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May 17, 2024

How Google AI Overviews Will Affect Local SEO & Businesses

If you own a local business, it’s quickly becoming imperative for you to understand Google’s new AI Overviews addition to organic search and how to adjust your local SEO strategies to maintain and even enhance your presence for optimal visibility, traffic and revenue.

SEO expert and friend of RTOWN, Jeff Riddall, recently addressed what challenges and opportunities AI Overviews (formerly known as Search Generative Experience or SGE) will present for local business owners. Here is a quick overview of Jeff’s article.

Understanding AI Overviews

  • AI Overviews is an AI-driven evolution of Google’s search engine aiming to provide more interactive and comprehensive search results.
  • It synthesizes information from various sources to present concise, informative answers directly within search results, reducing the need for users to click through to websites.
  • This AI uses technologies like natural language processing, machine learning, and deep learning to understand and respond to user queries better.

AI Overviews vs. Traditional Search

  • Traditional search results display a list of relevant links, requiring users to explore further for answers.
  • Overviews aim to understand the nuances of user queries, interpret the intent behind searches, and provide multi-faceted answers. This approach is especially useful for informational queries.
  • The AI can and may generate its own suggestions or solutions to certain queries, although this introduces the risk of inaccuracies or “hallucinations.”

Impact on Local Search

  • AI Overviews integrate local search results, such as Knowledge Panels and local business carousels, making Google Business Profiles (GBPs) more crucial.
  • High-performing GBPs with accurate information and strong reviews are essential for visibility.
  • The traditional local map packs remain important, but Overviews might include additional businesses to offer comprehensive answers.
  • Featured snippets and understanding user intent become more critical, particularly for long-tail keywords and localized searches.
  • While organic website traffic may decrease, the quality of traffic is expected to improve as users become more informed.

Strategies for Local Businesses to Appear in Search

  1. Optimize Your Listings: Ensure complete and accurate details in GBPs and local directories.
  2. Become a Review Magnet: Positive reviews influence AI’s assessment; encourage and respond to reviews.
  3. Conduct a ‘Question Audit’: Create content addressing common customer questions.
  4. Keyword Research: Focus on problems customers are trying to solve, targeting long-tail keywords.
  5. Use Structured Data: Schema markup helps search engines understand your content better.
  6. Answer Questions Clearly: Break down content into Q&A formats for better inclusion in AI Overviews results.
  7. Prioritize Mobile-First: Optimize websites for mobile devices as local queries are often made on-the-go.
  8. Emphasize Hyperlocal Content: Highlight specific neighborhoods and participate in local events to boost relevance.
  9. Demonstrate E-E-A-T: Show expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness through content and external validation.
  10. Linking for Authority: Use internal and external links to enhance local and topical authority.
  11. Optimize Visual Content: Use descriptive file names and alt-text for images and videos.
  12. Cautious Use of AI: While AI can help generate content, ensure human oversight to maintain accuracy, originality, and consistent brand voice.
  13. Monitor and Adapt: Continuously track SEO performance and adjust strategies as needed.

Future Opportunities

SGE presents both challenges and opportunities for local businesses.

By focusing on providing helpful, relevant content and prioritizing user experience, local businesses can certainly thrive in the evolving local search landscape.

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