Home » What Business Owners Need to Know about Google’s AI Overviews

What Business Owners Need to Know about Google’s AI Overviews

AI Overviews image

It finally happened: Google’s Search Generative Experience – now called AI Overviews – is being rolled out to US search results. How should business owners feel about AI Overviews? In this article, I provide a quick rundown of what AI Overviews are and what actions business owners should take to make sure they’re adapting to the new landscape of Google Search.

It finally happened: Google’s Search Generative Experience – now called AI Overviews – is being rolled out to US search results. Not everyone is seeing them, but according to Search Engine Journal, “hundreds of millions of US searchers will gain access to AI overviews this week and over 1 billion by year’s end.”

We’ve known it was coming for a while, but now that we see them in action, AI Overviews is a big shake-up. It’s a big shake-up for search engine marketers like me, for business owners who use organic search as a marketing channel, and for everyone who uses Google search.

To some, AI overviews are the end of organic search marketing as we know it. To others, there is a huge opportunity to be had. And many are in the “let’s wait and see” camp.

But how should business owners feel about AI Overviews? In this article, I provide a quick rundown of what AI Overviews are, how we’re already seeing them affect search results and traffic, and what action business owners should take to make sure they’re adapting to the new landscape of Google Search.

1. What are AI Overviews?

AI Overviews are a new element in Google Search that uses Google’s customized Gemini language model to produce more detailed answers for queries. The overviews can answer complex questions with specific answers.

For example, I asked Google

“what type of air conditioner should I buy if I have a 4000 square foot home and I live in a dry area”

and this is the AI Overview I got:

a screenshot of an AI Overview for the question what type of air conditioner should I buy if I have a 4000 square foot home and I live in a dry area

The AI Overview was comprised of:

  • Quick answers advising what I should consider when purchasing an HVAC system for my home’s size
  • Links to air conditioners for purchase
  • Links to articles from around the internet that tackled questions similar to my own
  • The option to tell Google if I found the result to be helpful or unhelpful

On the same result page, outside of the AI Overview, I was given a bunch of paid search results, regular organic links, a featured snippet organic result, and sponsored shopping links.

In essence, the goal of AI Overviews is to provide searchers with more direct answers to their questions and a quicker route to the solutions for the problems they’re trying to solve. Some may also consider AI Overviews as no more than a glorified featured snippet.

2. Besides offering detailed answers to complex questions, what else can AI Overviews do?

Another way AI Overviews is trying to provide more value to searchers is with planning assistance for things like meal planning and vacations. For instance, when I asked Google:

“plan a week’s worth of dinners for me that is for 4 people each night, high in protein, low in carbs, and don’t feature red meat”

This is what I get:

Notably, all those recipes in the AI Overview cited the content creator.

Also notable, most of these recipes look unappetizing to me. I would need to get much more specific in my query if I wanted a meal plan that suited me.

AI Overviews is also trying to give searchers more ways to find solutions using Google Search. According to Search Engine Journal, users will soon be able to record videos of themselves asking questions they need answered, which will provide another method to users to describe the issue they’re trying to solve.

3. Does everyone have access to AI Overviews in search results?

As of May 19, 2024, not everyone who uses Google is seeing AI Overviews in search results. It’s anticipated that by the end of 2024, over 1 billion people will start seeing them.

4. Can I opt-out of AI Overviews and make sure Google doesn’t use my content in them?

Yes, you can opt your website’s content out of AI Overviews. There are several ways to do this, and Google provides instructions for how to prevent your content from being shown in AI Overviews. Keep in mind that if you choose to use these options, then you will likely impact your appearance in regular search results too.

5. If you’re a business owner, should you opt-out of AI Overviews?

Hell no. At this point it is far too soon to tell what the full impact of AI Overviews will be on businesses using Google Search as a marketing channel, but I’m inclined to say: start seeing AI Overviews as an opportunity, and not as a thief of your intellectual property. As Nathan Gotch, Co-Founder of Rankability, and one of the leading SEOs in the industry, put it:

“Google is the Casino… At the end of the day, you’re paying a price to get free visibility in Google.”

And:

“… [Y]ou need to adopt the mentality of Warren Buffet, who says to be greedy when others are fearful.  (emphasis his, but also mine)

SEO will remain the #1 inbound marketing method for a long time.

Yes, it’s changing, but the world is always changing.

Nothing stays the same.

Expect change and adapt.”

