Google’s AI Overviews’ Scary Impact on Publishers

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Last updated: May 20, 2024 | by Aleesha Jacob
google-io-2024- AI Overviews

This post was most recently updated on May 20th, 2024

Google’s recent rollout of AI Overviews in the US, with plans for expansion to more countries, has sparked discussions about its implications for publishers. This blog post delves into how this new feature may affect publishers’ traffic and provides insights on what publishers can do to navigate Google I/O 2024 effectively.

Explaining AI Overviews

Google's AI Overviews’ Scary Impact on Publishers MonitizeMore

AI Overviews is a new feature in Google Search that leverages generative AI technology to provide concise answers to complex queries. It offers users a more direct way to access information compared to traditional search results.

What you missed on AI Overviews:

  • AI Overviews are generated using Google’s Gemini model, which combines advanced capabilities like multi-step reasoning, planning, and multimodality with Google’s Search systems.
  • The AI-generated link cards within AI Overviews have shown a higher click-through rate than normal web search results, indicating a shift in user behavior towards this new format.
  • AI Overviews are reserved for queries where Google believes it can add value beyond the default search results. The company has not disclosed what percentage of queries will generate an AI Overview.
  • Google may show AI Overviews for health, medical, and financial queries, but ads will continue to appear in dedicated slots throughout the page.
  • Featured snippets will continue to appear in Google Search results alongside AI Overviews.

While AI Overviews aim to provide helpful answers, there are concerns about their accuracy. Users can report harmful or inaccurate AI Overviews by clicking on the three dots at the top of the result. Google has stated that AI Overview results are likely to improve over time as technology advances.

How do AI Overviews differ from traditional web search results?

Google's AI Overviews’ Scary Impact on Publishers MonitizeMore

AI Overviews offer a more streamlined and interactive way for users to access information directly from search results. They focus on providing quick answers to complex queries, which differs from traditional web search results, which present a list of links to websites for users to explore in more depth.

AI Overviews differ from traditional web search results in several key ways:

  1. Presentation Format: AI Overviews present concise answers in the form of link cards directly in the search results, offering users quick access to information without the need to click through to a website. In contrast, traditional web search results display a list of links to various websites that users can explore for more detailed information.
  2. Click-Through Rate: AI Overviews have shown a higher click-through rate than normal web search results, indicating that users are more inclined to interact with these AI-generated link cards. This suggests a shift in user behavior toward engaging with the information provided in AI Overviews rather than clicking on traditional search results.
  3. Content Generation: AI Overviews utilize generative AI technology powered by Google’s Gemini model to generate answers to queries. These answers are based on the system’s understanding of the query and the content available on the topic across the web. In contrast, traditional web search results rely on indexing and ranking algorithms to display relevant websites based on keywords and relevance.
  4. Query Selection: AI Overviews are selectively displayed for more complex queries where Google believes it can add value beyond the default search results. This means that not all searches will trigger an AI Overview. In contrast, traditional web search results show a broader range of websites based on keyword relevance and other ranking factors.
  5. User Interaction: Users have the option to report harmful or inaccurate AI Overviews by clicking on the three dots at the top of the AI Overview. This feedback mechanism helps improve the accuracy and relevance of AI-generated content over time. Traditional web search results do not have a similar direct feedback mechanism for users to report inaccuracies.

What is the technology behind AI Overviews?

Google's AI Overviews’ Scary Impact on Publishers MonitizeMore

The technology behind AI Overviews is powered by Google’s Gemini model, which combines advanced capabilities like multi-step reasoning, planning, and multimodality with Google’s Search systems.

AI Overviews utilize generative AI technology to provide concise answers to complex queries.

The AI-generated link cards within AI Overviews are created based on Google’s understanding of the query and the content available on the topic across the web.

Google has been testing AI Overviews for the past year, serving billions of queries using generative AI. The Gemini model, customized for Google Search, brings together advanced capabilities to power AI Overviews and provide users with helpful answers directly in the search results.

