Examples of the SGE in action, Topic Authority system, Microsoft Copilots and Plugins: Episode 288 - May 29, 2023

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I had the opportunity to test Google’s new AI experience in Search. I really like it! In this episode I’ll share as much as I can about what we are seeing so far and what types of websites are being featured alongside AI generated answers. We need to be paying close attention to what Microsoft is doing with copilots and plugins as these will allow businesses to easily use AI and connect their applications with any Microsoft product, including Windows.

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In this episode

SEO Tips and NewsAI News, Local SEO, SEO Jobs

Subscriber Content

Each week I send some extra stuff to subscribers based on observations, insight and conversations I have with business owners as we navigate this new era of AI and search.

  • Google ads with AI – everything is changing and there is so much opportunity
  • Analyzing websites featured in the SGE – some have links built to them, some are gaming topical authority and some demonstrate experience
  • Diagnosing whether this site was impacted by the December 14 link spam update – detailed info on how I determined this site was hit and whether or not they should disavow.

See all subscriber PDFs.

The SGE is live!

Google’s AI generated answers in search are available to some to beta test. I really like the SGE – Search Generative Experience so far, although from what I’ve seen on Twitter, many SEOs are not impressed with it so far. I think it’s important to remember that this is a beta product. I expect we will see it go through many changes and tests.

There are two main things to talk about: The search results and also converse mode.

I did a bunch of searches on the SGE, but now that it’s time to write newsletter and take screenshots all I am able to see is Converse mode. (I think it’s better actually!) I’ll share some tweets from the community and also some video I made to show Converse mode.

When Google decides to show the SGE, it generally shows an AI generated answer with three websites shown to the right:

In this case, the websites shown are Reddit, Twitter and Pinterest – all user generated content.

Next, for this pop culture query, AI generates a very detailed answer about Pokemon.

This is a fascinating lesson in intent. The query was to compare two types of Pokemon. The AI generated answer knows what factors are important to compare and focuses on how to level up these Pokemon. I think it is recognizing that the true intent of most searchers who type this query would be to figure out which levels up faster. This is likely the main reason why most people do this search.

Also, you can see by the title of the websites shown that they are focused on leveling up these Pokemon. Note that there is no meta description snippet shown for these articles. It is going to be important for us to optimize our images and titles that are seen in search to best match user intent.

Next another informational query. 

It is interesting to note that the websites currently ranking in the top organic positions are not necessarily the ones shown in the SGE.

For the query “SEO”, websites shown are MailChimp, Search Engine Land and a Google review. 

Why Mailchimp? They currently rank #7 for this organically. From what I can see, their article is quite helpful when it comes to fulfilling searcher intent to learn what SEO is. The intent of someone who types in “SEO” likely is to understand what it is. 

Local Searches

Local search is going to change. Often the SGE is showing many local businesses for a query. The order is different than current local rankings:

For local searches, the SGE appears to pull a lot of information from reviews.


The SGE does answer YMYL queries, but cautiously.


I added some labels to these screenshots from Techcrunch

Note: What I had labelled as a possible toggle back to regular search does not appear to be so now that I have access to the SGE. It is a button to do a new conversational search.

Converse mode

This morning, I could no longer access the SGE. Instead I had the option to use Converse mode. Converse mode did not give me AI generated answers, but instead allowed me to dig deeply into search results. Once again, Google thoroughly understood my intent and showed me very specific results and videos demonstrating real life experience. It would make sense to me if we soon see AI generated info interspersed amongst these results.

Here is another quick search where I did a search and refined it in Converse mode to get a much more relevant answer.

Concerns over lack of attribution

I have seen several people note that the AI generated answer is essentially plagiarizing their site. Google replied to this tweet saying that the SGE is an experiment and they will continue to improve.

I can’t see how Google could go live with the SGE in this state. If they are crafting answers by directly taking text from websites, without making that clear, there will be widespread outrage. Not only will the AI crafted answer steal traffic from them, it will do so by using their content.

Questions about the SGE

How do I get access?

It’s still in beta testing. If you are in the US you can join the waitlist. A few of us who publicly share on SEO were given access despite being outside of the US, but I still need to use a US proxy to use it as I am in Canada. 

Why do the color schemes change?

Google’s documentation on the SGE (which should be read by all) says “Color also plays a big role in helping people clearly understand SGE is a new way to interact with search. For instance, the color container of the AI-powered snapshot will dynamically change, and this usage of color will evolve over the next few months to better reflect specific journey types and the query intent itself.”

Are the SGE results representative of the traditional search results

So far, no. The websites recommended in the SGE and in Converse mode are not the same that currently rank organically. 

How many searches trigger the new AI chat?

Last night when I tested it, I’d estimate that 50% of my searches brought up an AI generated answer. Many times it did not, but asked me if I wanted one. This morning, zero searches bring up an AI generated answer. We are still in early testing days. 

Is personal info you put into the SGE safe?

Google says, “We use queries and other feedback to improve the predictive quality of SGE. But similar to autocomplete, we take steps to prevent any personally-identifiable information that may be contained in a query from being used for model training purposes.”

