Back to learn seo


How Do Consumers Like AI-Generated Results? [New Data]

 min to read
May 23, 2024
Felicia Crawford
Content Marketing Lead
last updated on
July 3, 2024

SEOs have been thinking about AI-powered search results for the last year and change. Just look at the Google Trends graph after search generative experience (SGE) was announced on May 10, 2023, followed by the US release of AI Overviews in Google search on May 14, 2024:

Google Trends results between 1/1/2023 and 5/21/2024 for the terms “search generative experience,” “AI-powered search,” and “AI overviews”

As search professionals, we hyper-focus on Google news and industry updates. It’s our bread and butter. But what about the people we’re optimizing for? How do everyday consumers see AI-powered search?

SEOs and consumers may see AI-powered search differently

We’re experiencing a search sea change with the rapid adoption of AI tech. It’s exciting: we have new problems to solve, new ways to stand out from competitors, and a diversification of search and answer engines. It can also be daunting with so many open questions about the future of search.

Take a step back to consider the person behind the query, though. What does your consumer want from their search results?

The billions of Google searches daily boil down to one common consumer expectation: accurate results that satisfy their intent. With AI-generated answers shaping the future of SEO, this brings up several questions:

New 2024 survey: Consumers and AI-powered search


To answer these questions and more, we needed to tap into the everyday consumer mindset. We conducted a survey to uncover sentiment around AI-powered search, commissioning an independent market research company, Dynata, to survey a representative sample of 1,000 US respondents aged 18+. The survey was conducted in February 2024 and unless stated otherwise, all statistics to follow were drawn from this survey.

Consumer sentiment measured before the AI search buzz

Conducted ahead of the public launch of AI Overviews in the US, this survey highlights consumers’ sentiment and awareness around AI-powered search before it became newsworthy to non-SEOs. It’s a glimpse into how regular people think about the digital infrastructure that answers the world’s questions.

The results suggest that while digital marketers and brands are worried about how to win consumer hearts and minds in the age of AI, the general public may be holding out on adopting AI into their daily search habits.

Consumers have had some awareness of AI search results

The term “generative search” spiked in popularity around the time that Google announced SGE; consumers have only had about a year or so from the date of this publication to get used to the term.

Google Trends results between 1/1/2023 and 5/21/2024 for the terms “search generative experience,” “AI-powered search,” “AI overviews,” and “generative search”

When asked, “Are you familiar with the concept of generative search?”, 44% of respondents replied that they were, while 56% were not.

While the phrase “generative search” was unfamiliar to the majority of respondents, the 44% who expressed awareness of the phrase could have confused it with the more popular term “generative AI”:

Google Trends results between 1/1/2023 and 5/21/2024 for the terms “generative AI” and “generative search”

We also asked whether respondents had used search engines that incorporate AI-generated results, seeking to understand consumer awareness of AI search beyond Google SGE / AI Overviews.

A majority of 56% of respondents reported using search engines with AI-generated results. Slightly less than half (44%) responded that they either hadn’t used AI-powered search or weren’t aware of it if they had.

Awareness of AI-powered search results is mixed

As of February 2024, around half of consumers were aware of AI-powered search. This isn’t surprising — AI is a buzzword that’s been everywhere recently. It’s still new to search, with Microsoft Copilot (formerly Bing Chat) launched in February 2023. Given that Bing has a 3.42% market share compared with Google’s 91.47%, the association of AI with search engines may not have been strong at the time of this survey.

What does this mean for SEO?

Especially given the recent news around OpenAI and Google’s AI Overviews, consumer awareness of AI-powered search is growing — but almost certainly at a slower pace than within the tech and SEO spaces.

As consumers encounter more AI-generated results and engage with conversational models like chatbots, their search behavior will evolve. It may be gradual, though. Habits don’t change overnight; a slowness to recognize and embrace AI-powered search results may add to the friction.

Take advantage of this adjustment period. You have time to prepare — anticipate what complex, conversational searches could mean for your content strategy.

Consumers have mixed trust in AI-generated search results

Of the 1,000 respondents to our survey, 37% had tried a search engine with AI-driven results and found those results more satisfying, either due to relevancy or overall trustworthiness. This means that 63% of respondents were either unaware of or underwhelmed by generative results — a clue that consumers haven’t been actively seeking out AI technology in search.

We also asked that those who had used AI-powered search give their top reason for doing so. Curiosity about the technology was the most common reason (25%), while better trust in the results was the least (10%). Trust in AI-powered responses across both search and answer engines could be tempered by the fact that they can hallucinate inaccurate answers. We’ve already seen several issues with the rollout of AI Overviews, including showing spammy or even malware-infected sites in the carousel references.

It’s clear that AI-powered search and answer engines need to build trust with consumers. Accuracy and transparency could go a long way to bridging this trust gap, with one idea being improved source citation (read: links to websites).

While brands can’t control how search and answer engines use their content to generate responses, they can help determine which content gets found. By ensuring web crawlers prioritize your most important and up-to-date content, you may have a better chance of appearing in accurate responses. The best place to start is a strong technical foundation for your website.

