Neil Patel

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Google I/O 2024: What Will Search Look Like?

A graphic that says: "Google I/O 2024: What Will Search Look Like?"

Google I/O 2024 is in the books – all I can say is that I’m very excited.

There are some big changes on the horizon for digital marketing, especially Search.

The monster change that is on everyone’s mind is that AI Overviews (the new name for Search Generative Experience) has officially been rolled out as of May 14th, 2024 in the United States, and will be available in other countries soon.

When SGE first came out in 2023, some digital marketers instantly got anxious, worried that their pages and clients would have drops in traffic they didn’t know how to answer.

Others were more excited about what AI brings to the future of digital marketing.

Either way, you have to adapt or be left behind. So, what’s on deck for this year in Search? Google has embraced its Gemini Era, but what does that mean?

I’ll take you through the high-level updates and what that means for Search.

Key Takeaways

  • The overarching theme of Google I/O for Search was trying to minimize the amount of time users spend actually searching for a result using AI innovations.
  • This is highlighted by a full rollout for AI Overviews, the AI-powered search results page formerly known as SGE (Search Generative Experience).
  • Additional innovations include the ability to use Ask Photos to browse your photo set for additional information, summarizing your email inbox with Gmail, and building out full lessons from research materials using Notebook LM.
  • Another major innovation is multi-step-reasoning, which will make it easy for Google to solve more complicated queries using a combination of key phrase logic, ordering, and search reasoning.
  • AI Overviews is going to have a major impact for businesses, but it’s best not to panic. In the meantime, focus on producing comprehensive content, improving your E-E-A-T, and keeping up your technical SEO.

The Expansion Beyond the SERPs with Personalization

Most digital marketers are focused on the changes to the standard Google search engine results page (SERPs) But if anything, one of the big takeaways from Google I/O is that search is moving beyond a SERP-only experience.

Google Photos, Gmail, and Notebook LM are getting upgrades, powered by Gemini 1.5 Pro.

For example, come Summer 2024, you can use the Ask Photos function to search your photos for, well, basically anything.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai gave the example of forgetting your license plate number, and searching through your photos to find it.

By simply asking Gemini, it combed through all the images on the device, understood which car appeared the most, and pulled that plate number.

The Gemini interface searching through numbers.

Gmail’s upgrade is a score for any busy marketers that wish they had an executive assistant on deck. With the combination of multimodality and long context, you can now have Gemini search and summarize all recent emails to help you keep up..

Lastly – Notebook LM is a win for any sort of research. This research and writing tool, introduced at last year’s Google I/O last year, is getting a serious upgrade.

Senior Director of Product Management Josh Woodward demonstrated how Gemini 1.5 Pro allowed him to better tailor a science lesson to his son’s learning style. He uploaded all the learning materials, such as science worksheets, into the tool and it was able to create a guide with study materials, FAQs, and even quizzes.

Notebook LM in action.

Even better, it created audio of a lively discussion about force and motion to support his son’s specific learning style.

In the digital marketing setting, this could easily save you time putting together presentations, or help consolidate materials when researching for your own content.

So, What Will Search Look Like in the Gemini Era?

While there are a lot of advances happening in image generation, music, and video, let’s focus on the main event: the impact that Gemini 1.5 and AI Overviews will have on Search.

Gemini and E-commerce: Circle to Search

Let’s start with e-commerce.

Circle to Search is now available on Android. With this feature, users can circle an item they see in an image and Google will provide links to the specific product.

Rather than Googling and parsing through the information – Google “will now do the Googling for you”.

You do your search and get an answer instantly – further scratching the itch for instant gratification.

This is representative of Google’s new approach for search; trying to take as much work out of the process as possible for the user.

Multi-step Reasoning: Evolution of Long-tail Search Queries

One key advance for Google Search is the ability to handle incredibly complex questions. Head of search Liz Reid described this as the ability to tackle queries that are like “ten questions in one.” This is accomplished through multi-step reasoning.

How Multi-Step Reasoning Works

Multi-step reasoning uses the Gemini Model to help break down these complex queries into specific key phrases.

Take the query that Liz showcased at Google I/O – “find the best yoga or pilates studios in Boston and show the details on their intro offers and the walking time from Beacon Hill”.

A multi-step reasoning query.

