Google CEO says AI overviews are increasing Search usage

Google has served “billions of queries” with its generative AI features and plans to “expand the type of queries we can serve our users” even further. That’s according Alphabet/Google CEO Sundar Pichai, speaking during the Q1 2024 Alphabet earnings call.

AI overviews, which Google introduced in the U.S. in late March and the UK earlier this month for a small slice of queries, are also increasing Search usage, according to Pichai:

  • “Based on our testing, we are encouraged that we are seeing an increase in search usage among people who use the new AI overviews as well as increased user satisfaction with the results.”

Later during the Q&A portion, Pichai was asked multiple times about search behavior and user engagement within SGE. Here is what Pichai said:

  • “I think broadly, we’ve always found that over many years when things work well on the organic side, monetization follows. So, typically, the trends we see carry over well. Overall, I think with generative AI in Search, with our AIO views … I think we will expand the type of queries we can serve our users.”
  • “We can answer more complex question as well as in general. That all seems to carry over across quarter categories. Obviously, it’s still early, and we are going to be measured and put user experience at front, but we are positive about what this transition means.”
  • “We see an increase in engagement, but I see this as something which will play out over time. But if you were to step back at this moment, there were a lot of questions last year, and we always felt confident and comfortable that we would be able to improve the user experience.
  • “People question whether these things would be costly to serve, and we are very, very confident we can manage the cost of how to serve these queries. People worried about latency. When I look at the progress we have made in latency and efficiency, we feel comfortable.”
  • “There are questions about monetization. And based on our testing so far, I’m comfortable and confident that we’ll be able to manage the monetization transition here well as well. It will play out over time, but I feel we are well-positioned.”

Why we care. All signs continue to indicate that Google is continuing its slow evolution toward a Search Generative Experience. I’m skeptical about user satisfaction increasing, considering what an unimpressive product AI overviews and SGE continues to be. But I’m not the average Google user – and this was an earnings call, where Pichai has mastered the art of using a lot of words to say a whole lot of nothing.

SGE will continue to evolve in 2024. During the Q&A portion, Pichai was asked to elaborate on what types of queries or scenarios generative AI is working best so far. Pichai kept it vague:

  • “On SGE and Search … we are seeing early confirmation of our thesis that this will expand the universe of queries where we are able to really provide people with a mix of actual answers linked to sources across the web and bring a variety of perspectives, all in an innovative way. And we’ve been rolling out AI overviews in the U.S. and the U.K., trying to mainly tackle queries, which are more complex, where we think SGE will clearly improve the experience.”
  • “We’ve already served billions of queries, and it seems to cut across categories. But we are still continuing our testing… We are metrics-driven in these areas. … But I am optimistic that it clearly improves the user experience, users are telling us that, and we are seeing it in our metrics, and we’ll continue evolving it through the course of this year.”

This was followed later by a question seeking more color around AI changing Search volume or Google use cases. Pichai answered with a non-answer about Google’s positive and profound path:

  • “We view this moment as a positive moment for Search. And I think it allows us to evolve our product in a profound way. And Search is a unique experience. People come and they get to — be it if you want answers, if you want to explore more, if you want to get perspectives from across the web and to be able to do it across the breadth and depth of everything they are looking for and the innovation you would need to keep that up, I think it’s what we’ve been building on for a long time.
  • “And so I feel we are extraordinarily well set up, particularly given the innovation path we are on. And overall, I view this moment as a positive moment.”

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About the author

Danny Goodwin

Danny Goodwin has been Managing Editor of Search Engine Land & Search Marketing Expo – SMX since 2022. He joined Search Engine Land in 2022 as Senior Editor. In addition to reporting on the latest search marketing news, he manages Search Engine Land’s SME (Subject Matter Expert) program. He also helps program U.S. SMX events.

Goodwin has been editing and writing about the latest developments and trends in search and digital marketing since 2007. He previously was Executive Editor of Search Engine Journal (from 2017 to 2022), managing editor of Momentology (from 2014-2016) and editor of Search Engine Watch (from 2007 to 2014). He has spoken at many major search conferences and virtual events, and has been sourced for his expertise by a wide range of publications and podcasts.

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