Graph total will exceed 100% as respondents were able to select multiple factors

When asked which factors would improve their trust in AI-generated results, the response was loud and clear. Human quality control and privacy regulations were the top reasons, followed by increased personalization of results.

Consumers want more reasons to trust AI-generated results

Consumers are reluctant to trust content that a real person hasn’t fact-checked and verified. The fact that a relatively even number of respondents want both more personalization, which means more personal data used in serving that content, and more data privacy regulations indicates that consumers do appreciate the result of using personal data for more tailored results, but that there’s some worry around the tradeoff involved.

What does this mean for SEO?

Consumers are balancing curiosity and caution when it comes to AI-generated search results. Search is how we explore the world beyond our physical bubble, and at this point there seems to be a reluctance to give unimpeded control to LLMs and generative AI.

Anticipate what this might mean down the line. As Google prioritizes the consumer and a people-first experience, what signals might help them know whether a consumer will trust a piece of content?

Consider solutions that bridge technical SEO and content quality, such as reviewedBy schema. You can use the power of entities and structured data to help search engines understand that a piece of content has an expert’s approval, signaling to both consumer and crawler that it’s trustworthy.

Optimize for both AI-generated and traditional results

Seventeen percent of respondents said they wouldn’t trust the content, depending on the industry. It’s good to keep in mind that sensitive verticals — think Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) — may be subject to higher accuracy standards and thus stricter rules around AI-generated results. It’s reasonable to think that traditional results will still be relevant in the near- and medium-term.

There’s also the fact that consumer behavior and preference will be what really dictates the future of AI-powered search. People have to like the search experience; if they don’t, there are more viable search competitors than ever before. As AI Overviews has moved out of Labs and into the wider results, we’re seeing forums like Reddit flooded with frustrated people asking how to opt out. Some consumers have already figured out workarounds to remove AI Overviews from their Google results, despite Google stating that they cannot be turned off.

When it comes down to it, even fundamental changes like AI-powered search need to show favorable results. Google has rolled back new features and releases in the past (think Google Authorship and Google+). AI-generated results must keep searchers happy and satisfied to cement their status as the future of SEO.

E-commerce could see the most benefit from AI-generated results

When asked when they would consider using search engines with AI-powered results, respondents overwhelmingly indicated online shopping (41%), followed by staying updated on the latest news (19%).

They expressed lower confidence across health, finance, booking travel, and finding a new home. Consumers may better trust AI-generated results when they have low-stakes intent, where inaccurate results may not significantly impact their lives.

Combined with the fact that 55% of respondents said AI-powered search could make it easier to discover products and services online, this is good news for the e-commerce sector. Consumers with purchase intent may experience little disruption in their buyer journey, AI-generated results or not.

In e-commerce, results preference may correlate to consumer intent

When it comes to e-commerce, what makes a consumer prefer an AI answer to traditional results?

The difference may come down to two things: UX preferences and intent. We presented a question with a specific query — “Best backpack for a week-long hiking trip” — and shared an image of both traditional and AI-powered SERPs, asking them to choose their preference. It was a fairly even split, with 44% choosing traditional SERPs and more (56%) preferring the SGE (now AI Overviews) result.

Left: Traditional SERP. Right: Result with AI Overview

Some respondents may have seen this as a search with learning intent, wanting a comparative list of options presented by the traditional results. Other respondents may have felt it was further down the funnel and decided product suggestions were more appropriate.

Either way, this is another signal that for e-commerce, AI results in search may not have a disruptive impact.

What does this mean for SEO?

As you examine your content and the topics you cover, are there intent gaps you need to fill? Do you have content to satisfy both the consumer looking to learn and the one ready to buy? Fleshing out the complexities of a consumer’s buyer journey, whether using AI or not, is table stakes for reaching them at all points of the funnel.

Keep your technical house in order. Make it easy for search engine crawlers to discover and quickly understand your site’s most important pages. Optimize for today with an eye toward tomorrow. For instance, implementing structured data that considers what consumers need now and what Google may want to highlight in the future (like human expert review) will help you now and later.

This survey represents a snapshot in time. It examines consumer sentiment around AI-powered search before the biggest player in SEO incorporated AI answers into all results.

Search is a tool for consumers, not a livelihood. They’re focused on their daily needs and wants, not the world of large language models and SEO. As Google and other search engines test new technology in search and examine what works, you can rely on the fact that in the end, the future of the SERPs will be defined by what best serves the consumer.

In SEO, change is constant — and with AI-powered search, it will only happen as swiftly as consumers are willing to adapt.

Want to know how Botify can help you future-proof your SEO strategy? Reach out for a demo — we’d love to talk!

Want to learn more? Connect with our team for a Botify demo!
Get in touch
Related articles
No items to show
Amplify your SEO with AI and automation
Botify is everything your enterprise SEO needs to increase traffic, drive revenue, and generate a better ROI!
book a demo