ChatGPT and Local SEO: How AI Can Help and Hinder Your Strategy

The Buzz About ChatGPT, Bard, and Other AI Tools

What is ChatGPT and How do AI Tools Work?

In late 2022, OpenAI’s release of ChatGPT to the general public took the world, especially the digital marketing world, by storm. This powerful tool– along with Google’s Bard, Microsoft’s Bing Chat, and others, allows users to work smarter, not harder, by performing writing tasks for them.

Based on large language models of machine learning (LLMs), these predictive AI platforms lack value judgment or fully current data. ChatGPT’s training data finishes in late 2021, so any questions one asks about current events are likely to be either unanswered or, worse, answered incorrectly. Because these machines don’t analyze so much as predict (with incredible accuracy!) which word is most likely to come after the next, they are factually fallible but remain incredible tools in the field of writing and optimizing certain workflows.

Screenshot of ChatGPT homepage

As users began to see the incredible variety of potential tasks about to be automated, ChatGPT and its ilk skyrocketed in popularity. Year-over-year search volume increased by 2.3 million percent! Even between March and May of 2023, searches have increased by 50%. There’s no stopping the AI juggernaut.

How do SEO Experts Feel About AI Tools?

The reaction to ChatGPT and other generative AI platforms has been decisively mixed. While many recognize its potential to optimize otherwise repetitive work by doing the bulk of it, others also – quite validly– recognize the potential existential threat ChatGPT poses to their jobs and/or careers. If the platform can, say, SEO optimize a passage of text, then how long do any of us have?

While ultimately many have come around to see that the fallibility of ChatGPT means no jobs will be lost any time soon, it’s still important to think proactively about how to use AI for local SEO, incorporate it into your workflow, and maximize results. When it comes to using ChatGPT for local SEO specifically, what do the experts say?

Positives of Using AI Tools for Local SEO

AI Helps With Content Idea Generation

First, let’s look at the ways that ChatGPT and other AI can be helpful. Mike Hawkes from Brightlocal states that…

Mike Hawkes

“A more sensible approach that many are already using is consulting AI tools for article structures. This is better because you’re using the tool for inspiration rather than relying on its at-times-questionable ability to churn out accurate content.

Give the AI some keywords or prompts and it can spit out a proposed structure of headings and subheadings…”

– Mike Hawkes, Brightlocal

Hawkes hints at the negative side of using ChatGPT in this quote, which we will discuss later, but he brings up a good example of how the tool can help those suffering from writer’s block, use it for inspiration. Furthermore, Google has been favoring FAQ-style content on pages because it shows the crawlers and the users that the site entity has the necessary expertise.

“Along with metadata, creating FAQs is a least-favorite task for many a content writer. It’s something that feels like it saps the creativity out of you. Now, with a few simple prompts, you can get a list of FAQs for pretty much any page. Then, if you’re feeling brave, you could even get the AI to write the answers for you!”

Hawkes is stating that not every part of writing is glorious, most of it is hard work you have to grind out, but AI can help with some of the leg work of content creation.

AI Helps With Other Aspects of Local SEO

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Remember that local SEO has other facets and tactics that don’t involve landing page content. What about Google Business Profile listings or citation building? Darren Shaw, the creator of Whitespark’s yearly Local SEO Ranking Factors Survey, said…

Darren Shaw

“We respond to reviews for all our clients and use AI tools to pre-write the response, then edit and post. Saves a ton of time.

We are also experimenting with it to find local and industry-specific citation sources, sponsorships, and other link opportunities.”

– Darren Shaw, Whitespark

Darren Shaw is using ChatGPT and other AI to its full extent, testing it in different ways to help expedite GBP review comments and help find local link building opportunities. It’s a good example of the many uses these tools can have for your local SEO strategy. 

AI Helps With Local Schema Generation

Let’s not forget the technical side of SEO. The first two examples were things a user is able to see, but ChatGPT and other AI can help with the behind-the-scenes things as well. Tom Demers, a guest author for Search Engine Land wrote…

Tom Demers

“Depending on your business type, various schema may be relevant for your site. ChatGPT can help you quickly generate the schema.

ChatGPT-generated schema can be a hit or miss, so make sure you have a developer QA’ing the code.”

– Tom Demers, Search Engine Land

Tom adds a friendly reminder to double-check everything the AI delivers to you, but in this post he shows an example of LocalSchema generation from ChatGPT. Typing this out manually is super tedious, so seeing this done by the AI is a big relief. In the example shown, ChatGPT also references schema.org which is a source mostly everyone uses for schema markup. 

Negatives of Using the Tools for Local SEO

As mentioned before, there are two sides to this story. AI is a double-edged sword and the experts will tell you to proceed with caution, and they are right.

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It’s crucial to understand where the knowledge gaps of these AI tools exist and to furiously fact-check, edit and revise everything it gives you. These tools can help get you partially to the objective, but it takes human intuition to finalize the task at hand.