Are news stories covered?

So far I have not seen News stories covered in the SGE. Converse mode does not bring up AI generated answers for me today but it will be interesting to learn which websites appear here.

They appear to be listed in the same order as currently in organic search.

I found it was good at allowing me to ask specific questions to dig in and find the information on the web that you are looking for. 

How will we track these things?

We do not know how these rankings will be reported in GSC. I don’t envy rank tracking tools trying to keep up with the changes as I’m sure what we see in the SGE today will look quite different in the future. 

I suspect that GA4 will become more and more useful as we understand how to analyze data with AI. 

Are there pros for bloggers? 

If your blog is simply recapping information that can be found elsewhere and sprinkling in a bit of experience or personal opinion, I am concerned.

But, if your blog truly is written from a place of personal experience, I am excited for you especially as we see how Google’s upcoming update to the helpful content system rewards experience. 

From what I have seen so far, only a few websites will be shown in the SGE. I expect that ranking below the SGE will not have much value. Ranking In the SGE will likely be limited to:

  • Authoritative sites
  • Real world businesses
  • User generated content talking about real life experience
  • Bloggers and Youtubers sharing real life experience

In the subscriber section I share a bunch of ideas on demonstrating experience.

Will people be likely to use the SGE?

New from Google on Topic Authority

Google published a blog post to tell us about something they have used for a while now for news searches called Topic Authority. It is interesting to see how they worded this though…”Google Search and News”:

“To better surface relevant, expert, and knowledgeable content in Google Search and News, Google developed a system called topic authority that helps determine which expert sources are helpful to someone’s newsy query in specialized topic areas, such as health, politics, or finance.”

Google tells us they are soon going to add to their documentation on Google’s systems a Topic Authority system. 

If this system is not new, then why is Google telling us more about it now? I believe it is because they are reminding us of the importance of being known for producing original and insightful content on your topic. I expect this system will apply to more than local news sources and extend to all kinds of topics. This would make sense with the upcoming Perspective update we have been talking about.

Shorts will become more searchable on YouTube

Flamingo is a visual language model (VLM) from Google’s DeepMind. It can take visual input like videos and understand context and content. 

Here is the announcement from DeepMind:

I’d also recommend reading their blog post on making YouTube Shorts more searchable.

It makes sense to me that this technology will be used in Google’s upcoming Perspectives update to the helpful content system. This is the one in which they will surface hidden gems demonstrating experience in the form of “long and short form videos, images and written posts”

I can picture many queries where it would make sense to have YT Shorts shown alongside the AI generated answer. Say you are searching for when to harvest garlic…The AI generated answer would give you an answer based on the language model’s training and connections plus the information in the knowledge graph. That will take care of any factual queries. Many people will seek out further information from those with experience. What a better way to do that than to see a one minute video of someone who is actually harvesting their garlic.

Microsoft Copilots and Plugins are a huge deal

Microsoft’s announcements this week are almost too much to comprehend. I’ll start by sharing my understanding of copilots and plugins.

Plugin: A plugin is a tool that allows you to use AI tools like ChatGPT to connect to business applications. 

Copilot: A copilot is an application that is essentially an AI assistant. It helps you get things done. For example, Github copilot will let you turn plain language prompts into coding suggestions.

Microsoft announced that they are adopting the same standards that ChatGPT plugins use, across all of Microsoft’s copilot offerings. Copilot is in Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, Teams, and now, in Windows as well. 

It’s a big deal having AI capabilities across all of these products, especially on Windows – on every PC! Copilot connects with all of your apps.

An even bigger deal is the fact that Microsoft is making it incredibly easy for businesses to create plugins. 

Today’s ChatGPT plugins are buggy and slow. I expect we’ll see them improve rapidly. I’ve already noticed a huge improvement in the web browsing plugin now that Bing is added. 

What Microsoft announced this week is not ChatGPT plugins though…it’s an entirely new system across all of Microsoft’s products. Their blog post says the copilot represents a new paradigm and a profound shift in the way that software is built

I recommend watching the video from the keynote presentation at Microsoft Build.

Microsoft announced a GA4 competitor

Microsoft Fabric is an AI driven analytics platform for the era of AI. To me, this sounds like what GA4 is supposed to be. Perhaps GA4 will make more sense once we move to more AI driven search.

ChatGPT browsing plugin showing recent news

ChatGPT plus users have Bing as a web browsing plugin now. It’s faster than the plugin I demoed last week and better although it still does fail from time to time. 

Recent news

I asked questions about Microsoft’s event. ChatGPT used Bing to browse the web and it gave me an excellent summary. 

I asked ChatGPT to summarize the headings on Search Engine Round Table. It did a great job. I’m not sure how this can continue as I got all I needed from Barry’s site, but didn’t even visit it or see his ads. Or perhaps this is a new era where everything we put on the web for public consumption is game to be used by AI unless we specifically block them from crawling. But then…if the world moves to get their information from AI, I expect that those who restrict the entirety of their content from being used to train LLMs or from being crawled will be like businesses who only advertise in the Phone Book.

