21 Jun 2024

Unpacking Google’s AI Overviews: What it means for your SEO

In the wild world of SEO, Google loves keeping us on our toes. Just when we get our hands on the Google leak and think we’ve cracked the code, they go and shake up the playbook. Whether it’s algorithm tweaks, shifting result pages, or the battle between paid and organic traffic – there’s never a dull moment. 

One of the latest changes is Google’s AI Overviews, which are redefining how the search engine giant interprets and ranks web content. Join us as we unpack what they are, why they matter, and how to keep your SEO strategy sharp.

What you’ll find:

  • What are Google’s AI Overviews?
  • What’s the big deal?
  • What triggers AI Overview results?
  • Hiccups and hang ups
  • What it means for your SEO strategy
  • Summary – how to use AI Overviews to your advantage

What are Google’s new AI Overviews?

Today, when you search for something on Google you might first be met with an AI summary. These clever little AI snippets are now playing detective with our web content, deciding what’s hot and what’s not in the search rankings…or at least trying to.

Announced last month at Google’s annual developer conference, the new AI Overview feature aggregates information from pages on the web to deliver a neatly-packaged AI-generated summary that appears at the top of search results. 


A screenshot of Google AI Overview for 'how good is Google's new AI tool'

The official line? Google claims it’s designed to provide rapid-fire answers so ‘Google can do the Googling for you’. A noble cause, to be sure. Or is it just another clever manoeuvre to keep you firmly within Google’s ecosystem while boosting their ad revenue?

With that in mind, Google has also admitted it will soon experiment with embedding ads into these AI Overviews. Expect to see ‘Sponsored’ tags appearing in this space, blending seamlessly with your AI-generated content.

While Google hasn’t officially disclosed how often AI overviews are generated, Semrush Sensor has seen them crop up for around 0.55% of searches. So, while not all searches generate an AI Overview, informational queries can trigger it. As this feature gets even more polished, expect it to become a regular headliner in your search results.

Semrush Sensor results

So, what’s the big deal? 

According to Google, this shift towards AI-driven Search promises to deliver more accurate and relevant results. For SEO professionals, it’s a gentle nudge (or a firm shove) to focus more on crafting unique content that genuinely addresses user queries.

In short, Google’s AI Overviews are pushing us all to be better, smarter, and more user-centric in our SEO strategies. (Something we’ve been banging on about for years)

To keep up, you’d better get busy crafting content that’s as clever as it is useful.

What triggers AI Overview Search results? 

Recent research by BrightEdge reveals some intriguing patterns:

  • AI Overviews are more likely to feature when there is also a Featured Snippet
  • If your query needs direct data or is tough to summarise (think local searches or sitelinks), don’t hold your breath for an AI Overview
  • Around 63% of healthcare topic queries get the AI Overview treatment, while only 32% of B2B queries and 23% of eCommerce queries do
  • Restaurants and travel? They’re mostly flying under the AI Overview radar for now

The healthcare sector is being touted as the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for how this will impact websites, as it’s leading the charge with AI Overview results. So, if you’re in the business of publishing healthcare content, you might want to pay extra attention to our SEO tips below.

Hiccups and hang-ups

The current verdict from users and business owners alike isn’t looking too hot, with headlines disparaging the quality and reliability of AI Overview results. 

As for SEO professionals? Opinions are as varied as ever.

Albert Gouyet, VP of Operations at BrightEdge:

Albert Gouyet, VP of Operations at BrightEdge quote

While Reece Rogers, Service Writer, WIRED writes:

“I feel certain that if the company decides to expand the prevalence of AI Overviews, then the feature will dramatically transform digital journalism, likely for the worse.” 

Here’s why:

AI doesn’t always get it right

While the Overviews include source references, the AI model can’t tell if a source is correct. This has led to blunders ranging from the humorously absurd to the downright dangerous. Rocks for breakfast, anyone? 


A screenshot of Google AI Overview about eating rocks


Relying heavily on AI to understand content means we’re placing a lot of trust in Google’s algorithms. Sure, AI is smart, but it’s not infallible. There’s always the risk that the AI might misinterpret content or miss the subtle nuances, leading to unexpected impacts on rankings. 

Is it innovation or imitation? 

