they surf the web, certain pages will allow users to tap into and unveil an AI-constructed list of pivotal takeaways the article touches on.
Moreover, these points come with direct links that take you straight to the relevant content within the page.
For users wanting more, the "Explore on page" option presents questions the article addresses. Users can leap to the section that reveals the answer with a simple click.
For instance, let's say you're reading a lengthy piece about the merits of a particular private school. Rather than scrolling endlessly to find the student-to-teacher ratio or the list of extracurriculars, "SGE While Browsing" can guide you straight to those points.
Pros and Cons of Google SGE
Beyond aiding a search query, this tool is pretty versatile, and for parents exploring private schools, the search goes deeper than tuition and open house dates.
AI simplifies the process of families researching a school's mission and sorting through vast amounts of information to provide curated results. The process becomes user-centric with AI-driven platforms and search engines because "SGE While Browsing" can streamline a user's search.
Among SGE's offerings are AI-curated snapshots and a “conversational mode,” which remembers the user's search context and refines results accordingly.
However, there are boundaries. This feature only crawls content that the public can access freely and content that’s not protected by logins or constituent portals.
Would This Affect My School’s Google Ads?
Yes, and no…It’s reported that 95% of Google's revenue is through display and PPC ads; that’s why the search engine results page (SERP) isn’t going away anytime soon. Google wouldn’t want users to only engage with its SGE. If Google stopped traffic from going to websites, they’d be cutting their own revenue, so for the time being, Google is unlikely to turn its back on the revenue-generating search results.
In the example below, you can see Google’s sponsored ads are presented before the SGE results.
“We are still trying to help people find the best information that exists online,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who is “confident” Google’s SGE won’t eliminate its business model.
“Inherently, people are also looking for commercial information, and ads are very valuable commercial information because they connect merchants and businesses, small and big, to users. None of that changes just because we are applying AI deeply. When we evolve search with generative AI, we’ll apply the same principles.”
The Continued Importance of SEO for Schools
Which district offers the best resources? How diverse is the student population? What's the student-to-teacher ratio? With AI, these answers are more accessible than ever before. Amid the advancements, where does this leave Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Will Google SGE be the end of SEO for schools? Nope! Your families still want and prefer a strong user experience.
Google stresses the importance of creating content and web pages following the E-E-A-T acronym, having recently added an extra “E” to represent experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Personal, thought-provoking content, first-person narratives, relevant keywords, and long-tail queries, like “What steps do I need to take to apply for financial aid?” will be more valuable to users.
While traditional methods of visiting schools and districts, talking to administrators, and relying on word-of-mouth are still invaluable, integrating AI into the search process is undeniably redefining how parents approach these decisions.
SEO aficionados can breathe a sigh of relief. While Google's generative AI is impressive (and a little scary), great website content is still necessary for AI learning. Search engines like Google acknowledge users prefer human-curated content laden with nuance, authenticity, and diverse perspectives — qualities AI won’t replicate anytime soon. Quality content remains a cornerstone, and if you're in the business of producing amazing content for your school, Google is still eager to reward your efforts.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.