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Local Memo: More Consumers Turning to Social Platforms for Search


In this week’s update, learn about research showing more consumers are looking to social for search needs; service attributes as a ranking factor; ChatGPT prompts for SEO; third-party reviews and organic ranking; the share of Google search on Apple devices; the massive cost of Bard AI; the impact of continuous scroll on search traffic; Bing AI’s mobile launch; and Meta’s new paid verification feature.


More Consumers Turning to Social Platforms for Search


A new consumer survey from Frontier Communications showcases the attitudes toward online search of today’s consumers. The survey finds that 8 out of 10 U.S. consumers use Google as their primary search engine, with 90% saying they rely on autocomplete and 87% saying they use voice search. More than 40% say they have felt unsatisfied with search results. In seeming contradiction to the popularity of search engines, 82% of consumers stated that they prefer to search using social media, with Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook rated the most popular platforms for this purpose. Restaurants were the most searched for topic on social media, followed by personal care and beauty products. When turning to social media, users seem to be looking less for basic information than for recommendations about the best options available. 


A graph chart displaying which social media platforms users prefer to search on



Service Attributes as a Local Ranking Factor


Joy Hawkins and her team at Sterling Sky have redone an older study from 2019, which previously found that service attributes did not impact local rankings. In the new version of the study, the results were completely different, with the team finding significant ranking improvements after adding services such as “DUI injury litigation” for an attorney and “vampire facials” for a dermatologist. Any user can add services to their Google Business Profile by going to the Services menu and choosing from a preselected list tied to the categories in the profile, or entering custom services. Many local SEOs have commented that the change in ranking power for service attributes is likely to lead to more spam. 


A chart from Google showing improved ranking after adding “DUI injury litigation” to an attorney’s profile, courtesy Sterling Sky


Improved ranking after adding “DUI injury litigation” to an attorney’s profile, courtesy Sterling Sky


ChatGPT Prompts for SEO


Noting that “prompt engineer” is now a job description, Tom Demers writing for Search Engine Land offers some guidance on how to prompt ChatGPT to deliver useful responses when doing keyword research and content development. Demers notes that ChatGPT has some significant drawbacks when it comes to factual accuracy and relevance and its work should always be carefully checked, but it can still be highly useful when it comes to developing lists of questions, suggesting keyword-rich titles, and summarizing articles, among other use cases. Demers offers suggestions for how to prompt ChatGPT with the right series of questions in order to generate the desired result. 


Third Party Reviews Do Not Boost Organic Ranking


Google’s John Mueller reports that embedding reviews from third-party sites like Google and Facebook on your website will not impact your rankings. Third-party reviews also should not be marked up with schema, according to Google’s guidelines. As Mueller put it, “Make sure not to use structured data markup on reviews not collected on your site.” The rule change related to the markup of third-party reviews dates back to 2019. 


More than 50% of Google Search Traffic Occurs via Apple Devices


Recently unveiled court documents show that over 50% of Google search traffic takes place on Apple devices. The filing goes on to say that Google pays Apple a share of its search revenue for traffic on Safari, in exchange for Apple making Google the default search engine for its browser. The documents also seem to indicate that Google is paying Apple a share of revenue for Chrome search traffic on iOS.


Bard AI May Cost Google 10X the Rate of Search


Reuters is reporting that Google’s Bard AI tool, the as-yet-unlaunched competitor to Bing’s new AI functionality, will cost Google approximately 10X the amount the company spends on traditional search. Alphabet chairman John Hennessy is responsible for the 10X estimate, though he also stated that costs would go down quickly as Google improves the technology. Currently, Morgan Stanley estimates that a search costs Google 1/5 of a cent. With Google handling 3.3 billion queries per year, costs could increase by $6 billion annually if Bard was to be involved in responding to 50% of Google queries. Hennessy also noted that Bard was still “one to two years away” from becoming truly useful as a tool. 


The Impact of Continuous Scroll on Search Traffic


Jason Tabeling has published new research on the impact on search traffic of Google’s switch to continuous scrolling on desktop and infinite scrolling on mobile. His main finding is that top rank positions remain incredibly important as traffic sources, with 99% of branded search traffic on desktop going to the top 3 results both before and after the change. Overall, 50% of impressions and 88% of clicks go to the top 3 results. Impressions did increase modestly for sites ranked 15-20 from 20% to 25%. Only 4% of all clicks occurred beyond position 6. Before the launch of continuous scrolling, that number was only 2%. 


On mobile, 40% of impressions and 91% of clicks go to the top 3, with only 3% of clicks attributed to sites beyond rank 10. 


A graph showing mobile impressions and clicks based on a page's ranking for a keyword


Courtesy Jason Tabeling / Search Engine Land


Bing AI Chat Goes Mobile


Microsoft is expanding its ChatGPT integration with the launch of newly updated mobile app versions of Bing and the Edge browser. A new chat prompt will be available for both Android and iOS users at the bottom of the Bing app screen. Microsoft will also add Bing AI functionality to Skype. The developments are part of a plan Microsoft announced earlier this year that will eventually bring ChatGPT to Microsoft Office and the Azure cloud platform. 


Meta Adds Paid Verification


Meta has announced a paid verification tier for Facebook and Instagram that appears designed to compete with Twitter’s recently launched subscription model. The offering, called Meta Verified, comes as a bundle covering both platforms and includes a verified badge along with “increased visibility and reach.” The feature is first being tested in Australia and New Zealand, with cost projected at $11.99 per month for those signing up via the web. Echoing a similar decision by Twitter, Meta will apparently charge $14.99 to users who sign up via iOS or Android, in order to cover app store fees. 

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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