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Google Search Generative Experience (SGE): What Are Google’s AI Overviews?

Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) — launched as AI Overviews on May 14, 2024 — generates AI-powered snapshots in Google Search that answers a user’s search while linking to cited sources from the web.

These snapshots pose a risk to your organic traffic, though, making it critical to understand the meaning of Google’s SGE, plus the dos and don’ts of optimizing your site for AI Overviews.

Keep reading to get started (and join WebFX’s Marketing Manager Insider for the latest updates on how we’re approaching AI Overviews and other digital marketing challenges)!

What are AI Overviews?

AI Overview example

AI Overviews, also known as Search Generative Experience, are AI-powered snapshots that use generative AI to answer user queries while linking to referenced sources. AI Overviews appear above organic search results.

Google SGE vs. AI Overviews

While Google SGE and AI Overviews are used interchangeably, the two are different. Google SGE is the Google Labs version of AI Overviews, and includes features unavailable in AI Overviews, like:

  • Follow-up questions: Keep your search experience going through AI-generated follow-up questions to search queries.
  • Converse: Chat directly with Google through SGE’s conversational mode. Here, original queries are answered and users can ask follow-up questions to deepen their search.

google sge converse

  • Vertical experiences: SGE’s vertical searches amp up commercial and shopping queries with AI-generated synopses of information and product recommendations.
  • Image generation: Create images with the help of generative AI in SGE.

google sge image generation

  • Coding tips: Get coding tips from Google directly within Search when searching for topics across Javascript, Python, and more.
  • Integrations: Google Labs is also testing the ability to send SGE snapshots to Google Sheets or Gmail.
  • Browsing tools: AI-powered tools offer valuable insights into web pages users browse, including key point summaries, jumps to relevant sections, and specific search questions answered on that page.

google sge content insights

How do AI Overviews work?

Like Google Search, AI Overviews use several ranking factors to generate its AI-powered snapshots, including:

  • AI models, like Gemini and PaLM 2
  • Google Search ranking systems, like Helpful content and PageRank
  • Databases, like Google Knowledge Graph
  • Topic, like if it’s a Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) query
  • Search intent, like informational, transactional, or navigational
  • Multimedia, like videos, images, and even GIFs
  • Schema markup, like LocalBusiness

Note: Official Google documentation confirms some of these factors.

Based on these factors, AI Overviews generate a snapshot (or don’t). Since AI Overviews launched, Google has decreased how often AI Overviews appear due to questionable snapshots, like for suggesting adding glue to pizza.

AI Overviews: Pizza glue example

What are the pros and cons of AI Overviews?

The pros and cons of AI Overviews affect users and marketers, specifically SEOs.

Pros

Some advantages of AI Overviews include the following:

For users:

  • Summarizing complex topics or concepts
  • Getting answers to questions faster
  • Receiving answers to predicted follow-up questions

According to Google’s Gemini, AI Overviews also:

  • Improve the search experience
  • Reduce information overload

For SEOs:

  • Getting additional insights into search intent
  • Receiving additional exposure (if listed below the AI Overview)

Gemini would like to add that AI Overviews also:

  • Increase traffic and engagement (if users explore further)
  • Gives SEOs the chance to adapt to a new trend 🤔

Cons

The disadvantages of AI Overviews include the following:

For users:

  • Delivering inaccurate or biased information
  • Referencing untrustworthy sources
  • Getting no option to disable AI Overviews

According to Gemini, AI Overviews can also:

  • Decrease exploration
  • Limit understanding of complex topics

For SEOs:

  • Lowering organic search traffic
  • Minimizing organic visibility
  • Decreasing organic conversions

Gemini covers the above, but also adds increased competition as a con.

How to get started with AI Overviews

Now that you know a bit more about Google’s AI Overviews, let’s look at some best practices. Below are some content dos and don’ts to remember when navigating generative AI in search results.

DO answer user search intent

AI Overviews are about giving users exactly what they want in search results in as few clicks as possible. Replicate that in your web content by immediately addressing user search intent.

Do your due diligence and conduct in-depth keyword research to understand what users are looking for when they search those terms, then translate your findings into your work. Your content is for people first and search engines second. So, give the people what they want!

A great structure to remember when creating content is to pose the main question in your headings and immediately answer them in subsequent paragraphs. For example:

Heading: What is social media marketing?

Following text: Social media marketing is [your definition].

Once you’ve answered the user’s initial question, you can dive into other related questions they may have. Better yet, use Google SGE’s AI-powered follow-up questions to your advantage and let those questions guide your content.

google sge follow-up questions

For example, I decided to write a blog article on the history of pumpkin carving during Halloween. While Google’s snapshot gave me a brief overview, the follow-up questions at the bottom offer great stepping stones for additional information to include in my content.

Need help with your keyword research? Check out WebFX’s keyword suggestion tool, KeywordsFX!

KeywordsFX

DON’T ignore first-hand experience

Often, when you’re preoccupied with the minutiae of writing for your website, it can be easy to forget about adding personal touches, like first-hand perspectives. Not only does this add personality to your page, but it can add immense value for your readers.

In this post-SGE world, your content should include first-hand experiences and perspectives. Sure, Google’s generative AI search tools may be able to compile a list of products and use existing pages to tell you why they’re good, but they can’t replicate genuine human emotion, opinion, and experience.

Add value to your content and make it more enticing than Google’s generative AI snapshots by adding your unique perspective to your content.

Adding your unique perspective to your content can add value for your readers, make it more enticing than Google’s AI-powered snapshots, and connect with your audience in a way that generative AI can’t.

DO use natural, conversational language

Google’s generative AI search functions mark another major shift toward user-focused search experiences. With a literal chat function available to help users browse the web more interactively, making sure to speak their language is crucial.

Optimize your content for humans first and search engines second by using natural language to address user needs, questions, and search intent. Doing so helps create a one-on-one dialogue that resonates with searchers and invites further interaction with your content.

While improving user experience (UX), using natural language will also help Google better understand the content to index your page correctly.

DON’T neglect long-tail keywords

Along with using conversational language, you should target relevant long-tail keywords in your content to better match in-depth queries.

The power of long-tail keywords can’t be understated — these keywords lead to more specific, detailed search queries because they imitate how users pose questions to Google. This construction typically means lower search volumes and higher conversion rates for ranking sites.

Long-tail keywords like “how to create a good social media post” demonstrate a more specific user search intent than broader terms like “social media post.” As more people interact with AI Overviews, matching user verbiage and cadence will become all the more important for websites targeting those keywords.

DO embrace change

Finally, if there’s one key point you should take away from this page, you shouldn’t be opposed to change. Google’s generative AI integrations are changing how users search and view information.

Stay ahead of the curve and experiment with your SEO strategy to see how new and existing content appears on search engines and how your site ranks. By doing so, you can:

  • Lessen the impact AI Overviews have on your overall SEO
  • Identify new opportunities to increase your site’s visibility
  • Stay a step ahead of competitors

Independent research from Clutch has named WebFX the

top SEO company in the United States.

Clutch has personally interviewed more than 250 WebFX clients to discuss their experience partnering with us.

Read More Clutch Reviews arrow right
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DO partner with WebFX

If the idea of navigating AI Overviews on your own seems a bit nerve-wracking, you’re not alone. But don’t worry, at WebFX, we’re pros at navigating the ups and downs of major Google updates that shake up SERPs — we’ve done it for 25+ years, and we don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

See what we’re all about and learn more about our custom SGE optimization services today by calling WebFX at 888-601-5359 or contacting us online today!

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