AI Overviews Has Officially Launched in Google Search

by Sara Vicioso   |   May 22, 2024   |   Clock Icon 13 min read

You may have already heard, but Google has officially begun rolling out their AI Overviews, previously known as the Search Generative Experience (SGE), to all searchers in the United States, with plans to expand to more countries soon. Initially launched as an experiment through Search Labs in May 2023, this innovative search experience has proven to be a success demonstrated by the official rollout.

What are AI Overviews in Google?

AI Overviews utilize advanced generative AI technology, powered by Gemini, to provide comprehensive answers to your search queries. This feature is particularly beneficial for long-tail, more informational seeking queries, as Google scours the internet to compile a detailed overview based on a deep understanding of your question. Additionally, the AI Overview results page includes citations from multiple websites, ensuring you have access to diverse sources of information or websites to visit.

Let's examine a search result for a query related to an issue I'm currently experiencing in my own home:

Google AI Overviews Example

You can see that the initial result is truncated to display more of the search engine results page (SERP). To view the full response, you need to expand the result, which might just contain the answer you're looking for.

Spoiler alert… It is the exact answer I am looking for. Options to try!

Once you expand the result, you'll notice that the entire Google Search results page is dominated by AI Overview.

Expanded Google AI Overviews Example

The new experience allows me to view results directly in Google Search or click through to the direct sources Google used to compile its answers. As you can imagine, this national rollout is likely to cause some disruptions in the search industry, as the experiment already has, with plans for international expansion next.

Thanks to the multi-step reasoning capabilities of their Gemini technology, the experience can now answer more complex questions and queries, providing you with faster answers. Now text search isn’t the only thing that Google has announced regarding their upcoming plans. Google also announced that searching with video will be available soon, through search labs, for US-based Google users.

What This Means For You

The impact has likely already begun, but with over a billion people expected to have access to AI Overviews by the end of the year, it could be even more significant. Therefore, it's best to start setting expectations internally about your search results, both Paid and Organic, if you haven't already. According to Google’s release, ads will continue to appear in search results, but I anticipate that the type of queries we see in our search query reports will shift. Longer-tail, more complex queries will likely be handled by AI Overview, while more intent-focused searches will still feature ads. I can't imagine Google fully transitioning to AI Overview for every query, as they are still heavily invested in their Google Ads program.

The impact:

  • Fewer clicks or sessions to your website: SEO professionals are already familiar with the concept of a Zero-Click Search, where a user gets the answer directly from the SERP without clicking on a link. I anticipate that the percentage of zero-click searches will likely increase significantly with the full rollout.

  • Less visibility: Google is known for making data increasingly difficult to access, especially at a granular level for specific queries or result breakdowns. Google has stated that it will not differentiate between AI Overview and Text Search results in Google Search Console. However, I speculate that longer-tail queries with high impression volume and very low CTR can be inferred as AI Overview results. I recommend closely monitoring the impact on queries before and after the full rollout.

  • Paid search ads: We will likely see fewer impressions and clicks on longer-tail queries in our search query reports. However, this might actually be beneficial. In paid search, we aim to capture high-intent queries that drive clicks to the website and ultimately lead to conversions. That's where we want to allocate our budget. While ads are not going away, the optimization of the experience based on query type might make our paid search campaigns even more effective. In Google's Marketing Live event on May 21st, it was announced that Google will begin testing search and shopping ads in AI Overviews in the United States. We'll be keeping an eye on how these impact our Google ads performance, but it's definitely something I expected to be tested shortly after the initial launch.

  • Featured Snippets: Sites that have content ranking in featured snippets for high-volume queries may see click-through rates either decrease or improve depending on whether their content is now double dipping. We see plenty of examples of SERPs where a site has the same page shown in a featured snippet and is also cited and linked from the AI overview. This could change soon depending on what Google's internal data tells them about user engagement with AI Overviews. We may see featured snippets phased out—and we may also see SERPs adjust to remove this ability to “double dip”, similar to what they did with page ranking in both the featured snippet and in the “ten blue links” back in early 2020. But site owners may not necessarily need to change their SEO or content strategy based on the direction the SERPs go, since optimizing for one of these SERP features typically helps you appear in the other.

SEO Strategy for AI Overviews

As AI continues to evolve and expand globally in the search landscape, it is more important than ever for SEO experts to adapt their strategies for optimizing websites for SEO value. Here are a few ways you can prepare now (or should have already considered over the past year):

  • Invest in content creation: Invest in creating high-quality content that is engaging and answers consumers' questions. Hire an expert in your industry to develop content that demonstrates Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). Google has been prioritizing helpful, reliable, people-first content across the web in recent years, and we’ve all noticed the gradual impact. This shift is beneficial, as it ensures consumers receive high-quality information that enhances their website experience with your brand.

  • Consider shifts to the structure of your informational content: Google results have proven to be highly effective in quickly providing answers to consumers' more complex questions. By structuring your content to prominently feature the question followed by the answer, you might increase the chances of your website being featured in these results.

  • Ensure the foundation of your website is sound: Having all technical SEO elements in place, allowing Google to crawl and understand your website, is more crucial than ever. AI Overviews rely on the crawling of your website to display search results. If you want your website to be featured in AI Overviews, it's essential to ensure that Google can crawl and understand your site in a way that provides value to your potential customers.

By implementing these strategies, you can better position your website to succeed in an AI-driven search landscape, ensuring it remains visible and valuable to your audience.

Some Thoughts From Our Workshop Digital Experts

“I typically like to take the optimist POV for new technologies like this, but in this case, I am concerned about the impact this will have on the overall quality of information on the internet.

