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How To Rank Your Website In Google’s AI Overview

Are you ready to tap into the power of Google’s AI Overview, the latest innovation in search engine technology? With AI Overview, Google is revolutionizing the way users interact with search results, and as a website owner, you want to ensure your site is front and center.

On May 14th, 2024, Google launched AI Overview, and since then, we’ve been digging deep to uncover the secrets to ranking your website in this new landscape. In this guide, we’ll share the key factors that will help you get your website listed in Google’s AI Overview, including closely matching your content with user queries, providing simple and readable information, and “getting to the point” quickly on your page. Buckle up and let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways:

Here are the key takeaways on how to rank your website in Google’s AI Overviews:

  • Extremely Close Matching: Ensure that the information you publish closely matches the phrase you’re trying to rank for. This will increase your chances of ranking in AI Overviews.
  • Simple Information with High Readability: Provide simple, easy-to-read information on your webpage. Use short sentences and straightforward language to make it easy for AI Overviews to reference and summarize your content.
  • Getting to the Point: Make sure your webpage quickly provides the user with the information they need. Summarize the answer to the question or topic in the opening paragraph, and ensure that your content is easily digestible.

By following these key takeaways, you can increase your chances of ranking in Google’s AI Overviews and driving more traffic to your website.

What Is Google’s AI Overview?

While Google’s AI Overview may be a relatively new concept, it’s imperative to understand what it is and how it works to optimize your website for this new type of search result.

Definition and Features

One of the most significant developments in search engine technology, Google’s AI Overview is a new type of search engine that uses generative AI to answer the searcher’s query, in addition to providing links to websites that “support” or “corroborate” the answer the AI gives. Launched in May 2024, AI Overviews is currently available only in the USA, but can be accessed from other countries using a VPN set to the US.

Key Components of an AI Overview Result

Googles’ AI Overview result consists of three primary components: the answer provided by the generative AI, links to some websites that show related information, and dropdown links to websites that corroborate the information in each part of the answer.

It’s crucial to note that the AI Overview sits above the “regular” organic search results, and its components work together to provide a comprehensive answer to the searcher’s query. By understanding these components, you can optimize your website to increase its chances of being featured in an AI Overview result.

Which Searches Trigger an AI Overview Result?

You may be wondering which searches trigger an AI Overview result. The answer is that it depends on various factors. Currently, AI Overview answers appear in different forms for different types of searches.

Various Forms of AI Overview Answers

The AI Overview panel can sometimes be seen with a “Show more” button, which seems to be the default way. For some queries, an AI Overview panel is visible by default, accompanied by AI-generated images to answer the searcher’s query.

When Google Opts Not to Show an AI Overview Answer

An interesting observation is that Google sometimes chooses not to show an AI Overview answer or even give the searcher an option to create one, even if the old SGE did trigger an AI-generated result.

Another instance where Google may not show an AI Overview answer is for searches related to financial recommendations. Initially, Google stated that AI-generated responses wouldn’t be available for “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) searches. However, we’ve found plenty of SGE responses given for health and medical-related search queries.

Medical-Specific Version of PaLM 2

With the launch of AI Overviews, it’s worth noting that Google has developed a medical-specific version of PaLM 2, the large language model powering the AI Overviews. This medical-specialist LLM, known as Med-PaLM 2, has been trained to provide accurate medical advice.

Plus, it’s possible that Google is relying on this specialist version to provide answers to medical-related questions, which would explain why Google has the confidence to allow AI Overview answers to questions that, if incorrectly answered, could lead to Google being guilty of sharing bad medical advice.

How to Get Traffic from SGE

Unlike traditional search engine optimization, getting traffic from Google’s AI Overviews requires a different approach. There are two main ways to get visibility for your business in AI Overviews: getting listed in the “carousel” links and being listed as a link in one of the AI Overviews dropdowns.

Getting Listed in the Carousel Links

Links to relevant websites are displayed in a carousel format, providing users with quick access to supporting information. These links are expected to receive the majority of organic traffic generated by SGE, as they are the only ones shown when the SGE answer loads.

Being Listed as a Link in AI Overview Dropdowns

Being listed as a link in one of the AI Overview dropdowns is another way to benefit from AI Overviews. Our research has found that, in most cases, the websites listed in the carousel are also listed in the individual dropdowns.

Carousel links and dropdown links are crucial for driving traffic to your website. To increase your chances of getting listed, focus on providing simple, easy-to-read information that directly answers the user’s query. This will help Google’s AI understand your content and potentially feature it in the AI Overview results.

