SEO News & Updates

Google’s New AI Overviews and Their Impact on SEO

Leigh McKenzie
Published: Jun. 28, 2024
Google AI Overviews

Do you have anything interesting to report since the rollout of Google AI Overviews?

I recently shared an example on LinkedIn that shows the current limitations of LLMs.

Google Search AI Overview

While the AI Overview generated a response based on the current month and year, the publication date of the referenced content was from a year ago. It’s clear that LLMs serve up close matches without having a true understanding of the answer they provide.

It’s concerning to see such a basic gap, but AI-organized search results are still relatively new. Let’s explore what we know so far.

What Are Google’s AI Overviews? 

AI Overviews are answers Google generates to provide users with concise information for specific queries. They appear at the top of search results and aim to enhance the user experience by providing quick AI-generated responses without needing to click on any website.

Google processes your query to generate a summary that’s directly relevant to your search intent. Other websites are the sources of AI-powered answers. Google pulls out information from various pages to generate results that often include links to sources. 

Google’s documentation on the topic states:

“‘AI Overviews and more’ is an experiment in Search Labs that lets you see AI Overviews on more Google searches and offers access to additional generative AI features in Search. “AI Overviews and more” has replaced the Search Labs experiment known as SGE (Search Generative Experience).”

Google officially rolled out AI Overviews in the U.S. on May 14, 2024 and Google posted on X that the plan is to enable it for more than a billion additional users by the end of 2024. 

Google announcement on X

How does this change affect organic traffic?

According to Google:

“With AI Overviews, people are visiting a greater diversity of websites for help with more complex questions. And we see that the links included in AI Overviews get more clicks than if the page had appeared as a traditional web listing for that query. As we expand this experience, we’ll continue to focus on sending valuable traffic to publishers and creators.”

How AI Overviews Work 

Google explains that AI Overviews use a language model, incorporated into their primary web ranking systems. It performs conventional search tasks, such as finding relevant search results from the index.

That’s why AI Overviews only show information backed up by search results.

However, Google doesn’t provide any information about why some queries get AI-powered snapshots while others don’t.

Google’s Search Help only suggests the following

“You’ll find AI Overviews in your Google Search results when our systems determine that generative AI can be especially helpful – for example, when you want to quickly understand information from a range of sources.”

According to Semrush’s Sensor, Google only displays AI Overviews in 0.31% of organic searches in the U.S. on desktop devices.

Semrush AI Overview Sensor

Even though the percentage of AI Overviews in search results is currently low, it will likely increase after Google improves the quality of AI-generated answers.

In regard to quality, have you heard about the cases where Google AI offered users to “use glue to get cheese to stick to pizza” and “eat one small rock per day?”

Google made an official announcement on May 30 addressing these issues and sharing updates to their algorithms:

“We built better detection mechanisms for nonsensical queries that shouldn’t show an AI Overview, and limited the inclusion of satire and humor content. 

“We updated our systems to limit the use of user-generated content in responses that could offer misleading advice.

“We added triggering restrictions for queries where AI Overviews were not proving to be as helpful.”

The Opportunities and Risks of AI Overviews for SEOs

While evidence that demonstrates the impact of AI Overviews on SEO is still limited, I’d argue that generative AI presents both opportunities and risks.

On the one hand, Google says it might pull out information from websites that don’t rank high in SERPs. This could provide exposure to websites that wouldn’t otherwise get it.

Conversely, many website owners are concerned about a potential drop in organic traffic due to AI-generated answers appearing at the top of organic search results. 

Semrush’s study discovered that more than 25.6% of all desktop searches in the U.S. result in zero clicks. That’s a lot of potential traffic that never ends up on any website. It happens because users find answers right on the Google SERP and don’t need to navigate to a website. 

SEOs, be prepared to adapt your strategies to this evolving landscape.

Google Search CTR

How to Optimize for AI Overviews 

There’s not much you can do to optimize for AI Overviews at this point. Google explicitly stated, “No action is needed for publishers to benefit from AI Overviews.”

However, here are five ways you can approach SEO in the age of AI Overviews.

1. Target Long-Tail Keywords 

From Google’s documentation, we can gather that AI Overviews mainly show up for informational keywords and complex search queries like “explain the connection between lightning and thunder.” 

These often happen to be long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are specific and multiword keywords that tend to have lower search volumes than other keyword types. 

If you optimize your content for long-tail keywords, your content can potentially be featured in AI Overviews.

Have you used Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool to research long-tail keywords?

Here’s how.

Navigate to the tool, insert your seed keyword, and hit “Search.

Keyword Magic Tool Semrush

Click “KD,” choose “Easy,” and then click “Apply.”

Semrush will show you a list of long-tail keywords you can target on your website, such as “organic potting soil for vegetables.”

Keyword Magic Tool Filtering

2. Follow E-E-A-T Guidelines to Create People-First Content 

While Google’s E–E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) guidelines aren’t ranking factors, you’ll want to pay extra attention to them, especially if you write about Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) topics. 

E-E-A-T and YMYL

Critical topics like health, finance, and legal issues are held to higher standards and Google’s content quality raters will scrutinize the credentials of authors, the website’s overall reputation, and the content’s accuracy. 

For a deep dive on this topic, check out my latest Backlinko article on E-E-A-T.

3. Use On-Page SEO Best Practices

Your content should be well-optimized to help Google rank your content and potentially feature it in AI Overviews.

Nick Eubanks, one of TTT Academy’s founders, wrote an in-depth article about best SEO practices for improving site rankings. 

Nick and I have worked together for nearly a decade on everything from technical SEO audits and analytics reporting to web design and development. 

