How Will Google SGE and AI Overviews Change SEO?

Have you noticed any robots in your SERPs lately?

You should have.

Starting in May 2024, Google began rolling out what it calls “AI Overviews” (AIO) in the United States. This was previously a feature available to anyone who opted into Search Labs experiments – but now, it’s fully official.

AI Overviews are one feature of Google’s new Search Generative Experience (SGE).

So what exactly does it mean for SEO?

And how should we go about placating our new robot overlords?

The Basics of Google SGE and AI Overviews

Google SGE


Google SGE is, essentially, a marriage between generative AI and traditional Google Search. You can read more about it here if you’re interested in some of the mechanical details – but like everything else associated with Google, the ground-level details are a bit obscured.

AI Overviews are one component of SGE, and the one that’s made the biggest splash (so far). The main point is to provide a fast, descriptive answer to user queries, using generative AI.

Note that these answers are powered by a system known as Google Gemini – not ChatGPT – and it utilizes multiple steps of reasoning, planning, and execution to conjure up accurate, concise answers for users. Like most features of Google Search, it’s designed to make users happy.

Happy users = happy Google.

But will this change lead to problems for webmasters?

Intuitively, that might seem like the case. After all, most webmasters utilizing SEO do so to attract users to their website. If users can immediately find what they’re looking for directly in SERPs, they won’t have any motivation to click through to an actual website. Hypothetically, this could have the effect of diminishing organic traffic at all levels and for many types of user queries.

However, Google contests this interpretation.

According to Liz Reid, VP and Head of Google Search, “With AI Overviews, people are visiting a greater diversity of websites for help with more complex questions. And we see that the links included in AI Overviews get more clicks than if the page had appeared as a traditional web listing for that query.”

If you trust what Reid says, the presence of AI Overviews is actually a motivating factor that encourages people to visit a broader range of websites, and in greater numbers. Your mileage may vary, of course, but early data suggest AI Overviews is a boon for search optimizers looking for greater organic traffic.

Additionally, Reid suggests that Google is going to prioritize organic traffic streams in the future, with further changes to AI Overviews and Google SGE: “As we expand this experience, we’ll continue to focus on sending valuable traffic to publishers and creators. As always, ads will continue to appear in dedicated slots throughout the page, with clear labeling to distinguish between organic and sponsored results.”

AI Overviews aren’t available for every query, and you can test that for yourself. In our testing, we’ve found that AI Overviews are common for queries that have definitive answers. For example, when we searched for “why do people snore,” we got an AI Overview result that said: “People snore when the muscles in their throat, nose, and mouth relax during sleep, partially blocking their airway and causing vibrations in the soft tissues. This vibration is what makes the snoring sound.”

There are links to health information resources directly under the Overview.

Potentially problematically, Google Search Console won’t distinguish between impressions generated by AI Overviews and those generated by traditional search results. Also, webmasters don’t have the power to opt out of AI Overviews – at least, not without also opting out of search results altogether.

The Early Days of AI Overviews

The first month of AI Overviews has been a somewhat contentious one.

As you might have seen on social media, users have claimed to see a variety of inaccurate, troublesome, and sometimes even farcical results.

However, Google has been quick to point out that a significant number of these, and potentially even a majority, were purely fabricated. Search engine results are relatively easy to fake, after all. Also, among the real AI results were several user queries that seemed so absurd or nonsensical that they must have been fabricated for the sole purpose of tricking the AI into generating an equally absurd response.

(We may or may not have experimented with this ourselves, albeit privately).

Even after throwing all of these fabricated and manipulated results out, there were still some very problematic responses that were generated because of a flaw in AI Overviews or the underlying technology producing them.

Reid stated, “…some odd, inaccurate or unhelpful AI Overviews certainly did show up. And while these were generally for queries that people don’t commonly do, it highlighted some specific areas that we needed to improve. One area we identified was our ability to interpret nonsensical queries and satirical content. Let’s take a look at an example: ‘How many rocks should I eat?’ Prior to these screenshots going viral, practically no one asked Google that question.”

This, according to Reid, is a byproduct of an “information gap,” a situation in which “there’s a limited amount of high quality content about a topic. However, in this case, there is satirical content on this topic … that also happened to be republished on a geological software provider’s website. So when someone put that question into Search, an AI Overview appeared that faithfully linked to one of the only websites that tackled the question”

Satirical, jokey, and trolly content is problematic for AI Overviews, but this is unlikely to affect either users or webmasters practicing SEO. The users making these types of searches know what they’re doing, and serious SEO professionals are generally not fixated on the integrity of their satirical content in SERPs.

