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Google SGE First Look -- How Does it Stack Up to Bard, Bing Chat, and ChatGPT for Search?
Google search generative experience (SGE) video demo
Google showed a short demo of its new conversational search solution at the I/O developer conference earlier this month. It is in a limited beta test, and I was able to get early access. The video shows where Google is right now with its solution. I also show direct comparisons between SGE and Google Bard, Bing Chat, and OpenAI’s ChatGPT in the video.
The video above is the full version with all of the comparisons. We also have a shorter video highlighting a few more features and focusing only on the Google SGE solution.
To access Google SGE, you must apply for access to Google Search Labs. Google SGE is only accessible today through the Chrome beta version browser.
What is Google SGE?
Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) is Google’s response to the rise of ChatGPT and Bing search’s generative AI features. It operates identically to Google search today but adds a generative AI response at the top of the page. This is followed by the option to chat about the response, a list of traditional search link results, and sometimes an answer box is inserted in between.
The idea is that Google SGE is an “answer engine” supplemented by the traditional search experience. Google has long considered how it could use generative AI technologies to augment the search experience, and it is being forced to move quickly because of the popularity of ChatGPT and the launch of Bing Chat.
Google SGE includes features that will be essential for the company to maintain its dominant position in search. The Generative AI revolution is presenting the first credible threat to Google’s dominance in two decades.
How Does Google SGE Work?
Once you receive access and download the Chrome browser beta, you use SGE like any other search experience. The difference is that some responses provide a generative AI answer at the top of the page, similar to what you would expect from Bing Chat.
SGE also provides some sources that presumably go along with the generated answer but does not provide direct source citation links in the answer. The sources are displayed on the side for the desktop experience.
After reviewing your answer, you can ask follow-up questions, click on suggested follow-ups presented by Google, or reset to start a new search conversation. Like Perplexity AI, you can watch YouTube videos that appear in the results without leaving your search experience. The video pops up in a player that you can use for viewing. You can also click through to watch the video on YouTube or close the video player and return to your search.
Your experience will be a mix of ChatGPT and traditional search. You may notice in the videos that Google SGE results retain a closer resemblance to traditional search than Bing has with its GPT-4-powered search-chat experience. This may be because Microsoft has already learned users prefer a different experience when using conversational search, or it may simply be the company is not wedded to the existing UX model.
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Google SGE Review Summary
Google SGE largely maintains the current search experience while inserting a generative AI response at the top of the page, followed by traditional search results. It doesn’t always provide generative responses, but it seems to most of the time. A standard search results page is delivered if there is no generative response.
SGE does not provide source links and citations but does provide sources. There is no easy way to match up what sources contributed to which part of the response.
You can ask follow-up questions, and it generally does a good job of maintaining context, even when there are vague and indefinite references to response details.
Google SGE and Bing Chat provide relatively short summary answers to search questions that seem appropriate to the use case. Google Bard and ChatGPT provide more comprehensive responses, but you must wait longer for the answers and don’t typically receive citations. The exception is using ChatGPT with the new Bing Chat integration. That provides short answers and citation links.
Google SGE is definitely trailing Bing Chat for search results quality. However, it is a good experience, seems to be within striking distance of its rivals, and likely is good enough for most users and most use cases.
In addition, Google SGE is tied to Google’s dominant search franchise. That means Google will introduce more consumers to conversational search powered by generative AI than any other solution. That is all the more reason to understand its user experience approach beyond the quality of the responses. Google’s UX experience may very well define what other solutions need to provide to align with consumer expectations in the future.
Will you adopt conversational search?
Do you prefer a ChatGPT-like experience or a more traditional search experience like Google SGE?
What is your favorite new search solution?
Let me know what you think in the comments.