We don’t have to wonder too much as Neeva already provides AI-driven results for some local queries. For example, here’s what you get for “pest control”:
When you expand the AI box, you also get a list of sources that were used to generate the text in the box and get something like an “AI Knowledge Panel” on the right that has more detail on each of the sources. The source listed first is displayed by default:
I am not going to dive into how I think Neeva is creating these, because, well thus far we don’t have a lot of inbound requests re how to rank well in Neeva, but at a high level it appears to be grabbing topics from various pages on the site and turning them into somewhat related sentences. I don’t find these particular results very useful as there is nothing inherently “local” about the AI content. There’s no phone number to call or “click here” to set up an appointment, etc. And there’s a local pack right below it that neither Terminix or Orkin are listed in.
It’s early days so I would expect Neeva to improve this, particularly as Google and Bing roll their versions out.
So what might Google’s AI for Local look like? My initial guess is it should behave like a chatbot that knows a lot about how to help me find what I am looking for. For example, if I am looking for a green top for my daughter (she digs green), it might ask me for info that can help point me towards a local business that has one that she might like i stock. Here’s a simplified example:
You could imagine it providing additional options for buying it online, asking for desired budget, etc.
This type of UX could help a searcher make sense of results faster. Instead of the search engine guessing at intent, it provides an easy way for the searcher to be explicit about it.
It will take a long time for Google to know everything about inventory, appointment calendars, etc., for truly local businesses, but it already knows a lot about this info for more businesses than pretty much everyone else in many of the most popular categories. A chatbot to help me pick out the perfect place for Valentine’s Day dinner with my wife seems like a no-brainer.
As far as monetization goes, I don’t think this kills the search ads business at all. As the searcher goes deeper into the chatbot experience, the search engine gets smarter about intent. Seems like there are opportunities for ads and e-commerce $ at every step. So in the Valentine’s Day example, they could be showing me an offer from a local restaurant. In the green top example, they could be showing me an offer from Amazon, etc.
So How Do You Optimize for Local SEO + AI?
If the Neeva example is in the ballpark, these seem like initial good steps:
- Make sure each page on your site has a clear purpose and the copy is written in the simplest language possible. Don’t make the AI bot guess what you mean.
- Monitor what the search engine is showing in the AI sections for relevant searches. If your site does not cover the concepts it is showing, then you should probably add them to your site.I am sure as Google rolls out whatever its AI thing is, we as an industry will pick it apart quickly and start sharing all sorts of tactics to get your businesses in there.
The good news is this doesn’t sound very different from non-AI Local SEO.