How Can You Use Google AI Overview?

Arva Rangwala

Today we’re going to dive into the world of Google AI Overview feature and learn how to use it like absolute bosses. I know, I know – another AI tool to wrap our heads around. But trust me, this one is a game-changer when it comes to quickly finding info online. Instead of aimlessly clicking around websites, AI Overview serves up concise summaries generated by AI right at the top of your search results.

Pretty nifty, eh? It’s like having your own personal research assistant building custom reports for you on the fly.

Now, I could spend all day blabbing about the technology behind it (because yes, the AI stuff is wild). But we’re here for the practical goods – how to actually use and get value from AI Overview.

So shout-out to Google for innovating, and let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this tool! I’ll break it down step-by-step so you can start seeing those AI-powered overviews on your searches ASAP. Let’s go!

How To Use Google AI Overview?

Step 1: Make Sure You Have Access

Before we go any further, let’s get one key thing out of the way – do you actually have access to AI Overview right now? The rollout has been gradual since Google’s big launch in May 2024.

If you’re located in the United States, odds are you’re already seeing AI Overviews popping up on some of your Google searches. Nice and easy!

For those of you outside the U.S., don’t fret. Google has stated loud and clear that AI Overview is coming soon to over a billion global users by the end of 2024. So it’ll be reaching more countries and regions over the next few months.

In the meantime, why not try joining Google’s Search Labs program? This lets you test experimental search features early before they’re released worldwide.

Just point your mobile browser to (or find it in the Google app settings) and look for the “AI Overviews and more” experiment to opt-in. Bam, easy access!

But for the full mainstream rollout, you’ll likely have to sit tight just a bit longer if you’re not in the U.S. yet. I know, I know – the wait is agonizing with cool new tech.

Step 2: Identify When an AI Overview Shows Up

Okay, so you’ve got access to AI Overview one way or another. Now it’s time to figure out when the heck this AI summary will actually appear on your searches. Because spoiler alert: it won’t show up for every single random query.

From my experience playing around with it so far, AI Overviews seem to trigger most often for searches where:

  • You’re looking for a straightforward explanation or instructions (e.g. “how to bake bread”)
  • It’s a broad topical search that could use a quick summary (e.g. “history of rock music”)
  • There are multiple aspects to cover, so an overview is helpful (e.g. “symptoms of the flu”)

Essentially, it’s for those queries where Google’s AI can add value by succinctly combining and rephrasing information from across the web.

On the flip side, I’ve noticed AI Overviews are less likely to appear for very specific or niche queries that require in-depth info from source materials. Things like legal advice, medical diagnosis, academic research, etc.

It makes sense – you probably don’t want an AI dish serving you a quick summary on those types of sensitive topics, right? You need the full context and qualifications of the original sources.

Google has stated that their AI scanning process aims to identify complex queries where an AI overview could be “especially helpful.” But in reality, you’ll have to do some hands-on Googling to get a feel for when those overviews will pop up.

Step 3: Understand What an AI Overview Looks Like

Now that we know when an AI Overview might grace us with its presence, let’s quickly run through what it actually looks like in practice. Because recognizing it in your results is half the battle!

An AI Overview will appear at the very top of your list of search results, formatted in a gray box. The summary itself is written out in paragraph form to resemble a human-written snippet or abstract.

For example, if I search “how do airplanes fly” I might see an AI Overview box that says something like:

“Airplanes fly by generating lift using their wings and engines. As the wings move through the air, their curved shape causes air to flow over the top faster than underneath, creating an area of low pressure above and high pressure below. This pressure differential results in an upward force called lift that overcomes the airplane’s weight and allows it to take off and remain airborne.”

Clean and straightforward, with no need to click around reading multiple pages! The AI has done that hard work of synthesizing info and rephrasing into a cohesive overview for you.

At the bottom of the AI Overview box, you’ll also typically see “Sources” or “Show Sources” text. This allows you to easily expand and view the website URLs (usually the top 2-3 ranking pages) that the AI pulled information from to generate that summary.

Being transparent about where the overview info came from helps boost credibility and gives you a chance to read those sources yourself if you want more context. So that’s a nice touch from Google.

Step 4: Interact With the AI Overview for Best Results

Now here’s where the real magic happens – interacting with and personalizing the AI Overview to suit your needs. These AI summaries may be convenient, but they’re not meant to be one-size-fits-all.

Take advantage of all the little features and customizations Google has baked into AI Overview for an enhanced user experience tailored to you. I’ll break down some of my favorites:

Listen to the AI Summary
Not a big reader? No problem! At the top of the AI Overview box, you’ll see a “Listen” button. Tap or click this and Google’s AI will read out the overview summary using natural speech.

Perfect for when you’re multitasking, driving, or just feeling a bit lazy. Sometimes we all want the info spoon-fed to us, you know?

Switch Between Languages
Look on the top left of the AI Overview box and you’ll likely see a little language icon. Click this and you can toggle between reading the AI summary in English or whichever additional language is shown (e.g. Spanish, Hindi, etc.).

The translation quality seems pretty solid so far based on my tests. So major props to Google for adding multilingual support out of the gate to make AI Overview accessible to more people worldwide.

Click to Expand Sources
As I mentioned, there’s usually just a teaser link shown to the web page sources at the bottom of an AI Overview. But you can easily expand this by clicking “Show more” to view the full URLs for all the sites referenced.

This is key if you want to double-check the overview info yourself against the original source materials. Or if that AI summary just left you hungering for more context, the source links let you instantly jump to those with one click.

Refine Your Search to Improve the Overview
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to rephrase or modify your original search query if that first AI Overview doesn’t quite hit the spot. The more specific your query, the better chance Google’s AI will precisely understand your intent.

For example, if you originally searched “how do airplanes fly” but the AI overview focused too much on the physics of wing shape…try revising to “explain how jet engines allow airplanes to fly” and see if the new AI summary is more aligned with what you wanted.

Small tweaks can prompt totally different responses from the AI, so don’t be shy about iterating your search terms. That’s the beauty of a tool like this – it adapts based on how you ask!

Step 5: Decide if You Need to Keep Searching

Okay, so let’s say you’ve tried out Google AI Overview, interacted with the tools, maybe listened to that speech read-out. You’re grooving with the info…but now what?

Well, that’s the key decision point – is this AI-generated overview truly enough to satisfy what you were searching for? Or do you need to take your investigation deeper into the traditional list of web page results?

For straightforward queries where you just wanted a quick fact or brief explanation, the AI Overview may have already fully answered the bell. You can walk away a satisfied searcher!

But for more complex topics where you’ll need comprehensive details, step-by-step instructions, credentialed expertise, and the like…the AI Overview alone probably won’t cut it. Think of it as more of a high-level summary or research brief to point you in the right direction.

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