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10 Local Online Marketing Tips to Grow Your Business

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10 Local Online Marketing Tips to Grow Your Business

Local online marketing is a set of marketing tactics that use the internet to target potential and existing customers within a business’s physical location.

Online marketing is a crucial aspect of promoting a local business because:

  • People look for nearby products and services online.
  • They use search engines and social media platforms to learn more about local companies.
  • They look up specific information like opening hours or driving directions. 
Search volume of "lawyer near me"
To illustrate, one of the search queries used to find a nearby lawyer gets 18K monthly searches in the U.S.

In this article, we’ll look at 10 ideas that can help you grow your local business through SEO, social media, advertising, and more.

1. Optimize your Google Business Profile 

If you haven’t created or claimed your Google Business Profile (GBP) yet, make sure you do. Because here’s what people usually see when they look for something in their vicinity—a list of GBPs “recommended” by Google for a given search query.

Google Business Profile at the top of the SERP

In all, 84% of GBP visits come from discovery searches (source). This means that a striking majority of your potential customers won’t be looking for you. Rather, they’ll be looking for businesses that offer things or services they need. 

So what you want here is not just a GBP…

Unoptimized Google Business Profile
It’s not hard to imagine how much this doctor is missing out on when people find this business profile.

… but an optimized GBP. One that shows accurate and helpful information and clear, useful photos. It’s a straightforward process that you can complete in 30 minutes, and it has two goals: 

  • Ranking higher to be more visible through optimizations that can impact rankings in Google Search and Google Maps 
  • Looking more attractive to people searching for businesses like yours

All optimizations can make a business look more attractive to customers, but these few are known to impact its ranking on Google. 

Name of the business

Having a business name consisting of the thing or location people are searching for can impact rankings. I don’t think I have encountered a study of local SEO ranking factors that doesn’t mention this as one of the most important factors. 

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you have to change your business name to something like Dentist Near Me. 

This “hack” doesn’t work anymore, at least not in Google Maps. 

Nor does it mean that having an SEO-driven name beats every other ranking factor. 

Name of the business is not the top local ranking factor
The business name consisting of the search query doesn’t rank #1. Other ranking factors are at play here too.

But this means at least two things:

  • You can report a competitor trying to keyword-stuff their business name on GBP, i.e., use a different name than the registered one. If you feel like doing so. 
  • If for some reason, you want to have an SEO-driven name, you probably can expect some uplift from that. I suppose this is something to consider when starting a new business. But if you want to change to an SEO-driven name, you’ll actually have to change the name everywhere, meaning a full rebranding. An SEO-driven name may actually make sense if it’s something that accurately describes your business and helps you stand out. For instance, a car dealership called “BMW of Beverly Hills” since there is more than one BMW dealership in Los Angeles. Or to have both “plumbing” and “heating” in your business name if you’re a plumber specializing in both. 

Business categories

You can help Google understand your business better by selecting up to 10 business categories. And that will most certainly impact your rankings. 

Google has thousands of categories to choose from. It seems that the reason behind it is that it wants its results to be as specific as possible. This is something to keep in mind when picking your categories. 

Moreover, Google keeps adding new categories every month, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on that and update your GBP accordingly. For example, if you’re a local optician offering glasses repair, you may add that category as of August 2022. 

Attributes

You can think of attributes as labels or tags that convey additional information about the business, which may help searchers find what they need. For example, curbside pickup or Wi-Fi inside.

Some GBP attributes are objective (aka factual), meaning they can be controlled by the GBP manager. For example, “black owned [business].”

GBP attributes example

Other attributes are subjective. They are sort of earned when a certain feature of your business is often suggested by the customers. For example, “cozy” or “good for kids.” You can only impact them indirectly by making them part of the experience. 

Just as categories, attributes are regularly updated by Google. If you want to learn more about their impact on rankings, check out this case study

Reviews

They greatly impact rankings and visibility. While the ones you get on your GBP will likely have the most impact on Google’s services, reviews on third-party websites and even reviews published on your website also count for Google. 

Since reviews are quite a nuanced topic, I’ll discuss them in a separate point below. 

2. Earn and manage customer reviews

Everybody relies on online reviews. 

Customers rely on them because they make choices more effortless and less risky. And even if not everybody trusts online reviews, plummeting rankings and negative comments never look good.