Again, Google works for you. Multi-step reasoning will take this long query and:

  • break it down into key phrases
  • order said phrases
  • make a conclusion using the Google Index of information
The multi-step reasoning process.

We are already aware that long-tail search queries are important. But now, we can see that this is the beginning of a shift in how users will search. Rather than refining your search if you don’t get the desired result, you can ask all your questions upfront and get a result in seconds.

This new wave of Search is designed to eliminate those hours-long search sessions, giving you everything you need at first tap.

AI-organized Search Results Page

AI-organized search results pages are going to rock the SEO world.

Want to see how? Another example that Reid shared was a query to help plan a trip to Dallas. She showcased how a user may not know exactly what they want beyond wanting to travel.

Liz explained that when users go to Search for ideas, they will get “more than an AI-generated answer. You’ll get an entire AI-organized search results page. Custom built for you and your question”.

She continues, saying that the result breaks AI out of the box and fills the whole page.

So, what does this mean for Search?

The SERPs are going to change, and rankings are going to shift alongside it. Google is trying to create an experience that minimizes the amount of time users spend in the SERPs.

Your featured snippet may not mean as much with an AI-generated answer and source links above it. And if you’re lower on the page, expect even less traffic.

In the coming months, SEOs are going to have to adapt quickly to how AI overviews will pull information from the Google Search Index.

But one thing will never change. If you create quality content with your target audience in mind, rather than creating content trying to game Google, You can’t lose.

People will still need to create new and fresh content for the Google Index to pull from, so content is still relevant.

What You Should Be Doing Now

There may be some digital marketers out there treating this as Judgment Day for the SEO world. But my advice? Don’t panic.

For one thing, whether you’re concerned about your clients or your own business pages, we’re still going to need time to gather data and determine specific impacts of the new world of Search. You don’t want to instantly pivot your strategy based on fear.

With that said, what should you be doing to set yourself up for success?

  • Check your focus keywords: Are there certain keywords that your SEO strategy is built around? Revisit the SERPs. Is there currently an AI Overview for the term, and if so, are you cited? Is the answer accurate? This will help gauge where you currently stand as a starting point.
  • Get mentioned: We know from Google itself that AI Overview results are focusing on corroborating AI results with “reliable sources.” So getting mentions and links from credible sites could increase your chances of appearing in said results.
  • Make sure your technical SEO is on point: We still know all the marketers of a technically-optimized site. Double down here to show Google your pages are clear, relevant, and authoritative.
  • Make sure your content is comprehensive: Google’s new focus on multi-step reasoning means that deeper content is even more likely to excel.
  • Think long-term. Google is going to continue to iterate on AI Overviews and these other features over time. Methodical analysis and execution are going to be the best way to respond.

Things are going to vary here, and different industries might be impacted differently as the dust settles. But keeping to the basic principles of effective and helpful content is always going to pay off with Google.

What NP Digital Is Doing

At my agency, NP Digital, we know the stakes are high when it comes to the impact of AI Overviews on our client websites. As a result, we’ve been working behind the scenes, even before this feature was fully-rolled out, to put our clients in the best positions possible. Here’s a look at some of the steps we’ve been taking:

  • Using Google’s betas to try and get as much early info on AI Overviews as possible and how our client content performed in those early versions.
  • Optimizing content for GEO (generative experience optimization), which pivots content strategies to help clients be cited as authorities in AI Overview results.
  • Doing internal industry level SEO tracking with our clients to determine industries that might be severely impacted by AI overviews (positive or negative).
  • Finding ways beyond links to get our clients cited, mentioned, or published.
  • Adapting a stance of continuous analysis and execution as AI Overviews evolve.

In addition, we’re also practicing what we preach, making sure that technical SEO for our clients is on point and working to create the most comprehensive content possible.

Conclusion

If you didn’t think that 2024 was one of the biggest years for Search and SEO yet already, it’s pretty much confirmed now.

2023’s 9 Google algorithm updates, with a whopping 4 core updates, and the March Core Update of 2024 were a powerful one-two punch.

And now, we’re fully in the Gemini era when it comes to search.

It’s clear that Google is focused on using AI to provide a better experience for users. I think that businesses and website owners should focus on doing the same.

Provide helpful and actionable advice on your pages, make sure your pages are running well technically, and be adaptable, and you’re setting yourself up for success.

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