How to remove content and links from Google’s AI Overviews by using ‘preview controls’ like nosnippet, data-nosnippet, and max-snippet [Case Study]

How to remove content and links from Google’s AI Overviews by using ‘preview controls’ like nosnippet, data-nosnippet, and max-snippet [Case Study]
How to remove content and links from Google's AI OverviewsHow to remove content and links from Google's AI Overviews

Update: May 21, 2024 – My post is BACK in the AI overview, even when using nosnippet. I have provided more information below about that, including a screenshot.

Update: May 22, 2024 – Google’s John Mueller replied to me after checking with the team working on AI overviews. The link card should drop out over time. Learn more below.

Update: May 23, 2024 – As John Mueller explained, it just took a little longer for the link card to be removed. It’s now gone from the AI overview. You can see the screenshot below.

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At Google I/O a few days ago, Google announced that AI Overviews would be rolling out to users in the United States (with more countries coming soon). That’s beyond the Search Generative Experience (SGE) labs experiment that launched in May of 2023. It’s a huge deal since many have been wondering how Google would proceed with injecting AI into the search results. I’ve had access to SGE since the first day it rolled out via labs in May and have been keeping a keen eye on its evolution, how AI answers were provided, how ads would be handled, and gauging the overall impact to clicks from the search results.

Well, now we will have a much better understanding as many more users will be exposed to AI Overviews in the search results. And as I expected, Google will not break out AI Overview data in Search Console, but they will be handled like any other search from a reporting perspective. For example, impressions, clicks, and position data will show up in GSC, but just like any other search. Sorry, there won’t be a GSC filter for AI Overviews.

It’s the same situation for featured snippets by the way. So you will be able to see the data in GSC, but there won’t be a specific filter for AI Overviews. It’s worth noting that Google tested a featured snippets filter in 2016, but never rolled it out. I was super-excited to see that filter since I was in the beta, but unfortunately it never saw the light of day.

A Disappearing Act: Solutions For Publishers That Want Out Of AI Overviews!
Some publishers are very upset that Google used their content to train their models. And some of those publishers do not want AI Overviews that provide their content (even when Google is linking to their content). In the past, Google explained that there was no way to opt-out of having content show up in SGE’s AI Overviews since that’s a search feature. So the only way to “opt-out” would be via normal blocking mechanisms like noindexing content, blocking via robots.txt, etc. But that’s a VERY BIG HAMMER since it removes your content from search completely.

But, they did provide another interesting tidbit after announcing AI Overviews were rolling out… They explained that ‘preview controls’ work as well. And that led to a lot of confusion about how that would actually work (or if it would work at all). Using preview controls is a way to either tell Google to not provide a snippet in the search results, or limit how much content can be used for the snippet. The search snippet is what shows up under a title in a listing in the SERPs. Note, I wrote a post about using data-nosnippet to change a snippet in the search results, and that’s one of the preview controls that site owners can employ.

Google's preview controls can help site owners remove content from AI overviews.Google's preview controls can help site owners remove content from AI overviews.

Below, I’ll quickly provide the options publishers have and then provide a quick case study of using one of the controls to remove my content from an AI Overview. And just to clarify, I’m not necessarily recommending that site owners do this, but many have asked about how to remove content from Google’s AI Overviews. So I wanted to provide a breakdown of the options site owners have while also providing a quick case study about how it works.

Preview Controls That Site Owners Can Use To Limit or Remove Content From AI Overviews:
First, you can use nosnippet to completely remove a snippet from the SERPs. This is also a big hammer since it will impact non-AI overviews as well. For example, your default search listing will contain a title, but no snippet. It’s funny looking, awkward, and will probably decrease click through rate for you, but hey, you won’t be in the AI overviews if you don’t want to be. I’ll show you what this looks like soon.

Using nosnippet can hep site owners remove content from Google's AI Overviews.Using nosnippet can hep site owners remove content from Google's AI Overviews.

Second, you have the max-snippet control which tells Google to limit the snippet to a certain character length. This applies to all types of search results like images, video, Discover, and more.