Online platforms also rely on reviews. Reviews tend to be a fundamental part of ranking and recommendation algorithms so that platforms can suggest the best choices to their users. And it’s true for SEO too. The number and the sentiment of a business’s reviews can impact local rankings in Google (although they are probably most important for Google Map Pack and Google Maps). 

But let’s address the elephant in the room: Can you pay or otherwise incentivize customers to write any kind of reviews? 

Generally, it’s a bad idea, and you can get prosecuted for it. Here’s why:

  • Most countries protect consumers from fake or misleading online reviews. And an incentivized online review can be seen as such. For example, according to the Federal Trade Commission, incentivized reviews must be clearly labeled as such. What’s more, they have to come from real customers and can’t be influenced by the incentive (good luck proving that in court), among other things. So while a review like that may “fly,” you need to ask yourself if it is worth it. 
  • Most third-party websites clearly prohibit incentivizing reviews in any form. Examples: Google Business Reviews, Amazon, Tripadvisor, etc. Some, although probably not many, prohibit even just asking for reviews, like Yelp. While these platforms may not necessarily pursue legal action, banning an account is just a few clicks away for them. 
  • Having said all that, since incentivized reviews are legally allowed in some circumstances, you will find platforms like Capterra, where you can offer something in return for reviews. Then the question is one of ethics and dealing with possible negative outcomes of such reviews (here are three great examples of those). 

So here’s what to do instead:

  • Provide a great and memorable experience – Some customers will leave positive reviews even without you asking. And in any case, you will have the best possible reason to ask for a review (which is perfectly fine outside of the likes of Yelp). 
  • Ask for a review when you have the opportunity – The best opportunity is when the customer expresses their satisfaction, whether they say it personally or online. But you can also “create” that opportunity in a conversation by casually asking something that will lead to a customer sharing their experience. For example, “Have you ever tried a similar product?”
  • Use tools to gather and manage your reviews – Check if the platform where you list your business allows for sending review requests. To make your life easier, you can use a tool for both requesting and managing reviews, such as Podium or Birdeye
  • Respond to all your comments – The science behind that is a) according to this study, replying to comments can help you get better ratings and fewer short, unconstructive, and negative types of feedback and b) most customers overlook negative comments with adequate responses (source). By the way, it’s all right to have some negative reviews
  • Collect the review by using the channel the customer is comfortable with – Example: It will look awkward if you’ve been talking via Whatsapp so far, but you suddenly send an email with a review request. 
  • Show off your positive testimonials – After all, they exist to be seen by other customers. 
Google encourages to ask for reviews

Sidenote.

You may come across advice like “include keywords when replying to customers” (fortunately, most of them probably don’t work) or “suggest to customers to include certain keywords in their comments” (I haven’t seen any evidence, but some SEOs say this works). Even if you find hard evidence for “optimizations” in this area, be careful because you may easily harm your business’s reputation.

3. Expand service pages with solutions people look for 

Setting up pages describing what you offer and where you offer it is pretty much standard practice. But you can give these pages an additional SEO boost if you use the kind of language searchers use. 

To illustrate, let’s say you offer an electronics repair shop specializing in phones, consoles, and computers in the U.K. By doing keyword research in a tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, we can discover how people search for these kinds of services. 

The first step is to type in the names of basic services, select the U.K. as the country, and then go to the Matching terms report. 

Starting keyword research with seed keywords

On the results pages, we can see that people use the brand of the hardware they need fixing or the type of damage. 

Example keywords from keyword research

An interesting example here is water damage. If your shop offers this service, it will be a good idea to mention it on your website (you can also consider expanding your services with this kind of repair).

Potential keyword to use

From this point, you can go even further into competitive research. By clicking on the SERP button, you can reveal other keywords this page ranks for. Just click on the caret next to the URL and then “Organic keywords.” 

Clicking on the caret in the SERP overview leads to other reports

You will be directed to a report showing keywords and their SEO metrics.

Organic keywords report with "exact URL" mode

You can then change the mode to “Subdomains” to see keywords the entire domain ranks for. 

