SEO might not be dead after all.

Last week, Google rolled out its much-feared Search Generative Experience (SGE), now called “AI Overviews.”

Going into it, there was significant paranoia around the feature’s potential traffic impacts.

I even created a LinkedIn post quoting a potential 11% to 18% decline in search traffic.

What I got wrong about that estimation is that the new link cards in these results have been purported by Google to actually increase CTR versus normal organic listings.

Impact Report Methodology

To avoid taking Google’s claim at face value, we decided to look across a significant sample of our current clients (43 total) to assess the actual impact of this change.

To make sure we captured as much of the rollout as possible, we compared the following ranges:

  • Wednesday 5/8/24 to Saturday 5/11/24
  • Wednesday 5/15/24 to Saturday 5/18/24

Users first started seeing AI Overviews on Tuesday, May 14th.

It’s also possible a percentage of users still didn’t see AI Overviews on Wednesday.

Siege Media clients are generally well-funded startups or mid-market to enterprises in SaaS, fintech, or B2C/e-commerce. Our only local SEO clients are multi-location brands. The most statistically significant click data sampled in this report is in SaaS.

On average, our clients have a heavy content-first approach.

Also, it’s worth noting that through our Keyword Opposition to Benefit (KOB) Analysis process, we have been pre-emptively solving for impacts from AI Overviews for over a year, looking at keyword click rate and topic opportunity over search volume.

This process naturally de-prioritizes topics that are more likely to have searches cannibalized by AI Overviews. So, it’s reasonable to assume our clients are more likely to be insulated from the change on average.

Finally, instead of listing the CTR across all queries — and to not let one or two high-click clients dilute the sample — we thought listing an average CTR across the 43 would be most instructive.

Overall Impact of AI Overviews

AI Overviews Impact Report for All Industries

Amazingly, we have seen an increase in impressions, average clickthrough rate (CTR), and total traffic since the overviews went live.

As Google has reported, they believe the average number of searches has also gone up, so we thought it was instructive to tally up the net number of impressions between periods.

While it’s unclear how much of this may be seasonality (or novel curiosity regarding AI Overviews), the evidence that impressions have also gone up 4% supports Google’s data that shows people will be doing more searches after this change.

AI Overviews Impact – SaaS

AI Overviews Impact Report for SaaS

The numbers in SaaS are representative of the total, most likely because they account for a large share of the total click volume in this report, slightly over 80%.

If this data tells the story correctly, it seems that AI Overviews may be firing more often for our SaaS clients than for fintech/consumer clients in this study.

This feels like a logical presumption to make, as many SaaS content queries are more likely to be complex and require additional follow-up questions.

AI Overviews Impact – Fintech

AI Overviews Impact Report for Fintech

In fintech, we actually see a larger-than-normal traffic and CTR increase. Please note this sample size is less significant, but still quite large in size.

It’s feasible that AI Overviews are firing less often in the Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) space, which could potentially reflect why total impressions may not be up significantly.

AI Overviews Impact – B2C / E-com

AI Overviews Impact Report B2C

B2C is the first space we see red, with a slight decline in impression volume. However, CTR and total traffic are up, showing that where AI Overviews are firing, there may even be a positive impact on total CTR thus far.

It seems unlikely that AI Overviews would contribute to fewer clicks in this space, but it is more likely that the effect is neutral for the clients we’re monitoring.

Our clients here are primarily e-commerce, with a mix of travel and home services.

What to Take From This Report

We understand that this report is not hard science. You should not go out of your way to target AI Overview queries because they will drive more traffic (yet).

The overall goal of this report is to highlight the macro impression of where we have landed post-rollout.

I think most SEOs would agree that the impact thus far is neutral.

After a year or more of panic in our industry around how this would pan out, the first data sample post-AI Overviews should leave us feeling optimistic. SEO is not dead.

It is very clearly changing, but the optimistic take that Google would not impact click-outs because doing so would also impact ad clicks has seemed to hold true. That’s a good sign about the future of our industry.

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