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Google’s AI Overviews: FAQs & Action Items for Marketers

Paid Search Paid Search, Performance Media 10 min read
Profile picture for user Tory Lariar

Written by
Tory Lariar
SVP, Paid Search

Person holding a cell phone in an office environment

It has been a landmark few weeks for search advertisers: Google’s AI Overviews, formerly known as the Search Generative Experience (SGE), are moving from the experimental Search Labs to public usage, as announced at Google I/O. Then, hot on their own tracks, they confirmed at Google Marketing Live 2024 that the obvious missing component from the announcement—ad placements—are coming now as well. Initially rolling out in the US, with global adoption not far behind, we’ve officially arrived at an AI-powered SERP from both an organic and paid search perspective. Let's explore what this means for marketers and how they can optimize to this new landscape.

    Recapping what Google is rolling out this year.

    AI Overviews are designed to provide users with summarized, informative answers directly on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). These overviews are aimed to offer a general response to the user's query and display clickable sources for deeper exploration. Beyond just answering queries, they will allow users to continue the interaction, refine their search and dive into specifics without leaving the SERP, or to view and click into the specific sources that informed that AI response.

    Google is also bolstering AI Overviews with related features fed by its AI technology, Gemini. Among the notable new features rolling out over the coming months, their announcements included:

    • "Simplify" and "Break it Down" to make complex answers more digestible
    • Multi-step question handling, to tackle more intricate queries
    • Organizing search results into AI-curated categories
    • Enhanced planning features, to generate complex answers for leisure and travel activities
    • Integrated video search using Google Lens

    AI Overviews experience example, with integrated ad placements, provided from Google.

    With the announcement of ad placements for AI Overviews, marketers finally had confirmation of how ad placements would be affected by the rollout of the generative content above-the-fold. The ads will include both search and shopping results; the algorithm will coordinate the chosen ad variant or chosen SKU with the user’s query and the content generated in the AI overview, prioritizing relevance. The ads eligible to serve in AI Overviews will be selected from brands’ Broad match search campaigns and Performance Max (PMax) campaigns (which they’re terming “the Power Pair”).

    Google also shared that at first, AI Overview Ads will be more focused on retail, travel, home improvement, moving, and similar consumer verticals—this is unsurprising given these are industries that rely heavily on feed-based data, giving the algorithm more data to assess ad relevance from than just some ad copy and a landing page.

    With AI Overviews rolling out for both organic and paid search results, marketers are facing several key questions about how to position their brands best and avoid getting knocked down below the fold. Here’s everything you need to know about setting your brand up for success.

    Will AI Overviews push my ads lower on the SERP? Not necessarily.

    The announcement of integrated ad placements within the AI Overviews section of the SERP changes the initial understanding that many marketers had after Google I/O earlier in May. We can see now that AI Overviews do not inherently push paid results lower on the page, but will fit them into a new context, as part of the generated response. Since the public launch, regular ad placements have been continuing to serve below the AI Overviews as well.

    We currently see in our testing that ads appear with the same frequency as before, but we are seeing more experimentation from Google post-GML. We’ve recently seen examples in the wild of AI Overviews showing below-standard ad units (i.e. ads that are not integrated into the AI Overviews content), as well as AI Overviews content serving for mid- and lower-funnel queries (more on that below, see our example images). Marketers should expect ad positioning to keep evolving this year and beyond.

    Google search results showing AI Overviews

    While AI Overviews are typically the highest result on the SERP (left), we're seeing Google continue to experiment with different layouts, so standard ads could still serve above AI Overviews (right).

    Since ad placements are dynamic to each search, Google itself is continually gathering data about what layouts lead to more engagement and satisfaction from users. The launch of all the new ad features will keep impacting this; therefore, it remains to be seen how ad placements will be affected when AI-based search categories and multi-step answers roll out later in the year.

    What about organic results? Yes, expect to appear lower and expect traffic decreases.

    This has been one of the chief concerns from publishers and marketers since SGE was first announced: if users are getting information straight from the SERP, won’t that mean less traffic to my site? Yes, zero-click content from AI Overviews will take up real estate on the SERP, meeting some searchers’ needs directly.

    However, this is part of a longstanding trend of SERP layout changes, from the shift of Shopping results from the right rail to the top of the page, to expansion of Knowledge Graph content like Featured Snippets, People Also Ask (PAA), and other panels. Because of this, “traditional 'Top 10' organic ranking positions no longer exist,” says Dang Nguyen, Sr. SEO Strategist at Monks. “Webpages ranking below the fifth position will be pushed even further out of searchers’ view, and inevitably will see a drastic drop off in CTRs.”

