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Local Memo: Business Openings Hit New Record, Yelp Finds


In this week’s post, learn about a new record in business openings on Yelp; how people are using ChatGPT; the continuing impact of Google’s core update; why some GBP rankings seem irrelevant; a new support option for duplicate listings; and the latest updates to SGE.


Business Openings Hit New Record, Yelp Finds


According to Yelp data, new businesses opened on the platform between January and July of 2023 at a greater rate than the same time last year, which was itself a record-breaking period in post-pandemic store openings. Yelp cites decreased unemployment, lower inflation, and rising GDP as factors contributing to the trend. More minority-owned businesses have opened so far in 2023 than in 2022. Every month this year has seen growth at least 15% higher than in any previous month in the last four years. 


Year-over-year growth leaders include hotels and travel (39%), home services (37%), auto (27%), event services (27%), and local services (23%). The East Coast is growing at a greater rate than any other region in the U.S., though every state is surpassing last year’s rate of business openings.


Line graph from yelp showing new business openings with gray bar chart in background


Workplace Usage of ChatGPT Eclipses Search


A new study from Datos and Sparktoro finds that ChatGPT usage globally is down from a peak in May. As of July 23, usage is down about 29%. This may reflect a dropoff of users responding to early hype. In addition to traffic statistics, the study looked at the types of queries people type into the chatbot, utilizing a corpus of more than 4,000 examples.


It found that the largest single group is using ChatGPT as a coding assistant (29%), followed by queries related to education (i.e., search) (23%), content (21%), sales and marketing (14%), personal and other (7%), and politics and nonprofit (3%). A more granular category breakdown is shown in the chart below. (Categorization of queries was performed by ChatGPT itself.)


Bar graph showing most common ChatGPT user tasks


A survey conducted by Pew Research in July found that 18% of U.S. adults have tried ChatGPT, about 24% of those who are aware of the tool. This is up from 14%, the result of a similar Pew survey in May. Younger users are more likely to have tried the chatbot, and users report their most common activities to be entertainment (20%), learning (19%), and work (16%).


August Core Update Shakeup Continues


The August 2023 core update, released on August 22, continues to impact search rankings, causing high levels of volatility at least through Friday, September 1. Some webmasters have reported drastic changes in traffic, though Barry Schwartz believes this update has had less of a widespread impact than core updates of the recent past.


Lined graph with blue, green, oragne, and red banners underneath showing volatility in August

High volatility in late August, via Semrush / Search Engine Roundtable


Why Some GBP Rankings Seem Irrelevant


A post from Joy Hawkins speculates as to why keywords in the GBP keyword table, which reports on queries that surfaced your business listing, sometimes seem irrelevant to the business. She shares the example of a storage company whose most popular query was the word “restaurant.” Though on the surface, this doesn’t make sense, Hawkins suggests that the paid placement known as Performance Max, which gives businesses branded map pins in Google Maps results, is the culprit.


A business running Performance Max ads might see its branded map pins displayed for a restaurant search that contains results geographically near the business. Google will count each of those appearances as a view. As Hawkins notes, “Google Ads data does show up in Google Business Performance Insights, unlike other products like Search Console where Google strictly eliminates paid search data.”


Google Adds Form Option for Reporting Duplicate Listings


As reported by Mike Blumenthal, Google has added a support form option to help businesses report duplicate listings. As Blumenthal explains, Google sources listing data from multiple third parties (including business websites), and thus may sometimes duplicate listings that already exist, usually due to minor differences in contact information. This is a longstanding problem that can be difficult to fix, so hopefully, the new form option will help to expedite the resolution of the issue for business owners. 


SGE Expands User Base, Adds Arrow-Style Links


Google has announced that Search Generative Experience (SGE), its experimental AI-powered search interface, will be rolled out to users in Japan and India. Users in India will have a language toggle allowing them to switch back and forth between English and Hindi. Google reports that early results show users are happy with SGE’s ability to handle complex queries and follow-up questions, with younger users reporting the greatest satisfaction. 


After experimenting with several formats, Google has officially landed on arrow-style links pointing to web sources to provide more information about SGE responses. Clicking the downward-pointing arrow opens a section in the SGE result with cards displaying web sources.


Google SGE example results of a pet-friendly cafe in Albuquerque, New Mexico

SGE result for “pet-friendly cafes in Albuquerque,” showing arrow icons with top arrow in display mode

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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