Google Ads VP dodges questions on AI Search impact to publishers

Google's Shashi Thakur tells us that users love AI Overviews and click on links. But he has no stats to share at this moment to prove that.

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In the latest case of tell and don’t show, Google’s VP/GM of Advertising (Ads on Search/Google Properties) Shashi Thakur was interviewed by Marketing Brew about whether users will click on links in AI Overviews. His response:

  • “We are seeing that happen.”

But when asked whether he would share any stat or research to back that claim up, he responded:

  • “No stats to share at this moment.”

Why we care. Google is facing heavy criticism about the quality of Search results and from brands and content creators who are afraid they will get less organic search traffic. Meanwhile, Google is so carefully wordsmithing its answers in a PR-friendly way – to focus on how much users “love AI answers” – that it feels forced, inauthentic or even fake.

But this manufactured enthusiasm is wearing thin. Where’s the proof? Why won’t Google share any actual data?

‘Diversity of clicks and higher clicks’. Thakur was asked about publishers’ concerns that their websites will get fewer clicks in Google Search results, which would also impact Google’s ad business. Thakur, like Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, used a lot of words to say pretty much nothing:

  • “We provide links within the AI answer. The AI answer is not just a blob of text. There is text, and there are links embedded within that ad.…The diversity of publishers that users are clicking into is higher with the presence of links inside the AI answer.”
  • “When you put those two together, there is still a healthy amount of user interest, not just in consuming the AI answer or the AI Overview, as an end-all, but to click to understand more. These two things that I’ve said—the increase in diversity of clicks and higher clicks for links embedded inside the AI answers…Those tell you that users are actually showing an interest to dig deeper and click into publishers.”

This non-answer is all over the place. He was asked about display ads on publisher sites, but brought it back to AI Overviews, which are not display ads.

Also, publishers don’t care about diversity of clicks. They want traffic – and most want to monetize that traffic. Greater visibility is what leads to greater amounts of traffic.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Bing’s Fabrice Canel has said we should expect less click volume, but more “qualified clicks” from AI search. Shouldn’t we expect the same from Google? After all, Google’s AI answers are supposed to reduce the amount of time and searches needed to accomplish tasks.

Commercial clicks. Thakur also wasn’t asked about clicks in AI search for commercial queries, but talked about it anyway. Twice:

  • “Users love AI answers. They come back for more…When ads come along and complement the answers with commercial actions, we see users engaging with those ads.”
  • “In commercial queries, things that deserve a commercial action, there’s always a need to click through to somebody—whether it’s an insurer, or a merchant, or a travel site. There’s always a need to click through to complete your action. Given that, there’s always an opportunity for advertising to come in and bid for that.”

Facepalm.

The interview. What Google’s VP and GM of Search Ads has to say about AI-powered results


About the author

Danny Goodwin
Staff
Danny Goodwin has been Managing Editor of Search Engine Land & Search Marketing Expo - SMX since 2022. He joined Search Engine Land in 2022 as Senior Editor. In addition to reporting on the latest search marketing news, he manages Search Engine Land’s SME (Subject Matter Expert) program. He also helps program U.S. SMX events.

Goodwin has been editing and writing about the latest developments and trends in search and digital marketing since 2007. He previously was Executive Editor of Search Engine Journal (from 2017 to 2022), managing editor of Momentology (from 2014-2016) and editor of Search Engine Watch (from 2007 to 2014). He has spoken at many major search conferences and virtual events, and has been sourced for his expertise by a wide range of publications and podcasts.

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