#235 22 factors to consider in your SWOT analysis of SGE
Did you know that the average B2B customer journey takes 192 days from first touch to won?! That’s over 6 months!
And did you know that throughout this journey, the average B2B customer will have 31 touches across 3 channels before it’s closed?
Dreamdata has analysed data from 414 B2B companies to unveil some of the key characteristics of B2B go-to-market.
How long does the average B2B customer journey take?
Does company size influence the speed of closing deals?
How many stakeholders are involved in B2B deals?
How does the first-touch channel impact buying journeys?
The insights are mindboggling and are a great help in understanding what it takes to get efficient at your B2B marketing.
SGE is a bullet in the chamber of SEO Russian Roulette. It could be nothing; it could be lethal.
Gartner predicts a 50% decrease in organic search by 2028.1 Regardless of whether revenue from organic traffic drops to the same degree, or we have seen the final form of “AI search”, these messages stick with executives like peanut butter on the top of your gums.
Conductor’s 2024 State of SEO survey found that the number one SEO challenge in 2023 was adapting to AI advancements. 71% say SGE will result in some type of disruption of their SEO strategies.2 We don’t yet know what will change, but change will happen.
AI is the reason for the first keyboard layout change in 30 years. Microsoft launches a keyboard with a Copilot button that summons its AI assistant.3
In my 2024 predictions, I pointed out Google will likely keep SGE in the back pocket:
Everyone wonders whether SGE will launch or not. At this point, I expect Google to treat SGE like a reservist:
keep SGE in beta until OpenAI, Bing or a new player puts something on the map that could endanger Google Search as it stands today
continue to develop and refine SGE behind the scenes to have it “ready” when they need it
Bottom line: we know thinking about SGE is important, but we don’t know what will happen.
Disruption and destruction go hand in hand. Most of my clients, many of whom are public and make hundreds of millions of dollars, ask me how bad a public SGE launch could be. The best strategic tool to answer this question is a thorough SWOT analysis.
SGE SWOT analysis
A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threads) is a tool for uncovering blind spots. There are other risk assessment tools in the belt, like Porter’s 5 forces. Whatever you use, at the end of the exercise, you should have a clear strategy that reduces risk and solidifies strengths.
In this Memo, I’m offering a collection of universal factors to take into account when building your own SWOT. Notice that a simple copy/paste will cause you to miss things. You need to do research and tailor it to your company and environment.
Note that I’m not attempting to predict traffic impact from SGE. It’s futile. We don’t know the final form, how users would adopt SGE and the underlying LLM is rapidly changing. Since launch, SGE’s engine has migrated to Gemini, for example).
SWOTs start with an objective or purpose that frames the angle. In our case, the objective is to understand the strategic impact of a public SGE launch. Understanding our position allows us to build a strong foundation and fix weak points today.
Strengths are resources or capabilities companies can leverage.
In the case of SGE, anything to keep or grow traffic is a strength:
Strong brands have higher chances of being visible in SGE answers since they tend to have more mentions across the web. Users expect known brands and their content for certain searches. Compare your number of brand mentions against competitors
Proprietary data is a competitive advantage if packaged well because you’re the only source, just like in regular Google Search.
Engaged communities can deliver sticky traffic. The appeal of a community is the exchange with other members, not just the answer to your question.
Free tools like calculators, quizzes, or widgets can solve user problems more effectively and have not surfaced in SGE (yet). Adding useful content to tools pages can attract converting traffic.
Elaborate content can keep users on the page when they come through SGE. AI Snapshots might provide a summary, but users want more for complex topics. Bonus points for experts that are hard to get writing your content.
Repeat visitors can come from apps, email databases or communities and lower the reliance on Google Search for ongoing user acquisition. Acquire once, sell a hundred times. Compare your ratio of returning vs first-time visitors
User experience improvements from AI can be a competitive advantage. For example, improving site search or offering remix capabilities like Zillow or Redfin (See Redfin Deep Dive).