So far, we’re seeing that Google is using citations in AI Overviews. We don’t know if this will always be the case, and I’m unsure if Google is citing every source, but since AI Overviews are just a glorified featured snippet, I see it as a good thing if Google uses your website’s content in its AI Overviews.

Additionally, according to this video from Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable, he was advised by a Google liaison that “the clickthrough rate is higher in the AI Overviews than they are in the normal web search results.” Schwartz himself admits that he was surprised to hear this, and while it may be a suspicious claim by Google (especially since they have yet to show any data backing up this claim), it will be worth watching to see if clickthrough rates go up in the coming months.

6. How are local businesses being impacted by AI Overviews?

So far, I’m not seeing any impact from AI Overviews on queries with geo-modifiers or “near me” modifiers; these searches seem to pull up the same types of results they did before AI Overviews started to go live.

However, as AI Overviews become better known for their vacation planning abilities, this will be an opportunity for hospitality and tourism-related businesses to promote themselves. I advise restaurants, museums, local attractions, and any business with an interest in tourism to really start optimizing their website and online citations, if they haven’t already.

screenshot of an AI Overview with a vacation itinerary to Denver, CO

7. How can business owners use AI Overviews to their advantage?

If you’re a business owner who would like to use Google Search as a marketing channel, then you’ll want to do the following:

  • Make sure you’re explicitly asking and answering questions in your content

This has been a best practice in SEO content writing for a while now, but Search Engine Journal highlights this tactic to leverage AI Overviews. According to Matt G. Southern of SEJ, “With AI overviews answering queries directly, optimizing content in a question-and-answer format may increase the likelihood of having it surfaced by Google’s AI models.”

  • Create topic overview pages spanning initial research to final decisions.

Another recommendation from Matt G. Southern that also makes good sense is to create comprehensive overviews of topics on your site to increase your chances of the content being picked up in an AI Overview. According to him:

“Google’s AI search can handle complex, multi-step queries. Creating comprehensive overview content that covers the entire journey—from initial research to final purchasing decisions—could position those pages as prime sources for Google’s AI.”

Essentially, I think it’s more important than ever to keep creating helpful content.

  • Include visuals in your content

Visuals can be powerful for clickthrough when shown in an AI Overview. When you create content that leverages more than text, but also infographics, videos, images, and FAQs, you increase your chances of those elements showing in the Overview, and thus users clicking through to your website.

  • Make sure you have a favicon

favicon example

For those who don’t know, a favicon is the little logo you see in the search tab when you’re on a website:

When an AI Overview cites a website, it shows a little snippet of the article, and include the favicon. A favicon is such a quick and simple element to add to your website, so it would be a lazy mistake not to have one!

  • Make sure your content isn’t more than a year old

screenshot of a sites carousel from an AI Overview

I also noticed that dates are showing up in these citations, too.

Since the date is so prominent, and more recently published content tends to have a better clickthrough rate, you’ll want to make sure your content doesn’t get much more than a year old.

  • Be authoritative by building backlinks from reputable sources

I have not done an exhaustive review and assessment, but from what I can see in my initial testing, the content that is cited in the top 5 positions in the scroll in AI Overviews tends to be more authoritative websites with healthy backlink profiles. So, it is my advice to keep building PR and backlinks from reputable and relevant sources that will give you authority in your industry.

8. What should business owners expect for the next 6 months when it comes to AI Overviews, search results, and SEO?

Knowing what business owners should expect in the next 6 months when it comes to Google Search and how to proceed with their SEO is hard to say – the past couple of years have been a whirlwind with all the changes Google has thrown at us. As for us at Digital Dynamo, watching our clients’ search rankings and organic traffic has revealed more good than bad, with many of our clients’ rankings surging and organic traffic increasing. But it has only been a week since the roll-out of AI Overviews began, and we will be watching traffic and rankings trends in the coming months to figure out how AI Overviews are impacting search appearance.

Even though I’m not a bellwether for SEO, I feel confident saying this: if you keep creating helpful content, building reputable backlinks, and ensuring your site is crawlable and healthy from a technical standpoint, then the Google Gods will shine their light on you. Some may think Google will just steal your thunder (i.e. use your hard work and research and pass it off as their own without bestowing the fruits of your labor to you), but I’m just not convinced of that yet. I’ll revisit this article in 6-12 months and let you know if I should eat my words.

If you are interested in learning more about AI Overviews, SEO for business, or any other digital marketing services, please contact Digital Dynamo for a free consultation.