Here are 10 on-page content strategies we recommend:

  1. Understand what people are searching for. Find keywords and questions people use online related to your niche.
  2. Match your content with search intent. Write informative and engaging content that answers users’ search queries.
  3. Craft a clear and concise title. Include relevant keywords in your title to grab users’ attention.
  4. Write a captivating meta description. Briefly summarize your content to entice users to click on your link.
  5. Structure your content for readability. Use H1 tags, H2s, and H3s to break down your content.
  6. Help users navigate your site. Link to related pages to keep users engaged.
  7. Link out to valuable resources. When linking to other websites, choose credible and relevant sources.
  8. Optimize images. Use explicit filenames and alt tags that describe your images.
  9. Create descriptive website URLs. Keep your URLs short and include your target keyword where possible.
  10. Aim for featured snippets. Write well-structured content to win a featured snippet.

You can also use Semrush’s On Page SEO Checker for optimization tips. 

In a nutshell, the On Page SEO Checker analyzes your website pages and compares them to competitors’ pages. Then, it creates a list with optimization tips for categories such as content, user experience, technical SEO, and more.

Onpage SEO Checker Semrush

For every page, Semrush provides recommendations that you can implement to boost your website rankings.

Semrush recommendation

4. Enhance User Experience 

A smooth and enjoyable user experience can significantly boost engagement and conversions.

Think of it this way: happy users are more likely to return, recommend your product, and ultimately make a purchase. 

Here’s how you can improve user experience on your website:

  • Ensure your site loads quickly
  • Make navigation intuitive 
  • Optimize for mobile devices
  • Implement secure HTTPS content access
  • Maintain a consistent and user-friendly design

These strategies can help keep visitors engaged so they return to your site to check out more content, which can be a significant factor that increases your chances of appearing in AI Overviews.

5. Improve Your Backlink Profile

Sites with strong backlink profiles often appear higher in search results, and if Google finds your content trustworthy and accurate, it might have a higher chance of appearing in an AI Overview.

Here are 10 link-building strategies:

  1. Publish first. Analyze and explain hot topics before other websites publish their content on the subject.
  2. Pro bono work. Offer your services for free in exchange for backlinks.
  3. Co-brand content. Build relationships that lead to powerful partnerships.
  4. Original research. Other sites naturally link to original data sources.
  5. Interactive sites. Quizzes or calculators engage users.
  6. Speaking engagements. SEO conferences are a great way for you to share your knowledge and network.
  7. Guest blogging. Contribute articles to relevant and established websites to get backlinks. 
  8. Broken link building. Use link building tools to find broken links on websites in your niche. Reach out to webmasters with a suggestion to replace them with links to your site.
  9. Create complete guides. Create unique long-form content that people naturally want to share.
  10. Online PR and outreach. Build relationships with influencers to get a mention in online publications.

You can use Semrush’s Link Building Tool to research backlink opportunities, spy on your competitors’ backlink efforts, do outreach, and track your progress. 

In the example below, Semrush uncovered more than 1,784 link prospects from blog posts, forums, news websites, review pages, and more.

You can review the entire list of suggestions or use the advanced filter to narrow it down by URL type, keyword, and top-level domain (TLD). 

Semrush Linkbuilding

How to Prevent Your Website from Appearing in AI Overviews 

AI Overviews can offer additional exposure to your content. They can help you potentially reach users who might not have found you otherwise.

That’s why I don’t recommend preventing your website from appearing in AI Overviews unless you have a valid reason, like controlling sensitive information.

While Google doesn’t offer an official opt-out, there are a few workarounds with trade-offs:

  • Apply a “no index, no follow” tag. This removes specific pages from search results entirely, including AI Overviews. However, this also means those pages won’t rank organically.
  • Apply a nosnippet tag. This prevents Google from displaying a summary snippet for a particular page. This might keep it out of AI Overviews, but it also hides the meta description that could entice users to click through.

Ultimately, the decision depends on your specific goals. If wider exposure outweighs potential risks, appearing in AI Overviews is beneficial.

FAQ

Here are some common questions about Google AI Overviews.

Are Google’s AI Overviews New Featured Snippets?

Google’s AI Overviews are not a replacement for featured snippets. However, they serve a similar purpose of providing concise information directly in search results. 

Where Do Google AI Overviews Appear? 

AI Overviews appear at the top or near the top of search results, similar to how featured snippets are displayed. 

Google AI Overview

How Do You Get an AI Overview on Google?

Ensure your website contains well-structured and high-quality content. Using on-page SEO strategies and schema markup can help Google’s AI identify and summarize your content effectively.

How Do You Opt Out of AI Overviews? 

Google does not provide specific methods for excluding your content from AI Overviews. However, you can use a “no index, no follow” tag to opt out of AI Overviews. Be aware that this will also remove your content from Google’s index entirely.

Where Can I Read More About AI Overviews? 

You can find the most up-to-date information about AI Overviews in Google’s official blog and Google Search Central

Learn and Share with Other SEOs Inside TTT Academy

Google’s AI might soon be able to summarize complex topics and even generate creative text and images to tailor the results SERPs show. SEOs and website owners must prepare for this shift in online user behavior and the new way we consume information online.

If you want to learn more about Google AI Overviews, stay updated on the ever-changing search landscape, and exchange stories with other SEOs, learn more about joining TTT Academy

You’ll get access to courses taught by 40+ SEO experts, including Aleyda Solis, Matthew Howells-Barby, and Lazarina Stoy. 

As a TTT Academy member, you’ll also get access to our entire content library with more than 200 hours of training, expert-led monthly webinars, and an exclusive Slack community of engaged professionals.

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Accelerate your SEO growth with TTT Academy.