No more SEO? How Google's new AI features affect website optimisation

Author: Katharina Rapp

Google has recently started using AI to improve search results. It is slowly transforming from a search engine into an answer engine. Many are worried that this means their website will get barely any traffic in the future. This could signal the end of SEO and a shift towards AIO (AI optimisation). Is this true? What does this mean for website operators that want to remain successful in the digital sphere? We asked Marcus Effenberger, our expert in analytics, digital marketing and CRM, to tell us more.

Hi Marcus! First of all, what exactly is changing with Google Search?

In the past, Google has done a lot with the knowledge graph (information box on the right-hand side of the page) and featured snippets (position zero results / voice search results) to directly answer information search queries. In addition, Gemini has recently been rolled out, replacing the technology previously used to answer information queries. Gemini is the latest version of Google’s large language model (LLM), which is being used as a basis for artificial intelligence.

In the past, initial tests with AI were carried out with Palm and the Search Generative Experience. In the second half of 2023, Google integrated artificial intelligence into their search results in the form of “AI Overviews”. Information is now presented in Google Search in a completely new way. Instead of classic search results, you now get AI-supported summaries. The aim of this new feature is to give users a quick and easy way to inform themselves about a specific topic without having to visit lots of different websites.

In the future, Google will integrate more AI-based features into their search, e.g. tailored search results or voice control.

So, how did AI Overviews come about, and what are the effects?

Like before, Google crawlers are still used to search through and index website content. Artificial intelligence (AI) analyses the most relevant websites and extracts the most important information to convey in a format that is easy to understand. AI Overviews also uses other sources:

  • Books and scientific publications
  • News articles and social media
  • Wikipedia and Wikidata
  • Product databases and directories

The introduction of Google AI Overviews brings with it some significant changes for Google Search for both users and website operators:

  1. Users can find information more easily:
    AI Overviews offer a compact summary of a topic so that users no longer have to visit several different websites to get the information that they need. In addition to text, these overviews can also contain images, tables and other graphic elements.
  2. Changed search results:
    Whether or not a website is included in the AI ​​Overview can significantly increase or decrease its visibility in the search results. Direct traffic to websites may decrease because users already receive the information in the overview. Relevance for AI Overviews could become a future ranking factor in Google search.
  3. Long-tail keywords:
    The importance of long-tail keywords will increase as AI will be able to understand more complex search queries and create appropriate overviews. This means that it will also be possible to link together different queries for information and output more complex answers through the answer boxes.
  4. Social media:
    The role of social media and online communities will grow in importance, as AI can also use these sources to learn new information. More specifically, the frequent use of hashtags or sharing of content will have a major impact when it comes to evaluating the relevance of content.
  5. Increased search engine traffic:
    The introduction of Google AI Overviews may lead to an increase in search engine traffic for some websites. This is because AI Overviews can improve the visibility of websites in Google Search results. If a website is included in an AI Overview, it might be noticed and visited by more users. When large sections of content are used for an AI answer, the source must be shown.
  6. Lower search engine traffic:
    Google AI Overviews pose a high risk for traffic loss, particularly with websites that focus purely on information. If an AI Overview already displays all the relevant information in the search results, then users may no longer have a reason to visit individual websites. This can be particularly problematic for websites with short and informative content. For large news websites, fewer visits mean a significant loss of revenue from online adverts.

Some people say SEO is dead; the future is in AI Optimisation. What do you think about this statement?

Well, it is partly true: in order to be included in AI Overviews, websites must be optimised for AI through what is known as “AI Optimisation”. It is now more important than ever to produce high-quality and relevant content to make sure that it gets noticed by AI. A well-structured and user-friendly website is easier for AI to analyse. Continuous adjustments have to be made to keep up with the latest developments in AI technology.

The introduction of AI Overviews marks a significant change for Google Search that brings with it both new opportunities and challenges for website operators. The exact effects of these developments in the long term remain to be seen.

What does this specifically mean for our customers that operate websites? Will they have to do anything differently now?

A lot of what we and our customers do as part of our search engine optimisation processes will largely stay the same. However, website operators will have to adapt their strategies to enjoy lasting success in the new era of AI-supported searches, as AI Overviews will change the rules of the game when it comes to search engine optimisation.

