How AI Overviews is shaking up SEO.

Picture this: You’re calmly surfing through the digital marketing ocean when suddenly, a rogue wave named AI Overviews (formerly known as Google’s Search Generative Experience or SGE) appears, promising to overturn everything you know about SEO. Welcome to the brave new world of search, where AI is the captain now.

With over 90% of search traffic flowing through Google, any significant change in its algorithm dramatically affects, well, everything. AI Overviews is poised to redefine what it means to rank well on search engines. Traditional SEO has focused on optimizing specific keywords and earning links to climb the rankings. With AI Overviews, the emphasis shifts toward the relevance and utility of the content. This could mean a potential 20%—even 60%—drop in search traffic for some websites as direct answers eliminate the need to click through to other pages.

What is AI Overviews?

Imagine you’re chatting with a friend who magically knows exactly what you need before you even finish your sentence—that’s AI Overviews—a shiny new tech that uses artificial intelligence to tweak search results, making sure they’re more in tune with what you were probably going to ask next.

Unlike traditional search engines, which rely on keyword matching and static ranking factors, AI Overviews aims for a more intuitive, responsive environment. It adapts in real-time to offer personalized content that directly addresses immediate needs.

Results are also displayed in a somewhat different way. Instead of providing a list of links or excerpts from various sites, SGE-tuned algorithms synthesize information from multiple sources to generate a comprehensive, cohesive answer that appears directly on the page.

This format makes it easier for users to get what they need quickly. However, this also means that websites need to optimize their content in new ways to maintain visibility.

SEO makeover party

With AI Overviews entering the chat, traditional SEO strategies are going the way of the floppy disk. Here’s how the party’s changing:

  • Content quality: The new VIP guests are high-quality, insightful content that doesn’t just aim to sell but to help. If it isn’t bringing value, AI Overviews will leave it off the invite list.
  • User experience (UX): Clunky websites that frustrate users are party poopers—AI Overviews loves to hang with fast, friendly and mobile-ready sites.
  • Semantic search optimization: It has long been popular to place keywords where they don’t belong. Now, it’s all about the flow and creating content that speaks like a human.

Timeline for impact

The transition will not happen overnight. As AI Overview advances, however, businesses can expect to see changes starting within the next one to two years. Early adopters who align their SEO and content strategies with generative search principles can gain a significant competitive advantage.

How to prepare?

For businesses, the rollout of AI Overviews will necessitate a review and possible overhaul of current SEO practices. Websites that lean into keyword proliferation or surface-level content will likely see a decline in rankings. To prepare, companies should start auditing their content for quality and relevance, adopting strategies that emphasize:

  • Topic authority: This could involve detailed articles, white papers, research findings and case studies that demonstrate deeper knowledge. Additionally, regularly updating content to reflect the latest trends, data and developments can help your site rank as a go-to resource.
  • Answering questions: AI Overviews appreciates content that addresses questions directly and presents evidence. Formats such as FAQs, how-to guides, tutorial videos and problem-solution blogs can effectively position your content favorably.
  • Engagement and interactivity: Consider incorporating quizzes, polls, infographics, calculators or even new AI-driven chatbots that can make your website even more interactive. These elements not only enrich the user experience but also encourage longer stays and repeat visits.

To recap: When it comes to generating answers, AI Overviews tends to extract the most relevant snippets from the top organic search results, meaning the quality of your content can directly influence whether it’s chosen to be part of an SGE-tuned answer. To make the most of this, it’s crucial to ensure your content is well structured, informative and directly addresses the topics your audience cares about.

Integrating schema markup—a type of microdata added to the backend of web pages—can also be an effective strategy to boost visibility. It helps search engines understand the context of your content, ensuring that the AI better recognizes the relevancy and structure of your information.

Implementing schema for things like articles, FAQs and even events can highlight the most important elements of your content and enhance its chances of being featured in AI Overviews responses, keeping your traffic, impressions and click-through rates strong.

Next steps

Here are some next steps to consider that can help you align with AI Overview's focus areas, enhance your site's performance and ensure you're at the forefront of the coming search technology evolution:

  • Conduct a site audit: Check if your site's structure facilitates easy navigation and if your content directly addresses audience needs. Utilize tools like Google Analytics for traffic analysis and user behavior insights, and Google Search Console to identify crawl errors or areas where SEO can be improved. This audit should specifically focus on aligning with the types of content and formatting prioritized by generative search-tuned algorithms, such as clear answers to common questions and well-structured data.
  • Invest in AI: Tools like automated content personalization platforms can adjust what content is served based on user interaction patterns, improving engagement and relevance. Additionally, AI-driven SEO tools can suggest optimizations for your content to better meet search criteria.
  • Stay informed: The landscape of generative search will continually and rapidly evolve. Regularly attending industry-specific webinars, subscribing to newsletters from trusted SEO and technology sources, and participating in professional forums can prepare you for adjusting your strategies in line with the latest advancements.
  • Test and learn: Implement a culture of experimentation within your content and generative search-driven strategies to discover what resonates best. For example, try different formats and styles like video, infographics and long-form articles to see which are frequently selected in search results. Based on these insights, continuously refine and adapt your strategies.

The introduction of AI Overviews represents an exciting opportunity in SEO and digital marketing. By understanding and adapting to these changes early, companies can not only preserve but enhance their visibility in an increasingly competitive digital space. Generative search might seem like a daunting wave to ride, but with a bit of preparation and a good sense of humor, we can all learn to surf it like pros.