How Can Small Business Owners Prepare for Generative AI in Search Results?

Understanding the potential impact of AI on search results

Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence that can create content, whether it be text, images, or even code, that is indistinguishable from what a human might produce. Its integration into search engines is redefining how information is retrieved, processed, and presented to users.

For almost a year now, Google has been quietly testing dozens of potential changes to the search interface, in an opt-in only Google Labs experiment called the Search Generative Experience.

Before we dive in further, let’s take a look at what some of those experiments look like, so you can understand the type of changes that search engines like Google are experimenting with and how those might affect your businesses visibility in organic search.

Here’s an example of how generative AI might be used to generate text based answers to user questions and queries.

As you can see, this search result looks pretty different compared to the 10 blue links and ads that we’re used to seeing when we do a Google search.

Most impacted query types here are likely to be those informational intent queries. Most at risk might be traffic to your blog content – guides, how to’s, lists, what is XYZ, A Vs B… anything where users are coming to your site from organic search looking for an answer or for information.

Here’s a similar example but this time with what we’re calling “Shopping Enhanced” generative AI results.

Notice the length of the query here too… most of us wouldn’t dream of Google-ing something like that now. Over the years, we’ve been conditioned to rephrase our questions to be more keyword rich and shorter to get the best results in search. You can expect that kind of user behavior to shift dramatically over the coming years, as AI enables people to search successfully in a much more natural way, using natural language processing. We wrote about this in our 2023 SEO news roundup, where we also talked about our predictions for SEO in 2024 –

Here’s a slightly different example, this time highlighting a potential new way to perform searches. In here, you can see genAI output from a multi-modal input – a user is searching using a combination of image and text as a prompt. The AI:

  • Understands what the picture is
  • Understands enough about the text to be able to predict, with a high degree of confidence, the words that the user wants to see as a response
  • Contextualizes the content of that picture with the meaning of the text
  • Generates an answer to the question and displays it directly in the search result, without the need to link to where the answer lives on other sites elsewhere on the web.

And here’s one more example of an existing search feature, with generative AI layered on top:

Here you can see something akin to the traditional maps pack, but with generative AI summaries or highlights on each business.

Up until now, these AI powered changes to the user interface of search have been contained in the Search Generative Experience.

But some of these changes will inevitably come to mainstream Google search over time.

So what should businesses expect from the upcoming changes to search?

Why do we even care about changes to the search results page?

Well… changes to the traditional 10 blue links, brings new opportunities for users to find answers and solutions through search. Each change brings new opportunities for your organic search traffic to be impacted – whether that’s competitors taking advantage of new features to eat into your share of voice, or the AI itself providing the answer.

The bottom line for business owners is that there’s about to be a lot more opportunities for you to lose some portion of your organic search traffic.

On the other side of that… Some of the generative AI enhancements we’ve seen in SGE and talked about above, will bring huge opportunities for organic search growth for those businesses who are ready to put in the work now to lay a better foundation for themselves in the changing search landscape.

Take another look at that first example.

Notice those links taking up half the screen space on the right?

A recent research study ( found that “93.8% of generative links (in this dataset at least) came from sources outside the top-ranking organic domains.”

Think about that…so all of those links you see at the top of these types of searches are being chosen by some other set of ranking factors.  Understanding what powers those links gives business owners a whole new opportunity to jump straight to the top of search results, in this new search feature.

Let’s take a re-look at another example.

Go back and check out the “best Italian restaurants nyc” query.  This is the type of location based search that most small businesses owners want to be found for, right?  Understanding what type of structured schema markup data to add to key pages on your website to help Google understand that you are a “Italian restaurant in NYC”, for example, will be crucial if you want to appear here.

So you can start to see how these changes to the search interface could hold major opportunities for small businesses to get ahead.  Or fall behind.

How can you prepare for what’s coming, and position your business for success in the changing search landscape?

With all of these changes, Search Engine Optimization and the details needed to be successful at it, become more complex and more complicated.

Your business might need to spend more time on code-based tasks like implementing schema markup, or technical SEO tasks, or high quality original content creation, or competitor analysis, or even other new ranking factors that we don’t fully understand yet.

As with most things, making sure you have the right people on your side can be the make or break, and the difference between gaining market share and losing it to a competitor.  A lot is still unknown right now about how search might change over the year(s) ahead. But what we do know is that change is coming.

At Marwick Marketing, our advice to all of our small business clients right now is to stay as up to date as possible about advancements in AI, be open minded to new possibilities, and of course, to make sure you have the very best digital marketing team in your corner who can help you navigate what’s to come.