AI Overviews in SEO—Should You Freak Out?

May 16, 2024 3 min read
AI Overviews in SEO—Should You Freak Out?

AI Overviews in SEO—should you freak out? And how do you choose keywords now?

Google is finally releasing its search generative experience in the US.

Scary, right?

They're consuming your content and regurgitating it as an answer to people's search queries.

Content that historically brought visitors to your site, is now...potentially gone.

But, is that really the case?

For some queries, yes.

Some, no.

The answer here, I believe, is around ease of intent satisfaction.

Let me explain:

This is how I'm thinking about this uncertainty:

1. It's currently hard for any AI to deliver a nuanced response that's useful for complex topics (e.g. those requiring expertise, experience, creativity, or senior-level understandings of context).

2. It's currently pretty easy for AI to give simple responses for beginner-level audiences on beginner-level topics.

Logically, therefore:

If your traffic profile is built on delivering simple answers to simple topics for people who do not need nuanced help: you can expect to lose a share of your traffic.

AI Overviews won't find it challenging to deliver a satisfying answer to these search users.

We've seen this before: Featured Snippets were a mostly effective solution to some search queries.

Importantly, however, Featured Snippets did not reduce traffic to 0 and neither will AI Overviews. Many if not most people see the snippet and click through to read the full article. AI is an extension of that.

However, if you're creating content that:

1 - Tackles niche topics where there's no right answer.

2 - Explains nuanced topics where genuine experience and examples are appreciated.

3 - Helps audiences problem-solve tough topics that need novel solutions.

4 - Focuses on topics that need up-to-date information, like ever-evolving topics like SEO best practices.

5 - Is more "show" than tell. Examples, visuals, demonstrations, etc.

These are areas where AI is unlikely to give a satisfying answer on its own in an "overview"—even if stealing directly from SERP content.

(I would include seemingly simple things like SOME recipes, that are actually often creative, with nuanced instructions, and unique to the author.)

We can expect organic web traffic declines in the next 5 years to be less intense for businesses who invest in this type of content.

I've recommended my clients focus here for a while, given how long we've known SGE is coming.

Besides, it's where most topics with commercial potential sit anyway for genuine product/service-based businesses.

Quick note: Need an SEO strategy consultant to help navigate this? Or a high-end content production team to rebuild your content library? Book an intro call with me here.

Moving forward.

When deciding to create new SEO content, the crucial question to ask is this: "how likely will a search user be satisfied by an AI Overview?".

Higher likelihood --> Less attractive the keyword.

If you've been shortcutting content with AI and driving easy traffic to simple top-of-funnel topics.

Then your content is likely easy for AI Overviews to replicate.

Sorry, but you were warned. Shortcuts don't last long.


P.S. The answer is yes, it's fine to freak out for a while. It is scary when everyone is so doom/gloom. But SEO, like all marketing channels, is constantly evolving. So get planning.

Did you miss the Preply case study from last week? I've just updated with some insight from their in-house Digital PR team (who have a quarterly link target of 3,400 backlinks by the way!!).

Need an SEO strategy consultant and content production team? Book an intro call with me here.


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