7 min

Navigating Google AI Overviews: How to Adapt Your SEO Strategy

serena peterson Serena Peterson Head of SEO

Google announced at its Google I/O 2024 event last week that its new AI Overviews feature would hit the results page, changing the search experience for millions of users. The update brings AI-generated answers to certain questions to the top of the page, pulling from different web results and the AI’s understanding of queries to give a comprehensive result.

So what will this next step in the Google search experience mean for your brand’s organic search ranking?

We have the insights you need to adapt your strategy to the new world of search, from updated tracking methods to measure performance with AI results to optimizing your content to appear in overviews.

What’s changed on the results page

The latest AI updates will have a major impact on Google users on the SERP and beyond, with new products and features across platforms including Search, Workspace, Photos, and Android.  

The biggest headline is that Google is bringing AI Overviews from its testing phase in Search Labs, where certain opted-in users could try the feature, onto the search results pages. Hundreds of millions of US searchers have already gained access to AI Overviews, and that’s just the beginning; the rollout will continue in other countries and languages to reach over one billion people by the end of 2024. 

Screenshot of a Google search page showing an AI overview result at the top of the page. The result explains how to clean wax out of a jar candle and links related sources

Although AI Overviews will soon be popping up across screens everywhere, the feature doesn’t appear in every search. Google includes an overview for more complex questions where the search engine believes that a simplified answer would add value beyond regular search results. The overviews will start with results on dining and recipes, followed by movies, music, books, hotels, shopping, and more.

Alongside AI Overviews, Google also announced that it will be rolling out some Search Labs AI features. That includes a newly AI-organized results page, which offers a new format that emphasizes diverse content types and perspectives, making it crucial to create comprehensive and engaging content that caters to different user needs. The platform is also introducing visual search with video, which optimizes video content for search. That means it will be essential for brands to use structured data for videos for visibility in search results.

While there’s currently no way for users to opt out of AI Overviews, Google has introduced a new “Web” filter for search results, which gives people an easy way to view only text-based website links, similar to the traditional search results format. This filter is available on both desktop and mobile devices, appearing beside other filters like “Images” and “News” on mobile. 

Adapting your website to win with AI Overviews

To stay at the top of the SERP, brands will need to adapt their SEO strategies to align with these new AI features. Although SEOs have known for years that it’s crucial to create optimized, high-quality content in order to rank highly, these changes have made it more important than ever to make sure your website has great content that fits Google’s standard of E-E-A-T: expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

You should start by prioritizing comprehensive and helpful content. ​​The best way to engage users (and rank highly on the SERP) is to produce interesting, unique content experiences that keep them coming back to your site. Create in-depth, informative pages that go beyond surface-level answers and make sure you’re addressing a wide range of related questions to encourage users to click through for more details. You can even use AI as a co-pilot to help you produce more of that content efficiently.

It’s also important to offer a variety of content formats like videos, infographics, and interactive tools. This will make your site more engaging for users than text alone and give you a better chance of appearing in results like the new visual search with video.  

Your content is also the foundation for results that can appear in AI Overviews. If you’re aiming to have your site included as a link in AI Overviews, using structured data is critical. Structured data provides the Google Knowledge Graph with a clearer picture of your content, making it more likely to be selected as a relevant and authoritative source for AI Overviews. According to Google, the platform’s “systems automatically determine which links appear” and “there is nothing special for creators to do to be considered” beyond following regular guidance to appear in search.

Screenshot of AI Overview with link cards to related websites

Source: Google

Finally, businesses should focus on building a strong brand presence to stand out in search results. When your brand is mentioned across the web, especially by authoritative sources, it shows that your business has recognition and relevance for your audience. These mentions boost your brand’s authority and contribute to the overall trust Google systems consider important.

It’s worth investing in brand awareness and offsite promotion using tactics like Digital PR campaigns to demonstrate the expertise and authority that will increase your chances of being included in AI Overviews.

How to measure success on the new AI-powered SERP

These new features will likely have a major impact on organic search traffic. It’s crucial for brands to have a good framework in place to understand the effect AI Overviews have on their websites, but that might be easier said than done. 

Part of the challenge is that zero-click searches, where users get their answers without clicking on any results, are likely to increase with this new feature. 

Another issue is gauging how many clicks come through the AI Overviews themselves. According to Google, link cards within AI Overviews generate a higher click-through rate than web search results. But that will be tricky to track, since the platform won’t be breaking down impressions and click data for AI Overview links separately in Google Search Console; instead, those clicks will be combined with traditional search.

To measure how AI-generated overviews change your brand’s traffic and visibility, you’ll need a multifaceted approach, combining traditional SEO KPI tracking with evolving strategies. These tactics include:

  • Tracking Click-Through Rates (CTRs): Keep an eye on your site’s CTR in search results in Google Search Console, especially for industry-related terms that are important for your brand. A decrease in CTR could indicate that users are finding their answers directly in an AI Overview result rather than clicking through to your website to read more.
  • Monitoring Featured Snippet Performance: You also need to track your performance in featured snippets. Appearing in those results can still drive some traffic, even if it’s less than a direct click to your website. Since zero-click searches are likely to increase with AI Overviews, it’s important to use SEO tools like Semrush, which can provide SERP features tracking to identify declines or gains in rich results.
  • Measuring AI Overview Data in Google Search Console Metrics: You should be reviewing your Google Search Console data, which will soon include data on impressions and clicks from AI Overviews (although, as mentioned above, this information will be combined with traditional search data).
  • Observing Brand Awareness: Track brand-related search queries and inbound link growth to gauge the impact that may be leading to lower click-through rates due to AI Overview results.

The new AI Overviews feature is a major change to the way consumers search–and it’s only the beginning. We’re likely to see more AI features introduced by Google in the coming months as the platform continues to test innovations in its Search Labs.

That’s why it’s essential to adapt your search strategy now by adapting content, optimizing for featured snippets, and more, so you’re ready to navigate this new search landscape without losing valuable traffic.

Looking for more insights on AI innovations in search? Check out our white paper, The Game-Changing Power of AI: Win the Future of Search.

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