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Jim Yu
M Posted 1 month ago
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It’s been roughly two weeks since Google announced AI Overviews! BrightEdge Generative Parser™ has been tracking SGE for nearly 8 months now, and we’ve logged our findings in our Ultimate Guide to SGE.   We have been able to observe the transition to AI Overviews in real-time.  The code base and many of the modules that power the AI remain the same, there are some attributes of AIO that have implications for marketers.  So what can we say about how AIO is different?

AI Overviews are deployed where most helpful

The other change BrightEdge Generative Parser™ has detected is that AIO is showing for significantly fewer queries than SGE. We observed this drop in April, and it was widely covered when we reported that 65% of queries were not showing SGE. This was the culmination of almost a year of testing and learning about where they added the most value. At the time, I said this was about striking a balance between intelligent AI responses, user experiences, and advertising opportunities. Fast forward to after AIO was rolled out, and that figure jumped all the way to 90%!

This means while AI Overviews may not be on as many keywords, when they are visible it is because the data suggested these are where users prefer them.  For marketers, this means your job is to make sure you’re present in these results. When I spoke with Wired a couple weeks ago, I said the effect is that AI-powered search essentially gives an informed opinion about your brand and the topic at hand. Being the source for that opinion not only creates a new engagement opportunity for your brand, but it also helps you get into a new conversation with your customers.

AIO is better suited to share the screen with traditional results

The first thing that stands out is that AIO takes up less space on a screen than SGE has. They are presented as collapsed views, so users who want them can expand (AIO isn’t showing any opt-in or full results, which we observed with SGE). When AI Overviews rolled out, we observed that the space on the screen shrank by 30% compared to what the SGE results for the exact same keywords were showing just two weeks earlier!

Google is looking to deliver AIO in the most efficient manner possible. For marketers, this means your traditional organic rankings will continue to play a central role in driving traffic.  Clearly, AIO isn’t intended to force users to use AI, but provide both traditional and AIO experiences.  For marketers, this means your traditional SEO efforts remain as important as ever. 

For example, let’s say I search for security lights. The traditional component of that search result assumes I want to buy security lights and ranks places where I can do that. This is ideal for a customer who knows what they want and needs to get to the product as quickly as possible.

 

However, this result also shows an AI Overview that serves customers who need to have a broader understanding of security lights. As you can see, in a very conversational way, it addresses some concepts I’ll need to know about security lights and offers an informed opinion on some products I may like based on what it’s explained:

Throughout, AIO cites where it’s getting its information.  Not only do marketers have an opportunity to influence what AIO is going to tell its users, but each of these citations is an opportunity for referral traffic.  According to Google’s CEO, these citations have a higher click through rate than regular search results.  

For marketers, the job is to serve both of these mindsets. To do that, it’s no longer about optimizing for the keyword “Security Lights”; it’s about optimizing for the topic of Security Lights. The benefit is that marketers have an opportunity to better qualify customers and be rewarded with referral traffic as they do it. To make this happen, SEOs and digital marketing teams need to know which aspects of the keywords they are targeting are likely to be addressed by AIO. Then, they need to deploy their content in a way that’s conducive to both AIO and traditional search results.

To drive traffic with AI Overviews, there’s three things that need to be part of your digital content team’s workflow: 

1.  Identify where AIO will impact the buying process - Whether you’re selling security lights or providing a complex surgical procedure, AIO promises to help your customers learn and discern about the topic. You need to know where this is going to happen and how, so you can not only be part of that conversation with your customer but also ensure your content is aligned downstream.  Copilot for Content Advisor was built from the ground up to do this.  It leverages AI to research multiple sources around a topic to build a brief that not only targets a single keyword but also includes all the related content AIO may need to cite and drafts the content for you.  So now, instead of a content strategy that targets security lights, you’re targeting (all of these are factors Copilot has identified as required to optimize to the topic):

  • Factors to consider when selecting security lights
  • Types of security lights and their features
  • Difference power sources for security lights
  • Maximum lumens and its importance
  • Proper installation and guidelines
  • How to maintain security lights 

Armed with this data, SEO and content teams can now build content strategies, product pages, content calendars, and blog posts that address these topics in a meaningful way.

2.  Update your workflows to address AI Citations and Rankings – According to BrightEdge Generative Parser™, 15% of the URLs cited by AIO are ranking in search results. Considering that the role of AIO is to answer questions you may not have directly asked, this makes sense. But it also means that your content needs to be adaptable for AI while also serving the needs of a traditional search algorithm since these two entities are likely looking for different things at the same time. Fortunately, this doesn’t require a new set of skills, but it does require focus on specific data. Schema tags are like hints for both AI and algorithms to understand context for your content. SEO teams need to understand what schema is in play for the topics they are targeting. This can be challenging without the right technology because there are literally hundreds of different tags to indicate what a page is about! BrightEdge solves this challenge with SearchIQ by measuring and correlating which schema tags are most important for each topic. As teams are planning their content deployment, SearchIQ is a critical input to define what the must-haves are for tagging that web page.

In addition to SearchIQ, teams need to understand what formats are most important for both AIO and traditional results. I mentioned earlier how the People Also Ask box was appearing alongside the AIO result for Security Lights, but there are other features in a result that can correlate to AIO as well. For example, Featured Snippets show a high correlation to AIO results. Other formats such as video, image carousels, and news give teams insights into the intents that search engines understand about a query. BrightEdge arms teams with what these different features are using Data Cube X. Data Cube X tracks 28 features on a search result, so as teams determine what content formats are needed, they can immediately see what formats are most prominent in traditional results that could correspond to how AIO may address a topic. They can see what’s on the rise and what’s in decline to make content format decisions.

 

3.  Distinguish Data from Speculation – Similar to any new technology, there is a lot of speculation about AIO and how Google will deploy it. Marketers need to discern between speculation and actionable data-driven insights. Particularly with hallucinations and some challenges in the early days, Google is rapidly refining and innovating how AIO is deployed. BrightEdge’s Generative Parser™ uniquely understands where and how AIO is being deployed, which marketers can use to prove their strategies are sound. This, combined with Data Cube X, allows marketers to see how traditional search features address different intents. By refining strategies based on observable evidence, marketers can ensure their content remains at the top of organic traditional results and meets AIO citation needs.

The question isn’t what AIO is doing right now, it’s what is has the potential to deliver in the next 12 months.  Marketers have an exciting opportunity to be at the front of a whole way customers will interact with AI assistants and digital content.  BrightEdge is committed to navigating these new marketplaces and fostering innovation at the intersection of AI and search!