Google AI Overviews Have Launched to the Public: What does this mean for marketers?

  • Categories:

    Industry Trends, Search

  • Date:

    July 2, 2024

Google AI Overviews Have Launched to the Public: What does this mean for marketers?

Industry Trends Search

AI Overviews have officially entered the chat.

On May 14, 2024, Google launched AI Overviews (formerly known as Search Generative Experience, or SGE) for users in the United States, with plans to expand globally.

These AI-generated summaries now appear directly in search results for qualifying search queries, regardless of whether users have opted in. AI Overviews take a mix of top-ranking and non-top-ranking results and use AI to generate one summarized answer to a search query. AI Overviews do not show up for every search, but they will typically appear for top-of-funnel searches such as “what is,” “how to,” “why,” etc.

So what does this mean for marketers? How will AI Overviews impact the way people search and, more importantly, change how people decide to click through to a page?

Additional changes to AI Overviews and the long-term impact on marketing remain largely unknown. But marketers can stay ahead by staying vigilant and watching these changes in real time.

Let’s look at four ways Google’s somewhat unexpected launch of AI Overviews may impact marketing and organic search in the coming months and beyond.

What does the launch of AI Overviews mean for marketers?

1. Real expertise will be more in demand than ever before.

    At MozCon 2024, a few speakers talked about how user-generated content can provide insights into what audiences want in real time. The surge in demand for real subject matter expertise and growing organic visibility for UGC is likely due to people’s desire for authentic opinions from genuine experts. In 2024, Reddit is a classic example of this trend in action: According to data from Similarweb, Reddit’s website traffic has grown 39% in 2024 over the previous year.

    Google typically makes decisions based on what people respond to and what they like. Complaints from users about spamlike, unhelpful content resulted in Google making drastic algorithm updates and shifts to the types of content now occupying more real estate in organic search results. The March 2024 core update, for example, resulted in severe declines in visibility for publisher, news and affiliate websites, while the visibility of sites that rely on UGC, communities, forums and blog posts is growing.

    How can I start to leverage UGC on my website?

    Cite your sources when writing long-form content on your website. Whenever possible, leverage testimonials from real customers or partners in your content. Start incorporating forums into your research process when ideating topics. What kinds of questions are your audiences asking on Reddit? Quora? Fine Homebuilding? By incorporating diverse forms of UGC, you’ll create a dynamic, ever-evolving website that resonates with your audience and reflects real experiences with your brand.

    2. Summaries will become the new normal.

      Since the recent launch of AI Overviews, users have already begun to expect a summary for most search results. As users evolved from searches with one or two keywords to long-tail searches with more complex tones, savvy marketers adapted to help ensure these users find their websites.

      Take featured snippets. SEO professionals and content writers who optimize pieces of content to rank for a featured snippet have adapted to writing headings that directly signal to Google the question they are answering for a specific query.

      The beta launch of SGE in May 2023 began a new era of search results for those who opted in. One year later, the official (and somewhat abrupt) launch of AI Overviews took many marketers by surprise. Google is forcing immediate adoption, as all users in the U.S. currently using Chrome are now receiving AI Overviews for qualifying searches.

      What does this mean for the future of, well, everything?

      I predict that we will start to see AI-generated summaries everywhere. For example, I’ve already started to see Meta AI-generated summaries on certain comment sections in my Facebook feed.

      Instead of individual blue links, we are now in an era of summaries for many informational queries.

      Large language models know only what we’ve given them. They don’t understand common sense, humor or emotional intelligence, but they are good at summarizing the information they’ve been given.

      3. Zero-click searches will continue to rise for informational queries.

        AI-generated answers in search results are testing marketers who want their website to maintain a healthy click-through rate. As AI Overviews (alongside featured snippets, which haven’t gone away) satisfy many people’s queries directly in the search results, it’s becoming harder to earn a click. Content must be compelling enough to entice users to visit the page.

        This is especially true for query types that AI can answer, such as informational searches. Marketers will likely be increasingly challenged to create deep, personal and unique content if they expect to rank for informational content that is still worthy of a click.

        As AI becomes better at creating robust responses that satisfy queries, removing users’ need to click through to a page, firsthand experiences will become more important than ever.

        But maybe this isn’t bad news all around. When Google introduced featured snippets, some experts predicted these short excerpts would keep users from visiting the highlighted websites. Today, however, the featured snippet is one of the most coveted organic positions, capturing approximately 35% of the total click share for a given query. While ranking for a featured snippet can often result in fewer clicks for informational queries (zero-click content), it offers significant benefits in increased brand visibility and authority from search engines and users.

        While it’s still critical to create content that adds value beyond what AI-generated overviews can provide, know that appearing in AI Overviews is also based on relevance factors. This means search engines use complex algorithms to determine what content is most relevant and valuable for a given query, such as:

        • How well the content matches the intent and context of the search query

        • How well the content addresses the topic and provides comprehensive information

        • The website’s overall authority and credibility

        • How the information aligns with other authoritative sources on the topic

        • How well the content is organized and marked up for easy interpretation by search engines

        Search engine algorithms continually refine these factors to ensure that AI Overviews presents the most accurate and helpful information. We still urge clients to improve their content’s overall quality and its value to users, rather than specifically optimizing for search engines or AIO. That’s a basic (and frequently misunderstood) principle of SEO, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

        So, while pages featured in AI Overviews may receive fewer direct clicks than if they earned a high position on a page without these AI-generated results, creating informative content that goes beyond the basics can still give your pages a solid chance of being featured in the overview and potentially capturing clicks from users seeking more in-depth information.

        In an interview with the Associated Press, Liz Reid, head of Google Search, said AI Overviews should ultimately help website owners who are doing the right things. “In reality, people do want to click to the web, even when they have an AI overview,” she said. “They start with the AI overview and then they want to dig in deeper. We will continue to innovate on the AI overview and also on how do we send the most useful traffic to the web.”

        4. Constant change is (still) the reality.

          Search “ai” now and filter by news, and you’ll see hundreds of results from major publications, all published within the last 24 hours, covering every high and low of AI. Through the testing and tweaks, peaks and valleys, marketers will have to play some of the wait-and-see game, giving these changes time to evolve.

          We’re living and working through the introduction of AI on a massive scale. As one speaker suggested at MozCon last month, it’s gonna get weird. In the face of these changes, I’m determined to keep it in perspective, living by one of my favorite mantras: Improvise, adapt, overcome. It might seem silly or even inappropriate to use this unofficial slogan of the U.S. Marines in a marketing context. But its genius gives it many applications, and marketing in the age of AI is no exception.

          I think it’s important to remember that we are in a unique time where marketers are figuring AI out together. Look at some of these examples where even the biggest names in the U.S. are testing and recalling AI-fueled initiatives.

          The rules of AI are still under construction. Like most AI developments, no one knows if AI Overviews will keep their current form, become less invasive or even disappear altogether. All of this is happening in real time. And while much of the future is still unclear, I can say one thing for certain: If you want your website and business to thrive in the age of AI, adapt your approach to deliver value beyond what AI can offer.

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