Organic keywords report with "subdomains" mode

And this can lead to other interesting finds: 

Keyword ideas from competitive research

Recommendation

If you want to make sure you’re looking at a keyword where people are explicitly looking for local services (according to Google, of course), look for the “Local pack” feature. These keywords trigger the Google Map Pack with local businesses.

Local pack feature in SERP overview

Additionally, you may want to see if a specific service is also a GBP attribute. 

GBPs with fire damage cleanup attributes

4. Blog with SEO in mind

Just like everybody else, your potential customers look for solutions to their problems online. 

Using keyword research, you can learn what those problems are and then address them with helpful blog posts. Result: free traffic from search engines. 

Overview report showing organic traffic to a blog post
This guide on hiding electric wires out of sight gets 25K visits every month from search.

Here are two methods for finding relevant topics with search traffic potential. 

First method – Explore related terms 

  1. Create a list of things related to your service, i.e., seed keywords; for example, an electrician may come up with these terms: wall chasing, wires, wall sockets, wiring, appliance, lighting, breaker box, etc
  2. Plug them all at once in Keywords Explorer 
  3. Go to the Matching terms report and toggle “Questions”
  4. Look at the results to find the most relevant questions that you can provide answers to via blog posts
Keyword examples from the Matching terms report

Second method – Analyze competitors (and other content in your niche)

For this method, you need the URL of a website with content related to your business (likely your competitor) and an SEO tool like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer

There’s a report in Site Explorer called Organic keywords, where you can explore keywords of any website. Along with the keywords, you will see SEO data—such as volume or Keyword Difficulty (KD)—that will help you choose the right keywords

Example keywords about electric services via competitive keyword research
Zinsco and Federal Electric panels were commonly installed in the U.S. in the past. Some homeowners still have them today. This electric company from the U.S. uses that fact to create helpful content for thousands of related searches with low Keyword Difficulty (KD).
More keywords from competitive research
And here’s another set of helpful content from D.O.C.

If you know what kind of keywords you’re looking for, you can use the provided filters. 

Organic keywords report with applied filters
A search for low-difficulty keywords with at least 100 monthly searches that contain “upgrade” or “install” shows us 40 keywords on this site.

You can also analyze competitors in bulk, even simultaneously comparing them to your existing content. For this, use Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool in Site Explorer

Content Gap tool

These are broad, non-local keywords, so not every visitor will come from your area. But some potentially will (or will tell others about you). Plus, you can earn links to your content and boost your SEO. 

Recommended reading: How to Write a Blog Post (That People Actually Want to Read) in 9 Steps 

Recommendation

You may be wondering why give out knowledge for free. Consider this: 

  • People will likely remember you for the content and keep you top of mind next time they need help from a professional. 
  • DIY guides about complicated or even risky jobs often have an “opposite” effect. Anyone who has ever done kitchen or bathroom remodeling by themselves knows this. You think you can do it yourself, so you Google some tutorials. You read the guide, realize you will break more stuff than fix it and, finally, decide to call a professional. 

 

5. Build citations (and keep them consistent) 

Citations are online mentions of your business. And let me be blunt here: You need those if you want customers to find you online. And this is because people search for businesses like yours either through search engines like Google or through niche directories and aggregators like Tripadvisor or FindLaw. 

Case in point. This is a search result from Google for “electrician near me.” Right below the GBPs, which we have already discussed, we see directories. 

Top results on the SERP dominated by Google Map Pack and directories
The “landscape” may slightly differ based on locations and niches. But generally, that’s the kind of results your potential customers will see.

On top of this, local citations can help you rank higher in the Google Map Pack (source 1, source 2).

I’m sure you already know some directories in your niche suitable for your business. You can add some more by:

  • Adding your business to big data aggregators – For example, Data Axle in the U.S. The services distribute information to other websites, so being listed here can generate listings in multiple directories.
  • Using a citation list Like this one from Whitespark or this from BrightLocal
  • Looking at your competitors’ citations – This is something you can effortlessly do with Ahrefs’ Link Intersect tool
Link Intersect tool
First step: insert competing domains and your domain (in the last field).
Results from Link Intersect tool
Second step—you will see websites that link to everybody else but not to you. Browse through the list and look for local listings.

Two important things to remember. You should:

  • Adhere to the guidelines when submitting your listing to directories. Otherwise, you can get banned for something that may seem OK to you.
  • Keep your citations consistent and accurate.

