Local Search Update – Search Generative Experience

AI will have an impact on the way we use search engines and the way results are displayed on the page. So what does this mean for pest control businesses?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is certainly a major disrupter and has hit the news over the last 12 months with the arrival of ChatGPT. The technology used in ChatGPT (generative AI) will have a big impact on the way online search engines generate and display results. Anything that can change what is displayed on the search engine results pages (SERPs) is of significant interest to local businesses who try to get significant website traffic by appearing on the first page, either high up in the organic results or in the local pack. So, what do pest control businesses need to know?

Firstly, this is a very dynamic, developing area; what we know today may be out of date tomorrow. Arguably the search engines themselves don’t have a clear developmental pathway, we are in an experimental stage and likely to be for the foreseeable future. But here’s what Google is saying…

Google is pushing the benefits of search with generative AI – namely that generative AI will better understand the search topic faster, uncovering new viewpoints and insights. Results will be presented in a more fluid, engaging format, with the generative AI content at the top of the page, and clickable options to open up different conversations and search paths on the sub-topics of interest placed underneath. As part of this functionality, the search engine will assess whether consecutive searches are actually on the same topic and make the associated assumptions in providing the results.

One important comment Google has made is that “We know that people want to hear insights from others to help inform their decisions.” We take this to mean that it will elevate two elements of SEO to the next level. Firstly, that online reviews will become increasingly important – a strong indicator about the performance of a business. Secondly, not all insights are equal. E-A-T (Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness) will remain important, so developing the authority of your website remains key.

Google also makes the comment that search ads will remain important to help people find relevant products and services and so will still have a dedicated and prominent position on the search page.

However, Google admits that as this is such a dynamic area and AI has known limitations, that “we will not always get it right.” As its current algorithm has been fine-tuned over 25 years, Google doesn’t want to undermine both the trust in the search engine and the results that are presented by making radical changes, some of which may have unintended consequences. As such, officials have said they will make changes in a stepwise fashion and are using Search Labs as a tool to trial generative AI changes to Google search.

Search Labs is available on Google Chrome desktop and on the Google app. Only currently available in the US, users can sign up to the Search Lab to trial SGE (Search Generative Experience) and provide feedback to Google.

We are entering a very uncertain period when it comes to SEO. Whether you are doing your own SEO or engaging an agency, it will pay to keep a close eye on changes to the SERPs and your website ranking. It is quite likely that some of these changes will provide changes in results, both good and bad, with consequent changes in traffic to your website. It’s important not to panic and not to jump to make changes – a change Google makes one week can easily be reversed the next. It’ll be an exciting (and scary) ride!