AI Gives Back Generalized Information That Lacks Context

Coming back to Darren Shaw again, he made a video asking ChatGPT for advice on getting a Google Business Profile listing to rank in Google. It returned a lot of general information, some of it lacking context and not being exactly a worthy answer. One of the answers returned by the bot was to “Verify your business with Google.” At the 4:03 minute mark, Darren Shaw responded…

“WRONG! It won’t have any impact on your rankings directly…so…verified listing vs unverified listing, that isn’t really a factor in terms of your ranking benefit. But, it will allow you to edit your listing which of course is super valuable…”

ChatGPT was on the right track here, but they needed more context to explain the reason why they said what they said and that context was not given. The answer feels half-baked and incomplete. Now you could give this one a pass because it doesn’t understand the nuances of everything just yet, but the next two examples are a bit scary.

AI Gives False Information and Lies to The User

Joy Hawkins, a leader in the local SEO space, pushed the limits of ChatGPT by asking it for specific neighborhood information about local areas. She had a real estate agent client and was trying to write local content, so she started asking the AI about the surrounding area from the agent’s office. 

Joy Hawkins

“When I asked for a list of neighborhoods in this particular town, it listed thirteen when in reality there are only three. When I asked it for a list of schools, the first school that it gave me on the list didn’t exist.” 

– Joy Hawkins, Sterling Sky

ChatGPT is not only lying but creating false information as well. Pretty shocking that it’s doing this, and if not careful people can be writing about false information.

AI Goes Against Stated Best Practices on Website

In this next example, Miriam Ellis from Moz asked ChatGPT, “Can I Ask Customers to Review My Business on Yelp?” ChatGPT responded with a confident “Yes,” but in reality, Yelp has an entire page about their policy when it comes to this. They clearly state, “Yelp’s recommendation software is designed to highlight reviews from people who want to share their genuine experiences—without being asked or tempted.”

Miriam Ellis

“Yelp specifically states, “Don’t ask for reviews,” but our hypothetical local business owner is out there right now disregarding this policy, thanks to ChatGPT’s advice.”

– Miriam Ellis, Moz

Isn’t this tool supposed to crawl the web and provide a good answer? Why didn’t they just crawl this very specific page and get their info from the source?

Testing The Tool

For fun, I wanted to try a couple of easy tests using our website, digitalthirdcoast.com, to see how ChatGPT would respond. So I asked the tool a couple of easy questions to see what it would say. 

1. What Schema is On Our Site?

We use multiple instances of schema makeup on our site including LocalBusiness schema, so I asked ChatGPT to check what schema types our site is using. It returned the following answer…

  1. Organization schema: This schema provides information about the organization, including its name, logo, contact details, and social media profiles. It helps search engines and other web services to better understand the entity behind the website.
  2. BreadcrumbList schema: This schema helps to create a hierarchical navigation structure that makes it easier for users and search engines to understand the site’s content and structure.
  3. WebPage schema: This schema provides information about the webpage, including its title, URL, and description. It helps search engines to better understand the content of the page and display it correctly in search results.
  4. Article schema: This schema is used to structure articles and blog posts on the website. It provides information about the article’s headline, author, date published, and body text. This schema helps search engines to better understand the content and display it in rich snippets.
  5. LocalBusiness schema: This schema is used to provide information about the business’s location, including its address, phone number, and opening hours. It helps search engines to display the business’s information correctly in local search results.

These are all correct! I can confidently say that if you’re looking for help identifying schema used on a site, ChatGPT is a satisfactory tool for the job.

2. What Does Digital Third Coast Do?

Next, I was curious to see if ChatGPT knew what we do at our agency. So I asked about the services we provide and it said we “may provide” the following:

  1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization): This service includes optimizing a website’s content, structure, and technical aspects to improve its visibility and ranking on search engines such as Google.
  2. PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Advertising: This service involves creating and managing online ads that appear on search engines and social media platforms to drive traffic and conversions to a website.
  3. Content Marketing: This service includes creating and promoting valuable and relevant content such as blog posts, videos, infographics, and whitepapers to attract and engage a target audience.
  4. Social Media Marketing: This service involves creating and managing social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to build a brand’s online presence and engage with its audience.
  5. Email Marketing: This service includes creating and sending email campaigns to a targeted audience to promote a brand’s products or services, build relationships, and drive conversions.
  6. Web Design and Development: This service includes creating and designing a website that is user-friendly, visually appealing, and optimized for search engines and conversions.
  7. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): This service involves analyzing a website’s data and user behavior to identify opportunities for improving its conversion rate and optimizing the user experience.

By saying, “may provide,” it’s almost as if ChatGPT is unsure of itself. Services 1-3 are accurate, service number 4 is semi-accurate since we do help with paid social advertising. Service 5-6 are inaccurate and we don’t even have service pages on our site stating we provide those services. And number 7 necessarily isn’t a specific service but it’s something we always consider when making recommendations.

Out of the seven stated, three are true, two are semi-accurate and two are made up. This is a really good representation of the tool in my opinion, some of it is good and some of it is bad. 

Conclusion

In fairness, all of the quotes from local SEO experts above are using ChatGPT and not the other AI tools, so our advice would be to test them all and see what they say in response. Also, we are sure these tools will get smarter and become more fine-tuned as time goes on. The most important thing you can remember is that “ChatGPT is a tool and not a solution” and the same goes for all AI tools. 

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There are positives and negatives that come from using the tool but being educated on the tool’s limits is a step in the right direction. Working on local SEO with AI can help get you closer to the end goal, but make sure you fact-check what the programs say, and make sure you have the final say on what you put out into the world.

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