Google AI Overviews: More Searches, Less Satisfaction

What happens when you let Google do the Googling for you, but Google can't find what Google is Googling for on Google?

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May 17, 2024
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Google AI Overviews: More Searches, Less Satisfaction

Google is rolling out its AI Overviews search to U.S.-based users of Google Search in the coming week. This was just one of several significant developments announced by the company at Google I/O yesterday.

What are AI Overviews?

 

AI Overviews give answers to queries using generative AI technology powered by Google Gemini. It provides a few snippets of an answer based on its understanding of queries and the content it found on the topic across the web.

Not in all your searches.

AI Overviews are reserved to answer more complex questions where Google feels it can add value beyond the search results, said Hema Budaraju, the company’s senior director of product, Search Generative Experience. If an AI Overview doesn’t add value to what Google Search shows by default, Google will not show an AI Overview. Google would not say what percentage of queries will generate an AI Overview.
Budaraju also said that the link cards within AI Overviews generate a higher click-through rate than traditional web search results. However, Google will not break down impressions and click data for AI Overview links in Google Search Console.

Google AI Overviews: More Searches, Less Satisfaction

Adjusting Overviews.

Google Search Labs will soon offer the ability to adjust AI Overviews to “simplify the language or break it down in more detail,” Liz Reid, the head of Google Search, explained. Clicking on “Simpler” will give users a more basic AI Overview response; clicking on “Break it down” will provide a much more detailed response. This functionality refines search results without requiring multiple searches in the same search session.

AI Overviews were introduced as part of the Search Generative Experience last May 2023. It was opt-in within Google Search Labs until Google tested it on a subset of users in March 2024. AI Overviews will launch in more countries soon and be available to more than a billion users by the end of the year.

A simpler view.

If all this seems too confusing, Google is rolling out a new search filter to show only text-based links in the search results. The filter is named “Web.” Clicking it removes images, videos, or other forms of search results; only classic blue links are displayed. Now if you want to remove forums, videos, news, images or other forms of search results you can. You can just filter by text links, and go back to the pre-2007 universal search days.

Other features.

The company also announced several other new features including multistep reasoning capabilities, planning capabilities, AI-organized search results, and a new Google Lens ask-with-video feature.

Google AI Overviews: More Searches, Less Satisfaction

Multistep reasoning capability.

Google Search can now provide multistep reasoning using Gemini step-by-step reasoning logic. “Rather than breaking your question into multiple searches, you can ask your most complex questions, with all the nuances and caveats you have in mind, all in one go,” Reid wrote. The example below shows the feature at work for someone searching for a new yoga or pilates studio, that is popular in your community, conveniently located for your daily commute, and that also offers a discount for new members. You can ask Google Search to “find the best yoga or pilates studios in Boston and show details on their intro offers and walking time from Beacon Hill.”

Planning capabilities. This feature gives you the ability to plan what you need directly in Google Search. It will give you choices and the ability to co-create plans with others. For example, a search for “create a three-day meal plan for a group that’s easy to prepare,” gets a starting point with a wide range of recipes from across the web. You can swap out parts of the plan, as you wish and then export them to Google Docs or Gmail. It will be available in Search Labs later this year within the U.S.

 

AI-organized search results.

 

This will let you use AI to group the search results into specific categories. It is intended to help you brainstorm options for your query. The company says it will provide search results “categorized under unique, AI-generated headlines, featuring a wide range of perspectives and content types.” This functionality will roll out for dining and recipes, followed by movies, music, books, hotels, shopping and more later this year directly in Google Search for U.S. English results. It is not available as a Google Search Labs opt-in feature.
Impact of AI Overviews on Website Traffic

While Google claims that links included in AI Overviews generate a higher click-through rate than traditional web search results, there are reasons to be skeptical of this claim.

The design of AI Overviews suggests that the web links feel like an afterthought, making it hard to believe that they truly support direct traffic to websites.

Google has stated that it will report on clicks and impressions from AI Overviews in Search Console, but it will not separate the data for AI Overviews from normal web search clicks. This lack of transparency leads to the belief that if site owners could see the data for their individual sites, the results might not align with Google’s claims.

The featured snippet, a similar feature, has been shown to have a mixed impact on website traffic. While it can be beneficial for one site, it can also negatively impact the rest of the search results. It remains to be seen if AI Overviews will have a similar effect.

Google’s statement about AI Overviews receiving more clicks than traditional web search results may be carefully worded. The result in an AI Overview card might get more clicks or engagement than the average of the first page, as it is being compared to the 8-10 positions. However, it is highly unlikely that an AI Overview would get more engagement than if the listing was ranking in the first position without an AI Overview.

Read Also: Exploring Tata's Eco-Friendly Revolution with Tata CNG Cars

Google’s AI Overviews represents a significant evolution in search technology, aiming to provide users with a cleaner and simpler way to access information. While this may improve the user experience, it also underscores the complex relationship between Google and content creators. As Google seeks to clean up the web by providing more direct answers, it may inadvertently harm the very content creators it relies on for information.

In conclusion, AI Overviews signify a new era in search technology, with far-reaching implications for the web economy. As Google continues to innovate and expand its AI capabilities, it is crucial for content creators to adapt and find ways to remain relevant in a search landscape increasingly dominated by AI-generated answers.

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