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Google I/O 2024: What AI Overviews Mean for Your SEO and SEM Strategies

Written by Mariah Kamei ·

May 2024

Google I/O 2024: What AI Overviews Mean for Your SEO and SEM Strategies

Forget the Age of Aquarius. Apparently, it’s the Gemini Era now.

ICYMI, (In Case You Missed It - that’s what some elder millennials say when they're making sure you’re not missing something important), Google recently rolled out new Google Search updates on May 14, at Google I/O 2024.

“I’m excited to announce that we’ll begin launching this fully revamped experience, AI Overviews, to everyone in the U.S. this week. And we’ll bring it to more countries soon.” - Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet

Google's AI Overviews (formerly known as Search Generative Experience or SGE) represents a major change in the internet search landscape. By providing concise, AI-generated summaries at the top of Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) for complex search queries, this feature is poised to seriously transform how users consume information.

Rather than letting humans select which search results to explore, next-gen Google, named their "Gemini Era", will spoon-feed answers right into one's eyeballs. Whether you think this change adds convenience or stifles free thinking, marketers must understand how consequential this is for brand relevance and online visibility.

While AI Overviews might smooth a user's experience through their path to purchases, the feature also raises questions (and let’s be honest, some fears) for teams managing SEO and paid advertising. IMM has the technical and educational resources to help your marketing team stay on top.

Cool. Cool. But what's so different about AI Overviews?

AI Overviews uses Google Gemini artificial intelligence to analyze multiple web sources and generate comprehensive summaries for complex search queries. It offers a conversational search experience, allowing users to ask follow-up questions, delve deeper into specific aspects of a topic, and explore related areas.

Here are the details:

  • Answers will appear at the top of search results for complex questions.
  • They will not be shown for every search. Google will decide which searches warrant an AI Overview and which should display the traditional blue links.
  • AI-generated summaries will answer the user's query directly, rather than simply providing links.

So, let's say a user searches "Best places to watch NSYNC alone?". AI Overviews should tell them that the best places are back in 1998, and recommend product hyperlinks to time-travel service companies and vintage Beanie Baby stores. *This is a hypothetical question, clearly, not one I tried!

I'm sure your head is filled with various concerns for your own company's strategy. These developments also bring concerns for users (and TBH, society) that we should all be aware of:

  • AI Overviews could create filter bubbles or limit exposure to diverse perspectives when users rely on AI-generated summaries.
  • Ensuring the impartiality and accuracy of AI-generated information will be crucial to maintain user trust.
  • In the future, implementation of sponsored search results within AI Overviews (discussed during this morning's Google Marketing Live) may bring concerns over the authenticity of consumer choice.

What do AI Overviews look like?



The image above shows how new search results appear alongside a sponsored ad. Includes bulleted list with links to sources, and featured snippets. Follow-up questions typically appear here too. (Additional example.) Go ahead and give it a test drive here.

Pulling our cape off the crystal ball — Here are some possible future developments:

  • Google is likely to continue refining and expanding AI features, incorporating user feedback and overcoming limitations.
  • Integration with other Google products and services, such as Google Assistant and Google Maps, will enhance the overall user experience and change marketers’ funnel strategies.
  • Long-term impacts on the search landscape, and wider internet ecosystem, remain to be seen. If fully adopted, it will dramatically reshape how we consume information.

Why does this matter to your company?

  • Potential Traffic Decline: Studies predict a 15-25% decrease in organic web traffic due to the rise of zero-click searches because users will find answers directly within AI Overviews. (Source: Insight Partners).
  • Shift in User Behavior: AI Overviews will alter user behavior. Laziness or efficiency? It doesn't matter; either way, you need to protect your business. Increased consumer reliance on short summaries will decrease organic click-through rates, dramatically influencing website traffic and visibility. Insulating your marketing funnel with the most up-to-date Search Engine Optimization strategies is essential to staying competitive.
  • Evolving SEO Landscape: The prominence of generative AI in search in SERPs necessitates a renewed focus on optimizing content for featured snippets and rich results.
    • Insight's preliminary research revealed only 57% of links referenced in AI Overviews are from the first page of traditional organic results. And the top link aligns with the top organic result only 12% of the time, and a staggering 45% of the time, the cited link doesn't even come from the top 10 organic results.
  • Paid Advertising Evolution: Google's AI Overviews present both challenges (reduced visibility, increased competition) and opportunities (integrated ads, long-tail keyword targeting, AI-powered ad creation) for paid advertising, requiring strategic adaptation for marketers.

The introduction of AI Overviews likely has large implications for Google's business model and the advertising industry. (Gasp!) Is Google really going to F with their money maker??

  • Reduced Ad Visibility: With AI Overviews occupying prime real estate at the top of search results, traditional search ads may experience reduced visibility and click-through rates.
    • Insight Partners also found fewer ad slots above the fold on results pages displaying AI Overviews (1.2 vs. 2.4 on traditional pages). Increased Competition: As AI Overviews occupy more space, there are fewer ad slots available, leading to increased competition and potentially higher costs for advertisers. (Source: Search Engine Land) Shift in Ad Targeting: With users potentially conducting fewer searches due to the direct answers provided by AI Overviews, advertisers need to refine their targeting strategies to focus on users with the highest purchase intent. (Source: Wired)

Sure, Google doesn’t want to reduce its ad revenue through decreased clicks, but competition from Bing and ChatGPT will force them to adapt. Google has been last on this gravy train before - they can’t make that mistake twice. And even with potential increases in ad slots, competition will intensify, making it key for companies to diversify and explore multiple paid demand generation channels.

