Is Local SEO Dead? How to Adapt to Changes in Search

Written by: Jabari Thompson

A rising entrepreneur who started from freelance web design. Jabari works with NJ small businesses and nonprofits to increase their search presence.
Updated on: July 02, 2024

Local SEO is alive and well, but it is evolving. With the development of generative AI (ChatGPT, Gemini, Apple Intelligence, etc), SEOs and small business owners are becoming paranoid that local SEO and SEO are dead. However, with Gen AI tools developing in local SEO, it has never been easier to create content, analyze competitors, and perform keyword research. By using AI to mass-produce content that matches users’ search intent, you can boost your website’s authority within your niche faster. In this post, we will look at the question “Is Local SEO Dead?” from the perspectives of those who say yes and no. I will also provide some future-proof strategies that support both answers. That way, you know how to adapt, no matter what your opinion is. Let’s get into it.

 

The Rise of Generative AI

 

In the past two years, we have seen major developments in AI from some of the top tech companies. Mainly, there has been competition between Google and Open AI to create the best natural language processing (NLP) bot to answer almost any question. In 2022, Open AI came out with Chat GPT, Google followed up with Bard. OpenAI responded again, releasing ChatGPT 4, and once again, Google followed up with Gemini. Now Apple has jumped on the trend in June 2024, announcing the release of Apple Intelligence. While each platform can perform the same tasks given a prompt, there are subtle differences between each chatbot. Let’s briefly break each one down. What is ChatGPT (3 and 4)?

 

Two chatbots competing against each other with AI

Open AI vs ChatGPT

 

ChatGPT 3

 

OpenAI’s ChatGPT 3 is a game-changer in the world of language models. This powerful AI can understand and respond to natural language with fluency, making it a versatile tool for various tasks. Need a creative spark? ChatGPT 3 can generate different creative text formats, from poems to code, based on your prompts. Stuck on a coding problem? It can analyze and complete your code, suggesting improvements and even generating additional snippets. Drowning in information overload? ChatGPT 3 can come to the rescue by summarizing lengthy texts and extracting the key points. It even boasts basic translation capabilities. While still under development and requiring an occasional human fact-check, ChatGPT 3’s ability to process, generate, and analyze language empowers users in creative writing, coding, research, and communication across language barriers.

 

ChatGPT 4

 

Unveiled in March 2023, OpenAI’s ChatGPT 4 builds upon the impressive foundation of its predecessor. This next-generation language model boasts significant advancements, particularly in its ability to handle multimedia content. ChatGPT 4 not only excels at natural language processing and creative text generation like poems, code, and scripts, but it can now analyze and create images as well. Imagine asking the AI to describe a mythical creature and then having it generate a corresponding image! This functionality extends to understanding and responding to image-based searches. Need help identifying an object in a photo or brainstorming recipe ideas based on your fridge’s contents? ChatGPT 4 can analyze images and offer informative captions or creative culinary suggestions. Furthermore, it boasts improved accuracy and can handle a large amount of text data, making information retrieval and summarization even more efficient. While still under development, ChatGPT 4’s ability to seamlessly navigate between text and visual information opens doors for even more groundbreaking applications.

 

What is Apple Intelligence?

 

Apple Intelligence is a privacy-focused AI system coming to iPhones, iPads, and Macs this fall. It uses on-device processing to keep your information secure while enhancing your daily tasks. This built-in assistant provides writing tools to summarize text, improve grammar, and even rewrite sentences for you. It streamlines information overload by offering summaries of lengthy emails and transcripts. Apple Intelligence personalizes your experience by prioritizing important notifications and allowing you to create fun customizations, like creating your own emojis. Siri also benefits from this AI upgrade, with improved comprehension of your requests and the ability to take actions across different apps, making your overall user experience smoother. 

 

So is Local SEO dead or Not?? 

 

Opinion: Local SEO is Dead

 

With the creation of AI chatbots that can create written, image, and soon video content, agencies and business owners have been able to create lots of content within minutes. But those who say local SEO is dead are concerned about two main issues…

 

Content Similarity

 

Since more people are using AI to create content, there are many articles that sound the same. This has made it harder to rank for certain keywords, as there is a lot more competition.

 

Google Generative Search

 

In May of this year, Google officially released Search Generative Experience (SGE). SGE generates responses to Google queries using AI. That means if you ask a question on Google, the first result that comes up will be an AI response. If most people are able to find their answers in the AI response, blog content slowly becomes less relevant.

