Google AI Overviews: More searches, less satisfaction

I don’t know for a fact that people are searching less on Google. I just know it’s true.

During Google I/O, Alphabet/Google CEO Sundar Pichai told us AI Overviews have resulted in an “increase in Search usage.” Pichai said the same thing during Alphabet’s Q1 2024 earnings call.

But if that’s the case – doesn’t that mean AI Overviews, or the artist formerly known as Search Generative Experience (SGE), isn’t solving a problem it was supposedly invented to fix?

Namely, giving users the answer or information they want, faster?

Yes, in the same week that OpenAI basically created Samantha, the AI virtual assistant from the movie “Her,” Google’s tagline became “Let Google do the Googling for you.”

Well, if Google is now doing the Googling for you, Search volume will likely go up when Google can’t find what Google is Googling for on Google!

Google’s Search in the Gemini era video was telling.

Watch this:

What did you notice was missing?

The subheading already gave it away, but there are no blue links in sight.

Former Google CEO said Google is not about blue links. Clearly, he wasn’t wrong.

In Google’s Gemini era, apparently, links will now live in a Web filter.

If you’re lucky, Web will be the fourth option you can choose (after All, Images, Video and News) – or you may have to hunt for the Web filter under the More options.

We knew this was coming. For two decades, Google has talked about Search being like the computer from “Star Trek”:

  • “When search grows up, it will look like Star Trek: you talk into the air (“Computer! What’s the situation down on the planet?”) and the computer processes your question, figures out its context, figures out what response you’re looking for, searches a giant database in who-knows-how-many languages, translates/analyses/summarises all the results, and presents them back to you in a pleasant voice. I think this technology is about, oh, 300 years off.”

That quote, from former Google Chief Technology Officer Craig Silverstein, is from 2003.

It didn’t take 300 years. It took just 20.

The future is here.

Search was already fragmenting

We don’t know exact data on overall Google Search usage in 2024 and how it compares to previous years. Google doesn’t reveal that.

But reporting an increase in Search usage is like reporting on Domain Authority. It’s a meaningless vanity metric.

Google claims user satisfaction has also gone up during the same time. But I can’t remember an extended period of sustained negativity around the quality of Google’s Search results as I’ve seen over the past two years – both inside and outside of the search marketing industry.

Google’s own data has shown that younger Internet users going to TikTok and Instagram instead of Google. While Google is a monopoly general search engine, people are searching on other platforms – Amazon, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Reddit and more.

Meanwhile, we’ve been hearing rumors about ChatGPT search – and I fully expect OpenAI to launch a search product in the near future.

Dig deeper. The modern search landscape: How and where to reach your target audience

AI Overviews apocalypse

The inevitable SGE doomsday we’ve been warning you about since last May has finally arrived.

Publishers who weren’t already freaking out about losing traffic from Google’s helpful content or core updates – or Gartner’s prediction that traffic from search engines fall 25% by 2026 – are definitely starting to freak out now as AI Overviews start rolling out.

Here are just a few headlines we’ve seen following the launch of AI overviews:

This quote from Owen Meredith, CEO of the News Media Association, is a variation on one that we’ve heard in recent months from content creators who have recently been frustrated by Google algorithm updates:

  • “Google’s stated mission is to ‘organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible’ by sending visitors to websites. Introducing [generative AI] into search and AI Overviews that directly synthesise and present information to the user risks discouraging users from clicking through to the original links, in turn threatening the business model of those who invest in journalism and quality information.”

Relying entirely or mostly on one platform like Google to send you traffic via clicks on links isn’t a business model. It’s gambling. Because anytime Google changes something, you risk losing everything.

Ten blue links were a transitory way to provide answers. Now we have AI Overviews.

Tying a bow on it

So we don’t know for a fact that people are searching less on Google. We just know it’s true.

People are unhappy with Search. Google remains a monopoly but people are searching elsewhere.

AI Overviews are designed to reduce the number of Searches – but again, the whole message from Google is “Let Google do the Googling for you.” That itself indicates users should have to do less searches.

Although Google has definitely seen an uptick in the number of Searches for how to turn off AI results.


Google seems to be increasingly detaching itself from reality.

In this brave new Google world, advertisers should expect costs to increase (hello, tuning and squashing), websites should expect less organic traffic, while Google sends Searchers down rabbit holes of follow-up queries to inflate Search usage stats nobody cares about – or uses agents to complete tasks like purchases (where I’m sure Google will tack on some hidden Ticketmaster-type fees that turn what should be a $50 purchase into $120).

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