Google rolls out AI Overviews in US with more countries coming soon

AI Overviews is rolling out to all US based searchers in Google Search, making AI Overviews available to hundreds of millions of searchers by next week, Liz Reid, the company’s new head of Search, announced at Google I/O. AI Overviews will launch in more countries soon and be available to more than a billion users by the end of the year.

Hema Budaraju, the Senior Director of Product, Search Generative Experience, Google, told us that the link cards within AI Overviews generate a higher click-through rate than traditional web search results. However, Google will not break down impressions and click data for AI Overview links in Google Search Console.

In addition to AI Overviews, Google is rolling out new Search Labs AI features, including multistep reasoning capabilities, planning capabilities, AI-organized search results, and a new Google Lens ask-with-video feature.

What are AI Overviews? AI Overviews was introduced as part of the Search Generative Experience last May 2023. It was opt-in within the Google Search Labs, until Google began testing AI Overviews in the wild for a subset of users in March 2024.

AI Overviews gives answers to queries using generative AI technology powered by Google Gemini. It provides a few snippets of an answer based on its understanding of queries and the content it found on the topic across the web.

Here is a GIF of how AI Overviews look in Google Search:

Limited queries. You won’t see AI Overviews for all your searches. AI Overviews are reserved to answer more complex questions where Google feels it can add value beyond the search results, Budaraju told us. If AI Overview doesn’t add value to what Google Search shows by default, Google will not show an AI Overview.

Google would not say what percentage of queries will generate an AI Overview. I asked numerous times and was told, “we won’t share those figures.”

I asked if we would see AI Overviews only when ads are not displayed, and I was told, that was not the case. The types of queries AI Overviews will show for have “less to do with ads” and more to do with adding value to the search results, Budaraju said. Reid wrote, “As always, ads will continue to appear in dedicated slots throughout the page, with clear labeling to distinguish between organic and sponsored results.”

Google may show AI Overviews for health, medical and financial queries – the YMYL (your money, your life) queries.

A recent study concluded Google is showing fewer AI Overviews since testing began a year ago. Plus, Onley shared similar data showing AI Overviews showing up a lot less often recently.

Clicks. We speculated that when Google launches AI Overviews and SGE (by the way, AI Overview graduated from SGE and Labs, so we should call these AI Overviews and not SGE, Google told me), that Google would only launch them for queries that would not hurt its ad performance and revenue.

Budaraju told us that the click through rate on the AI Overview link cards are actually higher than the click through rate on normal web results, similar to what we saw for featured snippets, she said.

AI Overview impressions in Search Console. Google will begin reporting AI Overview impressions and clicks in its Search Console reporting, but won’t distinguish those generated by traditional search and AI Overview. Google will lump them all together, Budaraju said. There will be no way to see if your site was referenced in just AI Overviews, if there was an impression for just AI Overviews, and a click for just AI Overviews.

This approach is similar to Microsoft’s use of Copilot in Bing Search, formerly known as Bing Chat. Bing Webmaster Tools lumped the impressions and clicks for Copilot with normal web search clicks. This is how Google handles showing (or not showing) featured snippets in Search Console, despite creating a filter for it in 2016 but never launching it to the public.

To me, this makes me feel Google (and Bing) are hiding something from content creators. That the clicks and CTR from these AI powered answers may not generate a healthy click through rate to publishers. I mean, why else won’t they show those details?

When AI Overviews get it wrong. Just like any new technology, things can go wrong. We recently saw AI Overviews advise you to drink urine to pass a kidney stone, Google removed that response within 24-hours. In the past, we saw examples of how the old featured snippets got it wrong.

Searchers can report harmful and inaccurate AI Overviews by clicking on the three dots at the top of the AI Overview. AI Overviews results are likely to improve over time, displaying fewer inaccuracies, just like we saw with featured snippets when those first launched.

Opt out. Since AI Overviews are a search feature, the only way to opt your site out of showing up in the AI Overviews is through normal search controls. That means blocking your site from showing up in Google Search completely, either through robots.txt, meta tag controls or other means.

Searchers do not have a way to opt out of these AI Overviews at the momemnt.

Featured snippets. Featured snippets are not going away. They will continue to show up on the search results even with these new AI Overviews. Some thought AI Overviews would be a replacement for featured snippets, but at this point, Google told us featured snippets will continue to show up in the Google Search results.

Ads. Google Ads will host its Google Marketing Live (GML) event on May 21st. I am sure they will announce a lot of ad based features at that time (more on GML here).

“Innovation and improvements to the user experience on Search have historically opened up new opportunities for advertisers. We saw this when we successfully navigated from desktop to mobile,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land. Google expanded, “As we use generative AI to expand the types of questions we can help people with and serve new intents in Search, we see this also opening up new opportunities for ads to be helpful and businesses to connect with customers.”

Google also said that “People are finding ads either above or below AI Overviews helpful. And we’re continuing to experiment with new ad formats, including Search and Shopping ads alongside Search results in AI Overviews.”

Why we care. Like it or not, AI Overviews are rolling out to searchers this week in the US and to more countries later this year. Will it always be perfect? Nope, but this is the next evolution of Google Search.

Google has been testing them for the past year, telling us that they served billions of queries using generative AI. The company claims people are clicking to a greater diversity of websites thanks to AI Overviews and that users “love the answers” they are providing.

“This is all made possible by a new Gemini model customized for Google Search. It brings together Gemini’s advanced capabilities — including multi-step reasoning, planning and multimodality — with our best-in-class Search systems,” Reid said.

And there’s more to come. Google added a bunch of new AI features to Google Search Labs including:

Multistep reasoning capabilities

Planning capabilities in Google Search

AI organized search results

Google Lens Ask with Video

You can learn more on these new features over here.