Google introduced SGE or Search Generative Experience as part of Search Labs on May 2023 I/O event. Though this is an experimental generative AI feature, it shows generated answers on top of all results in Google search page. That’s being said, it will affect everyone’s experience when using Google search. If you wonder what it is and how it works, here is how you can use Google Search Generative Experience to make full use of it.
Getting Access to SGE
As of now, SGE is not fully available to users from all the countries. Though it is primarily available for testing in USA, you can get the access after applying for waitlist. So, if you are not seeing generative AI answers in Google search, apply for the early access to Search Labs and check whether you can get it.
- Desktop – Open Chrome and click the Search Labs icon showing on top right corner to apply for the waiting list.
- Mobiles – open Google app and click the Search Labs icon to apply for the waitlist.
When you are approved, you will get an email from Google saying, “You’re off the Search Labs waitlist”.
Enabling Search Generative Experience in Google Search
As it is an experimental feature, you need to manually enable SGE for seeing AI answers in Google search.
- Open Google.com website and click the “Sign in” button showing on top right corner of the screen.
- Login with your Google account for which you got the Search Labs access.
- After that, click the Search Labs icon (this is on Chrome desktop).
- You will see the options for SGE, Code Tips and Add to Sheets.
- Turn on the switch showing in SGE card against “When turned on, SGE may appear when you search”.
- You will be prompted to read and accept the terms of usage. Click “I agree” button to accept the privacy note and proceed further.
As you can see in the privacy note, Google will collect the information used in SGE generative AI search. So, Google recommends not using personally identifiable data of you or others in SGE. You can anytime go to “My Activity” section of your Google account to review the data stored from SGE and other searches.
Using Search Generative Experience in Google Search
Let me explain with few examples to show how the AI response with SGE looks like and how it will change the future of search landscape. First, let me use the query “type bitcoin symbol” in Google search box and press enter key. You will see a fullwidth empty box above all the results showing “Generating…”. Recently, Google claimed they have improved the speed of this AI response generation but I still see the speed is comparatively slower.
After few seconds, you will see the AI generated answer as shown below.
If you find the answer to your query in AI generated response, then you do not need to do any other thing. This is called zero click search as you do not go through any other webpage for the answer. Note that, there are no options to copy the AI generated answer unless you manually select and copy the content to clipboard. This is something different than Google Bard which allows you to copy/paste and import the content to Google Docs.
Digging Deep into SGE Response
Other than the response portion, the new Search Generative Experience in Google search has the following features:
- Viewing Source Pages – there are three webpage sources showing as visible panels and you can click the navigational arrow to scroll through other hidden items in the carousel.
- Expanding AI Response – click the expand icon showing on top of the source page panels to view the complete details of how the response is generated from various sources. As you can see, Google will show the source webpage for each generated sentence in the AI response.
- Asking Follow-up Questions – below the AI response, you will see few auto generated queries for asking follow-up questions. You can click one of the buttons to continue your search as a conversation (this will take you to “Converse” mode as explained below).
Using Converse Mode in Google Search
If you are aware, Google search has many modes showing below the search box. By default, you will get answers under “All” mode showing all results like news, images, videos, etc. However, you can go to images, videos or news to get the relevant results instead of checking under “All” mode.
With SGE, you will see an additional mode called “Converse” in the list. You can use the converse mode to have a conversational discussion in continued manner instead of doing multiple searches. This is useful in situations like when searching for a location and then asking follow-up questions about the same location (like when you go for a tour).
Converse mode is similar to using Google Bard where you can chat with AI bot in a conversational mode. As mentioned, asking follow-up question from AI generated response will automatically take you to “Converse” tab. You can continue to ask relevant queries or click “Reset” button to start the conversation from the beginning.
Once you are done, click “Search” button showing on top left corner to get back to main Google search page. In my personal opinion, this is the correct way to implement AI as an optional mode instead of pushing SGE in primary search tab (under “All” section). In future, once the AI hype is settled, I assume the “Converse” tab will be available like other tabs without mixing with “All” search results.
Generating Tables and Other Type of Content
With SGE, you can be innovative when using search prompts. In addition to getting text links, you can get tables and simple chart data from the AI generated response. Here is what SGE shows when I asked for “generate a chart for iPhone sales in 2023”. Though the chart is not pretty, it is still a starting point with the required data.
However, table or chart data is not formatted properly like in Google Bard. Looks there is a long way to go for getting proper tables and charts from SGE.
Not All Queries Have AI Response and Source Links
Google does not show AI response for all queries. Some queries will show no AI response at all while few others show a prompt whether you want to get an AI answer. For example, SGE box shows “An AI-powered overview is not available for this search” when I searched for the query “maintenance mode code for WordPress”.
In another example, when I search for “planets symbols shortcuts”, it does not show automated response instead asking whether I need an AI response with a question, “Get an AI-powered overview for this search?”.
You can click the “Generate” button or ignore AI response and browse through regular search results links. There are also queries that do not show any citations. For example, the query “wp-config code for maintenance mode” simply shows the AI result without any webpage source links.
Generating Code Tips and Add to Sheets
Google Search Labs also has two other additional experimental features for getting Code Tips and using Add to Sheets option. You can enable these options and make the better use of search results. Here is how Google shows the AI response with Code Tips when I ask, “generate C++ code for falling stars”. Unlike SGE response, you can copy the code generated in AI response.
The problem with code tips is that it does not show citations in the response and the source panels also do not appear. I assume this will change in future with proper citations.
Add to Sheets in SGE
When enabled this is Search Labs, you will see few icons left side of each Google search results. However, these icons appear only on regular search result links and not with the AI generated response or with featured snippet. You can click the “Add to Sheets” icon and insert the link in any of your existing Google Sheets or create a new sheet with the link inserted.
Note: Remember, Cope Tips and Add to Sheets work independent of SGE in Google search.
Do Not Want to Use SGE
If you do not like to get AI generated response, then you have few options.
- Use Google search without logging into your account or with an account that is not approved for SGE access.
- Do not enable SGE in Search Labs and continue to use traditional Google search.
- Simply ignore AI response and scroll down to see featured snippet and other traditional search links in the results.
Later if Google forces SGE in search even for logged out users, then you will only have the last option to ignore AI response and check other results.
Review SGE Data in Google Account
Google will save SGE search queries in your account like any other searches you make when you have enabled history for “Web & App Activity”. You can disable this from your Google account anytime as explained below:
- Click your account profile icon and select “Manage your Google Account” option.
- This will take you to your Google account page and go to “Data & privacy” section. Check “Web & App Activity” item is turned on under “History settings” section. If yes, then click on that option.
- On the next page, click “Turn off” button and select either “Turn off” or “Turn off and delete activity” option.
That’s all about Google Search Generative Experience feature. Good thing with SGE is that you can see all source webpage links are neatly visible as panels unlike Google Bard. Though code and some special queries do not show citations, I hope that will change in future with additional optimizations.