    However, there will be more chances for brands to get content to appear in the AI Overviews, to balance out for the decrease. “Since Google is providing multiple links to sources in AI Overviews, there are more chances to get included compared to Featured Snippets, which only provide one source link,” says Nguyen. “If users want more than the brief AI Overview summary, they’ll click through.” This shifts the focus for SEOs and brands to optimize to what the AI Overviews algorithm seeks. More on that below.

    Monk Thoughts Traditional 'Top 10' organic ranking positions no longer exist. Webpages below the fifth position will inevitably see a drastic drop off in CTRs.
    Dang Nguyen smiling at the camera

    Will this affect all queries? Mostly upper-funnel terms…for now.

    Our testing shows the most impact at the top of the funnel. Our team has been monitoring key terms for our clients in both the Labs environment throughout Q1 2024 and now in the public SERP. In our live testing, we’re primarily seeing AI Overviews serve for head terms and informational queries; they’re typically mapping to users in a top-of-funnel research journey. For the last few months, we have seen less frequent use of AI Overviews when queries are more “consideration” oriented (typically aligning with mid-funnel or bottom-funnel searches), or especially when users seek out a particular brand.

    However, we are seeing early shifts since AI Overviews moved from Labs to public usage: recently, more AI content is appearing for consideration queries, especially those comparing different types of product/service offerings or seeking instruction. See the example images below, captured only days after GML.

    Most of the other features announced at GML 2024 focused on queries with high commercial intent; advertisers should expect that brand queries and bottom-funnel queries are more likely to be impacted by Visual Brand Profiles, for example, than AI Overviews.

    Google search results comparing the SERP before AI Overviews and after AI Overviews

    During Google's Search Labs testing, we observed AI Overviews most often for informational queries, while queries with bottom-funnel intent or brand names were less likely. After GML 2024, we’re seeing more mixed usage for consideration and conversion queries (right image).

    Should advertisers be concerned about brand safety?

    No, not enough to justify any resistance to these changes. With the public rollout came fresh scrutiny, including inaccurate AI responses going viral, causing a stir in the marketing and tech worlds. It’s not surprising that an LLM would generate some buggy content while being brought up to scale for the first time, or when the user base expands so broadly (from Labs users likely testing it for professional purposes, to any user) that it would need to adapt more human elements, like satire. At the end of the day, marketers should remember:

    1. The generated content is not a black box, for a reason. Google’s search results and Featured Snippets have always relied on user input to validate that they’re serving the right content, and this is no different. No matter what, AI Overviews list sources so users have full access to the original information, and can judge what source sites they trust.
    2. Google is incentivized to improve this product. Since other tools like Microsoft Copilot or Perplexity AI are regularly making headlines and receiving favorable reactions, Google has a competitive need to ensure AI Overviews are meeting users’ needs as quickly and seamlessly as possible—otherwise they’d be jeopardizing their search revenues in the long run.

    How can marketers optimize their SEO to appear as sources for AI Overviews?

    With the recent SEO algorithm "leak", uncovering documentation about Google’s ranking factors, marketers everywhere are buzzing with “gotchas” about how to hack the organic ranking algorithm; however, at its heart, content SEO is still about understanding your target audience’s needs and buying journey to produce valuable content that they will seek out. Even when AI-generated content was rolled out last year as the Search Generative Experience, we were already talking about how it doesn’t change the fundamentals for a strong SEO strategy as much as people might assume.

    First, technical SEO principles are still critical for Google to even be able to effectively find and interpret your site’s content, and must always be addressed first. But beyond that, here are tips to evolve your content strategy for the AI-first SERP:

    1. Focus on depth and own your niche to be considered a topical authority. While many brands are leaning on generative AI to churn out surface-level content quickly and cost-effectively for a wide variety of keywords, Google will be more likely to view your content as meaty enough for the LLM to learn from if it goes deep and offers unique value. “Now more than ever, publishers need to provide much more value-add to their content to succeed,” says Nguyen. “Brands should produce niche-relevant content that doesn't exist anywhere else, eg. new knowledge and facts, interviews with industry experts, verification of accuracy and fact checking, etc… basically everything that good journalism represents.” Websites that show a deeper level of knowledge and expertise will thrive in the new Google search landscape.
    2. Instead of a discrete list of keywords, built content around topics in a hub-and-spoke model based on the buyer journey and natural language. Google touted at GML that searches are continually getting longer, as users query the search engine with more complexity. As searching becomes a more immersive experience, this behavior will be reinforced, until searches more closely mirror conversations. For example, instead of users searching “smartphone with best camera,” in the future they will be more likely to query “currently have a google pixel phone and looking for something better, price point max of $1,000, and a device where I can take great landscape pictures.” Basic keyword analysis won’t cut it anymore in that environment. “It’s important to understand the entire customer journey and how it relates to the user’s intent in that moment, then offering that exact information they’re looking for,” Nguyen adds. “Ensure that your content is covering the entirety of the customer journey.”
    3. Don’t neglect third-party credibility. Brands must reinforce overall site authority with good backlinks from other highly relevant and authoritative sites. This doesn’t just include press coverage and classic backlinking tactics, but also engaging where users are already having conversations. “Don’t forget to distribute content across various social platforms and UGC forums (serving the appropriate format), like and,” Dang Nguyen suggests.
    4. Learn from the AI-generated content itself. Unfortunately, at this time Google Search Console won’t differentiate the traffic coming from AI Overviews specifically, but we can learn from the answers they receive when performing our own searches. Marketers should engage with AI Overviews themselves. On a recurring basis, see what content serves for your most relevant queries and analyze AI Overview responses to identify gaps and opportunities for enriched content creation.