Step 1: Start from a Strong Base

Not all websites are created equal, and when it comes to ranking in Google’s AI Overviews, having a strong foundation is crucial. Our tests have shown that ranking in AI Overviews is much easier if you are already ranking in the “regular” organic results.

Importance of Already Ranking in Regular Organic Results

One of the key takeaways from our research is that AI Overviews use some of the same ranking signals as traditional SEO. This means that if you’re already ranking well in organic search, you’re more likely to rank in AI Overviews as well. However, it’s important to note that ranking in organic search is not a guarantee of ranking in AI Overviews.

Factors That Help in AI Overview Ranking

Overview of the key factors that contribute to ranking in AI Overviews include:

  • High-authority topical backlinks
  • Decent website speed
  • Content quality
  • Strong user experience

Perceiving these factors as important to traditional SEO, we’ve found that they also play a significant role in AI Overviews ranking.

Step into the world of AI Overviews ranking by ensuring your website has a solid foundation. Focus on building high-quality backlinks, optimizing your website’s speed, creating engaging and informative content, and providing a seamless user experience. By doing so, you’ll be well on your way to ranking in AI Overviews and increasing your online visibility.

Step 2: Providing Simple Information with High Readability

All the research and testing we’ve done so far suggest that providing simple information with high readability is crucial to ranking your website in Google’s AI Overviews. When you click on a website linked from AI Overviews, you’ll often notice the URL contains a hash (this is called a Text Fragment and currently used within regular Featured Snippets).

Text Fragments and Highlighted Passages

Highlighted sections of the page seem to inform the AI Overviews answer. These highlighted passages are always short, and even in a longer AI Overviews answer, the linked website is being used to support one particular point.

Characteristics of Linked Paragraphs

Highlighted sentences and paragraphs are predominantly written in short sentences and straightforward language. AI Overviews seems to favour sentences and paragraphs that make a single point, rather than more complex paragraphs.

Another key characteristic of linked paragraphs is that they are designed to provide short, easy-to-read answers. This means that AI Overviews needs to reference short, easy-to-read sentences to decrease the chances of summarising inaccurately or taking the point out of context. By keeping your paragraphs concise and to the point, you increase the likelihood of being featured in AI Overviews results.

Step 3: ‘Getting to the Point’ and Giving the User the Information They Need Very Quickly on the Page

Despite the importance of providing simple information with high readability, it’s equally crucial to “get to the point” and give the user the information they need very quickly on the page. You see, AI Overviews is designed to provide short, easy-to-read answers, and it needs to reference short, easy-to-read sentences to decrease the chances of summarizing inaccurately or taking the point out of context.

Importance of Neatly Summarizing the Answer

For instance, when I studied dozens of AI Overviews search results, I realized that the passages highlighted in the linked websites were always short and to the point. This is because AI Overviews favors sentences and paragraphs that make a single point, rather than more complex paragraphs. By neatly summarizing the answer to the question or topic in the opening paragraph of your blog page, you’re providing AI Overviews with the “support” it needs for its answer.

Examples of AI Overview Ranking “Before and Afters”

Point in case, I previously hosted a webinar sharing a series of AI Overviews ranking “before and afters”. These are searches where the target website was ranking organically but wasn’t featured in the AI Overviews results. In every case, I made sure that the opening paragraph of the blog page neatly summarized the answer to the question or topic.

Understanding the importance of neatly summarizing the answer, I added a paragraph at the top of the blog post to try and give Google/AI Overviews the “support” it needed for its answer. Within 12 hours of submitting this page via Search Console for re-indexing, we picked up a supporting link in the first paragraph of the AI Overview. This just goes to show that by “getting to the point” and giving the user the information they need very quickly on the page, you can increase your chances of ranking in AI Overviews.

To wrap up

On the whole, ranking your website in Google’s AI Overviews requires a combination of closely matching the information you publish with the target phrase, providing simple and highly readable content, getting straight to the point, and already ranking in the regular organic search results.

By following these key factors, you’ll be well on your way to increasing your online visibility and driving more traffic to your site. Recall, AI Overviews is still evolving, so stay ahead of the game by continually optimizing and refining your strategy to ensure you’re consistently ranking high.

Cliff Tillery, MBA is the Chief Operating Officer and SEO Director at Make It Loud which is a digital marketing firm located outside of Atlanta Georgia. More than 14 years ago, he started search engine optimization at this award-winning agency and has taught digital marketing skills to business owners at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the Gwinnett Entrepreneur Center, and other groups.

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CliffTillery COO
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