Google SGE and AI Overviews: Explaining Google’s Search Generative Experience

May 21, 2024

This year at Google I/O, the new AI Overviews (previously SGE or Search Generative Experience) was released publicly in the United States, having been in experimental mode for quite some time. If you opted in to the beta testing of SGE (search labs), you may have seen a few iterations of this tool over the past year or so.

What Is Google SGE or AI Overviews?

Google SGE (now called AI Overviews) is Google’s newest tool meant to transform the search experience with generative AI. Search is looking a little (okay, a lot) different right now with AI helping delivering a generated response at the very top of the page after you enter your search query. These AI snippets are meant to “serve as a jumping-off point from which people can explore a wide range of content and perspectives on the web.” You can ask follow up questions and explore various verticals across the web related to shopping, local businesses, and more. The tool is available in multiple languages and will continue to roll out in more countries and languages over time.

During the search labs testing, Google sought out user feedback in order to try and improve upon its tool.

How AI Overviews Works

According to Google, AI Overviews will “appear in Google Search results when our systems determine that generative responses can be especially helpful — for example, when you want to quickly understand information from a range of sources, including information from across the web and Google’s Knowledge Graph. No action is needed for publishers to benefit from AI Overviews.”

SGE leverages Large Language Models (LLMs) to process and analyze data and text from the web and uses this to present information and an answer to search queries. For content to show up or be used for the AI snippet, content must meet the criteria that Google set forth for helpful content. Gemini is Google’s customized language model that is central to this new AI search feature. Gemini’s multi-step reasoning allows users to ask more complex questions and get more detailed answers.

AI overviews not only answers the questions, but provides context and other assistance for planning. For instance, if you’re looking for meal ideas, can deliver meal ideas but also a full “plan.” For instance, I typed in “6 week meal plan healthy meals” and it gave me these options. Notice you can expand each section in order to view the three meals it offers and take you to the recipe pages.

ai overviews 6 week meal plan example google sge

At the bottom of the AI overview, you can find options in the right hand corner including a “shopping list” where you can export ingredients into a google doc or gmail for your meal plan.

AI Overviews (Google SGE) shopping list export for meal plan

Aside from meal plans, AI overviews/SGE can now plan your next trip, including using Gemini to locate flight information from your Gmail or calendar, then plan your meals and excursions depending on your landing and departure times. During the Google I/O conference, the new AI overviews was announced and explained as having “helpful clusters” on a dynamic whole page experience.

Google SGE vs Other AI Tools: What is Gemini?

Naturally, I asked Google “What is Gemini (Google)?” and here was the AI Overviews response:

“Google Gemini is a family of AI models and a free app that provides access to Google’s AI models. Gemini is multimodal, meaning it can understand and generate text, images, audio, videos, and code. Gemini can help with writing, brainstorming, learning, and more. For example, you can ask Gemini to describe an image by attaching it and providing a prompt like “what’s going on in this picture?” . Gemini can also summarize and find information from Google Drive or Gmail, generate images, and make plans with Google Maps and Google Flights.”

At Google I/O, Gemini 1.5 pro was boasted to include the largest context window of any chatbot, with the ability to upload 1500 page PDFs, 30 thousand lines of code, or a one hour long video. It can handle 1 million tokens, expanding to 2 million later this year. According to Google, Gemini Advanced subscribers will soon be able to create Gems — customized versions of Gemini. They give examples like a gym buddy or a sous chef where you can ask specific questions after you set up your Gem.

The Links: What Does Generative AI Search Mean for SEO?

Businesses and publishers alike are in a bit of a frenzy over AI Overviews. The new Search Generative Experience will most definitely impact search engine optimization and organic traffic to websites. Publishers are concerned that removing or lowering the traditional “blue links” on the page will impact and limit clicks to websites significantly. Data from ZipTie and Search Engine Journal contributor Bart Goralewicz indicate that AI overviews cover over 80% of search queries across most verticals. Search Engine Journal also reports that “under the unique ranking system for AI overviews, only 47% of the top 10 traditional web results appear as sources powering the overview generation.” In short, SGE is turning SEO on its head and businesses and publishers are very concerned.

Prepare for the Evolution Of Google SGE / AI Overviews

A new SEO strategy will be key with AI Overviews. This new search experience will change the way we shape our SEO strategies.

Personally, I believe there are a few things that can help your visibility in search now, even as we continue figuring out the full impact of SGE on search and SEO:

  • Answer direct questions in your content. Treat AI Overviews a bit like you’d treat a featured snippet. Try to get quality succinct answers to queries people search for in the body of your articles and pages.
  • Create full content with depth of topic. The ability to “learn more” or ask additional questions in SGE/AI Overviews could potentially mean more opportunity to answer a very specific query about a topic. Be sure your content has loads of depth and covers all angles (while still maintaining your specific view points).
  • Brand recognition and authority will be important in the future of AI. With AI learning about content and topics, positioning your brand as a thought leader and authority figure is going to be key in the future of search. Digital PR and brand mentions will continue to become more and more important in order to lend your website and name authority in the industry.
  • Get people talking about you in Q&A platforms. According to SEJ, “Studies found sites like Quora and Reddit are frequently cited in Google’s AI overviews.” We have also seen a huge increase in Reddit traffic since 2023. A really informative article on this Reddit’s SEO growth was recently published by Amsive if you’d like to learn more about what’s happened with Reddit lately. Because these forums are gaining more and more visibility in search, having your brand mentioned or having links to your content can be really helpful for SEO. This goes back to brand recognition and being known for what you do.
  • Perform a technical SEO audit. Ensure your website is getting crawled and indexed properly so that Google AI models can readily find your content when it pulls into its answers.
  • Stay up to date on the latest on search! Join my newsletter (you’ll also get a free download on optimizing your content!) and continue to read, learn, and observe as we learn more about the impact of Google SGE / AI Overviews.