The Polarity Shift: What does Google’s SGE and AI Overviews Announcement Mean for Business Websites

Madhukar Kumar
Published in
8 min readMay 26, 2024

How to survive the AI driven SEO landscape?

Picture generated by Midjourney

In the grand scheme of the universe, every few thousand years, an event of astronomical proportions occurs. The North and South magnetic poles reverse.

It even has a name — Magnetic Flip.

But the Flip does not happen overnight and often takes thousands of years to change and when it does, the consequences are profound, to say the least.

Such a seismic shift is now underway in the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). And it is happening in days and weeks instead of years.

In March, Google fired a warning shot across the bow of the SEO world: “automated content generated at scale” would be downgraded in search results in its next algorithm update. The update was announced in March and was completed 45 days later.

Though the blog announcing the update did not specifically mention “AI-generated” content, the effect on several sites that were using purely AI-generated content was swift and final. Several sites were manually de-indexed and disappeared overnight.

The update went after spammers using AI to generate mass content so it should not affect legitimate business websites. Right?


The update was merely the first of the many AI related polarity shift we have started to witness.

In a twist of irony that would make even O. Henry chuckle, Google yesterday announced the introduction of AI Overviews. It is the new version of Google search results page. Instead of blue links to the websites as we are used to seeing on the top of the page, billions of users would now be presented with a curated and synthesized block of text automatically generated by none other than, you guessed it, AI.

The AI Overview feature is a culmination of the Search Generative Experience (SGE) project that was also announced a few months ago and was solely available on Google Labs. Starting this week, this feature is now available to several million users across the globe.

Screenshot of new Google AI Overviews feature

Between the crackdown on automated content generated at scale and AI overview, the consequences have already been felt across a significant percentage of websites.

I started to hear anecdotally that most companies saw a dip in their traffic in April and especially May (although there are still a few days left in this month). In my own personal and non-scientific research, when I compared a few small websites on my own on SimilarWeb, I see an average of 20% decline in traffic for some sites that I follow.

SimilarWeb traffic trend for 5 tech startups till May 15

Incidentally, Google did announce in its Developer IO conference that more people click on the links in AI Overviews. However, a research conducted by Insight Partners found some interesting data — 57% of links cited in the SGE (now AI Overview) are from the first page of organic results, but only 12% of the first result appears in the first SGE citation or link. So it is quite likely that even though your website may have been on the first page of the organic results, it may not make its way to the AI citations.

But what does this mean for website owners, especially startup founders who have lean resources and have come to rely on AI tools to generate content? How can they adapt to this new reality and ensure they continue to reach their target audience?

This may not come as a surprise and maybe even be disappointing to some, but my counsel, based on my premise of product-led marketing is rather banal — Ignore the website traffic metric.

I’ve observed firsthand the impacts of similar algorithm changes throughout my marketing career, and have also helped numerous clients navigate these shifts. Every single time, when I double clicked on the reasons why marketers care about web traffic it is because someone decided that web traffic is considered a KPI for the marketing team.

Ok, so I am making this more dramatic than it really is but let us break down SEO to its first principle. Why do you care about your website traffic in the first place? Why is it a KPI for marketing?

If the main goal is to be found by people who are searching for a solution that is related to what your website is offering as a product or service, should you care about the traffic or only the users who are most likely to resonate with your product? And, if you are looking to resonate and connect with these users aka humans, should you be really worrying about the growth in traffic or focus on giving your visitors information and experience that is truly differentiated and useful and measuring the revenue growth instead.

I get it that the website metric is still a leading indicator of your business and pipeline generator for your revenue but now, more than ever, what really matters is quality over quantity.

If you believe in this outlook towards the goals of a company’s website then let’s break down some actionable steps you can take to ensure you are still sleeping well at night while AI models slug it out to gain supremacy over gaining human attention.

Humans writing for humans

If you or your team have been using AI-generated content on your website, it is time to take a hard look at the quality of the content from the last six months. Is your content written for search engine or other humans? If it is the latter then remove anything that is generic, robotic and does not include your company’s unique identity, premise, or brand voice. Personal anecdotes and unique stories that speak to your brand’s narrative are key.

But there is more. It is getting easier to spot AI generated content. Have you noticed words like “tapestry,” “delved,” “intricacies,” “harnessing?” Most likely they are generated by our friend ChatGPT. According to this article, the use of these words has sky rocketed in the last few months.

Needless to say, given the fast-changing world we live in, it is also critical to regularly update your content to keep it fresh and relevant. Personally, for my own content on Medium, I continue to iterate and improve long after it has been published.

When it comes to content, the next thing to consider is that Google may be the largest search engine (for now) but there are other evolving search engines. Consider YouTube (also owned by Google), the second largest search engine as of today. Then there is the use of Perplexity and Microsoft copilot that pretty much does the same thing as Google AI overview. So, the key takeaway here is to also make content across multiple medium. Consider taking your content and producing a YouTube video and a transcribed podcast. When you do this regularly with unique content, your authority on the topic goes up (after all AI is not entirely dumb in recognizing this) and diversified content is more likely to show up as citations in AI generated search results.

Product-centric content

AI may be good at synthesizing information to present the result in a helpful way to the users, but it will never be able to do what your company does best — provide free trial experience for your product aka PLG motion. This is not a new concept but make sure your trial CTA is front and center in your homepage and the process to sign up is as frictionless as possible. It is important to remember that when users are in your trial they have already expressed interest in your offering so put on some white gloves and roll out the red carpet for these humans. They have placed trust in you. Now it is your turn to make the experience a delightful and useful one.

Also remember to personalize the user experience. Use AI to tailor your content to each visitor’s needs and preferences both when they reach your website and when they sign up for the product trial. This can be achieved by using your own AI to synthesize information specific to your site and product. Consider having a conversational co-pilot that can help users navigate your website and product trial in your brand voice. After all, your company data and tools are something that is specific to your product and will eventually be always better than the generic hyperscaler AI LLMs. Take advantage of these to give a better experience to users who are already on your website.

User Generated Content (UGC)

While we are still on the topic of content, consider this - while Google is focusing more on identifying “mass content generated by automation,” it is also increasingly using more human-generated content to train its models.

How do we know this?

They recently entered into a $60M deal with Reddit where Google models will be able to use Reddit data for training. Incidentally, Reddit traffic has gone up in the last few months according to SimilarWeb Data and I am willing to bet this will be even higher in the month of May.

Reddit traffic trend according to Similarweb

So what does it mean to you?

Meet where your users are at. If they are talking about problems, solutions or your product in these user-generated-content-water-holes, make sure you are representing your company and product appropriately. Again, quality over quantity matters here and make sure you are not always pitching your product and in fact trying to help others through your product.


Early in my marketing career, I made the mistake of paying too much attention to building backlinks for a company I used to work for in the past. Not only is it a fool’s errand, but it is also now an even more wasted opportunity to chase backlinks since everyone is generating AI content and no one wants to provide links to other websites for content they can produce on their own. This means that the ones left are paid backlinks often from low quality websites.

My advice — do not do it.

Again, focus on quality content over quantity (do you see a pattern here :) ?). Your human generated content will always be better than AI for one and only one reason — it has YOUR unique perspective, your voice, and your point of view.

In this new world, where the SEO polarities have switched, it is time to return to the basics. The focus should be on the quality of content and the experience you provide for your prospects and buyers. Just as the earth adapts to the reversal of its poles, so too must website owners adapt to the changing SEO landscape.✌️

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Madhukar Kumar

CMO @SingleStore, tech buff, ind developer, hacker, distance runner ex @redislabs ex @zuora ex @oracle. My views are my own