And third, you have data-nosnippet, which I mentioned earlier. I wrote a post explaining how to use data-nosnippet to remove certain pieces of your content from the search snippet (in the default search listings). For example, you can wrap certain pieces of content with data-nosnippet to make sure Google doesn’t use that in the snippet for your search listing.

The experiment: Testing nosnippet to remove a site’s content from AI Overviews.
It’s great Google explained this can work, but will it actually work when you want to remove your content from an AI Overview? I had to test it out. So I found one of my older blog posts, used a query that yielded the post in an AI Overview, and then took out that big hammer and added nosnippet via the meta robots tag.

First, here’s a screenshot of what was showing up consistently for me when searching for that query.

An example of an AI Overview containing content and links from Glenn Gabe.An example of an AI Overview containing content and links from Glenn Gabe.

Then I simply added nosnippet via the meta robots tag and requested indexing in Google Search Console. It was quickly recrawled and reindexed. But the search results still showed my post in the AI Overview and the standard snippet was showing in the 10 blue links. I expected that since Google’s systems need to recrawl, reprocess the page, and then it could still take a bit to be reflected in the search results. I patiently waited.

And just a few hours later, boom, my content was completely removed from the AI Overview. My content wasn’t reflected in the answer, the card containing a link to my post was removed, etc. You can see the new AI answer below.

An example of removing content and links from Google's AI Overviews.An example of removing content and links from Google's AI Overviews.

But hold on… there is collateral damage when using this approach. My search listing in the default search results (10 blue links) does not have a search snippet. It’s pretty awkward looking and I’m sure that would decrease click through rate from the SERPs. I used nosnippet versus max-snippet in this experiment, so maybe the other preview controls would yield better results overall.

Here is what the default search listing looks like now. Pretty anemic, right?

An example of a standard search listing when nosnippet is used.An example of a standard search listing when nosnippet is used.

Update: My post is back in the AI overview, even when using nosnippet:
Well, that was short-lived. My post is now back in the AI overview even when nosnippet is being used. So the experiment initially worked, but nosnippet is now NOT working. I’ll send this along to Google today to make sure they understand that preview controls are not working as intended. See the screenshot below of my post back in the AI overview.

The link card returns after initially being removed from the AI Overview.The link card returns after initially being removed from the AI Overview.

Update 2: Google’s John Mueller’s reply about the situation:
Google’s John Mueller checked with the team working on AI Overviews and they explained that the link card should also drop out of the AI Overview. It can just take a little longer for that aspect to be reprocessed by Google. John said it should be resolved within a few days. I’ll update this post when that happens just to close the loop. But overall, that’s great news for any site owner that wants to remove their content completely from AI Overviews.

Google's John Mueller replies about removing content from AI Overviews after checking with the team working on the feature.Google's John Mueller replies about removing content from AI Overviews after checking with the team working on the feature.

Update 3: The link card finally gets removed.
Just like John Mueller explained above, it just took a little longer for the link card to be removed. So it seems using nosnippet is a viable solution for site owners trying to remove their content and links from AI Overviews. You can see the link card has been removed in the screenshot below.

The link card finally gets removed from Google's AI Overview. The link card finally gets removed from Google's AI Overview.

An AI Overview disappearing act. Some closing thoughts and questions:
First, it was cool to see how fast this worked. In just a few hours, my content was removed from an AI Overview in the search results. Second, I’m not sure how the other preview controls would work when trying to remove or cut down AI Overviews that use your content. I might test that out and I’ll update this post with more information if I do.

Update based on my post returning to the AI overview: And third, it was surprising to see my post back in the AI snippet about a week after implementing nosnippet. Again, I’ll be sending that information to Google to make sure they know that preview controls are not working as intended.

So that’s it. A quick and easy way to remove your content (and links) from AI Overviews. Again, I’m not sure how many publishers will want to be removed from AI Overviews, but at least there is a mechanism for doing so. Google is claiming that AI overviews yield more clicks than standard search results, but I’m not sure I believe that. Sure, featured snippets can yield a lot of clicks if users can’t get a full answer from the snippet, but AI Overviews contain much more content overall. Time will tell how AI Overviews impact traffic to publishers… But hey, if you’re not comfortable with Google providing your content in its AI Overviews, at least you have some ‘preview controls’ that can help. As you can see above, those can work quickly.

GG


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