 

 

SGE result for "what is local SEO" on Google

Google SGE response to “What is Local SEO” (generated AI)

 

 

Opinion: Local SEO is not Dead

 

The New Featured Snippet

 

Though SGE presents a big challenge for small businesses and SEOs, the AI responses have to pull information from somewhere. Under each AI-generated response are a few articles where the response got its information. This can be looked at as the ”new featured snippet.” AI will always be powered by data, and the more your post addresses the search intent of a user, the more likely your article will appear in a generative AI response.

 

A snippet of the posts where generated AI response was derived from

The New Featured Snippet

In Person Services and Community Events

 

Unless the earth’s population is zero, there will always be a need for people to connect. In person services such as therapy, grocery stores, restaurants, etc, will always have a need to reach people in need. While some niches are more at risk of being dominated by AI, communities need local businesses to thrive. Organizations and businesses at a local level bring people together and solve problems, and that is something that won’t change.

 

Accuracy

 

Google SGE still must undergo a lot of growth. It relies on information from existing websites, and sometimes that data is not always accurate. For example, a common source of Google SGE responses is Reddit. In May of this year, part of Google’s response to the query “cheese not sticking on pizza” was adding glue to the pizza “for extra tackiness.” This advice came from someone trolling on Reddit. Clearly, you should not do this, but this search, among others, is yet another reason why you shouldn’t always rely on SGE as a reliable source.

 

 

Incorrect generated response for the query "cheese not sticking on pizza"

A tweet showing Google Gen AI error

 

 

Constant Change

 

The local SEO industry is a constantly changing field. For AI to replace SEO, it would need to be consistently updated to follow new SEO trends. For AI to be updated, it needs to be trained on new data and new user preferences. This is a process that takes human input, and depending on the organization, it may be faster for an SEO to adapt to change than AI.

 

So What Do We Do to Adapt

 

Opinion: Local SEO is Dead

 

For those who think traditional local SEO is a waste of time, all hope is not lost. Though optimizing your website to rank through creating blog content with relevant local keywords may become obsolete, many are pivoting to the second largest search engine. Which is Youtube. SEO can be done on YouTube, and it takes a lot less time to do. While it may take time to edit videos and come up with content ideas, many small businesses are not comfortable enough to make the switch. Making it a lot easier for you to rank. While YouTube may not bring as much direct traffic to your website, it does bring more attention to your brand. Branding is becoming more and more important to stand out as a business with all the similar AI content.

 

5 Quick Tips for Youtube SEO

 

If you’re brave enough to switch to Youtube, here are a few tips to get started with Youtube SEO…

  • Rename your video file using a target keyword.
  • Include your keyword in the video title (naturally).
  • Create a playlist about your video’s general topic (good for creating topical authority).
  • Mention your keyword throughout the video so it appears in the transcript.
  • Add a call to action to drive traffic to your website.

 

Opinion: Local SEO is Not Dead

 

Local SEO in 2024

 

While the basics of local SEO have changed, the core principles remain the same. Google My Business which is now Google Business Profile, is still a main priority for small businesses. Voice optimization is also a must, as many are searching through mobile and smart devices in their homes. Chatbots are also becoming popular with websites to improve user experience and lower the number of people clicking off your site. Keywords have been and always will be the main building blocks of individual web pages, especially blog pages. However, it is now more important than ever to make sure your keywords match user intent. Now that we have listed some of the main local SEO factors, let’s cover each in more depth.

 

Google Business Profile Essentials

 

Every small business should be taking advantage of Google’s free listing tool, Google Business Profile. It is one of the easiest tasks of local SEO, yet many take it for granted. Many businesses do not fill out their profiles to their absolute fullest, which can hurt their chances of appearing in local map packs. There may be parts of the profile that do not apply to your business, but try to fill it out with all the information you have. Here are some key parts of the profile that will help improve your local SEO.

 

Reviews

 

The more positive reviews you have on Google, the more online visibility your website will have. Reviews represent social proof. They give insight into what customers or clients can expect when working with you. Google allows you to copy a link that gives your customers direct access to write a review. For every good experience you have with a client or customer, there should be a review on Google for it.

 

Google's "ask for reviews" link

“Ask for reviews” by Google

 

Category

 

Your primary category for your GBP should be the main service your business offers. Then add your second  or third highest valued services or products that you offer. This is how Google determines what searches your business will be associated with. Think of what service you would like your business to appear for in a “[service] near me search”

 

Business Hours

 

Have you ever been up late looking for restaurants to order from on Google? Notice how the top results are food spots that are open. This is quite simple and obvious, but open hours are also a ranking factor on Google. The longer your business stays open on Google, or if you are open during a holiday, the better chance you will rank in moments when other places are closed. While this is a more difficult factor to accommodate, it could be worth thinking about adding an extra hour to your availability. Especially if you are a service business.