Because of the reasons above, you may want to consider a tool that will help you manage your listing, e.g., Yext, Uberall, etc. Such tools offer additional, useful features like managing reviews, so you can consider the tools as longtime investments. 

Recommended reading: How to Build Local Citations (Complete Guide) 

6. Try localized online ads 

According to Facebook, this should be the first thing you do when setting up your ads:

Facebook's advice about ads

Thing is, nobody really wants to see ads. People want what they came for, and ads are a distraction. 

At the same time, online ads are still an effective form of promotion. But making them work is hard because effectiveness relies on so many factors—geographical relevancy being one of them. (Naturally, local businesses can leverage that.) 

Apart from the opportunity to attract local customers, ads have the advantage of being:

  • Fast – You can set them up in minutes and have them reach your audience on the same day, oftentimes in a matter of hours. 
  • Easy to set up – You don’t need to hire an agency for that. 
  • Easy to measure – Website visits, ad impressions, ad clicks, and costs are easy to monitor here. Local businesses can use special ad goals like phone calls and driving directions. 
  • Performance-based – For example, with Google Local Services Ads, you pay only if a customer actually contacts you after seeing an ad. 
  • Easy to scale – If you want to reach more people, you can simply invest more to reach more locations, target more keywords, or outbid competitors. 

Oversimplifying things, there are two types of ad products. You can target:

  • Prospect’s action – These will be your search engine ads like Google or Bing search ads or services with search engines like Tripadvisor. The searcher enters a search query, and the platform shows them an ad related to that search query. Thanks to these ads, you can reach your audience exactly when they are in the market for a specific product or service. Sometimes (e.g., using Google Ads), you can add another layer of localization—when the user is located in, is regularly in, or showed interest in a particular location. 
  • Prospect’s profile – These will be your social media ads and ads you can buy in locally focused online magazines. They will have data points that you can use for ad targeting or just the right kind of audience. 
The top spots for this search query are reserved for advertisers
The top spots for this search query are reserved for advertisers. Here, you can see two types of ads: Google Local Services ads and typical Google Ads.

IMPORTANT

There are certain limitations to geotargeting. At least on Facebook and Google. That is one reason why it’s called geotargeting and not geofencing.

Geofencing usually refers to drawing a location fence in a small area. Well, the smallest area you can target on Meta’s and Google’s products is 1 mile. 

So let’s say you run a casino in Paradise and want to show what real fun looks like to the folks who have visited the venue across the street. Unfortunately for you, that casino will be in the same circle as other casinos, a couple of local churches, and Costco. 

Geotargeting limited to a 1-mile radius on Facebook

The web has plenty of ad options to choose from, and each deserves a dedicated guide. But according to my experience, these rules seem to be universal:

  • Iterate on your ads – Aim for a lot of small changes that you can easily introduce and measure. 
  • Refresh your ads regularly – Ad fatigue affects even the best ads. 
  • If none of your ads work, consider looking into your offer – You may find that, for example, it’s too expensive or lacks a critical feature. 
  • Start small with geotargeting – Say targeting by ZIP codes and not the entire city you can potentially serve. This way, you’ll know where your best customers are, and you’ll be able to prioritize your spending.
  • Learn from your competitors – See what ads they bid on, what language they use to advertise, and where they send visitors to. 

Recommendation

Some SEO tools can help you with ads too. Look for tools that can show you paid keywords of your competitors, their search ads, and the CPC costs while you do keyword research. 

Ahrefs Ads report
A screenshot from Ahrefs Ads report. The report shows Google Ads that the website is running, where the ads lead to, and the bid keyword.

Recommended reading: PPC Marketing: Beginner’s Guide to Pay-Per-Click Ads 

7. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and fast 

You could go all day listing reasons why your website should be optimized for mobile phone users. Basically, at least half of the people will look up your business on their mobile phones. 

If you already have a website, you can check its mobile-friendliness in minutes with a free service like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. It allows you to test one page per test, so you may need to run it a few times to test the most important pages on your website (such as homepage, services, locations, contact, etc.).

Google's Mobile-Friendly Test

For checking website speed (both mobile and desktop), there is a whole other set of free services, such as the popular PageSpeed Insights one from Google. What’s particularly useful in this test is the use of Core Web Vitals, which are part of Google’s Page Experience signals (a ranking factor). 

