Google to start testing ads in AI Overviews

Posted by Edith MacLeod on 26 May, 2024
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Ads will appear when they’re relevant to both the query and the information in the AI Overview.

Google Ads.

Image: Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Following the rollout to all US users of AI Overviews for complex queries, Google has now announced that it is to begin testing ads in Overviews.  The announcement was made at the company’s Marketing Live 2024 event.

Google said early testing had shown that people find the ads shown above and below the AI Overview helpful. As with a number of claims on the popularity of AI Overviews, no data was given to back this up.

Testing will begin soon of Search and Shopping ads in AI Overviews for users in the US.

Ads will appear within the AI Overview in a section labelled “Sponsored” when they are deemed relevant to both the query and the information in the Overview.

Ads in AI Overviews.

Ads from existing Search, Performance Max, and Standard Shopping campaigns are eligible to appear within the AI Overview, there is no need for advertisers to take any action.

Google said earlier, when announcing the rollout of AI Overviews to US users, that it remained “focused on sending valuable traffic to publishers and creators”. However, the inclusion of ads may also contribute to a decrease in traffic to websites, as Google provides all the information needed, including ads, within the AI Overview.

Meanwhile, Google’s AI continues to face criticism and mockery for giving factually incorrect, misleading and downright dangerous answers in AI Overviews. These have been widely documented on social media. 

Google Head of Search Liz Reid responded in a blog post on 30 May, saying the company had made a number of technical improvements. These include:

  • Better detection mechanisms for nonsensical queries that shouldn’t show in an AI Overview
  • Limiting satirical and humorous content.
  • An update to limit the use of potentially misleading user-generated advice.
  • Adding triggering restrictions for queries where AI Overviews were not helpful.
  • Enhancing quality protection for health topics.

Reid acknowledged some odd and innacurate results had appeared, and welcomed user feedback to help improve the quality of responses. However, she said some screenshots had been faked, and that Google had found a content policy violation on less than one in every 7 million unique queries on which AI Overviews appeared.

Article updated 5 June to include Google Head of Search response.

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