What Google AI Overviews Mean for the B2B Search Space

What Google AI Overviews Mean for the B2B Search Space

At its annual I/O developer conference in May 2024, Google announced the rollout of new AI-powered search results to US searchers.

Formerly known as Search Generative Experience (SGE), this new feature changes how Google’s search results look, and presents new ways for users to interact with them.

For many search queries, the search engine results page (SERP) now contains an expandable box of AI-generated text – which appears above the “traditional” search results we are all familiar with.

Let’s take a look at the keyword “how to accept credit card payments”.

A lot of information is now displayed directly on the Google search results page. It doesn’t actually take up a lot of space, but when you click on “Show more”, the box covers almost the entire page and pushes the traditional search results down even further.

This means that the amount of traffic your B2B website receives from Google is likely to decrease. Some early studies suggest a big impact on informational keywords, and even on brand keywords and product keywords.

But all is not lost – there are things B2B businesses can do to maximize the likelihood of being included and discovered through the AI overview.

In this article, we cover:

  • How the Google AI overview search results look for typical B2B keywords.
  • Types of B2B keywords that are affected.
  • How to increase the likelihood your website is included in AI overviews
  • How you can protect – and even expand – your search visibility as a B2B business.

Let’s get started with brand search.

How do Google AI overviews look for people searching for your brand?

Branded keywords are keywords that contain your brand name – meaning people are specifically looking for you.

With AI overviews, Google often includes other  sources of information – even if a user started their search by specifically looking for information about your business.

Searching for just a business’s brand name (such as “Square”) does not typically generate an AI answer. Google knows that the user’s search intent is simply to find Square’s website.

A keyword that suggests the user is looking for information about a brand (such as “what is Square payments”) is much more likely to trigger an AI overview:

This AI overview provides a summary of what Square does, the services it provides, and its pricing model.

Google includes the sources for the overview as clickable links. In this case, two out of three links point to Square and the third one points to Wikipedia.

The user’s search journey could end here, as the information presented by Google answers their immediate question – none of the websites listed gets a click.

But if a user is interested in learning more about the company, they will likely click through to the Square website – Square gets a click.

However, the AI overview also contains interactive page elements and new paths and journeys users could take.

For example, each of the green arrows at each section of the AI overview is expandable, and reveals the source of information presented.

In this case, Google has pulled Square’s pricing model from Fit Small Business – a third party website.

On the Fit Small Business website, Square’s pricing information looks like this:

Cross-checking this table with Google’s AI overview reveals that the information presented is literally copy pasted from Fit Small Business.

On Square’s own website, the pricing information is presented as follows:

Square’s information has a better and more modern design and contains more useful information.

So why did the Google algorithm pull the information from elsewhere?

The reason could be very simple – a concise table takes up less space in the AI overview. Square could test this idea by formatting their pricing page differently and seeing if the AI search results pick up on it.

Overall though, the new AI overview does present challenges to B2B business branded search.

Users are now being presented with different “next steps” and could take very different search journeys versus traditional search results.

How do Google AI overviews affect comparison or “vs.” queries?

If a buyer has shortlisted a few solutions, they may look for a comparison between the two (or more) solutions before making a final decision.

Typical search queries would be “[Competitor A] vs [Competitor B]” or a longer variant, such as “What is the difference between [Competitor A] and [Competitor B]”.

These are some of the most valuable keywords for a B2B business to rank for – the user is close to making a buying decision.

Publishing a comparison page on your website was – and is – a good way to shed a good light on your brand… but now you need to make sure you show up in the Google AI overviews too.

Many of the comparison keywords we tested now trigger an AI overview:

For “salesforce vs hubspot”, HubSpot is mentioned as one of the sources of the AI overview’s information and Salesforce isn’t – even though both have pages optimized for this keyword and are ranking 2nd and 3rd in the traditional search results.

Because the AI overview chose HubSpot as a source, the narrative of the comparison table favors HubSpot.

So what sets HubSpot’s page – and a third-party website like Zapier – apart from Salesforce’s page? Why does Google include one and not the other?

In this case, it’s clear that the HubSpot page at least attempts to be somewhat neutral and includes an actual direct comparison of features.

Whereas Salesforce’s page is extremely focused on getting users to switch to Salesforce, and it does not contain an actual feature comparison between the two solutions.

Google is clearly looking for more objective information that meets the search intent of comparison keywords.

HubSpot is the clear winner here, as the information presented in the AI overview now actually paints a better picture of HubSpot.

