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What are Google’s AI Overviews?

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2nd April 2024 in

AI Overviews (formerly known as Search Generative Experience (SGE)) are Google’s latest search innovation. AI Overviews tie generative AI into the standard Google Search experience to provide users with summarised and contextualised AI-generated responses to their search queries.

What you need to know:

  • Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) is an experimental update to Google’s search interface, leveraging generative AI to provide summarised, contextual responses to search queries.
  • SGE has now officially been rolled out in select countries around the world and is known as AI Overviews.
  • The AI-generated responses in AI Overviews are positioned above traditional search engine results page (SERP) links and affect the way outbound links and ads are displayed to users.
  • Australian users have not yet received access to AI Overviews, but signs point to access being available soon, with over 120 other countries already using the new technology.
  • AI Overviews pose a challenge for brands reliant on Google traffic as users adapt the way they search for and interact with information online.
  • Brands need to adapt their content and SEO strategies in response to AI-driven summaries to ensure that AI Overviews don’t negatively impact website traffic and online conversions.

UPDATE 2nd July 2024—Google’s experimental search innovation, Search Generative Experience, has now finished its trial and is being officially rolled out as AI Overviews. We have updated all references to Search Generative Experience or SGE to AI Overviews to match the current terminology used by Google.

AI Overviews aim to simplify the search experience by presenting answers directly within the search engine results page (SERP). That’s good for users, who can now find answers to their questions in fewer clicks, but it poses a challenge for brands that rely on traffic from Google to make sales and build brand awareness.

A screenshot of Google's Search Generative Experience User Interface. Shows the answer to the query "Houses for Sale Mount Hawthorn".

Google’s AI Overviews answer user queries with AI-generated content.

While AI Overviews are not yet available in Australia, its roll-out to more than 120 countries worldwide suggests that it will soon be a permanent part of Google’s search ecosystem and something Australian marketers need to pay attention to.

How AI Overviews Work

Users interact with AI Overviews in much the same way that they interact with traditional search on Google; they type in a search query and then look for information on the SERP.

Where these two methods differ is in what happens after the SERP loads.

A traditional Google search will serve users with a list of ten outbound links and several search ads related to their search query, which the user will then click on until they find the information they are looking for.

With AI Overviews, users are instead presented with an AI-generated summation of the information they’re looking for, with the traditional outbound links and ads positioned below this AI response. In many cases, AI Overviews users no longer need to click away from the SERP to find the answer to their query.

An animated GIF of Google's Search Generative Experience responding to a user query.

Google’s AI Overivews answers user queries with generative AI, supplanting the standard list of outbound links that users have become accustomed to.

Outbound links are still present in AI Overviews in the form of citations and carousel links but are given less prominence compared to the summarised AI response that users receive.

The Impact of AI Overviews on Search Behaviour

Google’s AI Overviews will continue to evolve quickly over the coming months, but its core aim hints at key changes in user search behaviour that marketers need to be aware of.

  • Fewer Outbound Link Clicks. AI Overviews’ capacity to provide summarised, AI-generated answers directly within the search engine results page (SERP) reduces a user’s need to follow outbound links to external websites. This feature, while enhancing user experience, presents a significant challenge for marketers accustomed to leveraging Google search as a primary driver for website traffic, sales, and brand awareness.
  • Less Brand Control. Google’s AI Overviews algorithm aggregates content from multiple sources to create its responses, meaning brands now have less direct influence over how they are portrayed on Google.
  • Less Engagement with Ads. Users in the consideration and discovery phases of their buying journey can now obtain pricing, service information, and other purchasing information directly from the SERP, potentially reducing the visibility and click-through rates of search ads on Google.

Google’s AI Overviews represents a significant shift in how consumers interact with search results, but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence for brands that rely on search. Our Senior Advisors can help you explore the implications of AI Overviews for your brand and create strategies that ensure your campaigns continue delivering results in the AI-driven search era. Contact our advisors today by calling 1800 750 204 or submitting an enquiry online.

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