Zillow plugin

At Microsoft Build, they demoed ChatGPT inside of Bing. The search was:

What are some neighborhoods in Chicago with good restaurants within walking distance?

Bing provided an answer describing the most walkable neighborhoods in Chicago. The searcher then asked:

Can you find me 3 houses for sale in Hyde Park, Chicago. Less than 1 million. No condos or apartments.

Bing used the Zillow plugin to produce a few houses for sale:

Writing a legal document with the help of a plugin

They showed an example of writing a legal document in Word, and asking Copilot:

Replace the limitation of liability clause using the Practical Law plugin:

Is a limitation of liability for a party’s negligence enforceable under California law?

Copilot calls on the Westlaw plugin which does the analysis and comes back from a legal perspective.

This week a lawyer got in big trouble because he didn’t know that ChatGPT could make up sources. Plugins from known reference sources like I’ve shown above should make the issues with hallucinations or fabrication of information much better.

AI News

Meta has a new open source language model that translates across 1000+ languages

Meta Released a new open source language model called MMS that allows for speech translation across 1100+  languages. 

The Massively Multilingual Speech (MMS) project used recordings of the Bible’s New Testament as a dataset as it’s a corpus of text that has been translated into many languages.

When I read this, I could not stop thinking about two bible verses. First, is Genesis 11 where the people built the tower of Babel to make names for themselves. God confused the languages of the world saying, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”  Soon, those language barriers will be removed. 

The second is the New Testament encouragement to “preach the gospel to all creation” in Mark 16. For centuries, Christian missionaries have traveled to nations to spread the gospel, or in other word, make the bible available to people of all nations and languages. It’s that work that will be used to make AI accessible in every language and will make people be able to communicate with no language barrier.

I’m not sure where I’m trying to go with this, but felt I needed to include it. This tool is telling me that those verses are likely AI written. 


SEO Tips and more news

The last sites to switch over to mobile first indexing were moved this week.

Site names are now supported for subdomains on mobile devices.

There was a problem with job search listings this week.

There was a bug that resulted in less traffic to video content between May 4-17.

Here is Barry Pollard’s process for assessing Core Web Vitals (an important component of page experience.)

How to track mailto links in GA4

Good thread from Tony Hill on entities, topics and WordPress tags.

Google’s documentation on the SGE says that Quality Raters “are used to train the LLMs”. The QRG says raters give Google examples of helpful and unhelpful results. It makes sense to me that these are used to help train machine learning models. Which means that the way to align with what Google’s algorithms want to reward is to align with the ideals they describe in the QRG.

Aleyda Solis has updated learningseo.io. This is such a good resource.

A thread from Charles Floate showing how he is using ChatGPT as an assistant to help him create and market a website. This is a really good thread because it is not just someone blindly doing a silly experiment with ChatGPT, but rather, shows how you can truly get value from using it to help you alongside your own thinking and expertise.

More AI news & info

Bard now shows images. I thought they were going to be AI generated, but they are actually images from websites. 

I have heard good things about this course from Google to boost your skills on Generative AI. It includes an introduction to large language models and explains how transformer models like BERT work and more. I will definitely be doing this at some point soon.

Interesting read on WorldCoin – the proof of personhood technology cofounded by Sam Altman. It uses eye scanners to look at the color of your iris and verify you are a live person.

OpenAI launched a program to award $100,000 grants for helping develop a plan for a democratic process for deciding what rules AI systems should follow.

AI regulations in Europe may make it so OpenAI cannot operate there.

Neuralink got FDA approval this week to launch its first in-human clinical study. Here is an article on the development of novel brain-computer interface technologies

Adobe is adding generative fill to photoshop.

Neeva shut down their search engine

Nine observations about ChatGPT worth reading.


Local SEO

There is a bug making it impossible to add new owners to GBP

The call data in your GBP may be wrong.

Good thread from Mike Blumenthal if you are having issues with images being not approved in GBP.

SEO Jobs

Looking for a new SEO job? SEOjobs.com is a job board curated by real SEOs for SEOs. Take a look at five of the hottest SEO job listing this week (below) and sign up for the weekly job listing email only available at SEOjobs.com.

Senior SEO Specialist ~ Searchable ~ $65k-$85k ~ Remote(US)
SEO & PPC Specialist ~ Gigster HQ ~ $90K ~ Remote (US)
SEO Specialist ~ Mannix Marketing ~ $55k-$73k ~ Remote (US)
Sr Manager, SEO & Growth ~ Loom ~ Remote (US)
SEO Analyst ~ Smarsh ~ $73k-89k ~ Remote (US)

Subscriber Content


Login Subscriber PDF list

Each week I send some extra stuff to subscribers based on observations, insight and conversations I have with business owners as we navigate this new era of AI and search.

Subscriber Content

  • Google ads with AI – everything is changing and there is so much opportunity
  • Analyzing websites featured in the SGE – some have links built to them, some are gaming topical authority and some demonstrate experience
  • Diagnosing whether this site was impacted by the December 14 link spam update – detailed info on how I determined this site was hit and whether or not they should disavow. It is a really interesting case!

See all subscriber PDFs.

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