Reid acknowledged a small number of queries for which there were more problematic AI results. “In a small number of cases, we have seen AI Overviews misinterpret language on webpages and present inaccurate information. We worked quickly to address these issues, either through improvements to our algorithms or through established processes to remove responses that don’t comply with our policies.”

It’s reasonable to expect at least some technical hiccups, but it remains to be seen whether these changes are sufficient to eliminate the issues.

Why AI Overviews Probably Aren’t a Big Deal for SEO

AI overviews by industry


Our stance here at is that AI Overviews probably aren’t going to impact the SEO world very much, though we do have some caveats.

These points are the basis for our reasoning.

  •       AI Overviews are limited in frequency and length. Right now, AI Overviews are limited in terms of both frequency and length. They don’t appear for every query, or even the majority of queries, and when they do appear, they’re relatively truncated. The longest Overview response we saw was only a few sentences long, and certainly not enough to satisfy curious users or provide meaningful information on a complex topic. If you’re consistently producing great, in-depth content (as you should be), AI Overviews probably aren’t going to affect you much.
  •       Click through rates are similar to or higher than before. Additionally, we are taking Google at their word that overall, click through rates are either similar to or higher than they were previously. Our biggest concern related to SGE was that it would siphon off at least some organic traffic, but that’s not the case, there’s no real reason for panic.
  •       Users wanting quick answers probably aren’t valuable anyway. It’s also worth mentioning that the types of users who want very quick, sentence-long answers probably aren’t your most valuable organic visitors anyway. If a user is completely satisfied with a single sentence answer to their query, moving on to other tasks immediately, they’re probably not going to convert on your website – and they almost certainly aren’t going to read your content in full. Curious, thoughtful, engaging users are going to see AI Overviews as more of an annoyance than anything else, and if you practice SEO wisely, they’re going to end up on your website.
  •       Core SEO standards aren’t changing. As you might have already gathered, this system doesn’t demand any new change to your approach with SEO. Good content, keyword optimization, technical optimization, and link building still form the foundation of a viable search optimization campaign. There’s no reason to try and cater to an AI that’s going to rewrite what you wrote anyway, so most search optimizers can simply keep doing what they’ve been doing.
  •       AI Overviews seem to be relatively agnostic. We also have minimal concerns because AI Overviews, at least for the moment, seem to be agnostic. They don’t seem to affect any single industry more than the others, nor do they disproportionately affect different websites based on factors like topic selection or even content quality. Authoritative websites feed AI results disproportionately, but again, there’s no real advantage in being in this position.

The big caveat to all of this is that both AI Overviews and SGE in general may receive future updates that change our outlook and our expectations. If AI results take over SERPs, if a new feature begins siphoning organic traffic, or if the dynamics of SEO change in response to these new developments, we’ll let you know.

What You Can (and Should) Do About AI Overviews in Your SEO Strategy

So what should the average search optimizer do about all of this?

  •       Observe and track what you can. For starters, try to observe and track everything you can related to your search presence and organic traffic. Google doesn’t reveal all information about AI Overviews or your search dynamics, but you should still work actively to see if these SERP changes have any impact on the bottom-line results of your strategy.
  •       Write content that can’t be summarized by AI. Developing good content has always been a staple of a healthy SEO campaign, and that’s unlikely to change in the future. What’s even more important now is that you develop content that can’t be summarized or replicated by AI. At this point, we all know that excellent human writers are far better than the best generative AI engines, so put them to good use – and make sure users have to come to your website for the good stuff. Aim to cover complex topics with authority and expertise, and include plenty of details (while still remaining as concise as possible).
  •       Double down on quality link building. Similarly, it’s a good idea to double down on quality link building. When you adhere to best practices, you can reliably increase your domain authority and increase your position as a credible, trustworthy source. As SERPs begin to become more cluttered, those higher positions are going to become even more valuable – and if you’re seen as a trustworthy source, you’ll be more likely to be cited underneath AI Overviews for topics relevant to your brand. Link building has been important for improving search results since day one, so this is an area unlikely to be disrupted even by future AI-related improvements to Google Search.
  •       Be on guard for future features of SGE. We’d be lying if we said we knew what was coming next for SG E, or anything related to the marriage of AI and Search. But we have a reasonable suspicion that Google isn’t cutting back on AI investments anytime soon. It’s very likely that Google will continue to develop new features related to AI, including generative AI, that reshape SERPs as well as the user experience of online search. Be on the lookout for these changes – and don’t get too complacent with your current SEO approach.


OMG! It’s acronym overload.

It makes sense, because there’s a lot to keep track of in the SEO landscape.

And we’re all here to help demystify it.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or if you’re just in search of better search results, has the resources to help you. Keep reading the blog for more information – and if you’re ready to take the next step in improving your SEO strategy, reach out for a free consultation!


Samuel Edwards