Everything you need to know about ‘AI Overviews’

Google Search Generative Experience (SGE), wait…sorry, we mean ‘AI overviews and more’… hold on, just in, it’s called ‘AI Overviews’ now? Why are all the cool SEO agencies are talking about this? Is it a sign for better or worse? What about my click through rate?

Slow down, take a deep breath!

We’ll tell you all about AI Overviews (formally known as SGE), how they work and how we are preparing for the “new way to search” with generative AI, coming to a search engine near you!

Key takeaways:

  • AI Overviews integrate generative artificial intelligence (Generative AI) into Google search.
  • The AI Overview is intended to be your starting point, providing an answer to your query directly, or highlighting key information relevant your search.
  • We expect AI Overviews to impact SEO in the same way that featured snippets impacted SEO. Sites featured in the overview get more clicks, sites not featured get less.
  • To ensure your SEO doesn’t suffer, make sure content generation is part of your SEO strategy so that it appears in the overviews.
  • Don’t worry about Google ads, if anything, it will get better with AI Overviews.

What is Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE)?

Search Generative Experience (SGE) was a Search Labs experiment that let you see AI Overviews and additional generative AI features in Google search. It has since been replaced by the Search Labs experiment called ‘AI Overviews and more’ that does largely the same thing.

If that wasn’t enough to take in, as of May 2024, Google has now launched what they’re officially calling ‘AI Overviews’ to everyone in the U.S. Don’t get too comfortable though! Google loves changing the names of its products (RIP Google My Business).

How do AI Overviews work?

AI Overviews integrate generative artificial intelligence (Generative AI) into Google search to enhance the search experience and help Googlers “get the more out of a single search”. AI Overviews utilise a variety of large language models (LLMs) – similar to ChatGPT – to generate snippets at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) for certain queries using sources across the web and Google’s Knowledge Graph. The overviews are only visible for queries that Google believes an AI overview can assist with (Currently only 15% of queries).

The AI Overview is intended to be your starting point, providing an answer to your query directly, or highlighting key information relevant your search, such as which restaurants provide delivery for the cuisine you searched for, or what features to consider for the marathon running shoes you’re researching.

How do AI Overviews look?

AI Overviews are featured at the top of the SERP displaying a relevant response to the query along with links to any resources that corroborate the response. Along with AI overviews, there are a number of new AI powered features coming to Google Search.

  • An additional search box may appear that allows users to ask contextual follow up questions and explore a topic deeper.
  • AI organised results pages will overhaul the SERP with a new UI, featuring headings, different content types and a range of filters to help you explore a topic and make more informed decisions.
  • Planning capabilities will help users kickstart a task straight from the search results.

How AI Overviews Look

How do you get linked in an AI Overview?

AI Overviews list links to resources that corroborate the AI answer so that users can fact check the answer or explore the topic deeper. Google says that their systems automatically determine which links appear and that there is nothing special for creators to do to be considered other than to follow their guidance for appearing in search. However, testing revealed that the reference links are not actually used to generate the answer, but are selected after the fact if they closely match or support what the AI overview is stating. Some SEOs even found that simply copying what the AI overview stated saw them land a link in the overview, but we DON’T recommend you do this at all, as it has some very undesirable side effects.

If you want to be linked in the AI Overview for a query, our recommendation is to simply stick to the truth, and provide an answer that is more helpful than your competitions.

How will AI overviews effect SEO?

We expect AI Overviews to change SEO in the same way that featured snippets changed search.

For transactional and commercial search intent – search traffic looking for a service or product – we expect your click through rate will be much the same. Google will only show AI overviews when they are deemed helpful, and when search intent is transactional, customers don’t want an AI Answer; they want to visit websites, read reviews, and interact with local businesses.

In our testing, AI overviews often didn’t show for searches involving a service and a location e.g. “SEO Perth”. This means if you are ranking in the top 5 or in the local map you will continue to enjoy a stream of customers visiting your site and inquiring about your services.

For informational intent you might see a few less clicks as AI Overviews will be present for most of these queries. Simply put, there is now more screen real estate between the top of the search results page and the organic results, and as it stands, most of Google’s users barely make it past the 5th result. But there is some good news! If you were further down the page anyway, you now have another way to feature higher on Google and increase your clicks substantially. You just need to get listed in the AI Overview.

What do AI Overviews mean for Google Ads?

When it comes to Google ads, you should get some comfort knowing that Google makes an absolute killing from advertising revenue, so if there is one thing for sure, Google is going to make sure that Google Ads are not suffering from this feature. While the full rollout of ads in AI Overviews is still underway, Google has shown to present ads above, below and within the AI Overviews. This is going to enable you to present your product / service at just the right moment.

Preparing for AI Overviews

The biggest takeaway we have is that if your SEO strategy includes content creation, you are in the clear. As with featured snippets, Google is going to feature the best content above the search results if you provide it. Aside from that, if you continue to improve rankings and position yourself in the top 5 search results, you will continue to see organic traffic flowing from Google.

How are we optimising for AI Overviews?

When it comes to optimising for AI Overviews, we are going to treat it like any other new feature Google brings to search. We are going to ensure our clients are taking advantage of all its benefits by:

  • Guaranteeing that AI Overviews can draw from the websites of our clients with rock solid SEO fundamentals, user friendly sites and optimised headings, content, and site architecture.
  • Presenting our clients in the AI enhanced local search results by showcasing their expertise through reviews, and a perfectly set-up Google Business Profile.
  • Encouraging collaboration between different services, integrating SEO, Google Ads, and social media ads to gain additional insights and engage all customer touchpoints in the AI overviews.

How do you enable AI Overviews?

For the moment, it is quite difficult to get AI Overviews to appear if you are outside of the US. So, for us Australians, it requires a VPN. We found that the most consistent way to try out the new feature is through Google’s Search Labs.

How to enable AI Overviews

Can you turn off AI Overviews?

No, currently Google is not allowing users to opt out of AI overviews. But its early days, things are changing rapidly so we will have to wait and see when it reaches Australia.

Can you remove your snippet from an AI Overview?

While we certainly wouldn’t recommend doing it, you can prevent your site from appearing in the AI Overviews but the caveat is that you will also be preventing your site from appearing in featured snippets.

Any questions?

If you’re unsure if your business is ready for AI Overviews, get in touch with us!

Contact Us

Alistair Hinchliffe

SEO Service Lead