Google rolls out AI overviews for all US users

Posted by Edith MacLeod on 20 May, 2024
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The announcement marks a huge change for Search. What does it mean for publishers, businesses and the future search landscape?

AI Overviews.

Google’s head of Search, Liz Reid, announced last week at the company’s annual developer conference A/I 2024 that AI Overviews were being rolled out to all US users, with more countries to follow soon.

What are AI Overviews?

AI Overviews are seen at the top of the page. The purpose of an Overview is to provide comprehensive answers to complex questions based on content found on the web. It uses generative AI powered by Google Gemini, and was launched in Search Labs last year as part of the Search Generative Experience (SGE).

Google says it’s proving popular with users, though no data is given to back this up.

“(People) like that they can get both a quick overview of a topic and links to learn more. We’ve found that with AI Overviews, people use Search more, and are more satisfied with their results…”

AI Overviews began rolling out to US users in English on 14 May, with more countries due to follow soon, meaning billions of people will see an AI-generated summary at the top of their search results.

AI Overviews will not be shown for all queries, only for complex queries where it can be more helpful. So for example it wouldn’t be shown if you were searching for a particular store, where you just need to go to the site. It would however be helpful if you were searching for something more complex, with a number of factors to be taken into consideration.

“Soon, with just one search, you’ll be able to ask something like “find the best yoga or pilates studios in Boston and show me details on their intro offers, and walking time from Beacon Hill.”

Semrush Sensor started tracking AI Overviews on 17 May. SEO Consultant Brodie Clark tweeted that on that day they appeared for 0.55% of searches on desktop and 0.81% on mobile. This makes them relatively rare at the moment, but this is clearly the start of a process with more to come.

Other AI-powered features for Search

Google also announced a series of other AI features for Search including multistep reasoning capabilities, AI-organized search results, planning capabilities and ask via video. See our separate blog post for more details.

Why is Google doing this?

Google rolling out AI Overviews and other AI features for search brings AI-powered information right into the heart of search results. It is effectively the actualization of the vision they laid out three years ago with MUM - the AI providing a more conversational search experience, dealing with complex queries without you having to ask a series of separate questions.
Google is also in fierce competition with Open AI, which is closely linked to Microsoft. Open AI launched their latest Chat GPT model, GPT-4o on 13 May, the day before Google I/O 2024.

What does this mean for Search and publishers?

Google’s announcement heralds a massive shift in the Search experience. It also brings a number of existing issues front and centre.

AI Overviews take up a lot of real estate at the top of the results page, their answers pulled together from a variety of content on the web.

As a result, we are likely to see an increase in no-click searches, where users find the answer on the search results page and so don’t have to click further onto a result. Sites would see a drop in visibility, traffic and revenue.

Rankings may also change as Google rolls out its AI-organized results page, tailored to the user and arranged into a conversational experience.

"When you’re looking for fresh ideas, it can take a lot of work to find inspiration and consider all your options. Soon, when you’re looking for ideas, Search will use generative AI to brainstorm with you and create an AI-organized results page that makes it easy to explore.”

As Bloomberg points out, AI Overviews take something which has been happening for years a step further. That is, organic results being pushed further down the page as Google’s various features (People also ask, Knowledge Panels etc) gave quick answers directly in the SERPs.

A bleak forecast by Gartner back in February already predicted a 25% drop in search engine traffic by 2026 due to AI chatbots and other virtual agents.

Here’s a case in point, outlined by the Washington Post. Jake Boly’s website of workout shoe reviews had a fall of 96% in his traffic from Google last year. However, Google cites his page on AI-generated answers on shoes, so still finds value in it. The problem is people read the summary and don’t visit his website any more.

“My content is good enough to scrape and summarize,” he said. “But it’s not good enough to show in your normal search results, which is how I make money and stay afloat.”

Jake Boly.

Source: Washington Post

The reaction

Epitomised by their catchphrase “Let Google do the searching for you” the rollout of AI Overviews has caused no little consternation among the SEO community, as well as businesses and publishers who rely heavily on Google for their organic search traffic.

This cartoon summarises a lot of the sentiment out there.

Publishers and content.

Source: @CyrusShepard on X

As does this reply to Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan:

Content theft.

Source: @schachin on X

Opting out


Google has published a help document for publishers, which includes how to prevent your content from appearing in AI Overviews. It says:

“AI Overviews offer a preview of a topic or query based on a variety of sources, including web sources. As such, they are subject to Search's preview controls.”

It also covers troubleshooting options if your content is still appearing in AI Overviews.


AI Overviews will be there for users whether they like it or not and efforts to switch them off appear to be less than successful.


Source: @lilyraynyc on X

CNET, among others, has documented a number of workarounds to achieve this.

Useful tools for publishers

Meanwhile, resources are coming online to help publishers. SEO consultant Aleyda Solis tweeted about a new tool called ZipTie to track your inclusion in Google AI Overviews.

Track inclusion.

Source: @aleyda on X

And Sixtrix is showing any site ranked keywords triggering AI overviews using the AI Box Serp feature filter  Here's an example of the top terms triggering AI Overviews for Amazon.

Keywords triggering AI Overviews.

Source: @aleyda on X


Errors will occur with any new technology and there have been some downright dangerous examples from Google's generative AI. These include incorrect information about alcohol limits for drivers in Barbados, and advice to drink urine to pass a kidney stone.

Misleading information or “hallucinations” are likely to diminish over time as the AI gets trained with more data. However, the expert view is that these can be mitigated but not eliminated completely.

You can report harmful or wrong information by clicking on the three dots at the top of an Overview.

Looking ahead

Google needs to tread carefully not to destroy the co-dependent relationship between search engine, publishers and advertisers.

Google says that links in AI Overviews get more clicks, but doesn’t offer data to support this. It also says it will continue to drive traffic to sites.

“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. As always, ads will continue to appear in dedicated slots throughout the page, with clear labeling to distinguish between organic and sponsored results.”

If businesses, content producers and advertisers are not getting the clicks and revenues, they may just decide it’s not worth continuing and look elsewhere, beyond Google.

Watch the I/O 2024 keynote on AI Overviews from Google’s Liz Read at the 4:52 min mark.

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