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Local Memo: Google Might Make Users Pay for AI In Search


In this week’s post, learn about Google considering charging for AI features; A new study of Perplexity AI and how it relates to SEO; Meta’s update to its labeling policy; A new GBP feature called “About this Place.”


Google Might Make Users Pay for AI In Search 


The News


While we recently mentioned that Google’s SGE may launch more widely in the near future, a recent report released by the Financial Times has stated that Google is considering charging its users for its AI-related search tools, such as SGE and AI overviews. 


Google is already testing this out to some extent. For instance, when Google changed Bard’s name to Gemini, it also introduced Gemini Advanced, which was rolled out with a $20 monthly subscription to get Gemini AI bundled into a Google One AI Premium Plan. 


Many suspect that the charges for these features would be to offset the cost of the tools themselves. 


The report from the Financial Times stated, “Google is working on the biggest shake-up of its search business by charging for new ‘premium’ features powered by generative artificial intelligence, the first time it would put any of its core products behind a paywall.” 


Why This Matters 


Whether or not Google will start charging for these services, it’s essential to be aware of. Paying attention to what Google is doing across AI and local search is a must for marketers. 


If these tools end up behind a paywall, it will likely change how many people are using these features, impacting the importance of these features for brands. To the extent this model takes hold with Google, it may significantly impact traffic patterns and optimization efforts, for instance by creating two channels, free and paid, in place of one.


New Study on Perplexity AI Brings Hope to SEOs 


The News 


If you’re unfamiliar with Perplexity, it’s an alternative to traditional search engines created by a handful of AI experts formerly from OpenAI, Facebook, Quora, Microsoft, and Databricks. BrightEdge recently conducted research around Perplexity to gain a better understanding of how the tool is sharing search result findings. 


One of the most significant findings was that 60% of Perplexity citations overlap with the top 10 organic Google search results. In addition to similar results, those using Perplexity also get an AI-generated summary of the results and a conversation flow.


Another interesting data point is that Perplexity’s referral traffic has increased by 40% since January, indicating that user interest in Perplexity is growing. 


Why This Matters 


Consumers are turning to AI solutions for local search. Additionally, analysts have pointed to Perplexity as an example of what it might look like when generative AI is fully integrated into the search experience. As a multi-location brand, it’s your job to understand how your brand currently appears in these local searches.


Meta Updates AI Labeling Policy 


The News


Meta recently announced an update to its AI labeling policy, explaining that it will change how it handles manipulated media. According to Meta, the company will begin “labeling a wider range of video, audio and image content as ‘Made with AI’ when we detect industry standard AI image indicators or when people disclose that they’re uploading AI-generated content.”



An example of Meta falling an image on Instagram as "generated with AI"


Courtesy: Meta 


AI engagement bait has increased over the past few months, so Meta is making this change. To help make this decision, Meta completed consultations with over 120 stakeholders and conducted public opinion research with more than 23,000 respondents. Eighty-two percent of those surveyed favored a warning label for AI-generated content. 


Why This Matters 


As a multi-location brand, being aware of the latest AI-related developments on local search and social platforms is essential. This information does not mean your brand can’t use AI to create copy for its local social media efforts, as long as human oversight is included. The purpose of this update is to flag any content that is purposely deceiving. 


New GBP “About This Place” Feature Appearing in Mobile Finder Results 


The News 


An update to Google’s Mobile Finder search experience, first spotted in early March, includes an “About this place” feature on some listings highlighting popular services, features, or dishes through customer photos, videos & reviews.


A gif highlighting how "about this place" images and videos are appearing in local GBPs



The feature is tailored toward an experiential overview of the business, highlighting what a customer can expect from their visit using the words and photos from previous customers rather than the business itself. 


Observations to date:


1. Owner-uploaded photos and videos are not included in this feature.


2. Keywords highlighted differ by listing and seem to be driven by popular review keywords, and tags Vision AI applies to the photos uploaded.


3. The feature has not been observed appearing in retail listings. Google may see inventory as the best indicator of experience. 


Why This Matters 


So, what does this mean for your brand? This update allows your brand to expand its focus on increasing review volume to encourage customers to upload photos of their experience to GBP. It also appears to echo the AI snapshot user experience Google has been experimenting with in Maps, where users are offered “quick takes” about a business focusing on photos and reviews.

Darcy Bickham

As SOCi’s Content Marketing Manager, Darcy Bickham specializes in creating the strategy and developing the content around both localized and digital marketing trends for the SOCi brand. Through her content writing, Darcy has helped to position SOCi as the marketing platform for multi-location brands.

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