Google's PageSpeed Insights

Both tests will show you what needs to be fixed in terms of speed and design. If there’s too much to be fixed, it may be better to invest a few bucks into a new website than to spend time fixing holes in the old one. A cost-effective solution here is using a service like Squarespace or Wix. There, you can set up a mobile-friendly, fast website without technical skills. 

8. Use social media to give a taste of your service/product

People want to know what it’s like to be your customer. They tend to do a bit of online research to see whether you’re the kind of business or even the kind of person they want to deal with. 

So don’t be a stranger and make the research easier for them: show the effects of your work, show how you work, share tips, or even show that comfy chair they can sit in while waiting for the service to get done. 

For example, Nick Bundy is one of the many electricians from the U.K.’s Midlands. But what sets him apart from the competition is how much you can learn about the quality of his work before you hire him. 

He’s promoting his business on YouTube and Instagram with simple videos that either show how he works or answer questions, such as how to price a house rewire. 

What may look like content made for other electricians is actually a signal for potential customers that other people trust him. Moreover, he’s so confident about his trade that he shows it publicly (some more “inquisitive” customers can read the comments too). 

Testimonial on Nick Bundy's website

And it seems that Nick is very aware of the effect that his videos have. Good for him: 

Nick recommending YouTube channel, where he shows how he works

He’s also aware that his videos have “wider than local” reach. So he makes a note that, in any case, large jobs outside of his hometown are also welcome. 

YouTube videos have a "wider than local" effect

Of course, many people realize the boost that social media can give to a small local business, and they use it similarly to Nick. You can find creators like him in probably every niche. 

Sidenote.

By the way, Nick seems to be quite proficient with the monetization of his work—something you may also want to look into if you decide to create similar content. The same videos that promote his business generate ad revenue from YT (which he talks about in this video). On top of that, he utilizes sponsorships, does affiliate marketing, and even co-designed a product.

9. Get featured in relevant niche rankings and guides 

Not everyone simply looks for the best bar in [whatever city]. Some people want more specific things like “rooftop bars,” “arcade bars,”  “jazz bars,” or even “weird bars.” 

Like their more popular counterparts, these niche search queries often have their own rankings and guides. These could be easier to get featured in while still offering a good opportunity to attract customers. 

Here’s how you can find them. You can:

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer and type in keywords that define your business. For example, “bars.” Use the singular form for more results, but the plural form will usually weed out most of the branded keywords (i.e., those including the bar’s name).
  2. Set your country and hit search. 
  3. Go to the Matching terms report after the results load.
  4. Use the Include filter to type in words that define your location. Enter “San Francisco, SF” and select “Any word.” Then hit “Show results.”
  5. Pick a keyword and click the SERP icon to see if there are any guides and rankings. 
Example keywords that show interest in different types of bars in San Francisco
Example keywords that show interest in different types of bars in San Francisco.
Clicking on the SERP button shows top-ranking pages
To see top-ranking pages for a given keyword, just click the SERP button.

Once you find them, the last thing to do is to contact these websites and tell them why they should add your business to their lists. 

10. Build awareness (and links) with free press 

Even small local businesses can get free press. What matters to the press is the attention it can get by telling your story, not necessarily how big or profitable the business is. 

And every business has its own story. It can be related to how it started, the unique idea behind the business, the values it lives by, or the unique way it manufactures products. 

But you may be wondering how you can actually benefit from that:

  • Press coverage makes readers aware that your business exists – Or reminds them about it if they have already seen it somewhere. It also creates awareness among journalists; after one story, you may be asked to do another or to provide commentary on another related story.
  • Stories are powerful message carriers – Not only will they help people understand what’s unique about your business, but they will also make it easier to remember. 
  • Press coverage acts like a seal of approval – If you’re wondering whether a company is trustworthy, having seen it in local newspapers tells you that someone has screened it before you. 
  • Last but not least, digital media is great for link building – That means website visitors and an enhancement of your backlink profile, which may lead to higher rankings on the SERPs. Links from media are often sought after because of their strong link profiles. 

You can earn free press typically in one of these two ways. 

