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Things to know for SEO: Google launches new AI Overviews

June 28, 2024

AI (artificial intelligence) has taken the world by storm in recent years, from multipurpose tools like ChatGPT, to the release of Microsoft’s “Copilot” chatbot.

Now, it’s Google’s turn.

On the same day as their I/O conference, May 14, 2024, Google introduced their new “AI Overviews” search engine feature to the United States market. By the end of this year, AI Overviews will have been released to over 1 billion users. This new feature from Google follows Microsoft Bing’s introduction of AI directly into search results in February of 2023.

Here at The Martin Group, our search engine optimization (SEO) and web development teams tested Google’s AI Overviews in Beta over the past year to get an idea of what to expect. We’re also monitoring the feature to understand its impact on the industry.

In this blog post, we discuss what AI Overviews are, the market’s receptivity to date, and ways we predict it will impact SEOs and publishers. Plus, we share some of the search engine optimization strategies we recommend to our clients to get the most out of this feature.

What are AI Overviews?

AI Overviews appear in Google Search results when our systems determine that generative responses can be especially helpful — for example, when you want to quickly understand information from a range of sources, including information from across the web and Google’s Knowledge Graph,” Google for Developers states. Google also makes it extremely clear that “no action is needed for publishers to benefit from AI Overviews.”

The new feature uses multi-step reasoning to parse through endless web results to offer a more conversational answer to a user’s question. AI Overviews still provide links to websites the result is sourced from so the user can read more. The idea is to imitate what it’s like to ask a question to one person and get one good answer (rather than a list of 10+).

Google’s AI Overviews feature currently lives at the very top of the search engine results page (SERP). It will only appear for certain searches – questions, mostly, where the AI can synthesize multiple results down to what it determines is the best possible answer.

Benefits and drawbacks of the new AI Overviews feature

The major benefit of AI Overviews is that users will be able to find what they are looking for even faster and more conveniently than ever before. The generative results take the guesswork out of having to sift through multiple search results and having to click through multiple websites to find an answer. It may eliminate the need to click through altogether.

Since the AI Overviews feature went to market in May, Google has already received scrutiny for showing potentially dangerous generative search results for certain queries. It turns out that the AI was scraping illegitimate content from satirical outlets, such as The Onion, and presenting it to the user as fact.

Two of the biggest examples that made the press included recommending non-toxic glue as a bonding agent in cooking and baking, as well as telling users how many rocks they should eat. Google’s VP of Search addressed this, stating that part of the issue was that atypical questions were being asked (“how many rocks should I eat?”), and that some of the claims include fake screenshots. She also reiterated how the AI technology works, and that Google has made updates to prevent errors in the future.

“Our tests show that our accuracy rate for AI Overviews is on par with another popular feature in Search—featured snippets—which also uses AI systems to identify and show key info with links to web content,” writes Liz Reid, the VP and Head of Google Search.

Impact of AI Overviews on content publishers

So, what does this mean for SEO and content creation? Here are four (4) trends we’re predicting:

  1. Views and sessions will become reduced – As Google shifts from direct clicks to summary consumption, we can expect a downward trend in organic search traffic.
  1. Clicks will be less frequent, but with higher intent – While clicks to your website may not happen as frequently, the clicks that do happen are likely to be higher quality.
  1. Content that answers questions will be prioritized – While Google claims there is nothing publishers need to do to be shown in AI Overviews, it’s clear there is a shift away from keywords and focusing more on answering specific FAQ-type questions.
  1. New metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) will emerge – Google Search Console does not yet have the ability to measure visibility in AI Overviews, but tools like SEMRush, which we use for our clients here at The Martin Group, are starting to report this.

SEO strategies for adapting to AI in search results

To stay relevant in an AI world and to get ahead of these changes, we recommend utilizing many of the same strategies that always benefitted SEOs: creating high-quality content on a regular basis that provides value to your audience, building effective links to your website, and having a strong authority behind your content, such as author bios from subject matter experts.

Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkTorro and former head of Moz, recently stated the most impactful thing you can do from an SEO perspective is to build a notable, well-recognized brand.

As AI Overviews come to search, that couldn’t be truer.

The more frequently your website URL and brand name appear in AI Overviews, the more brand awareness you will gain amongst unfamiliar audiences. And as users start to become more familiar with your brand from seeing your name appear over and over in search results, the more likely they are to trust in your name and to want to work with you.

While clicks to your site may become less frequent, the clicks that you do receive are going to be higher quality, and from users who have stronger intentions. These users are more likely to have intent to purchase—to want to dig deeper into your products and services—versus a user who was going to your site to find a specific answer only to bounce after.

To gain more impressions in AI Overviews, SEOs and publishers should focus less on creating content around trying to rank for a specific keyword or query, and more on creating content that answers questions for their users as clearly and up front as possible.

A few examples of how to get started with this approach to creating content could be:

  • developing articles around questions you know your customers ask you frequently.
  • reviewing what comes up related to your brand under “people also ask” on Google.
  • leveraging search listening tools, such as Answer the Public, for question ideas.

It’s also important for any content you want to appear in AI Overviews to contain schema markup, or structured data. Schema is a specific format for providing information to search engines (like Google) to help search engines better understand your content. Having your posts and webpages wrapped in Schema will increase the likelihood of search engines picking it up and placing it into rich results, featured snippets, and AI Overviews.

While there are pros and cons to AI Overviews entering the search engine results page, having a solid SEO content strategy is still a key aspect to getting results for your business.

Need a hand with managing search engine optimization? The Martin Group can help. Learn more about our capabilities in SEO and digital marketing here.

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