Another concern is that AI Overviews could start to muscle out original work. Earlier this month, Reece Rogers from WIRED shared his concerns when the AI Overview not only outranked his article but did so using his own content. Talk about being outshone by your own creation!

According to Rogers:

“AI Overviews provide direct answers to questions in a manner that buries attribution and reduces the incentive for users to click through to the source material.”

Unsurprisingly, Google took a different line in their response:

“AI Overviews will conceptually match information that appears in top web results, including those linked in the overview. This information is not a replacement for web content, but designed to help people get a sense of what’s out there and click to learn more.”

How will it impact clicks and organic traffic?

As proved by the recent Google leak, traffic signals such as Click-Through-Rate (CTR), bounce rates and time on site are vital ranking factors.

So, does the advent of AI Overviews mean that less users will be clicking through to your website? 

Gartner has ominously predicted a 25% drop in organic search volume by 2026, thanks to AI Search and Chatbots stealing the show.

However, Liz Reid, VP, Head of Google Search, countered “the links included in AI Overviews get more clicks than if the page had appeared as a traditional web listing for that query”.

AI Overviews read your content, get the context, and then figure out how it should be ranked in search results. With AI tools leading the charge, Google’s aim is to move beyond simple keyword matching to actually understanding the meaning behind your words. Translation: Google’s getting better at figuring out what users want and how your content fits their needs.

What it means for your SEO strategy

So, how do you navigate these changes? 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the message from us is clear: quality content that’s unique, relevant and answers your audience’s queries is still the name of the game.

Here are some tips to keep your SEO strategy on point in the age of AI Overviews:

1. Relevant, quality content is still key

Google seems to be slowly moving away from being a Search Engine to becoming the ultimate ‘Answer Engine’.

As keyword optimisation and backlink quality take more of a backseat, content relevance, context and user intent becomes more important. 

What you should do:

  • Double down on creating high-quality, relevant content that answers user queries comprehensively
  • Think less about stuffing keywords and more about providing genuine value
  • If your content reads like it was written for a search engine, it’s time for a rewrite
  • Aim for helpful content that’s engaging and informative, with a clear focus on user intent

2. Your content should still be optimised for SERPS 

As Google has hinted, visibility and Click-Through-Rate (CTR) could improve for whoever lands the top spot. 

Our advice is to approach AI Overviews as you would a Featured Snippet. They need to be optimised for Google’s algorithm, but let’s not forget the golden rule: quality content reigns supreme.

What you should do:

  • Organise your content into clear headings and subheadings. Think of them as signposts guiding both your readers and Google’s crawlers through your content
  • Embrace bullet points and numbered lists to make content skimmable 
  • Add rich media, such as video, diagrams and creative imagery
  • Use the right schema to categorise your content – whether it’s an FAQ or an article – to help Google understand how to rank you in rich results and SERPS
  • Ensure your website is optimised for core vitals. Fast, mobile-friendly, and easy to navigate – roll out the red carpet experience for visitors.

3. Long-tail keywords are still important

Google is gearing up to unleash complex queries on AI Overviews.

Optimising your content around long-tail keywords will improve your chances of featuring in AI Overviews. Again, this is something we’ve been preaching since before we’d care to remember. It’s nothing new, but it’s even more important in the new age of Search. 

What you should do:

  • Use specialist tools to better understand what your audiences are searching for
  • Research the preferred content formats of your audience
  • Sprinkle your content with relevant long-tail keywords and use questions as your H2s

To sum up…how to use Google AI overviews to your advantage

While the playbook hasn’t dramatically changed, this new era of AI-driven search understanding pushes us all to be sharper, smarter, and more user-focused in our SEO strategies. Embrace these changes, adapt your approach, and you’ll be well on your way to mastering the new rules of search.

Fancy a helping hand? Learn more about our complete SEO services.

Author information

With 15 years of hands-on SEO and digital marketing experience, agency director Ash is the driving element behind our digital team. Ashley heads our digital execution team, delivering innovative strategic and tactical marketing initiatives and campaigns; helping propel our clients’ growth and success.

Learn more about Ash

Our content manager Emily has over 6 years of experience in digital marketing and is behind the creative thinking and SEO content strategy that fuels our client projects.

Learn more about Emily


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