The first is simply pitching your story to the press. The outcome may be something like this: An interview with a local entrepreneur in a local magazine featuring the story behind creating an ethical and sustainable jewelry business. 

Free press example from a local Midwest magazine featuring an entrepreneur from Minneapolis

Of course, nothing stops you from pitching your story to multiple outlets (also national ones). Here’s another example linking to Fair Anita; it shows a link from a popular local magazine, Star Tribune. 

Another example of a high-DR link from the press
You can see the strength of the profile by looking at the DR column. Star Tribune scores 88/100, which is a high score. Data via Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

The second method is providing expert commentary per a journalist’s request. You can monitor relevant requests through services like HARO, SourceBottle, or Terkel. If you answer well enough and quickly enough, your quote may be featured along with a link to your website. 

An example request delivered through email by HARO
An example request delivered through email by HARO.

Final thoughts 

Local online marketing tactics seem to be focused on the promotional aspect. So speaking in terms of the classic four Ps of marketing framework, make sure you don’t neglect the other Ps— product (or service), price, and place—while doing promotion. Promotion is actually the very last step in creating an effective marketing strategy. 

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.  



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Google’s AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility

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Google's AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility

An analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries by Bartosz Góralewicz, founder of Onely, reveals the impact of Google’s AI overviews on search visibility for online retailers.

The study found that 16% of eCommerce queries now return an AI overview in search results, accounting for 13% of total search volume in this sector.

Notably, 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.

“Ranking #1-3 gives you only an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews,” Góralewicz stated.

Shift Toward “Accelerated” Product Experiences

International SEO consultant Aleyda Solis analyzed the disconnect between traditional organic ranking and inclusion in AI overviews.

According to Solis, for product-related queries, Google is prioritizing an “accelerated” approach over summarizing currently ranking pages.

She commented Góralewicz’ findings, stating:

“… rather than providing high level summaries of what’s already ranked organically below, what Google does with e-commerce is “accelerate” the experience by already showcasing what the user would get next.”

Solis explains that for queries where Google previously ranked category pages, reviews, and buying guides, it’s now bypassing this level of results with AI overviews.

Assessing AI Overview Traffic Impact

To help retailers evaluate their exposure, Solis has shared a spreadsheet that analyzes the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.

As Góralewicz notes, this could be an initial rollout, speculating that “Google will expand AI overviews for high-cost queries when enabling ads” based on data showing they are currently excluded for high cost-per-click keywords.

An in-depth report across ecommerce and publishing is expected soon from Góralewicz and Onely, with additional insights into this search trend.

Why SEJ Cares

AI overviews represent a shift in how search visibility is achieved for ecommerce websites.

With most overviews currently pulling product data from non-ranking sources, the traditional connection between organic rankings and search traffic is being disrupted.

Retailers may need to adapt their SEO strategies for this new search environment.

How This Can Benefit You

While unsettling for established brands, AI overviews create new opportunities for retailers to gain visibility without competing for the most commercially valuable keywords.

Ecommerce sites can potentially circumvent traditional ranking barriers by optimizing product data and detail pages for Google’s “accelerated” product displays.

The detailed assessment framework provided by Solis enables merchants to audit their exposure and prioritize optimization needs accordingly.


FAQ

What are the key findings from the analysis of AI overviews & ecommerce queries?

Góralewicz’s analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries found:

  • 16% of ecommerce queries now return an AI overview in the search results.
  • 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.
  • Ranking positions #1-3 only provides an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews.

These insights reveal significant shifts in how ecommerce sites need to approach search visibility.

Why are AI overviews pulling product data from non-ranking sources, and what does this mean for retailers?

Google’s AI overviews prioritize “accelerated” experiences over summarizing currently ranked pages for product-related queries.

This shift focuses on showcasing directly what users seek instead of traditional organic results.

For retailers, this means:

  • A need to optimize product pages beyond traditional SEO practices, catering to the data requirements of AI overviews.
  • Opportunities to gain visibility without necessarily holding top organic rankings.
  • Potential to bypass traditional ranking barriers by focusing on enhanced product data integration.

Retailers must adapt quickly to remain competitive in this evolving search environment.

What practical steps can retailers take to evaluate and improve their search visibility in light of AI overview disruptions?