    How can advertisers serve in AI Overview Ads, and what’s the “Power Pair”?

    AI Overview Ads are not fueled by their own campaign type the way Demand Gen and Performance Max campaign placements are. Instead, eligible ads come from the “Power Pair”— PMax campaigns and Broad match keywords in search campaigns. Therefore, it’s critical for advertisers to lean into both tactics, prioritizing budget allocation and testing to increase your odds of serving. To make sure you’re hitting performance goals when leaning into the Power Pair, advertisers should:

    • Pay attention to the top and the bottom. Monitor your top-performing keywords for any immediate performance losses across core KPIs as AI Overviews roll out. This would signal that users only sought a surface-level answer and didn’t get added value from clicking to your site. Also, reinforce your foundation by continuing to monitor for poor-performing queries on your Broad terms, maintaining robust negative lists.
    • Share knowledge more frequently. Continually align on cohesive keyword and topic strategies with SEO to share learnings about which paid keywords perform best and to supplement any burgeoning site content with paid ads.
    • Check ad strength, and perform more copy tests as needed. To combat expected decreases in CTR, ensure your ads have strong ad strength or you’ll risk serving even less frequently. If strength ratings aren’t as high as you’d like to see, launch new RSA tests that prioritize relevance (more directly work in the query to the ad copy and landing page experience).
    • Maximize audience signals to feed the algorithm. To thrive in this new landscape, brands must feed the ever-hungry algorithm as much data as possible. First-party audience data from a CRM or CDP is worth its weight in gold, in addition to increasing the number of (meaningfully different!) creative variants, and making your product feeds as robust as possible. All of these signals will point the algorithm the right direction towards users most likely to convert.

    What other changes do advertisers need to make to gain a competitive advantage?

    Nimble advertisers who can act quickly in these other areas will have the most to gain:

    • Utilize more visual ad formats to stand out as Google makes the SERP layout even more dynamic. Enhanced personalization means marketers must compete even more for relevance.
    • Establish new performance benchmarks. With CTR and traffic volume likely to shift rapidly, it’s important to update the SEM/SEO KPIs you measure against, to proactively understand MoM and YoY differences. Google Search Console won’t necessarily shed light on this directly: “At this point, clicks and impressions shown in GSC will not discern between regular SERP clicks and AI Overviews clicks,” says Nguyen. Therefore, to quantify the impact of zero-click content, leverage incrementality testing, such as matched market tests or holdout tests. Historically, most SEM marketers have focused their holdout tests on Brand terms, but with AI Overviews impacting terms at every stage of the funnel, it's now crucial for broader categories.
    • Combat rising CACs from lower traffic with CRO. While we anticipate a decline in CTR and click volume, the clicks that do occur will likely be of higher intent, leading to better conversion rates (CVR). To bolster this, brands should invest in conversion rate optimization, A/B testing their landing pages and site experiences to reduce friction or leaks in their conversion process.
    • Consider the impact to other media channels. For example, with lower site traffic from some search terms we can expect remarketing pools to decline; to avoid oversaturating your consideration audiences if they shrunk, set frequency caps on your remarketing campaigns.

    The SERP of 2024 and beyond is personalized and interactive; are you ready to embrace the change?

    Google's rollout of AI Overviews marks a significant evolution in the search experience. This AI-driven shift promises a more personalized and interactive SERP; if this pays off with  enhanced user satisfaction and engagement as Google projects, it’s ultimately a win for marketers hoping to reach engaged audiences. To benefit from this, it necessitates strategic recalibration for both advertisers and SEO professionals. Embracing this change with innovative approaches and enriched content will be key to thriving in the evolving search landscape. Welcome to the future of search—where AI Overviews lead the way.


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    The website has been translated to English with the help of Humans and AI