Search Generative Experience for Lawyers – What We Know

From a marketing perspective, the real magic of AI generated content is not the efficient propogation of more and more legal content – but instead,  AI’s  potential to change the way people interact with search.  ChatGPT was a existential threat to Google, because of its potential to flip the consumers behavior from going to a search engine to find a pre-existing piece of content, to interacting with a computer to generate in real-time a 100% customized result for that individual.  The infinite long-tail.

Google’s Search Generative Experience, announced at Google.IO on May 10th is exactly that.  From my perspective this is the most radical change to search in more than a decade.  If it sticks (and I have no reason to think it won’t), SGE is a fifth marketing channel crowding the SERPS, with it’s own algorithms, nuances and competitive realities to compete in.  LSAs, the current darling sitting atop the SERPS will be, at best, pushed down, or disappear entire – note that in the beta we’ve played with LSAs have disappeared in the interface with SGE is present.  Organic listings will be further deprecated and zero click queries will explode, robbing traffic (although less so on conversions) from every single website.

Conclusions from the SGE Beta:

  • Google Business Profiles – From what we’ve seen, GBP is heavily integrated into SGE and do feature heavily in queries – the Local 3 pack in the traditional SERP is replaced by 5 results.  The interesting question (unanswered for now), is are these results driven from the Local algo, or is this an entirely new computation that just happens to use GBP profiles, albeit differently.
  • Google Ads will be incorporated directly into the SGE and you won’t (for now) be able to segment ads or even reporting for SGE vs non SGE campaigns.  This keeps more and more advertisers in the bidding ecosystem, which ultimately drives overall revenue higher for Google.
  • YMYL – exhortations from Google that SGE won’t show up for Your Money Your Life categories does clearly NOT apply to legal based on what we’ve seen.
  • Directories – the Large Language Models that drive AI generated content seem to rely heavily on Directories when assessing the quality of lawyers. Obvious example – Avvo Rating scores lawyers from 1-10, this is very easy for a LLM to “interpret” that the lawyer is quality. Thus, SGE may  actually be the savior of the legal marketing dinosaur that is legal directories.
  • Authorship – Google is going big on transparency in results; the 10 year old concept of authorship (i.e. using the digitally assessed reputation of the actual author as a ranking factor) may have never actually disappeared even when Google Plus died due to spam (see my article on rel=author spam here: FindLaw Selling Pre-SEO’d Websites). SGE results suggest their drivers use author reputation as a ranking factor.
  • Perspectives and About This – Google simultaneously launched two additional products that provide more transparency as to the actual results AND are focused on showcasing an array of opinions about issues. From their own words: “we’re going to be expanding the range of helpful information” I believe this is Google’s attempt to counteract criticisms of the echo chamber effect of search, in which current results are influenced by previous behavior, leading to self-reinforcing bubble of results.