What Is Google SGE and What Does It Mean for Local Search?

May 13th, 2024, 09:00 AM

Now that Google Search Generative Experience (SGE), Google's ongoing generative AI-based search experiment, has been live for 'Google Labs' users for about a year, what do we know about how Google SGE affects local search?

In this article, we'll take a closer look at local SGE results and provide some insights into what Google SGE means for local SEO.

What Is Google SGE?

Launched in May 2023, Google SGE provides Google Search users with new ways to view search results, offering quick and clear overviews of results and answers to follow-up questions via AI-powered modules.

In other words, rather than simply providing a list of organic and paid search results in answers to queries, Google SGE displays a list of suggestions drawn from multiple sources at the top of results, summarizing each of them and providing additional exploration options. 

AI-powered SGE overviews contain links to sources that users can visit for further information, as well as automatically generated follow-up questions, which users can click on to gain additional insights into different angles on a topic. Users can also type their own follow-up questions into a text search box, resulting in a more chat-like search experience.

Overall, Google SGE aims to provide users with an easier way to get detailed responses to complex queries, providing quick answers based on information from varied sources. It does this by trying to better understand the intent behind searches and providing more complete, more conversational answers, rather than just giving users a list of sites containing relevant keywords.

Why Don't You See Google SGE Overviews?

As of May 2024, Google Search Generative Experience is still technically an experimental feature, so SGE overviews aren't available for all searches. 

Google SGE is currently available in 7 languages and 120+ countries and SGE overviews are displayed in a subset of all searches performed by users in those countries.

For some searches Google SGE might be available, but it won't appear automatically. Instead, you have the option to click a button to manually generate it. For other searches, an SGE overview may appear automatically. 

This functionality is likely to change as Google gathers data on user adoption and engagement and decides on the best way to implement SGE.

If you're not seeing Google SGE results in any of your searches, you may need to turn it on via Google Labs.

As Google continues to collect user feedback for its generative AI search experiment, we'll likely start seeing the feature rolled out into more and more searches, including local searches.

How Does Google SGE Affect Local Searches?

Local search is one of the verticals for which Google SGE can provide users with more context, specifically by providing AI-powered insights that make it easier to compare and explore options when it comes to local businesses and other places.

When a user performs a local search on Google, they may be shown a local SGE overview, containing an expanded version of the local pack (the top Google Business Profile results) and summaries of each business's services, amenities, and reviews. 

These local Search Generative Experience overviews also contain a map displaying all the businesses' locations.

How Are Local SGE Results Different from Google's 3-Pack?

At first glance, a local SGE overview might look fairly similar to Google's 3-Pack, or the traditional interface in which Google displays the top 3 Google Business Profile results for local searches.

However, the local pack in Google SGE results is slightly bigger, showing around 5 GBP results. Each result in SGE's 5-Pack includes a short AI-generated description of the business, which may include a summary of the businesses offerings and key takeaways from customer reviews.

At the bottom of the local SGE results, users can ask follow-up questions to get additional information that can help them choose which local business or place to visit.

Keep in mind that below the local SGE results Google will still display a traditional 3-Pack, which may or may not overlap with the Search Generative Experience local pack results.

Are Local Rankings the Same for Google SGE?

Now here's where things get pretty interesting in terms of Google SGE and local SEO — according to early local SGE experimentation, SGE local packs and traditional 3-Packs don't necessarily contain the same results or follow the same rankings.

In half or more of local searches, SGE results may not match the content or rankings of the traditional 3-Pack results, while in the other half the top 3 SGE results might align exactly with Google's 3-Pack.

Since Google SGE is still experimental and isn't yet fully rolled out for all local searches, it remains to be seen whether this continues to be the case or whether local SGE results and traditional local pack results align more closely in the future. It's certainly something to keep an eye on.

What Does Google's Local SGE Mean for Local SEO?

Now that you know a bit more about what Google SGE results look like for local searches, you may be wondering what exactly Google SGE means for local SEO.

Well, although Google Search Generative Experience is still experimental, all signs point towards an eventual full rollout, so it will definitely change how local search results are displayed in the long run, not to mention how users engage with those results. This means that local SEOs will have to adapt their strategies accordingly.

Here are a few specific areas in which Google SGE might affect local search and local SEO:


Since local SGE overviews are displayed above both Google's 3-Pack and organic search results, and the AI results take up a lot of on-screen real estate, they are going to have the most visibility.

Additionally, since the AI-powered overviews contain more results than the traditional local pack, SGE may make it easier for businesses to earn a top spot on Google for local searches (they could have a 1-in-5 chance instead of a 1-in-3 chance).

User Experience

Because of the way information is displayed via Search Generative Experience results, SGE may change the user experience for local searches, reducing the need to engage with a business's GBP to get information, read reviews, or click through to their website. 

This could potentially lead to a decrease in organic traffic for some businesses, both to their GBPs and websites.


SGE is designed to return tailored results for both more general, short-tail keywords and more specific, long-tail searches.

Because Google SGE ranks businesses based on information from a large variety of sources and is designed to provide conversation-style results, businesses may have additional opportunities to rank in local pack results for highly specific search queries, in which the users have very precise search intent and perform searches in a more conversational manner.

Performance Tracking

While it remains to be seen how Google SGE will affect local SEO in the long term, businesses and local SEO professionals will likely need to set new benchmarks for performance that align with how local search results are displayed and how users interact with them in SGE overviews.

Google Business Profile Optimization

Since local SGE results will push organic website links even further down in local search results, optimizing Google Business Profile will be more important than ever for businesses looking to increase their visibility in local search results.

How Can You Optimize for Local SGE?

There's not enough data on local SGE rankings right now to say with certainty how to optimize for Google SGE.

That being said, the businesses appearing in local pack results for SGE are typically those that have highly optimized Google Business Profiles, including complete business information, categories, attributes, reviews, images/videos, etc.

So, in order to achieve more visibility in local SGE results down the road, for now you should keep focusing on optimizing GBP following best practices for optimizing Google Business Profile

You may want to put some extra time and effort into selecting additional secondary categories and attributes to more completely represent your business's products/services and offerings, as well as providing answers to FAQs in the Q&A section of GBP and using GBP Posts to promote certain aspects of your business. 

All of this could help the business show up in more Search Generative Experience results for highly specific, long-tail queries, as well as results for SGE follow-up questions.

Other local SEO tactics that could contribute to improved visibility in SGE results include:

  • Get more reviews on other third-party sites (SGE pulls from more sources than GBP)
  • Add LocalBusiness markup to your site to give Google key, locally relevant business info
  • Optimize other listings to ensure consistency and accuracy across directories
  • Add FAQ content to your site, providing SGE with clear answers to relevant queries
  • Implement local link building to get valuable backlinks from locally/industry relevant sites

The good news is that anything you do to try and optimize a business for Google SGE is going to positively contribute to your overall local SEO strategy, increasing your chances of appearing in Google's 3-Pack for traditional local search results as well.

As Google continues to roll out Search Generative Experience for more local searches, we'll have access to more data and insights on how to optimize for SGE, and we'll be sure to keep you posted and provide you with more tips and best practices!

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