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Local Memo: ChatGPT Usage Grows as Google and Bing Continue AI Development


In this week’s update, learn about ChatGPT’s growth and AI integrations from Bing and Google; a milestone in online retail; Yelp’s latest Trust & Safety Report; the imminent switch to Google Analytics 4; the inadvertent removal of Local Guide reviews; and Twitter’s move to shut down free API access.


ChatGPT Usage Grows as Google and Bing Continue AI Development


ChatGPT has reportedly reached a milestone of 100 million monthly active users in the month of January, just two months after its launch in November 2022. This makes ChatGPT the fastest-growing application in history. About 13 million people use ChatGPT every day, according to research from SimilarWeb. In partial response to the tool’s exploding popularity, parent company OpenAI has launched ChatGPT Plus, a $20 monthly subscription plan that gives users access to ChatGPT even at peak times and offers faster responses and early access to new features. The company claims that inputs from millions of users have led to several unspecified improvements in the tool. 


We’ve learned a bit more about Bing’s plans to integrate ChatGPT into its search engine, with reports stating that Microsoft will be utilizing GPT-4, a faster version of the tool not yet available to the public. In addition to improved speed, GPT-4 is said to offer responses that are both more detailed and more humanlike. Twitter user Owen Yin shared screenshots from an apparent test version of the new interface the other day. Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai hinted in a recent earnings call that, despite recent statements to the contrary, Google might be about to release a ChatGPT competitor in the form of a tool that lets users “interact directly” with Google’s “newest, most powerful language models as a companion to search.” It’s expected that Google will announce developments in AI for search at an event broadcast from Paris on February 8. Some hints at a chat integration for Google search have already been released.


An image showing a preview of how the Bing chatbot will work and converse with users


Preview of Bing Chatbot, Courtesy Owen Yin


Online Retail Hits $1 Trillion, Still Outpaced by Offline


Comscore reports that online consumer spending in the U.S. surpassed $1 trillion for the first time in 2022. Despite the historic nature of this milestone, online spending still represents only about 15% of all consumer spending in the country, the remaining 85% taking place offline in local stores. A survey from Digital Commerce 360 offers insight into the reasons consumers may choose to shop online or with a local store. Low prices and free shipping are the biggest incentives for online shopping, whereas those who place orders with local stores are most interested in product availability, proximity, discounts, and speed. To the extent that local retailers can match the convenience of online shopping, they can take advantage of consumers’ inherent tendency to prefer local shopping. 



A bar graph showing responses to the question "When placing an order for in-store pick-up, which of the following are factors in your likelihood to make that purchase?"


Yelp Releases 2022 Trust & Safety Report 


Yelp’s latest Trust & Safety Report outlines actions taken to prevent false and fraudulent activity on the platform throughout 2022. This year, Yelp is highlighting its efforts to provide clarity related to crisis pregnancy centers, which sometimes misidentify themselves online as abortion providers; to closely moderate business profiles that attract public attention due to political issues, criminal activities, and discrimination; and to protect consumers from legal abuses, in part by resisting legal demands to reveal user information.


Yelp reports that users contributed 21 million new reviews in 2022, of which 75% attained “recommended” status, meaning that they are displayed in the primary page of the business profile and counted when calculating average ratings. Yelp issued more than 415 warnings to businesses suspected to be compensating users for writing reviews. 


Yelp also sends reports to other websites such as Twitter and Facebook when its team detects evidence on these platforms of schemes to sell, exchange, or remove reviews. About 1,100 such reports were generated in 2022, with Instagram showing the highest level of response. 


Yelp removed 26,500 reviews during the year because they contained harmful content, and suspended 77,400 user accounts for deceptive or abusive behavior. 


A bar graph titled "Yelp's Reporting of Deceptive Review Practices to Other Platforms 2022"


The Switch to GA4 Is Coming


Google is again reminding users of Google Analytics 3, otherwise known as Universal Analytics (UA), that the platform will stop processing data as of July 1. In a recent email to users, the company states that users who do not switch to GA4 now may see, in early March, that Google has automatically configured GA4 settings for them based on the closest equivalents in UA, including tags that will send site traffic data to GA4. Users have the option to opt out of these automated settings. Because historical data will not carry over from UA to GA4, Google is stressing that users should begin the transition to GA4 as early as possible if they have not already done so. 


Google Acknowledges Some Reviews Were Removed by Mistake


In a post on the Local Guides Connect blog, Google staff acknowledged that “in recent weeks” some legitimate reviews written by Local Guides were removed by mistake. The post notes that the problem has affected a large number of Local Guide accounts and that complaints about removals or reviews not reaching publication have been common in the Local Guide forums. 


Google says the company has “launched an update to our protections” in an effort to fix the problem, and that many reviews previously removed will be reinstated automatically in the “next few weeks.” Users whose legitimate reviews do not get restored automatically are invited to submit a request to Google staff.


This acknowledgement on Google’s part helps to explain at least part of the wave of review removals that began last spring and impacted many users, not just Local Guides. 


Twitter Shuts Down Free API Access


Twitter has announced that the company will shutter free access to its API as of February 9. The free version will be replaced with a paid basic tier. The move is expected to have a big impact on smaller-scale analytics apps, schedulers, and Twitter management tools that have historically relied on free access to the Twitter platform. While some may opt to pay for access, other apps may cease to function. This latest development follows several moves on Twitter’s part to increase monetization of the platform, most notoriously the paid version of verified accounts.

Damian Rollison

With over a decade of local search experience, Damian Rollison, SOCI's Director of Market Insights, has focused his career on discovering innovative ways to help businesses large and small get noticed online. Damian's columns appear frequently at Street Fight, Search Engine Land, and other publications, and he is a frequent speaker at industry conferences such as Localogy, Brand Innovators, State of Search, SMX, and more.

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