What Is Google AI Overview?

Arva Rangwala

Imagine this: You search for something on Google and instead of getting a list of web page links, you get a neatly summarized answer right at the top. No more clicking around to piece the info together from different sites. Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s happening thanks to Google AI Overview feature.

Google just dropped a nuclear bomb that could disrupt the way search engines have worked for decades. In typical Google fashion, they just can’t stop pushing the boundaries with artificial intelligence.

AI Overview is shaping up to be a total game-changer. Today, I’ll break down everything you need to know, including:

  • Exactly what AI Overview is
  • How it threatens to make traditional search obsolete
  • The massive implications for websites and SEO
  • Whether you can opt out of AI Overview (spoiler: it’s complicated)

Let’s dig in!

What is Google AI Overview?

Google AI Overview uses artificial intelligence to summarize the answers to your search queries in a concise blurb at the top of the results page.

Google’s AI model (called Gemini) scans the content from top search results and knowledge sources to piece together a summarized overview answer. This AI-generated overview is shown prominently above all the regular web page listings.

For example, if you search “how to bake a cake”, instead of combing through different recipe sites, Google AI Overview would synthesize instructions into a few paragraphs at the top:

Below the summary, you’d see links to the websites and sources used to generate the answer.

Pretty nifty, right? Having the ability get quick answers without hunting through different websites could be hugely convenient.

But it also signals a massive shift in how we search online and interact with websites. More on the big implications in a bit…

How Does Google AI Overview Work?

Google AI Overview leverages the power of large language models (a.k.a Claude, ChatGPT, etc.) that can generate fluent written texts.

More specifically, it uses Google’s own Gemini AI model which draws from:

1) The Search Knowledge Graph – Billions of facts about the world across different topics
2) Top ranked search results – The model scans web pages in the top results for relevant info
3) Quality filters – To filter out low-quality or spammy content

Gemini then weaves all this data into a coherent written summary.

So in a sense, Google AI Overview turns web search into more of a question-and-answer experience. Instead of giving you sources to find the info yourself, it aims to directly provide the summarized answer.

It’s kind of like having a personal research assistant who gathers all the key details you need and synthesizes them into an easy-to-digest overview.

Of course, this is powered by machine learning under the hood. But the key thing is that it’s stitching together info from across the web to form new, generated content.

How Will Google AI Overview Impact Websites and SEO?

Here’s the billion dollar question: How might AI Overview impact your website’s search traffic and visibility?

There are a few different angles to consider:

1) Will people still click on website links if they get answers upfront?

Think about it – if your burning questions are answered right in the overview summary, there’s less need to click through to websites. That could mean a dropoff in organic traffic for some sites.

For example, if you got a nice summary of how to bake a chocolate cake upfront, you may not visit food blogs and recipe sites as much.

Of course, some queries may require more context and detail than an overview can provide. In those cases, people may still browse additional websites. But on the whole, clickthrough rates from Google Search could decrease.

That said, we may also see new forms of user engagement. Like scanning the AI Overview first and then clicking links to read full articles if interested. Only time will tell how behaviors change.

2) Certain types of content may be favored in AI Overviews

Based on early examples, AI Overview seems to favor summarizing content that is:

  • Concise and informational (ex: how-to guides, tutorials, definitions, frequently asked questions, etc.)
  • Clearly written and well-structured
  • Factual and objective (less opinioned content)

In contrast, it may struggle with nuanced content or things written in a narrative style.

So well-structured, straightforward website content could get pulled and featured in AI Overviews more. But open-ended, subjective, or niche content might see less visibility.

3) Quality and expertise will take on even more importance

Like with traditional Google Search, the quality and expertise of your website will likely be a huge factor for AI Overview.

If Google’s AI models detect spammy, low-quality, or inaccurate content, it probably won’t get pulled into those overview summaries.

The sites and pages that do get featured as sources will be the well-established, authoritative sources on various topics. If you already struggle to rank well, getting featured in AI Overview could be an even bigger uphill battle.

In other words: focus on producing top-notch, expert-level content that Google’s AI will recognize as reliable. Quality will be crucial.

Can You Turn Off Google AI Overview Results?

Given how big of a shift AI Overview could be, you may be wondering: Is it possible to disable or turn off these AI-generated summaries?

Unfortunately, Google hasn’t provided any straight way to fully opt out yet. Unlike with previous “Search Labs” experiments, there isn’t a simple toggle to disable AI Overview altogether.

However, there are a few workarounds you can try:

Option 1: Use the “Web” filter to see just website listings

After doing a search on Google, look for the “Web” filter option underneath the search bar. Selecting “Web” should remove the AI Overview summary and show you just the standard webpage listings.

The catch? This filter only applies to that specific search. As soon as you search something new, you’ll need to repeat filtering out the AI Overview.

Option 2: Install browser extensions to hide AI Overview

For a more persistent solution, you could try browser extensions like “Bye Bye Google AI”. These are built specifically to remove or hide the AI Overview summary section from Google results pages.

Once installed, the extension should automatically strip out those AI summaries every search. Just be sure to only install from reputable sources in official web stores.

Option 3: Browse via other search engines

If you really want to avoid AI-generated overviews entirely, your only surefire option may be to switch search engines temporarily.

Major engines like Bing and DuckDuckGo still show the old-school list of website links without AI summaries. You could try using them as your primary search option until Google offers an official opt-out for AI Overview.

Of course, doing this means missing out on other Google Search features and quality. But it might be worth it if you strongly prefer traditional search.

The Bottom Line on AI Overview and the Future of Search

Whether you’re excited about or dreading AI Overview, one thing is clear: Google is completely reimagining how search works by infusing it with AI.

We’re already seeing the start of a transition away from browsing different web pages to get our answers from search. Instead, Google aims to directly provide the summarized, AI-generated info upfront.

For better or worse, this means changes to how users engage with search results and websites. Clickthrough rates may shift. Content formats could get prioritized differently. Sites’ authority and expertise will take on even greater importance.

The SEO landscape won’t be the same.

While you can try workarounds to disable AI summaries for now, it’s a temporary solution. Google is moving full speed into this new AI-powered search model.

So it’ll be crucial to understand how these changes impact your site. Monitor your analytics closely, especially for traffic drops on queries getting AI Overviews.

And prioritize creating the type of authoritative, structured content that seems most likely to get extracted into high-visibility AI summaries. The entire “write for humans, not search engines” mentality goes out the window with this shift.

In many ways, I see AI Overview as a double-edged sword. It streamlines finding answers, but could also threaten to bury websites further beneath Google’s own AI interface.

But love it or hate it, this is the future that Google is choosing. Adapting to that reality will be crucial for any business that depends on search traffic and visibility.

And who knows, maybe we’ll get to a point where traditional links to websites are entirely removed from search results…

That’s just glimpse into the AI-powered search future that Google envisions – and it’s coming sooner than you think.

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