cut out of google SERP with "Will Google AI Overview impact my search traffic?" in search bar, and "Oh hell ya. You better get on that" in the AIO response.

Google’s New AI Overviews & Impact for Search Traffic

Dave Gibson

AI Overviews - the new update to Google Search that incorporates AI to answer queries is really making headlines, Unfortunately mostly for the bizarre responses people have gotten from is, such as suggesting adding glue to pizza to make the cheese stick better, or that a dog has played in the NHL (not that far off). But for marketers and publishers in particular who rely on traffic from Google to fuel their businesses, there is a huge amount of concern. Warranted concern. According to the AP, publishers can expect as much as a 25% drop in traffic from Google Artificial Intelligence Overviews (AIO).  

So here is what you can expect to see on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for many, but not all query responses. 

Screenshot of Google AIO SERP

This example hits home to me, because my blog article about overlay widgets and how they are ineffective for WCAG/ADA compliance is typically in first or second place amongst organic blue listings, but now it's buried.


Impact of Google AIO: The Long Story Short

  • AI Overview will answer many, but not all queries, and take up most of the real estate above the fold.
  • This will reduce the amount of slots open for paid search, which will drive up competition and therefore cost
  • This will push all but the two organic listings embedded in the AIO response. The rest fall under the fold. SEO is the biggest loser here.
  • By providing answers to many queries, AIO will result in more zero-click events - affecting all companies dependent upon traffic from Google.


Recent Evolution of AI Infused Search

This isn’t as out of the blue as it’s being made out to be. Google’s been experimenting with AI infused SERPs for some time. In November 2023 they rolled out Search Generative Experiences (and won the award for worst branding), while also triggering the same concerns as today. 

Hi Guys. It's Bing. Remember Me ?

In February Microsoft introduced the New Bing AI, that infused GPT-3.5 into its SERP, which today is called AI Copilot.

Bing SERP screenshot


Up Krept Perplexity

The before unknown, Perplexity launched in December 2023 and was quickly adopted by tech-savvy early adopters. The lack of advertising coupled with quick, accurate, and conversational responses to simple and complex queries that users could follow-up on and build upon has been very attractive, and has become the default search engine for many.

Perplexity SERP screenshot

With Perplexity resetting the table, and rumors of an upcoming search engine from Open AI, Google has had to further evolve in this direction to compete.

Enough with the History Lesson. Will Google AI Overviews just affect organic traffic?

Ok. Overall, traffic from Google - whether Paid Search, Display, or SEO is going to suffer. I think you probably already picked up that gist by now. But to be clear, it's not just organic listings that will suffer. Paid listings also.

UNLESS… unless your either your paid listing is shown in-line with the AIO, or the answer cites your content organically in the answer to the query. 

Impact of Google AIO: The Long Story Long

Google is in a bit of a bind, and they're at risk of cannibalizing both their source of revenue and the rich ecosystem of content and data providers that it uses to fuel its product. Google is also under great pressure to show its not falling behind in the AI arms race.

Google last year made $175 billion on search advertising - 57% of its revenue. Advertisers fund Google, and while Google will certainly create space for advertisers, there is only so much room. The space that’s left will be of increased value and Google will make up whatever it can in higher ad fees. But for many types of searches, AI is going to answer the query and there isn’t going to be a click. No way around that.  

Google and content providers have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship up until this point potentially. Content providers provide the fuel. Google connected people looking for the content they create back to these providers to then monetize - often using Google’s Display Network. And there’s the two-fold rub. Less traffic from Google decreases the incentive to produce the content or allow Google to pilfer it, and with less traffic on their sites, Google will also lose ad revenue from the Google Network Ads displayed on these content websites. Ya follow? Kind of a lose lose. And already publishers are pushing back on Google and all the AI companies that are using their content to answer user’s questions.

Deep breath. Let it sink in.


How Should Marketers Adapt to Google AIO?

In anticipation of drops in the neighborhood of 15%-25% from Google, it would be prudent to diversify your marketing channels

  • Email Marketing: Building and maintaining a robust email list can provide a direct line to your audience, ensuring you can reach them without relying on search engines.
  • Social Media: Enhance your presence on social media platforms to engage with your audience and drive traffic through social channels.

  • Reconsider Traditional Advertising: But just do it smarter. Use your data to better target digital billboards, print advertising, radio, or OTT/TV.

Don’t Abandon SEO

Sure it will be harder and not provide as much traffic, but if you can get into the AIO, that's gonna be gold. So go for it, but hunt for the more long tail opportunities.

High-Quality Content Creation

    • Develop comprehensive, authoritative content that thoroughly answers user queries.
    • Use structured data to help search engines understand and integrate your content into AI Overviews.

Optimize for E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness):

Demonstrate expertise in your content by including expert authors, citing credible sources, and providing detailed, in-depth information.

WCAG Compliance

    • Accessible websites not only improve user experience but also align with search engines' emphasis on quality, structured content and usability. Accessibility improvements also help your content be more easily processed by AI.

Focus on Comprehensive and Detailed Long-form Content:

    • Provide thorough answers to complex queries that cover multiple aspects of a topic, making it easier for Google’s AI to summarize your content.

Enhanced User Experience

    •    - Optimize site speed, mobile responsiveness, and overall user experience.
    •    - Use clear, concise language and well-structured content to make it easy for AI algorithms to process and feature your content.


AIO Recommendations for Paid Search Advertisers

Continue with existing strategies that focus on 

  • Relevance and Context
  • Responsive Search Ads
  • Ad Extensions
  • Smart Bidding Strategies.


Enhanced Focus on Long-Tail Keywords

With AIO: Long-tail keywords gain greater importance as they often align better with the specific, detailed queries that trigger AI Overviews. This is a more targeted approach compared to the broader keyword strategies used previously.

Content Quality and Authority

Before AIO: Creating high-quality, authoritative content has always been important for both organic and paid search.

With AIO: There’s a heightened emphasis on content quality and authority as AI Overviews rely heavily on authoritative sources to generate summaries. Advertisers need to ensure their landing pages and content are top-notch to be referenced by AIO.

Performance Monitoring and Adaptation

With AIO: Regularly analyzing how AI Overviews impact ad performance becomes more critical. Advertisers need to adapt more swiftly based on new insights about how their ads perform within the context of AI-generated summaries.

User Experience and Accessibility

Before AIO: Optimizing for a positive user experience and ensuring accessibility have always been best practices.

With AIO: These elements are even more important as AI algorithms favor content that provides a superior user experience and is easily accessible. Ensuring WCAG compliance is essential to be considered in AI-generated content.


OK. Let’s Wrap It Up

Yes. Ok. Bumpy roads ahead for digital marketers, but what’s new. We’re adaptive and used to changes… although this is gonna be a big one. By diversifying marketing channels, enhancing content quality, and prioritizing user experience, we all can navigate these changes effectively. Embrace the opportunities AI presents, from improving content strategies to optimizing for long-tail keywords and ensuring accessibility. Remember, the digital landscape is ever-evolving, and staying agile will be key to thriving in this new era of search. 


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