But what about the tried and true?! Implications of AI Overviews for paid search

AI Overviews will make big waves in the paid search industry. Despite the changes, this update also presents many new opportunities for advertisers:

  • Integrated Ads: Google is actively testing integrating ads directly within AI Overviews, offering a new and potentially highly effective way to reach target audiences. (Source: Neil Patel)
  • Long-tail Keyword Opportunities: As AI Overviews drive more users to search for long-tail keywords, advertisers can tailor their campaigns to capture this intent.
    • Research indicates that long-tail phrases account for less than 11.6% of queries, with 72% being non-transactional, suggesting a potential for increased conversions with targeted campaigns. (Source: Neil Patel)
  • AI-Powered Ad Creation: Google is developing AI tools to help advertisers create more compelling ads, potentially improving click-through and conversion rates.

Recommended action: Advertisers should closely monitor their overall Google Ads performance in the coming months. If performance metrics decline due to AI Overviews’ impact on organic traffic or ad placements, exploring alternative channels like social media advertising or diversifying marketing strategies may become necessary to maintain campaign effectiveness.  

Spotlight on PMAX Performance Max campaigns, being AI-driven, can complement the AI-powered search by optimizing ad placements for users who are further along the purchase funnel. As both are Google products, they are expected to work synergistically to display ads for users actively considering purchases ("consideration phase") rather than those merely seeking information ("awareness phase"). This alignment could lead to more effective ad targeting, reducing wasted ad spend on users not yet ready to convert.

  • Google is actively experimenting with integrating Performance Max campaigns directly into AI Overviews results. Early tests have shown that Performance Max campaigns can effectively capture user intent and deliver relevant ads within the AI Overview experience. This could further enhance the synergy between Performance Max and search, maximizing advertising ROI and mitigating potential negative impacts on ad performance.

Don’t throw out the (figurative) baby with the bath water — How to balance uncertainty with practicality:

Adjusting strategy without breaking the funnel.

  • Optimize for Featured Snippets: Prioritize crafting concise, informative content and language that directly answers common questions to increase the chances of being featured in AI Overviews. (Source: IMM)
  • Focus on Comprehensive Content: Develop in-depth, authoritative content that goes beyond basic information to entice users to explore your website further. This boosts user interaction metrics and your sites' core web vitals. (Source: IMM)
  • Monitor Performance Closely: Regularly track search rankings, organic traffic, and click-through rates to gauge the impact of AI Overviews on your website's performance.
  • Diversify Traffic Sources: Explore alternative channels like social media, email marketing, and content marketing to reduce reliance on organic search traffic.
  • Invest in Paid Advertising: Consider integrating ads within AI Overviews (if available) and exploring alternative paid channels like social media advertising to maintain visibility and reach your target audience.
  • Experiment with Ad Formats: Test different ad formats and messaging to optimize your campaigns for the AI Overviews environment.
  • Leverage AI Tools: Utilize Google's AI-powered tools to create better ads and target your audience more effectively.
  • Stay Informed and Adapt: Continuously monitor the development of AI Overviews and adjust your marketing strategies accordingly to remain competitive in the search engine marketing landscape.

Looking for extra credit? Try some of these tricks:

SEO Trends & Content Strategies: Only 57% of links cited by AI Overviews are from the first page of organic results. Optimizing content for AI algorithms can give underdogs an advantage. (Source: Insight Partners)

  • Optimize for AI Overviews:
    • Craft concise, informative content that directly answers common questions to increase the chances of being featured in AI Overviews.
    • Develop in-depth, authoritative content that goes beyond basic information to entice users to click through to your website.
    • Optimize your website's structured data (schema markup) to make it easier for Google's AI to understand and present your content in AI-driven search results.
    • Experiment with content optimization in new formats like videos and infographics to increase organic search traffic.
  • Monitor & Adapt:
    • Regularly track search rankings and user engagement metrics such as organic traffic, click-through rates, and conversions to understand the impact of zero-click searches.
    • Overviews on your website's performance.
    • Stay informed about the latest developments in Google algorithm updates and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.
    • Implement UTM parameters and custom event tracking to measure the impact of AI Overviews on your website traffic and conversions. [(Source: IMM)]((https://imm.com/blog/win-ai-search-essential-seo-strategies)
  • Join Search Labs:
    • Google's Search Labs allows users to test experimental features like AI Overviews. By signing up and providing feedback, businesses can gain early insights into how AI Overviews work and potentially influence their development. Sign up here.
  • Prioritize Listings and Reviews: Ensure your website is listed in relevant directories and has positive reviews to enhance visibility and credibility.
  • Build Relationships: Network with other websites and influencers in your industry to increase your website's authority and potential for backlinks.
  • Focus on Website Transactions: Optimize your website for conversions, making it easy for users to find what they need and complete transactions.

Keep Calm and Google On

Remember, it’s still the early days of these updates, and Google is always innovating. Staying proactive and informed is the only way to remain competitive. With exponentially growing AI, change is the only constant in this new Google Gemini Era. Or whatever they’ll call it next week.

Take a few calming gummies (they’re a thing!) and give us a call. Our team of human experts will help you navigate these seismic shifts without restructuring your entire digital presence.

Sadly, we can’t help with any existential thoughts about the state of the zodiac, or, the future of humanity.

A parting summary, from someone else smart:

“The paradigm of search for the last 20 years has been that the search engine pulls a lot of information and gives you the links. Now the search engine does all the searches for you and summarizes the results and gives you a formative opinion.”

  - Jim Yu, executive chairman of BrightEdge

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