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June’s Digital PR Trends and Updates: AI Overviews, gatekeeper Google and algorithm leaks

This month has brought another seismic change for PR and SEO – the launch of AI Overviews and leaked documents about Google’s secret search formula…

AI Overviews gets a lukewarm reception

This month, Google launched its AI Overviews (formerly SGE) in the US. This means that for certain types of search queries, an AI generated summary is served at the top of the results. The response has been largely negative, with calls (and searches) to turn it off or disable the feature. Social media has been flooded with examples of incorrect – and in some cases very dangerous – results from AI Overviews, which are still labelled as ‘experimental’.

Having been so tough on the accuracy and trustworthiness of Your Money or Your Life (i.e. advice about finance or health) content in the past, results advising people to drink urine, eat rocks and put glue in pizza cheese are all the more shocking, and have been justifiably mocked by, well, everyone.

What does this mean for digital PR?

AI Overview inaccuracies are further eroding trust in the Google results pages. What’s the point of having the AI summary if you have to scroll past it and manually verify its answers anyway? It’s clear these Overviews are far from the finished product – so we shouldn’t be putting all our eggs in this AI-shaped basket right now.

Search is shifting in a massive way. So, focusing on securing mentions in every imaginable AI Overview just isn’t an efficient use of our time. Instead, by using digital PR to get in front of our audience (across whichever channel they’re using), we can improve awareness, inspire trust and deliver real business value. All while futureproofing against further Google updates. And if this improved visibility = more coverage in AI search – then win, win.

Google the gatekeeper will diminish organic traffic to publishers

Publishers have raised concerns that AI Overviews will undermine the business of online journalism. The NMA’s CEO Owen Meredith accused Google of developing these changes “without consultation, transparency, permission or reward for the original curators and rightholders” of the information it’s using to power its AI machine. AI Overviews, that try to get users to answers without any clicks, mean traffic is far less likely to reach a news or media website. For publishers that rely on website visits from Google for advertising revenue or paid subscribers, they simply won’t be able to keep the lights on.

According to research from Lily Ray in a recent Moz article, news and media websites have also suffered the worst drop in organic visibility as a result of the Helpful Content Update, which concluded its rollout in March this year. These factors will only further diminish traffic.

What does this mean for digital PR?

For news and media websites, this is a really worrying picture. And for our role as digital PRs, will links and mentions from those kinds of websites be as valuable if they become less viewed and less visited? It’s a good opportunity for us to diversify our outreach: begin with the audience we’re trying to reach. Coverage in top tier titles used to be the holy grail – and for some audiences that may still be the case – but now we’re storytellers everywhere: LinkedIn, TikTok, influencer campaigns, creator collaborations, radio. Wherever our audience is spending time, that’s where we need to be.

Leaked Google Search API documents

Google has been increasingly seen as a “monopoly gatekeeper of the internet”, so for this month’s roundup, we’d like to finish with something that might level the playing field, ever so slightly.

This month, key internal documents at Google were leaked in the name of transparency and holding Google to account. The documents contain exquisite details about how it really ranks content and websites. Originally written about by Mike King in iPullRank and confirmed by SparkToro founder (and before that, Moz) Rand Fishkin in this blog.

What does this mean for digital PR?

Potentially, everything. We’d whole-heartedly recommend those who are interested read both of their original articles, and keep an eye on the unfolding commentary as more of the industry get to grips with the revelations.

Findings so far confirm some of what we already knew; brand-building outside of Google is critical for success within Google. We need to be established and trusted before Google will consider ranking us. Intent, established by behavioural patterns (such as clicks) will always be more powerful that content and links. And finally, page titles are still “quite important”.

Article written by Ben Eaglestone, Energy PR's Data Lead.

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