Will Google's AI Overviews Kill Search Traffic?

June 5, 2024

Justin Kerby

As a search-first content marketing agency, Something Great Marketing has put a lot of time and testing into learning about AI Overviews, and their impact on website traffic. We’ve taken a look through our recent findings from the last year and put together a breakdown on AI Overviews, and how you can make sure you’re still driving visitors to your website from search.

Are Google's AI Overviews going to kill search traffic?

No. You should be viewing this as a shift that’s going to require some adjustments, not as a the-sky-is-falling moment. Right now, many of our clients are simply seeing a shift in metrics.

We’re actually noticing more clicks from Google right now, a higher click-through-rate, and fewer impressions. It’s our best guess that the increase in clicks is coming from being featured in AI Overviews, allowing our clients and our own company to receive more attention from searchers.

We attribute the total drop in impressions to come from some of our content that was ranking in the 6th or 7th spot of search engine results pages, that may have been pushed down or not seen due to AI Overviews capturing more clicks off the bat.

So there’s been a shift in the data, no doubt. But has it been a bad shift? No.

Nothing is getting killed, so long as you stay on top of your content strategy and monitor results closely.

Are there ways to rank in AI Overviews?

You bet there are. Things are moving quickly (as usual), so it’s all about staying on top of what Google is up to.

Right now, Google is actually showing fewer AI overviews than they have been over the last year, likely a reflection on how much they were testing the feature over the last 12 months. It could also be a response to how search audiences are enjoying AI overviews–they might not be as popular as initially was thought.

“Google AI Overviews visibility has dropped, now appearing less than 15% of the time.” -Danny Goodwin, Search Engine Land

For reference, they were once visible 84% of the time last year.

Back to how to rank in AI Overviews. There are some signals we’ve spotted that are important to pay attention to when it comes to being cited as a source in AI Overviews.

How to rank in Google’s AI Overviews

1. Cite sources

When you create content, be sure to cite reputable sources. We’ve seen correlation between citing sources and being cited as a source.

2. Add quotes

When you create content, add quotes from reputable sources. It’s great to add them as images, but you’ll also want to have a few quotes in text for crawlers to spot.

3. Use statistics

Again, something you were probably already doing when you created content for your website, but adding statistics continues to increase your chances of ranking in AI Overviews.

4. Structure your content in Question & Answer formats

This seems to work really well. Structure your pages with proper H1, H2, and H3 tags (etc.) and try following a Q&A format. AI Overviews source these formats frequently.

5. Be direct, but comprehensive

Answer questions in plain language, and don’t write a bunch of fluff content around it. That being said, your writing should also be comprehensive, covering similar and related questions to what your audience may be asking.

Is there anything that hurts your chances of ranking in AI overviews?

Yes, actually. There are two things that we know either don’t help or actively hurt your shot of being cited in an AI Overview.

1. Keyword stuffing

This has been shown to actively hurt your shot at being cited, so write for humans, not SERPs, and you might see yourself in SERPs, ironically.

2. Complicating your writing style

Casual tones work better than professional, stuffy ones. You don’t need to use big words to give yourself any authority, writing in a casual voice is the best course of action.

3. Using AI to write your content

For the love of Zeus, please, have a human write your content. We did, his name is Justin. He loves golf, Dune 2, and not putting glue on his pizza. AI written content is easy to spot, and performs worse immediately, and WAY worse over time. Go human!

How to spot traffic from AI Overviews

A bit of bad news here. At the moment, there’s simply no way to determine whether your site traffic from Google is coming through regular search or AI overviews. At Google I/O this year, the company made it clear that they wouldn’t be providing breakdowns on what traffic was coming from AI Overviews in Google Search Console.

You’re going to have to wait for a third-party tool to pop up. We’re sure somewhat smart will build one pretty quickly, here. Maybe you?

Are AI Overviews taking up a lot of real estate on Google?

These overviews, when you break them down in terms of pixel space on Google’s search engine results page, really don’t take up any more real estate than Google’s past features. You remember Featured Snippets, right?

Google’s AI Overviews also pull in sources at the bottom of their responses, giving you a chance at receiving a lot of traffic should you be cited as a source. And by a lot, we mean a lot. Ranking as citations in AI overviews should be one of your top priorities with SEO (or GEO, Generative Engine Optimization, as we’re calling this new skill).

Should I be writing for ChatGPT instead of Google?

No. ChatGPT currently receives just shy of 2 billion hits per month, Google still receives well over 80 billion visits per month. There’s no sense in focusing on ChatGPT over Google.

That said, your content should be written for all kinds of search, and optimizing for AI Overviews in Google will likely give you a shot at being mentioned or recommended in ChatGPT responses. No adjustment needed here.

“It is inevitable that the relationship between AI and search will accelerate. We must acknowledge that it is getting some things wrong at the moment but be aware that it is fine-tuning several things – search quality, the flow of traffic in its ecosystem, and monetization (ads). It will get exponentially better over time.” -Jim Yu, BrightEdge Founder and Executive Chairman

What’s next?

Keep creating content, watching your results, and adjusting accordingly. So, in sum, the same thing we’ve been doing for the last two decades.

Times, systems, and strategies change, but the overall course of action stays the same. Google isn’t going anywhere. AI isn’t, either. Staying updated on what’s happening with both of them is the best way to stay ahead.

Search on.

Need help with your content strategy or search efforts? Fill out our contact form here.

Written by

Justin Kerby

Justin is the founder of Something Great Marketing, leading our Vancouver marketing agency. He specializes in content strategy, website design, and branding.

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