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The Impact of Google SGE on eCommerce Content Strategy

4 min read

Although Google’s Search Generative Experience is still in the early stages, technically it’s a Google labs experiment, it’s causing concern among content strategists, especially those in eCommerce. I recently sat down with MarketMuse co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Jeff Coyle to discuss how SGE will affect content creation, potential loss of sales, and user experience.

While Google ads and organic search aren’t going away, the addition of what’s essentially an AI-generated answer does have some interesting implications. It’s sort of like a featured snippet; it appears right at the very top of the results, but the search experience is radically different.

Jeff shows a live demonstration of the search generative experience. In it he highlights Google’s use of generative AI, how it guides intent, generates content on the fly, and provides relevant information based on search results. With this example, he emphasizes the importance of understanding the topic layer, the shopping layer, the concept of query refinement, and its significance in the buyer’s journey.

Jeff also points out how content strategists need to consider the different types of intent like purchase intent or refinement. He emphasizes the need for comprehensive content that covers all aspects of a product. No doubt that eCommerce sites have significant work to do in this regard, but those with a strong content strategy and editorial operation have an opportunity to seize their advantage.

Google Search Generative Experience: Ecommerce Sites’ Concerns

It may still be early days when it comes to SGE but that doesn’t mean eCommerce sites are any less concerned. Chief among them are:

  • What impact will this have on sales?
  • How will this affect content creation?
  • What about the user experience?

As Jeff’s example reveals, Google is guiding intent, generating on the fly, and providing relevant information based on search results. So conten strategists need to become more familiar with at least the basics of the topic layer and the shopping layer. As Jeff points out, “In the e-commerce content maturity model, a lot of teams haven’t nailed what content they need to be creating.” So marketing teams can’t just produce content like usual.

Query Refinement & Buyer’s Journey Discussion

Looking through this example led Jeff and I to a discussion of the concept of query refinement, highlighting its significance in the buyer’s journey. Jeff demonstrated how to modify a query to “engagement diamond rings for women,” adding another layer of refinement. He notes that Google makes assumptions about user intent, such as browsing for products, and has identified different types of intent like purchase intent or refinement. What becomes apparent is that eCommerce sites need comprehensive content that covers all aspects of a product, beyond just a basic category page.

Content Strategy Evolution: A Small Blurb and the User Experience

During our conversation about content strategy and its evolution, Jeff references an example of a common practice of some e-commerce companies. They like to use a “small blurb of content”, typically placed below the fold in the footer, as part of their content strategy.

At first glance, this seems pretty innocuous. After all, virtually everyone does this — putting content below the fold in the hope it doesn’t distract visitors from purchasing.

But as Jeff points out, there’s great potential for this approach to create a poor user experience. The reason is that Google has constructed a SERP with a link pointing to this bottom part of the page, an FAQ. Most likely, the original constructor of this page didn’t envision this experience.

Yet another reason why Ecommerce companies need to think differently about how they create and deliver content.

E-Commerce Content Strategy: Buyer Journey Essential

As we wrap up our conversation, Jeff and I examine the importance of understanding the buyer journey in e-commerce content strategy. It’s not enough to just cover bottom-of-funnel purchase intents. Ecommerce sites need to provide content that covers the entire buyer journey. That’s the best way to make sure your content is part of the search generative experience.

However, as Jeff points out, you need to showcase that understanding of the buyer journey and not just create content for the sake of it. This isn’t just a checkbox that you need to tick. You’ll have to create genuinely helpful content. Additionally, you’ll need a strong content strategy to keep up with Google’s evolving intent refinement. It’s not just a set and forget type of thing.

There’s no doubt that many eCommerce brands have significant work ahead of them and will need to make major shifts in their content strategy. A robust content strategy coupled with a strong editorial operation, will give you a significant competitive advantage. If you don’t have those elements already in place, now is the time to get them aligned.

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can connect with him on social or his personal blog.