For Publishers: Navigating the Impact of AI Overviews

Google's AI Overviews’ Scary Impact on Publishers MonitizeMore

Introducing AI Overviews raises concerns for publishers, as users may increasingly rely on these AI-generated answers rather than clicking through to websites. This “zero-click” effect could lead to a decline in traffic for publishers, mirroring the impact of Google’s previous introduction of direct answers in search results.

The Good:

  1. Focus on Branding & Optimizing Content: Focus on creating high-quality, comprehensive content that adds value beyond what AI Overviews offer. By producing engaging and detailed content, you can still attract users seeking more in-depth information.
  2. Enhancing SEO Practices: Prioritizing SEO strategies remains crucial to ensure content visibility in search results. Optimizing meta tags, headings, and content structure can help maintain organic search rankings amidst the rise of AI Overviews.
  3. Diversifying Traffic Sources: To mitigate the risk of relying solely on organic search traffic, you can explore alternative avenues such as social media, email marketing, and partnerships to diversify your traffic sources and reduce dependency on search engine traffic.

The Bad:

  1. Anticipating Traffic Decline: You may experience a potential decline in traffic as users engage more with AI Overviews, leading to fewer clicks on traditional search results. This “zero-click” effect could impact publishers’ website traffic and visibility.
  2. Adapting to Changing Landscape: With Google’s AI Overviews reshaping user behavior and search result interactions, you need to adapt their content strategies to remain relevant and competitive in a landscape increasingly dominated by AI-generated answers.
  3. Monitoring Impact: Closely monitor your website analytics to track changes in traffic patterns following the introduction of AI Overviews. Understanding the impact on click-through rates and user engagement is essential for making informed decisions and adjusting strategies accordingly.

Impact of AI Overviews on Website Traffic

While Google claims that links included in AI Overviews generate a higher click-through rate than traditional web search results, there are reasons to be skeptical of this claim.

The design of AI Overviews suggests that the web links feel like an afterthought, making it hard to believe that they truly support direct traffic to websites.

Google has stated that it will report on clicks and impressions from AI Overviews in Search Console, but it will not separate the data for AI Overviews from normal web search clicks. This lack of transparency leads to the belief that if site owners could see the data for their individual sites, the results might not align with Google’s claims.

The featured snippet, a similar feature, has been shown to have a mixed impact on website traffic. While it can be beneficial for one site, it can also negatively impact the rest of the search results. It remains to be seen if AI Overviews will have a similar effect.

Google’s statement about AI Overviews receiving more clicks than traditional web search results may be carefully worded. The result in an AI Overview card might get more clicks or engagement than the average of the first page, as it is being compared to the 8-10 positions. However, it is highly unlikely that an AI Overview would get more engagement than if the listing was ranking in the first position without an AI Overview.

Exclude a page from AI Overviews

Google's AI Overviews’ Scary Impact on Publishers MonitizeMore

To prevent a page from appearing in Google’s AI Overviews, you can utilize the “nosnippet” tag within the page’s HTML code. This tag serves as a directive to Google, indicating that the content should not be included in AI Overviews.

Glenn Gabe, an SEO expert, conducted a test to validate the effectiveness of this practice. In his experiment, he observed that a page from his site was initially featured in an AI Overview. However, after implementing the “nosnippet” tag and prompting a recrawl, Google excluded his site from the AI Overview.

Note that opting to exclude a page from AI Overviews may have consequences.

By removing the content from AI Overviews, the search result appearance may be affected, potentially leading to a lack of description in the search results. This trade-off highlights the decision content creators face: allowing Google to use their content for AI Overviews or choosing to restrict certain data from appearing on the search engine results page.

The Future of Search

Google’s AI Overviews represents a significant evolution in search technology, aiming to provide users with a cleaner and simpler way to access information. While this may improve the user experience, it also underscores the complex relationship between Google and content creators. As Google seeks to clean up the web by providing more direct answers, it may inadvertently harm the very content creators it relies on for information.

In conclusion, AI Overviews signify a new era in search technology, with far-reaching implications for the web economy. As Google continues to innovate and expand its AI capabilities, it is crucial for content creators to adapt and find ways to remain relevant in a search landscape increasingly dominated by AI-generated answers.

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