Google’s AI Insights: Fresh Research Unveiled

  • June 10, 2024
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Research Insights by BrightEdge on Google AI Overviews (AIO)

New Research by BrightEdge: Insights on Google AI Overviews (AIO)

BrightEdge has recently published a detailed study that provides a snapshot of the types of queries that are likely to display Google AI Overviews (AIO). This research delves into the specific kinds of queries and industry verticals where AIO is more prevalent. The findings reveal significant variations in the frequency of AI Overviews across different verticals, which corresponds to the common types of queries within those sectors. This pattern also holds in reverse, where certain verticals exhibit fewer AIO features.

A Paradigm Shift in Search?

Although BrightEdge describes this development as the “greatest paradigm shift in decades,” it’s essential to contextualize this within the broader evolution of Google Search. Google Search has been integrating AI technologies since at least 2015, with the introduction of RankBrain and several subsequent backend enhancements. The notable shift in 2024, however, lies in AI’s more prominent role on the front-end of search—replacing the function previously served by Featured Snippets. This change is possibly accompanied by an infrastructure overhaul that began at the start of 2024.

BrightEdge Generative Parser

BrightEdge used their proprietary technology, termed the Generative Parser, to analyze and identify patterns in Google’s AI search functionalities. This tool enabled BrightEdge to produce its research on the new AI Overviews (AIO) search feature. According to Albert Gouyet, VP of Operations at BrightEdge:

“It’s fascinating to see the BrightEdge Generative Parser™ giving marketers a front-row seat into how AI in search is developing and giving the community a glimpse into the future. For marketers who rely on organic traffic, early indications suggest that AI will help reach new customers and present new opportunities to create content that serves multiple needs and elevates brand performance.”

What Triggers AIO

According to BrightEdge’s analysis, certain query types such as Featured Snippets and questions are more likely to trigger the AIO feature. Featured Snippets consist of answers generated directly from websites, and AIOs were found to frequently appear alongside these snippets.

What Doesn’t Trigger AI Overviews

The study revealed that local search queries were the least likely to initiate an AI Overview. This outcome makes sense since users often seek structured information like business names, addresses, and phone numbers, which cannot be effectively summarized. Similarly, searches generating sitelinks—typically branded searches featuring multiple links to internal pages—are less apt to trigger AIO results. For instance, searching for a specific clothing store might yield links to categories like “women’s clothes” or “men’s clothes,” requiring precise data rather than a summary.

Industries Most Likely to Feature AIO

The prevalence of AI Overviews varies widely across different verticals (specific industries or topics). It’s unlikely that Google specifically targets certain verticals for increased AIO features. Instead, the occurrence is tied to the perceived helpfulness of the feature, as determined by Search Quality Raters who evaluate new search result types for utility and other factors.

  • Healthcare queries generate AI Overviews 63% of the time, fitting for information-seeking inquiries.
  • B2B technology queries trigger AIO results 32% of the time.
  • Ecommerce searches see AIO features 23% of the time.
  • However, restaurant and travel-related queries seldom trigger AIO results.

AIO Vs. Search Generative Experience (SGE)

Another intriguing finding is that AIO is displayed 20% less frequently than the experimental Search Generative Experience (SGE) answers. BrightEdge provides three reasons for this discrepancy:

  1. The precision of AI in generating useful experiences has improved.
  2. AI is better aligning with users’ needs, particularly for summaries, recommendations, or conversational interactions.
  3. Google is becoming more adept at selecting the most appropriate answers.

BrightEdge notes that Google has enhanced its ability to anticipate follow-up questions, delivering AI search summaries that address potential subsequent queries. They observe:

“Since Google I/O, the overlap between citations in AI and traditional results has diminished. Google is ensuring users do not get the same results in the two types of different results. It is also now delivering on its promise to do the second, third, and fourth search for you. AI is beginning to anticipate the following question and give options before a user even asks. This often happens with ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘how’ intent-based queries.”

The Early Stages of AIO

It’s important to note that Google’s AI Overviews have received predominantly negative reviews from users and the media regarding their quality, potentially leading to trust issues. BrightEdge’s current report serves as a snapshot of the state of AIO today. Future updates are anticipated as Google continues to evolve its AI-driven search engine results pages (SERPs).

Featured image by Shutterstock/Marco Lazzarini

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