Retailers can take several practical steps to evaluate and improve their search visibility:

  • Utilize the spreadsheet provided by Aleyda Solis to assess the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.
  • Optimize product and detail pages to align with the data and presentation style preferred by AI overviews.
  • Continuously monitor changes and updates to AI overviews, adapting strategies based on new data and trends.

These steps can help retailers navigate the impact of AI overviews and maintain or improve their search visibility.


Featured Image: Marco Lazzarini/Shutterstock



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Google’s AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

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Google's AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

Google’s rollout of AI-generated overviews in US search results is taking a disastrous turn, with mainstream media outlets like The New York Times, BBC, and CNBC reporting on numerous inaccuracies and bizarre responses.

On social media, users are sharing endless examples of the feature’s nonsensical and sometimes dangerous output.

From recommending non-toxic glue on pizza to suggesting that eating rocks provides nutritional benefits, the blunders would be amusing if they weren’t so alarming.

Mainstream Media Coverage

As reported by The New York Times, Google’s AI overviews struggle with basic facts, claiming that Barack Obama was the first Muslim president of the United States and stating that Andrew Jackson graduated from college in 2005.

These errors undermine trust in Google’s search engine, which more than two billion people rely on for authoritative information worldwide.

Manual Removal & System Refinements

As reported by The Verge, Google is now scrambling to remove the bizarre AI-generated responses and improve its systems manually.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company is taking “swift action” to remove problematic responses and using the examples to refine its AI overview feature.

Google’s Rush To AI Integration

The flawed rollout of AI overviews isn’t an isolated incident for Google.

As CNBC notes in its report, Google made several missteps in a rush to integrate AI into its products.

In February, Google was forced to pause its Gemini chatbot after it generated inaccurate images of historical figures and refused to depict white people in most instances.

Before that, the company’s Bard chatbot faced ridicule for sharing incorrect information about outer space, leading to a $100 billion drop in Google’s market value.

Despite these setbacks, industry experts cited by The New York Times suggest that Google has little choice but to continue advancing AI integration to remain competitive.

However, the challenges of taming large language models, which ingest false information and satirical posts, are now more apparent.

The Debate Over AI In Search

The controversy surrounding AI overviews adds fuel to the debate over the risks and limitations of AI.

While the technology holds potential, these missteps remind everyone that more testing is needed before unleashing it on the public.

The BBC notes that Google’s rivals face similar backlash over their attempts to cram more AI tools into their consumer-facing products.

The UK’s data watchdog is investigating Microsoft after it announced a feature that would take continuous screenshots of users’ online activity.

At the same time, actress Scarlett Johansson criticized OpenAI for using a voice likened to her own without permission.

What This Means For Websites & SEO Professionals

Mainstream media coverage of Google’s erroneous AI overviews brings the issue of declining search quality to public attention.

As the company works to address inaccuracies, the incident serves as a cautionary tale for the entire industry.

Important takeaway: Prioritize responsible use of AI technology to ensure the benefits outweigh its risks.



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New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

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New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

A keynote at Google’s Marketing Live event showed a new AI-powered visual search results that feature advertisements that engage users within the context of an AI-Assisted search, blurring the line between AI-generated search results and advertisements.

Google Lens is a truly helpful app but it becomes unconventional where it blurs the line between an assistant helping users and being led to a shopping cart. This new way of engaging potential customers with AI is so far out there that the presenter doesn’t even call it advertising, he doesn’t even use the word.

Visual Search Traffic Opportunity?

Google’s Group Product Manager Sylvanus Bent, begins the presentation with an overview of the next version of Google Lens visual search that will be useful for surfacing information and for help finding where to buy them.

Sylvanus explained how it will be an opportunity for websites to receive traffic from this new way to search.

“…whether you’re snapping a photo with lens or circling to search something on your social feed, visual search unlocks new ways to explore whatever catches your eye, and we recently announced a newly redesigned results page for Visual search.

Soon, instead of just visual matches, you’ll see a wide range of results, from images to video, web links, and facts about the knowledge graph. It gets people the helpful information they need and creates new opportunities for sites to be discovered.”

It’s hard to say whether or not this will bring search traffic to websites and what the quality of that traffic will be. Will they stick around to read an article? Will they engage with a product review?

