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29 May 2024

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AI and SEO: Key updates from April 2024

A quick look at May

Our monthly roundup looks at AI news and developments related to SEO. The big announcement in May was that AI Overviews (previously SGE) are now live in the US and coming to “more countries” in 2024. Early data is very sparse but Semrush reports that AI Overviews are triggering on less than 1% of all queries in the US and we’ll dig a little deeper into this in our next roundup.

In March, a small trial of AI Overviews launched in the UK. April’s roundup below looks at the results, suggesting a full UK rollout might be on the way!

April 2024

What happened? 

UK trial of ‘AI Overview’ search feature

Early in April, Google began testing its AI Overview search feature for the first time in the UK. Some content creators fear a reduction in traffic to their sites (similar to when featured snippets first launched). Google, however, claims that the AI Overview feature shows more links to a wider range of sources. This is because it tends to appear for more complex queries that draw from a broad selection of online content. Through this feature, they have served billions of queries already – and have seen an increase in search usage related to this new feature as a result.

More prominent links in ChatGPT 

While content creators might be concerned about the potential loss of traffic due to Google’s AI Overview feature, OpenAI has made links more prominent when ChatGPT browses the internet. So now, after each section of content, a link to the source is included. It’s worth noting however that this feature is solely available when ChatGPT browses the internet (which is a feature available as part of ChatGPT Plus, Team, and Enterprise).

OpenAI and the Financial Times strike a deal

In a similar vein, OpenAI has secured a content licensing deal with the Financial Times (FT). As well as giving OpenAI access to further high-quality training data, the deal will also result in an enhancement of ChatGPT, with the ability to show real-time content and links in response to user queries, so ‘…users will be able to see select attributed summaries, quotes, and links to FT journalism in response to relevant queries.’ This move signals a further shift towards search engine functionality for ChatGPT and may indicate the embracing by OpenAI of long-awaited benefits for publishers. 

Brave Search’s ‘Answer with AI’ 

When it comes to search engines, we tend to focus heavily on Google and (to a much lesser extent) Bing, but the privacy-focused Brave Search has launched an ‘Answer with AI’ feature. This returns neatly formatted responses to a range of queries, as well as offering the ability to summarise reviews, or noteworthy aspects of a restaurant, for example. 

This builds on their previous ‘Summarizer’ feature launched over a year ago; Brave Search claims that Answer with AI is a significant upgrade. Certain informational queries will automatically rely on AI to present information in a summarised format and in other instances, users can trigger an AI search manually. The company used to use Bing’s index but switched last year to its own proprietary index using a combination of large language models (LLMs) and reliable data. 

Interestingly, the company acknowledged the potential downside for publishers in terms of traffic reduction. They will be closely monitoring the impact this might have, eventually addressing the disruptions this may cause (though how remains to be seen). 

Gemini shortcut in Chrome

Google has introduced the ability to quickly utilise Gemini in their Chrome browser’s address bar. Users who are on the latest version of Chrome and are signed into Gemini simply need to:

  • Type “@” in the desktop address bar and select Chat with Gemini 
  • Write a prompt and hit enter
  • Receive a response from Gemini

The shortcut removes many of the steps needed to interact with Gemini and has numerous potential applications, including the ability to summarise content such as YouTube videos, making content consumption and research more streamlined, efficient, and accessible. 

What we think

The UK’s access to AI Overviews in 2024 is exciting! But preparing now to maintain website traffic and attribution data is key.

There’s a strong possibility that AI Overview will surface information (and provide links to) a wider range of sources, but that doesn’t guarantee increased website visibility. We, in fact, anticipate a decrease in organic traffic for most websites, certainly in relation to informational queries.

Beyond Google, it’s encouraging to see OpenAI including more prominent links; their content licensing deal with the Financial Times and related attribution is also a step in the right direction. And despite their market share of around 1%, Brave Search’s existence, with focus on privacy, a proprietary index, and a distinct use of AI, demonstrates that there is still room for small competitor companies to take their own innovative route. The question might ultimately be, can they stand out further from the crowd by better prioritising the attribution needs of those who actually create the content in the first place?

Planning ahead

As Google’s AI Overview gets closer to the UK, the question of maximising visibility becomes even more relevant. However, for now, we recommend brands focus on proven SEO strategies, while keeping a close eye on what is looming. 

Analysing where and for what queries AI Overviews appear will provide invaluable data. Additionally, ensuring well-formatted content marked up with Structured Data may also help. Creating content optimised for user intent will potentially increase its chances of surfacing too.

And don’t forget the fundamentals. Google’s mantra of creating user-centric content holds as true as ever. Adherence to E-E-A-T and their Helpful Content guidelines will continue to be a sensible strategy. 

The influence of AI in search is accelerating, making 2024 potentially transformative for SEO. At RocketMill, we’re developing solutions to improve the sentiment and accuracy of brand’s coverage across third-party websites. This will  aid visibility in the buyer journey and provide consistency that improves response accuracy from AI models. Watch this space!