Google's getting smarter - What Generative AI Means for Your Website

Jon Kennett
11 June 2024

Google is about to make some waves in search. They've announced an update to their search engine's capabilities, powered by generative AI. This is potentially a game-changer for anyone involved in SEO. Let’s have a look into what this means, break down the announcement, and explore the potential impacts on search engine optimisation and organic traffic.

We should start with the basics first - what is generative AI?

Generative AI essentially refers to artificial intelligence systems that can generate content, like text, images or even website code, based on a set of instructions. If you've had a play with Chat GPT or any of the other tools on the market, then you've experienced generative AI. Unlike traditional AI, which largely recognises patterns and makes predictions based on existing data, generative AI is capable of creating entirely new content.

an image of the world connected with lights for this Generative AI blog

This technology has been incorporated into Google Search through their Gemini model (we'll have to break this down in another blog), which brings advanced capabilities like multi-step reasoning, planning, and a bunch of other very smart stuff you can learn about here.

We're going to dive into the new features of Google’s generative AI in Search and see how they’re set to impact how we use their services.

AI Overviews

Imagine you’re planning a last-minute trip and need to know the best places to visit in Paris. You don’t have the time to browse through countless websites, each offering different pieces of information. This is where AI Overviews comes in. This new feature generates concise, AI-driven summaries that appear directly in your search results. With AI Overviews, you get a quick snapshot of the best spots in Paris without having to click through multiple links. It’s like having a well travelled friend who gives you the highlights in an instant, saving you time and effort.

A photo of a laptop with Google search engine on screen

You may have heard of some recent blunders with AI Overviews, including adding glue to Pizza or eating one rock a day to aid digestive health. Whilst these have been frequent, in my opinion, it's only a matter of time before the accuracy and credibility of the results improves.

Enhanced Search Experience

Imagine you’re working on a research project for uni or work and need detailed information on climate change impacts or how coffee impacts productivity. You can ask Google complex, multi-part questions and the AI’s advanced capabilities will understand and respond with highly detailed answers. It can sift through enormous amounts of data, plan your research steps and even help brainstorm new angles for your project. This will make your search experience more intuitive and also incredibly efficient.

A conceptual photo of lights emulating connection between people and software

Sounds a bit like cheating right? It's more like taking the heavy lifting away, so you get more time to think about coffee.

Integration with Core Search Systems

The magic behind these new features is in the integration of the Gemini model with Google’s existing search systems. It's best to think of it as "blending the best of both worlds" - the futuristic capabilities of generative AI with the proven accuracy of traditional search algorithms. They're essentially positioning it as the perfect marriage of innovative, AI-generated insights with the trustworthy, high-quality search results you’ve come to expect from Google.

An image of a brain made up of circuits to symbolise digital thinking

This power duo will change how we all interact with information online, making searches faster, smarter, and more tailored to our needs.

Impact on SEO and Organic Visibility

This update is bound to have some big impacts on SEO and how websites gain visibility organically. Here’s a few considerations:

Content Quality and Relevance

With AI Overviews giving quick answers to your burning questions, high-quality, relevant content will become even more important than it is now for SEO. Websites with in-depth, authoritative information will theoretically stand a better chance of being featured, driving more traffic and engagement.

User Engagement

AI Overviews have shown to increase user engagement with search results. Apparently, people are happier with their searches when they get quick, comprehensive answers (shocker!) which could mean higher click-through rates (CTR) for websites featured in these overviews. If you're a glass half empty kind of person, it could also mean people are less likely to click through because they've got what they need from Google, without needing to engage with your website. It will be interesting to see what comes out in the wash.

Competitive Advantage

Those who begin adjusting their SEO strategies to align with generative AI should have a competitive edge when it's rolled out globally (Google are staggering the launch). Content that addresses complex queries and provides comprehensive and detailed insights will improve your chances of being featured in AI Overviews. In reality, you should be producing this type of content anyway, but if not, this release is a handy "kick up the bum" to start thinking about how you curate content to serve your audiences needs.

Changes in Search Behaviour

If users get used to, or even prefer AI-generated summaries, we might see shifts in search behaviour. People may rely more on these quick answers, impacting how they navigate search results and interact with different websites and services.

What can you do now to adapt your SEO strategy?

Here's a few tips:

Create high quality content

Produce detailed, well-researched content that answers common questions and meets user needs comprehensively. Can you use AI for this? Absolutely, but more as a tool to support your efforts rather than using it to write everything for you.

Keywords keywords keywords

Since the AI can handle complex queries, targeting long-tail keywords can help capture traffic from users asking detailed questions - there's plenty of good tools out there for this, including BOZ-SEO, Moz, SEMrush, Google Ads and many more.

Structured data

If you don't know anything about structured data, in a nutshell, it helps search engines understand the context of your content better. For example, you can use structure data to markup your FAQ, or a recipe, or a product page thus making it easier for Google to recommend your website. There's plenty of plugins for WordPress to support adding structured data markup to your website. Structured data may end up becoming more prevalent in AI overviews.

Monitor and Adapt

Keep an eye on your analytics to understand how the new AI features are impacting your traffic and user engagement. Be ready to tweak your strategy based on these insights.

Google’s generative AI integration into Search is a pretty major change, offering new opportunities and challenges for SEOs. Keep an eye out for new updates and tweak your strategies accordingly. By keeping our finger on the pulse, hopefully the tech won't run away from all of us. Stay informed, stay flexible, and make the most of these exciting developments.

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