As companies try to figure out how to get into the AI Overview links, they will surely look to see what information is already being shown there, just like we do today with snippets and People Also Ask features. Then they try to mimic that information, perhaps using AI themselves, to improve the chances of being linked in the AI Overview.

I could see this leading to a Xerox effect, where the information sampled by the AI tools -- which are both writing and displaying the content -- degrades to the point where it may no longer be reliable.

To swing back to the positive side -- if that does happen, it could result in a movement of "artisanal information" where a premium is placed on real, human-written content, which would incentivize thoughtful content and secure the need for human writers.”

Chris LaRoche, Director, SMB Solutions

“I think we will likely see a decrease in traffic, especially for informational queries that typically lead to blogs and articles. More user searches will be answered directly in the search results without visiting a site. We have seen multiple iterations of this trend- Google has consistently included more information in search results over the years from rich results and featured snippets to previous AI search features.

Though the quantity of traffic may decrease, we may see a better quality of traffic. People who want a quick answer to a question will get it from the AI results, but people who are more interested in a topic or further along in the conversion funnel will still visit sites to seek more information.

Some users will also naturally distrust AI results. By providing unique, high-quality, factual, E-E-A-T content, your site will continue to reap rewards from both users distrustful of AI as well as the search engines, as this type of content is probably more likely to be used in AI results and rank better organically.

The bottom line? Focus on creating meaningful content that adds value to a topic. Adding new, unique viewpoints to the conversation will stand out amidst the flood of AI results.”

Julie Kalita, Senior SEO Manager

"Vidhya Srinivasan (VP of Advertising at Google) just announced at the Google Marketing Live Keynote that Google would begin testing search and shopping ads in AI Overviews for searchers in the US. She also dropped a note that "they will match these ads not just to the query context, but also to the information within the AI overview." It's too soon to tell how these ads will perform. We also don't know if Google will give us visibility into how these placements perform against others, or whether using AI overview content to inform targeting increases or decreases ad relevancy.

Beyond the performance of ads within AI Overviews, it's worth considering how this feature might impact overall traffic. As the feature is expanded to more SERPs, users will have more answers at the ready without having to click through to individual websites. This means that the addition of AI Overviews could lead to a decrease in traffic and click-through rates for both organic and paid searches for certain queries. Keeping in mind that AI improves and learns over time with additional data inputs, we should see AI Overviews get more effective at answering informational queries without the need for additional clicks off the SERP."

Morgan Jarvis, Director of Paid Media

“From a technical SEO point of view, I'm very curious to learn more about how AI tools are consuming content. We've become accustomed to optimizing technical SEO for the signals we know Google finds important - and without more detail at this point, it's reasonable to assume these same signals are being used by AI tools to evaluate pages. I predict it will be more important than ever to ensure that sites are machine-friendly.

For example, I've been using an AI tool to create workflows to crawl pages and extract information. In the past, I might have used some complex regular expressions to pull a product title from a page - but AI can do this quickly and with less input from me. The pitfall is that occasionally I'll get a weird result - sometimes this is a language model quirk, and other times it's an issue with the page structure itself.

As these tools evolve, they will likely get better at ignoring issues with poorly constructed sites - but how much bias will be placed on ease of crawling and speed of data consumption? We are currently optimizing sites for Core Web Vitals to improve user experience for humans. Many of these metrics won't matter to AI.

What technical optimizations can we expect to be favored by AI tools? Latency and bandwidth are the first and most obvious that spring to mind, but time will tell how AI-powered results will affect our other recommended under-the-hood tweaks.”

Tucker Hottes, SEO Lead Analyst

“While I am not completely opposed to the entire push of AI as a means of promoting information, this feature definitely raises concerns for me from a marketing/paid media perspective.

As I've been experimenting with different Google Searches since the release last week, I have found the AI Overview to pop up more than I had expected it to. While Google mentioned that ad formats could be shown above the AI Overview section, I have yet to see that myself. I've only seen ads appear below the AI Overview - which on mobile devices, can push ads out of the initial view. Because of this, awareness campaigns that have more informative/generalized keywords may see a lower CTR (click-through rate). It will be interesting to see if Google introduces new ad formats that either fit within or around the AI Overview.”

Erica Wirth, Paid Media Analyst

“Google was READY to release the AI Overview feature - and let me say, I've seen it a lot more than I expected it to. Can it be helpful? Sure... for now. I am worried about people using it as a basis for what content to write, which will lead to a huge increase in nearly identical content, which is ultimately not helpful for users when searching.

I am also intrigued by the tracking aspect of it, since Google hasn't provided any information about it yet. Will it be reported as position zero? As a featured snippet? Or will we not get any information at all?”

Reilly Phelps, Senior SEO Analyst

Unsure where to start when optimizing your website for AI Overview search results?

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Portrait of Sara Vicioso

Sara Vicioso

Sara brings over 10 years of experience in the digital marketing space, having spent a large portion of her career focused on Paid Media strategy for her clients. However, paid media wasn't enough. Sara is passionate about audience-first marketing strategies, finding customers where they are regardless of channel (which may be heavily driven by her background in Sociology) which led to the desire to build multichannel marketing strategies for her clients.

She brings a wealth of knowledge in industries such as manufacturing, industrial, SaaS, healthcare, education, e-commerce, & more.

Originally from San Diego, California, Sara found her new home in Austin, Texas, a city that captured her heart with its BBQ scene, country music, paddleboarding scene, and welcoming community. Outside the office, Sara is a DIY enthusiast, a lover of dogs (particularly her shih-tzu, Peanut), and will never turn away from the next travel adventure.