1. SEJ
  2.  ⋅ 
  3. SEO

AI Overviews – How Will They Impact The Industry? We Ask Pedro Dias

Gain insight into the impact of AI Overviews on the SEO industry and content strategy in this interview with ex-Googler Pedro Dias.

Generative AI, SGE, and now AI Overviews have been hot topics since the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, which gave Gen AI an accessible interface to the wide market.

Since then, the SEO industry has been trying to figure out just how much search behavior will change and how much this will impact organic search traffic.

Will we see the catastrophic drops in clicks that are being estimated?

Google’s aim is to integrate Gen AI into search to provide better answers and, in its words:

Sometimes you want a quick answer, but you don’t have time to piece together all the information you need. Search will do the work for you with AI Overviews.

However, there has been much contention and discussion about this as, in practice, the results are somewhat unpredictable – with advice, such as the health benefits of running with scissors, taking a bath with a toaster, and adding glue to pizza to make the cheese stick.

Google is still experimenting with AIO. Recently (June 19), a study from SE Ranking showed the frequency of AIO in SERPs has reduced from 64% to 8%. Meanwhile, BrightEdge reports that Google went from showing AI on 84% of queries to 15%.

Google also keeps experimenting with how AIO results appear in SERPs, and the latest iteration features citations in the top carousel.

Gen AI is disrupting the industry faster than anything else in the 25-year history of SEO. Some of the main discussion points for SEO include: How much is AI plagiarizing content, and how much do we need to pivot our approach to SEO?

I spoke to ex-Googler Pedro Dias and asked him:

In Your Opinion, What Do You Think About AI Overviews, How Will They Impact The Industry, And Where Is This Going?

This is what Pedro had to say:

“As I have mentioned before, Google wants to be your personal assistant and not your friendly librarian.

This is an important distinction, to see Google from this perspective moving forward. Instead of pointing us to the books, they will do the work for us.

If we continue to put out content that only requires a quick answer, this is where we will be disrupted. We need to focus on what people want beyond quick answers.

Google wants to be the personal assistant and caters for this by providing quick answers.

AI Overviews is no more than an evolution of instant answers.

If a site owner wants to target the quick answers, they should also be putting effort into more in-depth content that you can funnel your readers to and ideally, is closed to Google.

By doing this, you can protect the content assets you build.

We need to focus more than ever on building our own communities with users aligned to our brands. And doing more than simply providing a ‘this will do’ snippet, or an instant answer.

Right now, it’s impossible to predict how AIO will develop and what the format will be. Google keeps changing how it is presenting the SERP results and playing with the format much like live beta testing.

But, AIO will trigger different search behaviors.

Before, in SEO, we had ten blue links and no instant answers. From this, users would have to visit your website to get the answer, so a site could get considerable traffic for a basic question.

However, this type of traffic has little value, and these are not your customers – they are Google’s customers.

We need to understand how we can distinguish between instant answer traffic and users who want to consume our content. And this is the area where we should put our efforts.

Focus on building content for the people who don’t want the summary or the quick answer. Those who want to ‘read the book’ and consume the details to augment their knowledge.

In the same way that the web disrupted the music industry and the publisher industry, we are about to go through another change and we have to adapt to it. It’s a matter of time – when and not if.”

How Can You Leverage AIO And Google To Build A Content Community?

I asked Pedro:

“If we want to embrace this new approach, it will require thinking about how to gain users from a ‘take all the traffic you can get’ mentality to a selective one – leveraging Google to provide targeted traffic that you can absorb into your own community.

This will be a big change for some, so how can you leverage Google to achieve this?”

Pedro responded:

“Trying to figure out how much ‘discovery’ traffic Google will take away will be different for all verticals. For example, in the legal industry, or accountancy, the industry is based on consultants who understand and are gatekeepers to complex rules.

You can now ask AI to explain complex legislation on wider topics. But, if you have a specific scenario, you still need to visit a specialist who can deal with this for you.

AI can give you the wider information, but the expert is still needed for the detail.

As professionals in SEO, we can create content that covers broad concepts that AI can tap into. And then, for the specific scenarios and questions, this is where we can build out much more in-depth content.

This in-depth content is kept away from Google and AI and gated for your community or clients.

Every business will need to consider where to draw this line of what they give away for free and what they keep back as a premium.

AI came along to create more distance between those who know something and those who are specialists and will be sources of information.

The middle ground is about to disappear.

The professionals will remain because industries rely on the knowledge and the research these people do. And the rest will just be the rest.

Users will be divided into those who want a little information from AI and then the others who want specialist in-depth knowledge.

Being able to discern where you fit into this scenario and being able to create a strategy around this is how you can adapt.”

Fundamental Rules Never Change

I think we can expect more experimentation from Google before we begin to embrace AI in SERPs and SEO.

During a time of great flux, the best thing we can focus on is the fundamental rules that never change. And those fundamentals are all centered around how a brand builds a direct relationship with their user.

For SEO pros, it could be a challenging shift to adapt to this mindset away from chasing volume keyword traffic. Instead, looking at building user journeys and considering content touches where relevant.

The old days of gaining huge amounts of traffic for ranking from one high-volume keyword are becoming outdated. Moving forward, more effort will be needed to achieve far fewer clicks. However, those clicks should be far more relevant and beneficial.

Thank you to Pedro Dias for offering his opinion and being my guest on IMHO.

More resources:

Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

Category SEO
SEJ STAFF Shelley Walsh

Shelley Walsh is the SEO Content Strategist at SEJ & produces the Pioneers, a series about the history of SEO ...

AI Overviews – How Will They Impact The Industry? We Ask Pedro Dias

Subscribe To Our Newsletter.

Conquer your day with daily search marketing news.