What Does Google’s AI Overviews Mean for SEO?

Google’s AI Overviews, part of its Search Generative Experience, means that SEO will change. Here’s why there is no reason to panic.

Video Transcript

Okay, we’re going to talk about the announcement from yesterday from Google I/O, which we knew, well, we thought was coming. So, we knew that Google was going to be shifting to the Search Generative Experience, the SGE, and all speculation was that it was going to be announced yesterday, on the first day of Google I/O. It was. It is called AI Overviews and it will roll out to everyone in the United States by the end of this week. What this means is SEO is going to change by next week. But there’s no reason to panic.

We learned some really interesting things from I/O yesterday. Number one, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a pay-to-play feature. It looks like it’s going to be available to everyone for free. That was one of the speculations. We wondered if it is a subscription model where you pay for this, and then only if you pay Google, do you get this? No, it looks like everybody’s going to get AI answers. Number two, there are, it looks like the AI answer, and we won’t know until it rolls out, but I’ve literally been Googling things all day waiting for it to roll out into the week. I haven’t seen it yet. It’s like the answers we get from the AI are going to be different based on the questions we ask Google. So, for a long-tailed search, the best I can tell from the demos yesterday (it’ll be all different by next week) is we’re going to get a straight-up answer from Google.

Now, I’m going to share my screen. So, if you have Google Labs empowered, and on my personal account, I’ve empowered Google Labs. This is what the AI answer to a long-tailed question might look like. Again, we don’t know what it’ll look like until it rolls out. This is what it looks like in labs. So, I’ve been reading a book about Cicero lately because all men think about the Roman world, and I do, too. Why was Cicero exiled? Well, here’s the answer. There’s no reason to scroll down to read any of this. I’ve got my answer. But I get three sources, too, and if I want to go in, this is the other thing we learned in all the demos yesterday: that there were sources listed. So, if it’s a long-tailed search, how do I buy a widget? It looks like the answer is going to be provided, but there are going to be sources. Now, we don’t know what will happen underneath this. It will look like this… Okay, some of this is National Geographic, History, and Wikipedia. There’s a zero-featured snippet. Wikipedia. History. See, National Geographic doesn’t even appear. Right?

So, for a long tail, at the very least, it looks like we will get citations. That goes back to the idea we’ve talked about, that human blogging that is not AI is going to be really, really, really important. Taking time to write fewer, higher quality blog posts on a topic is going to be very, very important so that we can become the source for the AI answer. It looks like this is using three sources. What will it be? Four? Ten? I don’t know. Two? How will this look with Google Ads? Those are not going to go away. That’s how Google makes their money. That will be interesting, too. But this, no one is bidding on “why was Cicero exiled?” Because no one’s going to make money unless you’re selling a book about Cicero. But I’m reading the book about Cicero, so why do I need that? Right? So, this is long-tailed. Google made a big feature about that.

Let me go back to the other page. I will say the funniest part of this is this paragraph here, which reads, “Google systems automatically determine which links appear.” Good, links will appear. We were afraid that Google wouldn’t cite the sources, but we now know we can become the sources. But Google is thinking two steps ahead of us. “Google systems automatically determine which links appear. There’s nothing special for creators to do to be considered other than follow regular guidance for appearing in search, such as covered in search essentials.” In other words, you can’t SEO it.

I bet you a whole bunch of people are trying to SEO it right now. Right? So, SEO is going to change, and it’s going to be fighting for the three. Now, this doesn’t say three. Maybe there are two, we don’t know. But they’re already saying, don’t try to SEO it, we’re too smart and they’re throwing down. But, you know, our SEO strategy has never been to trick Google. Our SEO strategy has always been to be good marketers, to answer questions people are asking, and to write things that are helpful to people. And if we’re doing that, we increase the odds that we’re going to be the answers that Google’s going to quote. Right? You could technically prevent Google from using it, and you can use different tools.

Anyway, here is some more information (I’m adding this to the chat) about AI Overviews that you might want to look at. Now, the second thing we learned from AI Overviews in the preview is if it’s a short-tailed search, it’s going to be different altogether. The way they phrased this during the presentation was that sometimes you Google something, and you don’t know what you’re looking for. So, the example they gave was very broad, “trip to Miami.” At that point, the search results in the demo were all over the place, and they basically just built you a custom page with everything you would need to know about a trip to Miami, from hotels to flights to things to do and see. It was just custom-built. So, the ten blue links kind of evaporated in this custom information that was provided in the short tail answer.

So again, SEO is going to change pretty significantly as we work on short-tail or long-tail as people ask specific questions, the long-tail or as people ask broad questions, the short-tail, the search results are going to look very different, and so we just need to be watching this and pay attention to this. One of the catchphrases they kept saying, and I kind of like this, but I also hate it, was, “Let Google do the Googling for you.” And that’s kind of the philosophy here. Ask us a question, and we’ll find all the information. And some of this is actually really cool from a user perspective. So, it was like, I’d like a trip to Miami with a seven-day itinerary with two teenage boys, and we’d like a lot of beach time. And it will provide a custom itinerary for you based on all those things.

So, as of today, literally hours before this gets released to everybody, this is where we stand. And I’d still stand behind what I’ve said before. If we’re doing good SEO, we don’t have to worry even though everything’s going to change because we still can be found for these things. Because we’ve identified how our customers are searching for us, we’re providing content that’s valuable for the customers in light of what we know they’re looking for.

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