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Google Silently Reduces AI Overviews In Search From 84% to 15%

June 6, 2024

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New data shows Google has significantly reduced how often AI Overviews results show on search queries, down from 84% to 15%.

As widely reported over the past weeks, Google’s AI Overviews got off to a rocky start, inducing mockery for providing incorrect and sometimes crazy answers like bathing with a toaster or gluing cheese to your pizza.

Last week, Google’s new head of search, Liz Reid, addressed the problems:

  • β€œWe’ll keep improving when and how we show AI Overviews and strengthening our protections, including for edge cases, and we’re very grateful for the ongoing feedback.”

Google spokesperson Ned Adriance also said:

  • β€œWe’re continuing to refine when and how we show AI Overviews so they’re as useful as possible, including a number of technical updates in the past week to improve response quality.” 

Neither, however, acknowledged that Google was scaling back the feature on Google Search results!

What the new AI Overviews data shows

Released data from BrightEdge shows how often Google’s AI Overviews appears to searchers, suggesting it has significantly reduced, even before the controversial launch, dating back to when Google initially launched their Search Generative Experience in May 2023. 

BightEdge, which has been tracking Google’s AI Overviews answers since the feature was beta, reports it now only appears for 15% of queries, down from 84%.

Albert Gouyet, BrightEdge’s VP of Operations, reported:

  • β€œWe noted that SGE started showing for significantly fewer queries back in April, and that trend is continuing in the era of AI Overviews. AI Collapsed results have remained present and stable, but AI Opt-In results are now close to non-existent for AI Overviews. This one change explains the decrease from 84% to 15%.”

Gouyet added:

  • “Google has gradually been reducing AI in search results from 84% to under 15%; in fact, since mid-April, Google has slowly been removing Opt-in results to the point where they now barely show up.”

BrightEdge gave their rationale for the reduction:

  • “The likely reason is to reduce the risks of incorrect AI answers while refinements are made in a public environment.”

Executive editor of Search Engine RoundTable, Barry Schwartz, was a little more skeptical of Google’s motives:

  • β€œOf course, I do not disagree. But I’d add in there also the cost of running these, plus they likely don’t work so well with Google Ads and thus generate less revenue than a search result page without AI Overviews, at least at this point.”

What the BrightEdge data charts tell us

The following charts show the decline of AI Overviews reduction in search results over time and by industry. 

BrigtEdges chart shows when AI Overviews is in use:

  • A Featured Snippets presence increases AIO by 195%.
  • Questions trigger AI Overviews.
  • Local queries don’t trigger AIO.
  • A Sitelink’s presence reduces the likelihood of AIO by 90%

And by industry:

  • AIO appears in 63% of keywords in healthcare.
  • In E-commerce, 23% of keywords show in AIO, dropping to 5% in finance.
  • Travel and restaurants show minimal AIO. 

What the SEO community is saying 

SEO professional Lily Ray gave her views on the AI Overviews drop:

SEO consultant Genn Gabe joined the conversation:

Mark Traphagen, SEOClarity’s VP of Product Marketing & Training, confirmed the drop, and Barry Schwartz wrapped it up: 

From rocky beginnings

Despite AI Overview’s rocky start, most SEO professionals believe AI search will significantly improve over time and is here to stay.

That said, Google’s updated version AI Overviews has a mountain to climb to repair its reputation after the bonkers answers it gave upon its launch.

Terry O'Toole

Terry O'Toole

Terry is a seasoned content marketing specialist with over six years of experience writing content that helps small businesses navigate where small businesses meet marketing - SEO, Social Media Marketing, etc. Terry has a proven track record of creating top-performing content in search results. When he is not writing content, Terry can be found on his boat in Italy or chilling in his villa in Spain.

SEO Power Plays

Read by 10,000+ world-class SEOs, CEOs, Founders, & Marketers. Strategy breakdown: monday.com's 77% traffic boost πŸš€ + Industry news and expert tidbits every Wednesday πŸ” + in-depth SEO strategy tips every Sunday ✨