arrow Products
Glide CMS image Glide CMS image
Glide CMS arrow
The powerful intuitive headless CMS for busy content and editorial teams, bursting with features and sector insight. MACH architecture gives you business freedom.
Glide Go image Glide Go image
Glide Go arrow
Enterprise power at start-up speed. Glide Go is a pre-configured deployment of Glide CMS with hosting and front-end problems solved.
Glide Nexa image Glide Nexa image
Glide Nexa arrow
Audience authentication, entitlements, and preference management in one system designed for publishers and content businesses.
For your sector arrow arrow
Media & Entertainment
arrow arrow
Built for any content to thrive, whomever it's for. Get content out faster and do more with it.
Sports & Gaming
arrow arrow
Bring fans closer to their passions and deliver unrivalled audience experiences wherever they are.
Publishing
arrow arrow
Tailored to the unique needs of publishing so you can fully focus on audiences and content success.
For your role arrow arrow
Technology
arrow arrow
Unlock resources and budget with low-code & no-code solutions to do so much more.
Editorial & Content
arrow arrow
Make content of higher quality quicker, and target it with pinpoint accuracy at the right audiences.
Developers
arrow arrow
MACH architecture lets you kickstart development, leveraging vast native functionality and top-tier support.
Commercial & Marketing
arrow arrow
Speedrun ideas into products, accelerate ROI, convert interest, and own the conversation.
Technology Partners arrow
AWS image
AWS
arrow arrow
Vercel image
Vercel
arrow arrow
Pugpig image
Pugpig
arrow arrow
Poool image
Poool
arrow arrow
Solution Partners arrow
Code Store image
Code Store
arrow arrow
The App Lab image
The App Lab
arrow arrow
Polemic Digital image
Polemic Digital
arrow arrow
Made by Many image
Made by Many
arrow arrow
Industry Insights arrow arrow
News
arrow arrow
News from inside our world, about Glide Publishing Platform, our customers, and other cool things.
Comment
arrow arrow
Insight and comment about the things which make content and publishing better - or sometimes worse.
Newsletter
arrow arrow
The Content Aware weekly newsletter, with news and comment every Thursday.
Knowledge arrow arrow
Customer Support
arrow arrow
Learn more about the unrivalled customer support from the team at Glide.
Documentation
arrow arrow
User Guides and Technical Documentation for Glide Publishing Platform headless CMS, Glide Go, and Glide Nexa.
Developer Experience
arrow arrow
Learn more about using Glide headless CMS, Glide Go, and Glide Nexa identity management.

Peering into the grim data of generative search

Wherein the analysis of Google AI search results makes unpleasant reading for website owners.

by Rob Corbidge
Published: 15:00, 13 June 2024

Rob Corbidge is Head of Content Intelligence at Glide Publishing Platform, applying the latest knowledge about advances and ideas in the publishing industry to our own product and helping clients get the most from their content.

A scientist rearranging papers that are flying around him

This week has seen the first in-depth research into something publishers and site owners have been pondering since AI-powered search sprung into our consciousness: what will the effect of Generative Search be on traffic and user habits? 

Step forward - not for the first time - media industry touchstones Press Gazette and Ricky Sutton, who mounted a sustained and many-pronged investigation into what the world of Google AI Overviews (aka Search Generative Experience, aaka Google's Burglebot) looks like for media companies.

You know it… the feature which conjures AI-written answers to user-entered search queries, which Google is already backpedalling on and more or less un-unveiled last week. "Ah, Robert" I heard you cry, "Google is already reducing the number of Overview created search results in the US test market that it launched into." 

It has - but not in response to any feedback on its business impact to publishers. It did it because AI Overviews were showing signs of early-onset dement-ai and producing screeds of gibberish such as adding glue to recipes, or suggesting rocks as a dietary substitute. 

While the feature may for now have been rolled back into the shop to have its undercarriage checked, it will very likely be back in improved form and probably with much less for us to laugh at. 

In fact, this temporary removal might be the only chance left to rebroadcast our misgivings about it before it comes back, so do read the report to know what you're up against. 

Analysis of the analytics
Working with a group of volunteer large media organisations who opened their analytics to investigation, our intrepid pair spent a lot of time, money, and midnight oil assessing what AI Overviews spell for publishers.

The report is full of stand out points and dare I say it none are in our industry's favour. I could even make the case that it's so bad it's good if it stimulates an industry-wide alliance of minds considering the question of how we collectively navigate a de-Googled map to audiences.

So in summary (!) - here's some morsels: 

  • If you are referenced as a source in the overview and are linked, you'll be at the bottom of the overview. The overview is almost a whole page deep, so that's a long way down the scroll.
  • If you are result No.1 after the AI Overview, you might be so far off the page that you'll be in the realm of where previously the 10th or 12th search results might have been.
  • And, if you've worked hard to build authority in an area and have the ranking traffic you deserve, you probably won't be cited as a source anyway. 

As if to prove that point, the research found that the highest ranking links you might expect to find on an Overviews result were now moved to the very bottom of the webpage. An average 980 pixel drop. 

As the report states: "Links to food, health, locations, and shopping, which have the highest advertising CPMs, appeared to be degraded the most." 

So in other words, the more likely it is that you write about something which Google can make money off via the placement of ads, the less likely you are to feature as a high-up search result. And, even if you do, on a smartphone your link is now down by your reader’s scaphoid - not a comfortable place to be for anyone.

It's actually tricky not to see AI Overviews as a calculated insult disguised behind some mumbled rubbish about "increasing user choice" or whatever Googlespeak was deployed. 

(We did love one example of Googlespeak Ricky highlighted, regarding the overnight appearance of adverts in AI Overviews, “We’ve heard that people find the ads appearing above and below the AI-generated overview helpful." Those people being Google Ad Business employees presumably.) 

​​​​If Google is an egg merchant, and we're the mindless content egg-laying chickens, then it's started to try and sell really bad omelettes. Ultimately, it wants to sell only omelettes. Made from recycled eggs.

Great. And in the same week we have Ricky and Press Gazette's report, we also have Google News SEO wizard Barry Adams writing in the title to point out that endlessly shifting search algorithms are punishing the living hell out of anyone with even the vaguest business plan involving income from search traffic. 

Do they actually believe search should replicate the functions of a pitiless universe, where inexplicable things happen to organisms too dumb to comprehend the grand plan? 

Truth is, of course, they don't have a plan and we should stop pretending they do.

Latest articles

Journalism under surveillance takes a new turn as OpenAI asks to see your notebooks
OpenAI's dystopian hello to journalists and publishers
arrow button
a person running away from technology
Quit running from news: fear of fakery is greater than the fake itself
arrow button
Googles golden jail cell and the problem of the internet
Google's golden jail cell is a metaphor for the web, and we're all struggling to break out
arrow button

Ready to get started?

No matter where you are on your CMS journey, we're here to help. Want more info or to see Glide Publishing Platform in action? We got you.

Book a demo