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Google Search now shows fewer AI Overviews, but the problems aren’t fixed

Published Jun 7th, 2024 6:50AM EDT
Google Search got AI Overviews at I/O 2024.
Image: Google Inc.

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Google told the world about a month ago that it wanted to do the googling for users, even though nobody asked. Then, it forced AI Overviews on the Google Search experience of all US users. As if that wasn’t bad enough, AI Overviews started failing spectacularly, which erroneous genAI responses going viral online.

Google defended the work behind Google Search AI Overviews from the moment the first recommendation to put glue on pizza showed up in Google’s AI-powered search feature. The company then explained the steps it was taking to fix AI Overviews errors while downplaying the errors and blaming some of them on users.

It turns out that Google might have done more than tweak AI Overviews to reduce the number of hallucinations (Google will tell you these aren’t your usual AI hallucinations, but it’s still a word that fits.) Apparently, AI Overviews aren’t showing up as often in Google Search, which might indicate that Google is ready to tone down its enthusiasm for AI Overviews.

I said more than once that Google should retire AI Overviews just like it does with any underperforming Google products. Having artificial ingelligence ready to chat about all sorts of products is great and everything. But AI doesn’t have to take over the default Google Search experience. AI Overviews should be optional if they’re not going away.

I said all that as someone who isn’t seeing any AI Overviews in their online searches. I’m doing most of the googling with competing products, so I haven’t been affected by the forceful Google Search AI Overviews upgrade. Also, I’m in Europe, so I won’t see those for some time to come.

AI Overviews aren't showing up as often.
AI Overviews aren’t showing up as often. Image source: BrightEdge

I don’t think Google is ready to give up that fast. I’m sure Google wants AI Overviews to become a reliable feature in Search, and it’ll do everything it can to continue promoting them. However, you might not see them that often in the near future.

Enterprise SEO platform BrightEdge shared new insights about AI Overviews with Search Engine Land.

Google tested AI experiences in search via SGE before bringing AI Overviews to the main Google Search product last month. The overviews appeared atop as many as 84% of queries in SGE, the AI-focused beta search experience that Google introduced at I/O 2023. BrightEdge found that percentage to have dropped below 15% following the wave of reports showing incorrect AI results in Search.

Google said a few days ago that some of those viral AI Overviews were faked. But others weren’t, and the damage was done. Seeing AI Overviews less often in Google Search is probably the best fix until Google finds a way to significantly reduce errors.

AI Overviews are more likely to appear for certain Google Search queries than others.
AI Overviews are more likely to appear for certain Google Search queries than others. Image source: BrightEdge

The same report says that AI Overviews are 195% more likely to appear in queries that have a featured snippet. According to the BrightEdge findings, questions-based queries will also produce AI Overviews. They won’t appear for local searches or when site links are present.

The SEO expert also found that AI Overviews are most likely to appear in Healthcare-based queries. You should expect them some 63% of the time, but that’s lower than the 76% share in January.

I will point out the obvious caveat. Comparing SGE to the full Google Search product isn’t exactly fair. The former was an optional search experience. You would have had to want to use it to see Google’s AI results. Google Search is available to users worldwide, and AI Overviews were enabled automatically for all US-based users.

That said, seeing fewer AI Overviews in Google Search is a great development. Google pulling back its AI push, even a little, is needed. The alternative is risking more errors that can go viral and erode trust in Google Search.

I’ll also say there’s life after ditching Google Search if that’s what you might be considering.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.