In order to compete, Salesforce should try including a comparison table with a more objective view of the differences.

How do Google AI overviews look for solution-aware B2B keywords?

Solution-aware B2B keywords are category-based keywords users search for when they have done some research and they have a good idea of what they need.

Solution-aware B2B keywords are presented in Google AI overviews in a much different way from traditional search results.

At this stage of the buyer’s journey, a potential buyer might search for “best sales automation tool” or “invoicing software for construction companies”.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

The search result for “best sales automation software” contains several company and product names directly in the AI overview, as well as links to large listicle articles such as “30+ Best Sales Automation Tools”.

This doesn’t actually differ much from the traditional search results – large listicle articles dominate those as well.

What does stand out is the mention of Calendly and Spintax, which each do a very specific thing and are not all-in-one automation solutions. In fact, Spintax is a feature of Saleshandy and not even a stand alone tool – so Google didn’t get this one quite right.

However, what we can learn from this is that Google wants to present a diverse set of options that can help the user zoom in on what they want.

To maximize chances of your business getting mentioned in the AI overview, it makes sense to:

  • Ensure your solution is included in as many third-party listicle articles as possible.
  • Publish a listicle article yourself.
  • Emphasize unique selling points of your solution across the board.

Let’s look at another example, “invoicing software for construction”.

This AI overview lists a few important considerations and then lists several businesses that offer invoicing software for construction businesses.

Interestingly, there are no actual links to the business websites.

So in this case, what matters for an invoicing software provider is to be included in the first place – even without a link. If you’re not, it means more brand exposure for your competitors and less for you.

And to be included, Google needs to know what industries you serve – in this case, “Construction” – for which you should build industry pages.

Learn more about industry pages in our article: Why You Need Industry Pages For Your B2B Website.

How do Google AI overviews influence the start and trajectory of a B2B search journey?

A user who is aware of a problem they want to solve – but is not aware of what solution they are looking for – often starts looking for information by asking “how” questions.

This is the starting point of their B2B search journey.

They might start with a top-level query such as “how to create an invoice” – not knowing that an automated invoicing solution solves their problem.

The AI overview is good at answering these types of queries, as they are informational in nature.

However, it still lists invoicing software companies such as FreshBooks as sources for the information.

This is no coincidence – FreshBooks has a content strategy that targets every invoice-related keyword you can think of.

With such high topical authority, it makes sense for the website to be heavily used by Google’s AI algorithm.

B2B businesses can expect a traffic decrease from informational keywords like this – but that doesn’t mean you should stop producing this type of content. If Google’s AI overview can’t cite your content, it will cite a competitor’s.

The best practice for these types of queries remains the same as it was for traditional search results – use your website to answer the questions your potential customers have.

How to protect and expand your B2B business’s visibility in AI overviews (at this time)

Google’s AI overviews are a work in progress, and the way they look is likely to keep evolving in the future.

One thing is clear – Google is displaying more information directly in the AI overview.

You may observe a decrease in organic search traffic because of this.

But remember – your competitors are facing the same challenges and chances are they are observing a similar decrease.

Therefore, the winners of this Google update are those businesses that get included and mentioned in the AI overview in the first place.

But ultimately, what matters is that your target audience converts to paying customers.

Even if they consume a lot of information about you outside of your website, they will still eventually need to visit your site and find the “Buy” button.

The name of the game will be to get included for as many keywords as possible in the entire buyer’s journey – which in itself may be changing in an AI-assisted online landscape.

Right now, it’s too early for any “proven tactics” that apply across the board, and the AI overviews look different for different types of keywords. But here’s a few things you can start doing today:

  • Analyze the AI overviews for your most valuable keywords and look for patterns. Which types of pages does Google pull its information from? Going a step further, how are those pages formatted?
  • Ensure your business is mentioned as a solution in listicle articles across the internet.
  • Make sure your pages meet the user’s search intent.
  • Double down on your content strategy and include unique insights.

SERP Builders keeps a close eye on the search results for our clients’ most valuable B2B keywords and what might be required to be included in the AI overview. More importantly, we are focused on how you can grow conversions in this new environment.

Learn more about our SEO and content services, or reach out for a tailored strategy that fits your site’s needs.

ABOUT Bart Platteeuw

Bart has provided SEO services to large websites for 8+ years, helping dozens of clients significantly increase their organic traffic over that period. He is a strong believer in the 80/20 rule, prioritizing activities that are likely to move the needle for clients. Bart is passionate about traveling to off-the-beaten-path locations – he likes immersing himself in different cultures.