Google’s 2024 IO conference has been one of the most eagerly anticipated events in recent years. And now it’s official: we’re now in the Gemini Era.

The conference fulfilled many predictions by launching Search Generative Experience (SGE) to the public. Additionally, it introduced several other AI-powered tools poised to transform how users find information and products online.

Beyond that, the conference also included highlights of significant advancements in Google’s generative technology and introduced several other tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that are poised to transform how users find information and products online.

The event began with the unveiling of new Gemini integrations into apps like Gmail and Meet. It then showed off a preview of Google’s Astra project, which utilizes a camera for AI-driven analysis.

Google’s prioritisation of Gemini integration with its primary applications demonstrates the AI’s power and efficiency and firmly establishes it as a formidable rival to OpenAI’s GPT-4 and its latest variant, GPT-4o.

Google IO 2024 introduced the Gemini Era. Image rights: Google YouTube.

From SGE to AI Overviews

Back in 2023, Google announced SGE at their IO event, and the experience itself entered public testing just three months later. But now that it’s being released immediately in the US (with a global release to follow), Google has changed it to AI Overviews.

Our testing of AI Overviews since the US rollout hasn’t revealed any major surprises or differences compared to our testing of SGE in Labs over the past 12 months. There are also numerous consistencies between Google’s original SGE documentation and the new, updated documentation.

This updated search experience aims to provide comprehensive insights and tailored results, demonstrating Gemini’s capability to enhance search functionality and boost user satisfaction. As Google themselves have stated:

AI Overviews appear in Google Search results when our systems determine that generative responses can be especially helpful.

From our initial early testing, AI Overview answers are generated for only about one in four queries. This is much less frequent than during SGE testing in Labs, which may result in a lesser click loss than expected. Good news for those of us who are invested in SEO.

Link Cards

AI Overviews provides links to resources that support the information in the snapshot and allow users to explore topics and queries further.

This enables users to advance in their search journey and visit the original websites (sources) being used to populate the generative result.

Google’s systems automatically select which links appear, but our testing has shown that various tactics can influence these links over time. We will continue to test how much influence we still have over these attribution links in the public tool.

That said, Google still values creating effective and useful user experiences, and so its documentation directs webmasters to their Google Search Essentials and “regular” guidance to prioritise users rather than attempting to game the system.

Planning in Search

Google is further entering the “planning” market by enhancing user assistance through Search. At the end of March, we covered how Google was promoting the use of SGE (now AI Overviews) for travel planning, and this new feature takes it a step further.

I personally believe this is a retention strategy, as Google is facing EU legislation changes that discourage preferential treatment of their own tools, such as Hotels and Flights.

Users will be able to plan itineraries, days out, meal plans, and activities directly from search results. This feature will initially focus on dining and recipes, with plans to expand to movies, music, books, hotels, and shopping before expanding into other categories.

This development will significantly impact local businesses and those that depend on content related to meals, diets, or activity/itinerary planning. Optimising Google Business Profile (GBP) and focusing on brand reviews and sentiment will be critical for all business models, particularly those with physical touchpoints.

In my opinion, this could have consequences for businesses in the travel and hospitality sectors and those that rely on foot traffic and in-person interactions.

Circle to Search

Launched in January 2024, Circle to Search allows users to search for information on their phone screens by circling, highlighting, or otherwise scribbling over the content they want to look up.

As of the conference, it can now process and add value to more complex requests, such as math and physics problems.

These new tools leverage the latest LearnLM AI models that were specifically designed for educational use. While the recent update supports text-based problems, solutions for diagrams, graphs, and symbolic formulas will be introduced later in 2024.

Google has heavily promoted Circle to Search, featuring it prominently in several smartphone OS updates and even the new phone models themselves. Google’s also collaborated with celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, Sha’Carri Richardson, Brent Faiyaz, and Bronny James, who have touted their positive experiences with the feature.

Ask with Video

This one is my favorite things to come from Google IO 2024.

Instead of typing a search query, imagine simply pointing your phone’s camera at an object, asking how to handle a task, and getting exactly the answer you need in minutes. Now, Gemini is making that possible.

In the demo led by Google’s Rose Yao, a record player’s tone arm was broken. After Yao pointed the camera at the record player and mentioned the issue, Gemini identified the product name, model number, and the specific part that was malfunctioning. It also provided examples of how to fix it.

Image credit: Google

This has the potential to impact many businesses that sell physical products or aftermarket parts and rely on post-purchase troubleshooting traffic.

How will this affect Search?

We’re already used to Featured Snippets and other large SERP features that push organic results down. With all the click erosion that’s already occurred, these new features likely won’t impact traffic as much as you might think.

Often, the AI answer is the only thing above the organic results, similar to a featured snippet or image.

So if Google’s claim that AI is leading to more overall searches is true, businesses may not have as much to worry about as they originally thought.

If you found this article useful, you should also read our thoughts on the March 2024 Core Update. Alternatively, if you want to develop your proactive and defensive AI strategies, please get in touch.