Google’s New SGE: How Schools Can Prepare For It In 2024

Google's New SGE: How Schools Can Prepare for It in 2024 -- Truth Tree Knows School Marketing

By Maggie Twaroski, Truth Tree Contributor

Ever since artificial intelligence stepped into the marketing limelight, schools have been faced with both positive marketing potential and increased pressure to keep up. Some schools have been quick to jump on any AI tool they can get their hands on, while others are dragging their feet out of uncertainty.

Is AI really changing the way families search for schools? Does it help or hurt our marketing strategies?

These questions have been largely debatable up until now, but with the pending rollout of Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE), the answers are becoming more clear: AI is changing the way people find your school, and marketing teams should be prepared to use SGE to their advantage, especially when it comes to SEO. 

Here’s what school marketers should know about SEO in the wake of SGE:

What is Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE)?

Right now, if you search on Google, you’ll get a long list of organic and sponsored results that relate to your query. You’ll most likely browse through the top five results, toggling between the results page and individual web pages. With SGE on the other hand, you’ll get a comprehensive summary that combines data from multiple web pages into one, easily-scannable answer. 

While the current version of SGE is impressive, it’s worth noting that it’s still in the experimental phase and will not be officially rolled out until 2024. Right now, users can try SGE by turning it on in Search Labs. Since the general public isn’t using it yet, now is the perfect time to familiarize yourself with its features and adjust your SEO strategy (more on that later). 

Will it change the way people search for schools?

Yes. Busy parents are always looking to simplify the school shopping process, and manually sifting through individual search results can be time-consuming. With SGE, searchers can find answers to highly specific questions without needing to click through multiple search results. For example, a parent might search the phrase “Which Minnesota private schools have the best athletics programs?” In this case, AI would generate a detailed list of top-ranking schools, a brief description of each, and their accompanying links–all in one place. 

We know that 70% of school searches start on Google, which means the majority of your prospects are going to encounter SGE early on in their search. For parents who haven’t already tried generative AI tools like chatGPT, SGE will be a hassle-free introduction to AI. There won’t be any need to create new accounts or toggle between browser tabs—SGE will be seamlessly integrated into their traditional Google searches. And unlike ChatGPT, SGE includes direct links for additional browsing. 

Plus, SGE can also be used on individual web pages, which allows your website visitors to generate AI responses directly on the page. For example, if a parent finds your school’s home page (either from organic search or an SGE result), they can use “SGE While Browsing” to search for specific information like financial aid or extracurriculars without manually navigating through your site (and potentially losing patience in the process). 

SGE in action

When I search “tips for helping my child adjust to a new school,” generative AI instantly produces a thorough response, along with supporting links and the ability to ask follow-up questions. Similar to other generative AI tools like ChatGPT, asking a follow-up question will be a seamless continuation of the previous prompt, so you won’t have to conduct a new search. 

Screenshot of Google's SGE results after searching "tips for helping my child adjust to a new school"

Currently, SGE is known for its ability to contextualize and respond to complex keywords in a conversational manner. For instance, SGE’s suggested follow-up questions to the prompt about adjusting to a new school include: 

“How long does it take for a child to adjust to a new school?” 

“What are the psychological effects of moving to a new school?” 

“What do you say to a child starting a new school?” 

Though similar to the “people also ask” feature on Google, SGE’s answers to follow-up questions provide more information and resources than the singular web pages and short snippets in “people also ask.” 

How does SGE affect SEO?

Since SGE will extract information from top-ranking pages, the need for users to manually visit sites will diminish, along with some of your organic traffic. But before you sound the alarm, keep in mind two things:

First, an SGE response is not the be-all-end-all. Users will still want to manually browse traditional search results, especially when they’re further down in the admissions funnel. Second, SGE is valuable real estate for your website, and maintaining a strong SEO presence can help you be featured there. For example, a Truth Tree blog post on Google ads for private schools earned a featured spot in an SGE response because of its long-tail keywords, content quality and site authority. 

Screenshot of Google's SGE results after searching "what to know about google ads for private schools"

While you shouldn’t need to worry about any major changes to your SEO strategy, you may want to reevaluate your priorities. 

Here are four aspects of SEO that will play a big role in SGE:

E-E-A-T

The four pillars of E-E-A-T have always impacted your SEO rankings, but with SGE, they’re even more important. Google wants its SGE response to be as reliable as possible, which is why its AI searches for high-quality content that demonstrates experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. 

You’ll want to have a solid backlink strategy come 2024, as domain authority will be a key factor in whether or not your site is featured in an SGE snippet. To do this, focus on earning quality links from reputable sites (quality is better than quantity), through guest blogging, press releases, and podcast appearances. For example, your school could write a guest post on a parenting blog in exchange for a link to your website. 

Long-tail keywords

With AI’s ability to process nuanced questions, users will start searching longer, more complex phrases. While short-tail keywords will still be important, it’s worth shifting your keyword strategy to include longer phrases. Focus on your audience’s search intent, and the kinds of phrases or questions they would ask in a real conversation. SGE responses are essentially a dialogue between AI and the searcher, so the more your keywords mirror those conversational phrases, the greater chance you have of being recognized. For example, the phrase “What are the best STEM-focused elementary schools in Chicago with after-school programs?” will be more common than the search term “Chicago STEM schools.” 

Original Content

Has your school updated your blog recently? If not, now is a great time to start ramping up your posting schedule. The AI of SGE is looking for content that stands out–original insights and guidance that will be helpful and relevant to your audience. Remember that your blog should go beyond news updates and student spotlights (though these are important too). It should also provide informational posts on topics that your families really care about. Consider posts like:

  • Tips for improving parent-teacher communication
  • 5 reasons to get involved with extracurriculars this year
  • How to make private school more affordable

These evergreen topics will draw more organic traffic to your site and appeal to SGE’s search for original content. 


Preparing for the future of SEO

While AI is nothing new, the addition of SGE into Google’s search will undoubtedly stir the pot in users’ search experience, including families shopping for schools. Rest assured that SEO still matters, although you may need to slightly adjust your strategy. The main takeaway? Learning to use SGE to your advantage will be the difference between schools who excel in AI-driven marketing, and those who fall behind. 

Looking for guidance on adjusting your SEO plans for 2024? That’s what we’re here for! Book a discovery call today or stay updated with marketing tips in our e-newsletter

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