Navigating search in the new era of Google’s AI Overviews

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June 2024
In the ever-evolving landscape of B2B digital marketing, the recent announcement that Google is rolling out AI Overviews to everyone in the U.S. is a game changer.

If your investors, board or executives ask about your SEO initiatives, it is imperative to understand how AI Overviews will reshape how you approach search results, website traffic and content.

What are Google AI Overviews?

In response to Microsoft integrating ChatGPT with Bing (and their subsequent increase to 100 million active users), Google first launched AI Overviews as a beta product called Search Generative Experience (SGE) for use by logged-in, opted-in users.

When someone searches with AI Overviews, they get a summary paragraph of information created by artificial intelligence instead of Google’s customary list of links to helpful websites (like yours!) with useful content (also like yours!).

In other words, an AI Overview pushes traditional rankings down the page. More on that later.

Rumor has it that Google still controls which searches get an AI Overview and which don’t, so your brand may not be immediately impacted, but it’s still critical to understand the implications — and, more importantly, to set your expectations.

How AI Overviews alters the evolution of search results.

Traditionally, search engines have relied on keyword matching and link algorithms to rank websites. With AI Overviews, Google introduces a new paradigm. Users will no longer need to click to get to your page (or your competitors’ pages) to find the information they need — it will appear directly in their search window.

Google claims people using AI Overviews are “more satisfied,” that clicks from these results are “higher quality,” and Google remains focused on sending valuable traffic to publishers and creators.

Sounds consumerish, right? Well, if you think this isn’t your problem because you’re in B2B, think again. A study earlier this year by Authoritas found that 87% of all keywords across a variety of sectors had an AI-powered search result.1

As a result, owning the number one spot in conventional search isn’t what it used to be. AI Overviews take up significant real estate, pushing results much further down the page — roughly the equivalent of your #1 organic listing dropping to (at least) 10th place.1

How do you counter the impact of AI Overviews?

You don’t. All B2B marketers have to adjust their content and SEO strategies accordingly. (Hint, we can help with that.)

The core of Google AI Overviews lies in its enhanced ability to understand user intent. This means that search results will no longer solely focus on keywords but will also interpret the purpose of a search query. Business content must now address not only specific keywords, but the broader context and user needs surrounding them.

With AI’s ability to parse through vast amounts of data and understand nuances, rich and contextual B2B content will become more critical. Websites offering comprehensive, authoritative, and contextually relevant information will likely see an uptick in their search rankings.

This shift underscores the need for businesses to produce well-researched, in-depth content that aligns closely with their audience’s interests and queries.

Meet your customers where they are.

Diversifying your content placement strategy will also help offset the impact of AI Overviews and other AI search engine-like experiences. Take a cue from B2C brands and use channels other than just your website or LinkedIn to extend the reach of your content and help you find audiences outside of search.

For example:

  • Extend your content into podcasts and put those podcasts on different platforms.
  • Invest in YouTube videos, shorts and Facebook Reels.
  • Consider expanding your B2B brand’s social media presence into Instagram and even TikTok (assuming it stays around).

These ideas will not only extend your visibility but will build authority, helping get your content into those AI Overviews while also counterbalancing any reliance on organic search.

The impact of AI Overviews on site traffic.

AI-based generative search experiences will prioritize quality over quantity, shifting marketers’ emphasis from driving sheer volume to attracting high-quality traffic. B2B websites that align closely with user intent and provide value will likely see more engaged visitors, lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates.

As you look at your keywords or key phrases, think about whether someone searching for that term is looking for a quick answer or is researching a solution to a problem. Focus on the keywords or phrases that support the intention to research solutions to give you a better chance of capturing clicks.

Getting used to Google AI Overviews.

Google’s AI Overviews experience is going to change the digital B2B marketing landscape. As SEO and content strategies adapt to this new era, businesses that anticipate and embrace these changes are more likely to thrive.

While your traffic volume may decrease, the quality of your traffic should increase. Your focus should increasingly shift towards creating value-driven, contextually relevant content that resonates with the sophisticated understanding of user intent. And that’s a good thing.

1 Authoritas, “The Impact of Google’s Search Generative Experience on organic rankings,” January 2024

Michele Marvin
Michele Marvin
Senior Director, Digital Marketing
Michele brings StudioNorth clients more than 20 years' experience aligning digital marketing strategies with business outcomes.

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