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Here’s how ads might look in Google’s new AI-powered search experience

Here’s how ads might look in Google’s new AI-powered search experience


The company is experimenting with how you’ll see ads in the Search Generative Experience.

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An illustration of the Google logo.
Illustration: The Verge

Think Google is already loaded with ads? Well, if a new video in a blog post is anything to go by, ads might be even more obtrusive in the company’s new AI-powered Search Generative Experience (SGE).

I’ve already expressed some concern over how much ads push things down in SGE based on what Google showed when it revealed the new experience at I/O. But those ads were only above and below SGE, and what Google showed on Tuesday were examples of ads within SGE.

See for yourself in a GIF of the video below:

A GIF of a Google video showing ads in Search Generative Experience.
This is a video from Google that I converted to a GIF.

The GIF moves kind of quickly, so let’s break down exactly what we can see here:

  1. In a mobile search for “outdoor activities to do in Maui,” there are normal sponsored links above the brand-new SGE experience. Those ads push SGE, Google’s shiny AI product that could transform the way we search, nearly off the page.
  2. After tapping the “Ask a followup” in the SGE results for the Maui query, the GIF simulates somebody typing “hiking backpacks for kids.” The new SGE results that appear have some listings for backpacks, including one link at the very top of those listings that’s marked as Sponsored.
  3. The video scrolls down to the “Ask a followup” prompt once again, which is below another set of Google ads.
  4. After asking “is it easy for them to learn surfing,” SGE creates a text summary with some linked cards, and then the video scrolls down to — you guessed it — more ads: a set of sponsored links about surf lessons and kid-focused activities.

All of this for three search queries.

Granted, this video was included as part of a Google blog post promoting ads products, so the heavy amount of ads might be a case of the company emphasizing what’s possible and what things might look like instead of what you’ll actually see. “Over the coming months, we’ll experiment with Search and Shopping ads that are directly integrated within the AI-powered snapshot and conversational mode,” Google VP and GM of ads Jerry Dischler said in Tuesday’s blog post. Dischler also noted that the company is going to experiment with “new formats native to SGE that use generative AI” to create ads.

So far, I’m not a fan of these SGE ads; they appear to take over the search experience and are difficult to distinguish from actual results. But ads are where Google makes its money, and Search is still Google’s most important product, so if the company actually does roll out SGE widely — right now, you can get on the waitlist to try out SGE, which Google is labeling an experiment — it seems like a sure thing that it will have ads, too, whether you want them or not. Google needs to pay for all that AI work somehow.