BlogArtificial IntelligenceGenerative AIGoogle experiments with AI-powered overviews for Search in the UK

Google experiments with AI-powered overviews for Search in the UK

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AI-written answer previews are being tested in the UK for Google Search. This follows successful trials in the US last year. Initially, only a small number of logged-in UK users will see these AI summaries at the top of some search results. So what does this mean for you?

What are Google AI-powered overviews in search results?

AI-powered overviews/previews in Google Search are summaries automatically generated by artificial intelligence. These summaries appear at the top of some search results for logged-in users (initially a small test group) in the UK and US.

The goal is likely to provide users with a quick and concise understanding of the relevant information before they even click on a specific search result.

Why are Google AI-powered overviews rolling out to more markets?

There are several reasons why Google might be rolling out AI-powered overviews/previews to more markets like the UK and US:

Building on the successes seen in the US

If the trials in the US last year yielded positive results, Google would likely want to see if the benefits translate to other markets like the UK. This could involve factors like user engagement, time spent on search results, or accuracy of the summaries.

They need more data to determine the future of Search and changing behaviours

Overall, the rollout likely reflects Google’s desire to improve user experience, and gather valuable data for model development. It’s a fast moving competition, and Google needs to be able to understand how the changes they are making affect its users. 

Due to its nature, AI needs more data to make itself better

AI models learn and improve with more data. Expanding the test to new markets allows Google to gather data on different user behavior, search queries, and languages. This data can be used to refine the AI model and make the summaries more accurate and relevant across diverse user bases.

Google have been relatively slow in their rollout, unlike Microsoft who bet big and changed Bing quickly

Recent reports by the FT have highlighted the challenges that Google have faced internally which has arguably led to delays in their rollout into more Google products. Could we see more changes to Google’s organisation to help streamline the adoption of AI into its services?

At the same time, Microsoft have been able to move quickly at scale. More recently, they expanded Copilot into more products & services. All of this has seen Microsoft’s share price outgrow Alphabet’s. 

You could argue that for Microsoft’s search business specifically, they were starting at a much lower base than Google. As a result, it was much easier to completely redesign the new Bing as it would be for Google to completely redesign how Google Search should now look. That being said, Microsoft do seem to be able to drive change much quicker, which the FT article shines some light on how this is not possible under Sundar Pichai (CEO) at Google.

Google are keen to be seen as the 'responsible' ones at the party

Whilst there is a perception externally that they have been slow, Google are sticking to the line that they are being responsible. With great power comes great responsibility. They are waiting for their competitors to stumble, and so far there have been minimal hiccups. They are rolling out changes at their own pace, and this makes business sense even if it doesn’t please its users. 

Google arguably have a lot more at stake

It’s obvious to see that Google have so much at stake here. AI is both an opportunity and a threat to their Search business. It fundamentally changes the way they have build their products over the past 25 years. They are understanding the impact of their changes so that they can balance how to serve in the best interests of their users whilst also protecting their ad business and the internet itself. Remember, their models need the data from websites and publishers to learn and produce the generative results. If users no longer need to click through to websites to get their information, then these websites will no longer exist. Where does that leave them? 

What does the rollout of Google AI-powered overviews mean for you?

For now, continue to monitor your data and performance

The goal of these summaries is to enhance user experience by providing a quick grasp of the information before diving into individual results. By rolling it out to more markets, Google can see if this benefit holds true for a wider audience.

If you are one of the chosen few, be sure to experiment and share your insight

The more you can share with the wider search community, the more we can all work to understand what the impact of these changes will be on both SEO and PPC. Make sure that you play around with the new AI-powered options, and share your learnings with the community. 

With Google accounting for over +90% of all search engine traffic, there is so much responsibility on them to get this right for everyone; itself, its users, its advertisers, and web publishers. The rollout to the UK signals that they are looking to gather more data in more english speaking markets so that they can understand the impact of their changes. I’m sure that later the year we will start to see this roll out to more users and/or markets in different languages. 

Dan Roberts
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