  1. The relevance and quality of content will be even more important:
    The new AI Overviews are based on text comprehension. Relevant, informative and well-structured content is the key to having your website picked out by AI. A clear focus on one topic and an in-depth examination of all relevant aspects is crucial. Unique content and perspectives help to increase relevance, making texts stand out from the competition. As such, continuous updates and additions to content must be planned to ensure that it stays relevant over time.
  2. User-friendliness and structuring is key:
    A simple and logical page structure that makes navigation easier for users is vital. Using more meaningful headings and subheadings to separate the content, just like we have been doing with SEO measures until now, is important. In addition, well-formulated texts with a suitable font size and line spacing should be used to ensure accessibility and user-friendliness. It will still be important to integrate images, videos and graphic elements to enhance content and improve user-friendliness.
  3. Technical optimization is the basis:
    The optimisation of website performance is still important, and Core Web Vitals remaining relevant. are still relevant. Stricter testing mechanisms for regularly remedying technical errors must be planned and implemented. The use of structured data will continue to be of enormous importance as it makes it easier for the AI to interpret websites. As the majority of users use mobile devices for their initial information search, it must be ensured that websites are optimised for mobile-first indexing by Google.
  4. Building expertise and authority as a brand will become even more important:
    Publishing specialist articles, blog posts and other content to demonstrate expertise in a specific area is essential when it comes to generating relevance for AI Overviews. Participation in industry events, discussions and online communities can also be particularly helpful when it comes to increasing the visibility and reputation of a brand, as well as the number of brand and topic mentions. The integration of backlinks to high-quality and relevant websites, as well as the active use of social media to interact with the target audience and disseminate content, is still incredibly relevant and should be expanded upon further.
  5. Analysis and monitoring to monitor search potential:
    As we already mentioned, this new change may lead to a drop in organic traffic for some websites. As such, the regular analysis of website traffic is essential so that we can measure and react to the effects of AI Overviews. Unfortunately, Google does not currently provide a separate report for this in the Search Console. Consequently, the most important keywords must be monitored so that you can prevent a loss of traffic by increasing relevance. There will also be changes in search queries. Relevant keywords that users use in connection with AI Overviews should be identified and used in a targeted way on websites so that these websites appear immediately below the AI Overviews. Competitor monitoring – analysing the strategies of competitors that successfully appear in the AI Overviews – is also crucial here. We must be prepared to continuously adapt SEO strategies based on the knowledge that we have obtained.

What skills do we need to successfully set ourselves up for the future with AIO?

To appear in Google AI Overviews, a combination of different skills is needed:

  1. Content specialists:
    To create relevant and high-quality content, content specialists must have excellent research skills and be able to research and evaluate information from a range of different sources. This now also includes the use of AI in editorial work process to consolidate and enrich content and to integrate all relevant aspects. They must be able to reformulate complex topics in a clear, concise and easy-to-understand way.
  2. Technical experts:
    Expertise in web development and programming languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript is needed to design a technically flawless website and optimise the relevant display methods. Here, structured data formats like Schema.org will be important as they help to make websites easier for AI to interpret. Technical experts will also increasingly be required to optimise loading times, performance and accuracy to guarantee the correct indexing of different types of media (particularly videos).
  3. Data & Web Analysten:
    More than ever before, analysts must now analyse website traffic and user behaviour to measure the effects of AI Overviews and adapt their SEO strategies accordingly. We do not currently know whether AI Overviews will eventually be given separate reports in the Search Console or not. Much more attention must be paid to relevant reports and visualisations during the data analysis. What are the most important keywords for a company? Which types of media can be used more to draw in more organic traffic from YouTube and other universal search functions? In addition, the connection of organic and paid search traffic should be planned even more intensively than before.
  4. SEO specialists:
    SEO specialists must develop a suitable strategy and implement measures to improve the chance of a website being included in AI Overviews. As mentioned above, there is additional potential in lots of (small-scale) long-tail search queries. There are currently no plans to include any displays in the Google Keyword Planner that would enable dedicated keyword research for AI Overviews. Backlinks and other off-page optimisation measures (particularly from social media) will continue to grow in importance. Here, it is important to work with social media managers to ensure that new formats, linking options and content integration are always used.
  5. AI experts:
    AI experts must have the necessary expertise and be familiar with how Vertex AI works as a development platform. They must also understand how Google Gemini works as an LLM, as it is always on the search for new content. They must remember that there are already several Gemini models. The development of LLMs is continuous, just like the development of algorithms for Google Search. The structure of websites and (media) content must be completely aligned with AI indexing so that it can be better understood and evaluated by AI systems and meet the latest model requirements.

To ensure that a website successfully appears in AI Overviews, specialists from different fields must work closely together, just like we do here at IBM iX. A team that brings together content specialists, technical experts, data analysts, SEO specialists and AI experts can optimally respond to any changes at Google.


Marcus Effenberger is Digital Marketing Lead at IBM iX. His main responsibility lies in creating a solid data foundation to develop well-informed marketing strategies. As a marketer focused on SEO, SEA, Display & Social Ads, he increasingly works with Marketing Automation, CDP, and First-Party Data Strategies to optimise complex marketing ecosystems. 

Katharina Rapp is Content Design Lead & Agility Expert at IBM iX. Her main task is supporting public sector clients in their digital transformation. As lead of the Content Design Team, she develops communication strategies and concepts for change management, conducts workshops and designs trainings.

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