Jenny Hearn

SEO Consultant

Jess Mackereth

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Olivia-Mae Foong

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What do Google AI Overviews mean for SEO?

Related post categories AI Digital marketing SEO
5 mins read

Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) has been replaced by AI Overviews, and has started rolling out to the public. These AI-generated search results were officially launched in the US on 14 May 2024, and are due to appear worldwide by the end of 2024.

Google SGE – as we have been calling it – has been in testing (Google’s Search Labs) in the US since May 2023, after they were demoed at their Google I/O annual developer conference.

Over the past year, we’ve seen the AI-generated snapshot evolve – and in a recent announcement by Google at their 2024 I/O conference – renamed as ‘AI Overviews’ and launched to the public.

Here is what we know so far.

What are AI Overviews?

Google’s new ‘AI Overviews’ are AI-written answers to a searcher’s query that appear at the top of Google’s search result page.

The AI answer is generated using Google’s Gemini LLM (large language model), which summarises information from various web pages into a single response. We believe it works in a similar way to a ‘featured snippet’ by pulling out the most pertinent “snippets” of content from a page. However, unlike featured snippets, the AI Overview combines information from multiple sources.

Unlike ChatGPT, Google’s AI results do highlight where they have taken information from, and link to sources. If you click an arrow next to text in the AI answer, you’ll see a carousel with an overview of web pages used.

The user interface (UI) of AI Overviews will be familiar for anyone who has experimented with Search Generative Experience (SGE) in Search Labs, or watched our webinar on SGE. Here’s an example of an AI Overview for the query “symptoms of pregnancy”:

Screenshot of a search engine results page for 'symptoms of pregnancy'. The AI Overview section lists some early signs of pregnancy including: Missed period, Morning sickness, Tender, swollen breasts, Increased urination, Bloating, and Implantation bleeding. Each symptom is described with details such as the timing and nature of the symptom.

Example of AI Overview for “symptoms of pregnancy”

AI Overviews highlights

The key benefits of Google AI Overviews in their current form are:

  • AI Overviews provide searchers with a quick overview of a topic, from multiple webpages. This saves the searcher time and effort.
  • A searcher can click on links to view the information from the source webpages, to continue their journey and learn more.
  • The AI answer is generated in response to the searcher’s specific query. That means information is presented in the order that AI believes is most useful for you.

However, there are also some reasons why incorporating AI into Google Search is raising some questions. We explore some of these in this blog.

What’s next for AI Overviews?

In their keynote speech at I/O, Google presented a vision of search that they call: ‘Search in the Gemini Era’:

Video Thumbnail

It’s clear that Google want to present AI Overviews as a futuristic leap – giving people answers to questions they didn’t even know they had. Liz Reid, Head of Search, spoke about ‘Google doing the Googling for you’, and taking on the heavy load of searching, researching, planning and brainstorming.

Google announced some additional features of AI Overviews, which it will be testing in Google Labs for English searches in the US.

Future benefits of AI Overviews include:

  • AI Overviews will allow people to get all of the information they want in one question, rather than having to do multiple different searches. Multi-step reasoning means AI Overviews will be able to answer longer and more complex queries.
  • In the future you’ll be able to search with video. This feels like an enhancement of voice search, where searchers can add context by taking a video of an object or their environment.
  • For many verticals – like local search or travel planning – Google sees AI Overviews “expanding beyond the box” and taking over the search result page with personalised, AI generated results. This means that traditional, organic search results with “blue links” may not feature on the first page for some queries.
  • Information will be organised by AI; ordered according to what Gemini thinks is most relevant for your query.
  • Searchers will be able to adjust the information in the AI Overview into three options: ‘Original’, ‘Simpler’ and a more detailed and information option titled ‘Break it down’.

AI in search: What does this mean for SEO and paid search (PPC)?

There are lots of interesting theories on X (formerly Twitter) about the future of search, Google possibly contravening their own guidelines on helpful content and AI generation, and as usual many people proclaiming that “SEO is dead!”. So, the first thing we are all doing is taking a small breath.

We know that AI Overviews in their current form are the same as were being tested in ‘Labs’. We believe they operate in a similar way to ‘featured snippets’, and are nowhere near the ‘we give you the answer before you know the question’ late-stage search experience that Google have promised in their promo video. We’re also yet to see a lot of examples of AI Overviews outside of Google’s Search Labs. So, there’s no need to panic.

As for paid search, Google makes most of its money through advertising revenue and we’re not expecting paid ads to disappear. In our testing, Google Ads can appear above or below the AI Overview, and tend to appear for the same queries as for traditional search results. We’ll share more data from our research soon.

That being said, Google’s announcements and reveals point to a very different future for search, and this is where we are now looking to focus our energy.

Torchbox SEO team’s approach

Our approach for now is to keep researching and sharing our knowledge directly with our clients, and via our blog and social channels.

We’re also collating and asking questions of Google, for example around:

  • Misleading health information AI Overviews. We’ve already found worrying search results that appear to give conflicting health advice, and are raising this with Google. It has also raised the question of: Will Google take “ownership” of the content that is being shown on AI results pages?
  • Attribution of impressions and clicks in Google Search Console for AI Overviews. Google has claimed that websites suggested in AI Overviews receive more web traffic than websites that appear higher up on Search for a traditional query – however they have shared no data to back this.

We are also developing strategies for our clients as AI Overviews roll out globally (which is expected by the end of the year).

What does this mean for your SEO strategy?

At Torchbox, we have been preparing for AI Overviews since they were first announced as SGE results. So, in terms of what charities can do to improve their SEO, our advice and approach will be similar to before:

  • Focus on establishing your brand identity and ‘entity’ (how search engines like Google see your organisation and website)
  • Improve your E-E-A-T signals – build your authority, expertise, trust signals and put real people’s experiences at the forefront of your website
  • Write high quality and helpful content which is informed by how your audiences are searching for information. Focus on the value you bring and use this to make your content unique.
  • Really look at how you appear in search engine results pages, especially thinking about being visible in Google’s knowledge graph, featured snippets and people also ask results.

As we have been since SGE (now AI Overviews) was first announced last May, we will continue to closely monitor the changes and keep you updated on the latest developments

Get in touch with our SEO team if you'd like to chat more about the impact of Google AI Overviews.

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