a screenshot from google io 2024 keynote about ai overview in google search

Google’s AI Overviews: How Will This Impact SEO?

After watching Google’s I/O keynote, one of the most mentioned announcements was the introduction of AI overviews into Google search. This development has sparked a lot of curiosity, especially among content creators and marketers, about its potential impact on website traffic and user behavior.

Key Takeaways

Google has introduced AI overviews into its search results, providing summarized answers directly on the search page without users needing to click on website links.

The impact of these AI overviews on user behavior and website traffic is still uncertain, but it may lead to changes in the types of queries users make, potential shifts in traffic trends, and the need for new types of content creation to adapt to the evolving search landscape.

AI Overviews in Google Search

Currently, when you search on Google, you receive a list of ads, links to websites, and information boxes that direct you to external sites. With the new AI Overviews, Google aims to provide summarized answers directly on the search page, similar to a ChatGPT response. This means users will receive a summarized answer to their query right on the search engine screen without necessarily clicking on a website link.

a comparison of the two types of search results in google

Impact on User Behavior and Traffic

There is significant speculation about how these AI overviews will influence user behavior and website traffic. While it’s challenging to predict exact changes, I think several things might happen:

  1. Guiding Users Rather Than Replacing Clicks: The AI Overviews are clearly where Google sees Search trending. Remember, before Google, users “searched” for information in different ways. As users became more familiar with search engines, they began using them for all types of things. I expect AI-driven search to change the types of queries and information people search for. Lots of changes are coming. What we see now will likely evolve soon. Who knows, it might even mean more clicks.
  2. Overall Traffic Trends: For most websites, it’s unlikely that users will solely rely on the AI Overview and never visit the site. The anticipated loss in traffic might be minor and could be compensated by creating new types of content.
  3. New Search Queries: When I use a search engine, I typically ask straightforward questions about a specific task or topic. In AI, I find people use complete sentences and more conversational language to get information. Right now, more keyword research tools get their data from the types of keywords users search. As AI and Search evolve, I expect these keyword research tools will update with new types of terms and phrases designed to understand how people use AI tools to find information.
  4. Effect on Generic Content: Websites with highly generic and fact-based content, such as calculation or equation sites, could see a noticeable drop in organic traffic. These types of queries require limited human intelligence to answer and can be fully answered by AI tools without visiting a website.
  5. SEO expands beyond Google: Technically, SEO is about helping your content to be visible on any search engine, but it’s long been synonymous with one platform: Google. Going forward, search will likely expand beyond Google as AI makes “searching” possible in new ways.

Will users stop visiting websites?

I don’t think that will happen, mainly because Google’s revenue heavily depends on people visiting websites and interacting with ads. It makes money through ads on websites and paid search results. If users stop clicking on links and only read overviews, Google could lose significant advertising revenue. Google will likely test the types of searches that are best to show AI Overviews and which are best to just show links or ads. We’re at the beginning of this experiment, so expect a lot to change.

The Future of Content Creation and SEO

Companies that rely on Search for valuable traffic and content creators are rightfully concerned about the future of their work in the face of AI tools like ChatGPT and Google’s AI Overviews. Right now, those concerns are valid. The path to monetization isn’t clear. However, AI models like ChatGPT and Google Overviews rely on user content to generate their responses. Without new, high-quality content, these tools cannot function effectively. The new tools and platforms that arise from all this innovation should be seen as a tremendous opportunity for creators and companies to better interact with their target audiences.

The introduction of AI overviews in Google search marks a significant shift in how users interact with search engines. While many things are still unsure, including monetization opportunities, I think creators and companies should continue to invest in creating content that aligns with their audience’s needs and in building audiences from multiple sources. Be sure there will be plenty of opportunity for content to be created and monetized in the AI age; we’re just not sure exactly what that looks like yet.

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Austin Cline

Austin Cline is the founder and principal at Sitemap.io. He is actively involved in the SEO community and frequently writes about the intersection of great content marketing and search engine optimization. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn and sign up to get his posts to your email by joining our email newsletter.

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