Visual Search Results

Sylvanus shares a hypothetical example of someone at an airport baggage claim who falls in like with someone else’s bag. He explains that all the person needs to do is snap a photo of the luggage bag and Google Lens will take them directly to shopping options.

He explains:

“No words, no problem. Just open Lens, take a quick picture and immediately you’ll see options to purchase.

And for the first time, shopping ads will appear at the very top of the results on linked searches, where a business can offer what a consumer is looking for.

This will help them easily purchase something that catches their eye.”

These are image-heavy shopping ads at the top of the search results and as annoying as that may be it’s nowhere near the “next level” advertising that is coming to Google’s search ads where Google presents a paid promotion within the context of an AI Assistant.

Interactive Search Shopping

Sylvanus next describes an AI-powered form advertising that happens directly within search. But he doesn’t call it advertising. He doesn’t even use the word advertising. He suggests this new form of AI search experience is more than offer, saying that, “it’s an experience.”

He’s right to not use the word advertisement because what he describes goes far beyond advertising and blurs the boundaries between search and advertising within the context of AI-powered suggestions, paid suggestions.

Sylvanus explains how this new form of shopping experience works:

“And next, imagine a world where every search ad is more than an offer. It’s an experience. It’s a new way for you to engage more directly with your customers. And we’re exploring search ads with AI powered recommendations across different verticals. So I want to show you an example that’s going live soon and you’ll see even more when we get to shopping.”

He uses the example of someone who needs to store their furniture for a few months and who turns to Google to find short term storage. What he describes is a query for local short term storage that turns into a “dynamic ad experience” that leads the searcher into throwing packing supplies into their shopping cart.

He narrated how it works:

“You search for short term storage and you see an ad for extra space storage. Now you can click into a new dynamic ad experience.

You can select and upload photos of the different rooms in your house, showing how much furniture you have, and then extra space storage with help from Google, AI generates a description of all your belongings for you to verify. You get a recommendation for the right size and type of storage unit and even how much packing supplies you need to get the job done. Then you just go to the website to complete the transaction.

And this is taking the definition of a helpful ad to the next level. It does everything but physically pick up your stuff and move it, and that is cool.”

Step 1: Search For Short Term Storage

1716722762 15 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows an advertisement that when clicked takes the user to what looks like an AI-assisted search but is really an interactive advertisement.

Step 2: Upload Photos For “AI Assistance”

1716722762 242 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above image is a screenshot of an advertisement that is presented in the context of AI-assisted search.  Masking an advertisement within a different context is the same principal behind an advertorial where an advertisement is hidden in the form of an article. The phrases “Let AI do the heavy lifting” and “AI-powered recommendations” create the context of AI-search that masks the true context of an advertisement.

Step 3: Images Chosen For Uploading

1716722762 187 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows how a user uploads an image to the AI-powered advertisement within the context of an AI-powered search app.

The Word “App” Masks That This Is An Ad

Screenshot of interactive advertisement for that identifies itself as an app with the words

Above is a screenshot of how a user uploads a photo to the AI-powered interactive advertisement within the context of a visual search engine, using the word “app” to further the illusion that the user is interacting with an app and not an advertisement.

Upload Process Masks The Advertising Context

Screenshot of interactive advertisement that uses the context of an AI Assistant to mask that this is an advertisement

The phrase “Generative AI is experimental” contributes to the illusion that this is an AI-assisted search.

Step 4: Upload Confirmation

1716722762 395 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

In step 4 the “app” advertisement is for confirming that the AI correctly identified the furniture that needs to be put into storage.

Step 5: AI “Recommendations”

1716722762 588 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows “AI recommendations” that look like search results.

The Recommendations Are Ad Units

1716722762 751 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

Those recommendations are actually ad units that when clicked takes the user to the “Extra Space Storage” shopping website.

Step 6: Searcher Visits Advertiser Website

1716722762 929 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

Blurring The Boundaries

What the Google keynote speaker describes is the integration of paid product suggestions into an AI assisted search. This kind of advertising is so far out there that the Googler doesn’t even call it advertising and rightfully so because what this does is blur the line between AI assisted search and advertising. At what point does a helpful AI search become just a platform for using AI to offer paid suggestions?

Watch The Keynote At The 32 Minute Mark

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Ljupco Smokovski

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