 

Local SEO Keyword Essentials

 

Match Search Intent

 

In order to compete with AI, you need to address the point of a user’s search as fast as possible. If you’re making a blog post about why oranges are good for your health, in the first sentence of the post, you should answer this question. Avoid adding unnecessary content that takes away from the main purpose of why you made the post. This is the age of quick and easy information; the faster people get what they need, the better.

 

Search intent example for the search "What is SEO"

The intent of a user’s search for “What is SEO”

Example of user search intent for the search "what is seo"

Search intent extracted from three posts

Include Your City Name/Primary Category on Landing Page

 

Your landing page is usually the first page that users see when they click on your website. Therefore, you want to make sure you include your specific city location in one of the H1 or H2 heading tags. You should also include your primary business category as the main keyword for this page.

 

Dedicate Pages to Specific Keywords

 

Avoid trying to target multiple keywords on one page. Each page should have its own specific keyword that targets a specific query. Also, avoid using the same keyword on multiple pages. This creates confusion about which page should rank for the keyword you are trying to target.

 

Topical Authority

 

Having topical authority means your site has a lot of relevant content on one topic. Topical authority is usually made up of a main topic, related subtopic posts (sometimes subtopic posts under the first set of subtopics), and even another set of posts after that. Let’s use WordPress as an example. To create topical authority, you can have a main blog page as your main topic. Then you have your category pages, which are subtopics under the blog page. On each of these category pages, you have pages that can be categorized within that subtopic. This can be confusing when explained in writing, so I have included a visual for you to better understand. 

 

Visual outline of a topical map

Outline of a topical authority map

 

Voice Search Optimization

 

All smartphone devices support some sort of voice assistant. Smart devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant also allow you to search Google. This makes voice-search SEO very beneficial for your business. You can optimize for voice search by having pages with keywords that are typically used when someone is searching via voice assistant. For example, “[your service] in New Jersey.” Having a complete GBP profile is very useful for voice search, since map packs are often the result for “near me” or “[service] in [location]” searches. To learn more about optimizing for voice search, visit this post.

 

AI Chatbots for User Experience

 

With the development of AI, chatbots have become a staple for many larger businesses for customer service. As a small business, you can take advantage of this as well. With OpenAI and Google’s Gemini coming out with their own chatbots, platforms have been created to create your own AI chatbots that are trained on data from your business. You can even use pages from your website as data for your chatbot. Tools such as Google Cloud’s Vertex AI agent builder have made it very easy to create chatbots within a few hours based on your business data. AI chatbots can help improve your SEO and increase the amount of time users stay on your page. With a chatbot, a user can get information from your website in seconds instead of browsing through your website’s pages. If you’re looking for a chatbot personalized to understand the functions of your business, check out Data Driven Success LLC. Data Driven Success makes chatbots that are meant to generate leads and answer operate as customer services for your business when you’re not around. 

 

Local SEO AI Tools for Small Businesses

 

With AI tools becoming more popular, data is very important to making decisions for your local SEO strategy. Many small businesses are making the transition to using local SEO tools powered by data insights to improve their rankings. There are several local SEO tools that can help you leverage your site’s data to create citations, improve your GBP profile, and make sure your listings are consistent. Let’s go over some of the local SEO tools available.

BrightLocal

This platform helps you manage citations (business listings across directories) for improved online visibility. It also tracks your local rankings across search engines to monitor progress. Bright Local let’s you manage Google reviews in one central dashboard as well.

Moz Local

You can use this to manage listings across directories to ensure consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) data across the web. It allows you to track rankings to see how your local SEO efforts are performing. Additionally, it generates reports to analyze your local SEO progress and identify areas for improvement.

Semrush Listing Management

Part of the Semrush SEO toolkit, this tool focuses on directory listings. Another tool to manage your presence across directories to ensure consistent NAP information. This consistency strengthens local search ranking signals.

Local Falcon 

This tool also has citation management, local ranking tracking, and online review monitoring. It allows you to analyze your competitors strategies to see what’s working for them.  There are other popular tools for local SEO that also can be used for traditional SEO. Choose what platform best suites your business needs and what you feel comfortable with.

 

Conclusion: Local SEO is Quite Alive 

 

In summary, Local SEO is not dead. It’s simply adapting to the ever-changing digital landscape. While AI chatbots can generate content and SGE can pull from content, AI cannot always understand user intent. By using AI to our advantage and not viewing it as the enemy, small businesses can stay ahead of those who refuse to adapt. Local SEO may look drastically different within the next few years, but it is here to stay. 

Ready to take your local SEO efforts to the next level? Stay tuned for future posts where we’ll explore the latest local SEO trends and advanced techniques to help your small business thrive in local search results.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *