SEO Insights: May 2024 Report

If you’ve been reading our monthly SEO Insights over recent months, you’ll have noticed there have been times where we’ve said, “it’s been a quiet month in terms of Google news.”

Well, I think that that those words may never be uttered again.

If May 2024 is anything to go by, it looks like from now on, there will be plenty of news to report on as things are really heating up.

AI Overviews

During Google’s annual I/O developer conference, the main focus was very much on AI and how Google is rolling this out across its many different applications.

In terms of Search, the big news was that AI Overviews would now be rolled out to all users in the US, shortly followed by other countries.

AI Overviews, previously known as “Search Generative Experience”, provides answers to search queries which are generated using AI, to offer a “useful” response to the user. This appears at the top of the search results, for example:

AI Overview - image

AI Overviews do not appear for every search query; in theory, it only appears for queries where Google deems it to be additionally helpful. We are currently assessing how this new feature may impact organic search traffic. What we do know is that the AI Overviews do include links to related pages, but they may limit how far users subsequently scroll in the search results.

This new feature has not generally been met with open arms and users have already been sharing nonsensical and misleading information generated by the AI, such as recommending that you use glue so that cheese sticks to a pizza base!

It is early days still, but AI Overviews are undoubtedly here to stay. They will likely appear in UK results over the coming weeks so we’ll then be able to see for which queries the AI is triggered, and what sort of impact this may have on organic traffic.

The BIG Google Ranking Factors Leak

This was literally a “stop the press” moment in the world of SEO. It appears that Google accidentally shared a series of documents that SEOs were quick to say that this was the complete list of ranking factors that Google uses for its algorithms to rank search results.

google.api image

Anyone looking for the “magic formula” to rank a website will be severely disappointed after reading through the thousands of the supposed ranking attributes in the documents.

The documents actually list API calls to retrieve data and most seem generally quite out of date. We don’t even know if they are all in use or have ever been used. They are not necessarily current ranking factors but more importantly there is no context as to how they are applied to web pages. In other words, the documents and the information contained within them lack context.

It’s like having all of the ingredients for a Michelin chef’s signature dish but without the recipe instructions to tell you how to combine them, in what quantities and how to cook it to perfection.

I have read through the documents and even if they are a list of ranking factors, there’s nothing overly surprising or new in there that we didn’t already know or assume. If anything, the documents simply reflect just how complex Google’s algorithm is, having to take into account so many factors when determining where a page should rank for a given search query.

SEOs would be better placed using their time running their own experiments, to understand how different elements of Google’s algorithm works, which is what we do through our extensive R&D program.

Moving Forward with AI

Although AI Overviews are a new feature in Search, Google has been using AI to fine tune the search results for several years now, and it’s an area that we’ve invested a significant amount of our R&D time into.

The new overviews are just a new phase in search and, as always, we’ll be navigating our clients through this new search experience, to maximise the opportunities at every stage.

With any significant change in search there are always winners and losers and because of our investment in R&D, we are well placed to ensure that our clients will be in the best possible position to succeed and thrive in this new AI era.