What Are Google AI Overviews?

June 5th, 2024, 09:00 AM

Google officially rolled out its AI Overviews feature to everyone in the US in May 2024, drastically changing the way Google Search results are displayed for many searches.

Although it's still early days for Google AI Overviews, the rollout means that the feature is no longer strictly a Google Search Labs experiment — AI Overviews for Google Search results are here to stay.

What Are Google AI Overviews?

Google AI Overviews is the evolution of the Google Search Labs experiment known as Google Search Generative Experience (Google SGE), which users could opt in to starting in May 2023.

These AI Overviews appear in Google Search results where available, providing a generative AI-based response to users' search queries at the top of search results, above organic links.

Google AI Overviews run on Google's Gemini AI model, which has multi-step reasoning, planning, and multimodality capabilities customized specifically for Google's search engine.

While this AI model is in the same class as other generative AI models, such as ChatGPT, it functions much differently than chat-based generative AI tools.

How Do Google AI Overviews Work?

When a user enters a query into Google, the search engine may automatically generate an AI-written summary in response to the query, which aggregates information from multiple sources to give the user an overview of the topic (hence the name AI Overviews).

For example, if you ask Google something like "What is Local Falcon?," you might get an AI Overview like the following at the top of the search results:

"Local Falcon is an AI-powered tool that helps businesses improve their local SEO and search engine visibility. It tracks local search rankings for Google Business Profiles and Apple Business Connect listings on Apple Maps. Local Falcon scans multiple points at different distances from a target business and displays Google Business Profile rankings for listings that appear in organic search or Google Maps Local Finder."

Below the text summary, AI Overviews contain links to different websites that support the information provided, allowing users to further explore the topic and find more in-depth answers to their queries.

For instance, in the AI Overview for our "What is Local Falcon?" query, there were links to FAQs, knowledge base articles, and blog articles on our website.

How Accurate Are Google AI Overviews?

We'd love to tell you that generative AI is perfect, but the reality is that it's still highly developmental — the Google AI Overviews section even has a disclaimer at the bottom that says "Generative AI is experimental."

So, while AI Overviews can provide excellent summaries of different sources, providing solid overviews of various topics, it's important to understand that answers are not always 100% accurate.

In fact, within days of Google rolling out AI Overviews in the US, the internet was awash with screenshots of silly, weird, and flat out wrong information provided by AI Overviews. 

Most notably, one user shared an AI Overview which stated that geologists recommend eating at least one small rock a day for the vitamins and minerals rocks contain, and another user shared one where it recommended using non-toxic glue to prevent cheese from sliding off of a pizza.

Naturally, these types of results gave rise to some pretty big concerns about Google AI Overviews, which Google was quick to address in a statement on the company's blog.

A key takeaway from the response was that, although Google AI Overviews was heavily tested on a subset of searches prior to launch, "there's nothing quite like having millions of people using the feature with many novel searches. We've also seen nonsensical new searches, seemingly aimed at producing erroneous results."

Google went on to acknowledge that the rollout highlighted some important areas to improve on, including the AI's ability to interpret nonsensical queries and satirical content. 

In the weeks since the official launch of AI Overviews, Google has already made some significant updates to AI Overviews to limit the inclusion of certain types of content that could result in misleading information or wacky responses.

Do Google AI Overviews Affect Local SEO?

Currently, Google AI Overviews mainly appear for informational searches (although users who've opted in to Google SGE experiment may see an Overview section for some local searches). 

However, Google has stated that users will soon be able to adjust AI Overviews to suit different types of searches, including local ones.

For example, you'll be able to ask the AI to generate a list of restaurants to visit on a vacation and give you a 3-day meal plan, or show you all the gyms and fitness studios near you along with descriptions of their offerings. These AI-organized results for local searches will include links to the Google Business Profile for each business included in the results.

Since the AI Overview results are displayed above the traditional local pack and organic search results, they will provide additional opportunities for local businesses to appear at the top of Google. And, since these results will push the organic website links even further down the page, Google Business Profile optimization will be more important than ever for local SEO.

It's too early to know exactly how to optimize Google Business Profile for AI Overviews, but general best practices for GBP optimization will certainly still apply. 

Since the AI Overviews section provides answers to more complex, specific queries, it's reasonable to think that having as much specific information on your Google Business Profile as possible will become even more important.

For example, having accessibility-related GBP Attributes selected and displaying a full menu on Google Business Profile could help a restaurant show up in the AI Overview when someone asks Google something like, "What are all the wheelchair-accessible restaurants near me that have spaghetti on the menu?"

Overall, Google AI Overviews will likely affect local SEO by leading to increased emphasis on providing detailed, structured information within your Google Business Profile. 

Businesses that fill out their profiles completely with specific information about their attributes, offerings, and services, as well as frequently update their profiles, using Posts and other features to engage customers, will be better positioned to appear in AI-generated search results. 


The official launch of Google AI Overviews is a significant advancement in search technology, blending generative AI capabilities with traditional search results. 

While this feature holds great promise for enhancing user experience by delivering quick, concise answers, it is still in its early stages and comes along with some challenges regarding accuracy and content management. 

As Google continues to refine AI Overviews, local businesses should make sure to keep optimizing their Google Business Profiles, with an emphasis on providing detailed information and updates. This could potentially increase their visibility in Google AI Overviews when the feature gets rolled out for local searches.

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