Weaknesses are internal factors that prevent companies from achieving their objectives. In this case, anything a company does poorly can be a weakness:
Masking: it’s unclear how to mask key information from SGE. For example, SGE could surface the results of a sports game and make it redundant to read an article about the game. It’s not yet clear how publishers could choose to avoid SGE surfacing the score while still allowing other parts of the article to be used.
Generic content: Relying too much on generic content that SGE could simply summarize or any competitor could copy is a major weakness. Use SEO editor scores from Clearscope, Surfer SEO, Sistrix or Semrush Writer Assistant to gauge your content competitiveness.
Weak or no brand: faceless, generic brands have a hard time standing out. Exact Match Domains might have worked in old Search but could be a major weakness in SGE and AI Search in general. Assessing your branded vs non-branded traffic is a good start. While there are no perfect ratios, you want both to grow over time.
Low authority, credibility, bad reputation: SGE might not include brands with a poor reputation. Part of that behavior might also be products with low reviews in shopping searches. Assess your brand sentiments in product and 3rd party reviews.
Slow organizations: Companies that cannot adapt quickly to SGE are at a major disadvantage. Potential causes for slowness are red tape, overstaffing, too many dependencies, outdated infrastructure, unfocus, sluggish decision-making and legal hoops. How fast do you ship?
Opportunities are favorable factors in the company’s environment that put it in a good position:
E-commerce and local: SGE, in its current form, impacts informational searches the most and strongly imitates shopping or local search SERP Features the most. As a result, companies in local or shopping searches might be impacted less than companies that attract traffic through content, like SaaS companies.
Video: SGE and other AI Search platforms already feature videos for certain answers. Having the best video for a topic is a shortcut to dominating SGE answers.
SGE competitors: SGE is not the only AI Search that can disrupt the field. Perplexity AI, Chat GPT, Claude and others could diversify traffic sources amid strong changes in Google Search.
LLM apps: Building an LLM app, e.g., for OpenAI’s new GPT marketplace, can be an opportunity to have users search within the parameters of your product. If Google were to ever open a marketplace for SGE apps, brands could build unique advantages.
Weaknesses are environmental factors that put companies in a bad position when SGE rolls out:
Hallucination: If Google gets hallucinations under control, SGE could provide direct and potentially better answers in the search results for questions. If not, content from your company might be misrepresented and harm your brand.
Personalization: SGE could provide highly personalized answers based on user search history, preferences, followed brands, and other criteria, which makes optimization based on broad performance significantly harder.
Model training: your content might be used to train SGE (and other models) without compensation or attribution.
Rapid change: We don’t yet know how to optimize for SGE, despite early attempts, because we cannot yet measure the exact impact of optimizations. Similar to Google Search, SGE might change quickly once rolled out and make catching up hard.
Tracking data: there is no way to quantify the exact impact of SGE. To fill the gap, Google would have to provide a new report in Search Console or even a new tool. Bing promised a report in the Webmaster Tools but hasn’t yet followed through.
KPIs: Organizations need to adapt to new KPIs. Instead of keyword search volume, click-through rate or rankings, marketers need to find new ways to measure and monitor the visibility of their brand in SGE and other generative AIs.4
Customizing your SWOT
Due to the attention AI, Google and SGE get, it will be hard to avoid conversations about risk assessments with leadership. SGE is a moving target but also an opportunity to pause and assess your position.
In the words of Ray Dalio: If you worry, you don’t have to worry. If you don’t worry, you have to worry.
It’s important for you to understand that I’m offering generalized SWOT factors in this Memo, but you need to build an analysis that suits your company.
Consider the following differentiations in your analysis:
Business model: e-commerce, local business, SaaS, affiliate, publisher, consumer, etc.
SEO model: aggregator or integrator
Industry: health, security, retail, finance, etc.
Competitive landscape: dog fight, monopoly, etc.
Size: big vs small company
SWOT analyses need to be grounded in data, not perception. Start by collecting facts about the organization…:
customer acquisition channels
…and the environment:
Once finished, craft a strategy that avoids weaknesses that collide with environmental threats and exploits strengths that meet external opportunities.