5 times ChatGPT misguided me in local SEO

The author’s views are entirely his own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect Moz’s views.

If it looks like a cat and sits like a cat, it must be…

OpenAI’s ChatGPT is a novelty that most SEOs are exploring right now for its ability to have a conversation with us about complex issues. It could be a major search disruptor and a threat to Google, a useful tool, a source of inspirationand a societal evil, all rolled into one, but what I want to point out today is that there is a very good reason why the content generated by this system comes with many disclaimers.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve probably answered tens of thousands of questions related to local search marketing. I’m sure I’ve been wrong many times, but one thing is never what happened is that the people who asked for my advice mistook me for an omniscient entity. Local business owners and marketers in forums, emails, DMs, and on the phone understand that I’m just a person doing my best to give them good advice. Concerns arise when I consider what applications like ChatGPT can be mistaken for: an expert, a genius, a demigod?

Let’s do an experiment today to see what happens when we ask ChatGPT some of the most common local SEO questions that people like me are used to asking, and imagine what would happen to local entrepreneurs if they built their marketing strategy on the advice received.

The Local SEO ChatGPT experiment

  1. In which ChatGPT gleefully instructs me to start building virtual office GBPs

Contrary to ChatGPT’s answer, the guidelines for representing your business on Google prohibit the creation of virtual office listings. Unfortunately, our hypothetical local contractor just built one based on this bot’s advice.

2. In which ChatGPT encourages me to violate Yelp’s guidelines

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

3. In which ChatGPT promulgates one of the most persistent local SEO myths of all time

It has to be one of the oldest local SEO myths, and it’s one that marketers need to keep disproving because it just keeps floating around in the ether. With AI promoting this myth, our hypothetical local business owner will now spend hours geotagging all of their images for the promised positioning benefits.

4. In which the myth of the number of suites survives

Any local SEO will immediately recognize this situational question where the questioner is trying to differentiate one business from another at the same address and wants to know if adding a real or fictitious suite number will help Google separate the entities. What people like Joy Hawkins know ChatGPT doesn’t know is that Google ignores suite numbers, but the myths persist.

5. In which the robot starts following a better path and then goes completely wrong

Initially, I was concerned that our hypothetical local business owner asking if he could create a Google Business Profile for a lead gen business wouldn’t get a ChatGPT response that started with “No!” Google’s guidelines specifically list lead gen companies as ineligible. ChatGPT ignores this and proceeds to instruct the investigator how to create a banned list.

A brief ray of hope was ignited for me when the ten-step instructions were followed by the caveat that (correctly) explains that you shouldn’t create GBP for companies without physical locations. “Good,” I thought. “This will make the lead gen professional stop and adhere to the guidelines.”

My hopes, however, were short-lived when the bot followed this up with the slapstick suggestion that the lead gen brand solve their dilemma by creating a virtual office! We’ve come full circle with ChatGPT causing users to disregard Google’s most basic guidelines.

The results of a local SEO strategy driven by ChatGPT

Let’s imagine that our fictitious local entrepreneur mistook ChatGPT for an expert and acted on this advice. What happens next:

  • The Google Business Profile for Virtual Office is suspended and possibly permanently removed for policy violations, nullifying any investment the owner made in creating the listing.

  • The hours invested in geotagging images are all wasted and have eaten up valuable time that the business owner could have spent pursuing tactics that affect search engine rankings.

  • The business owner who may have already gone down the wrong path hoping that fictitious suite numbers will make Google believe that a single business’s separate categories each deserve to have their own listing will sooner or later experience one or both listings being suspended .

  • The lead gen business owner will be suspended for two reasons: 1) for listing a lead gen business in the first place and 2) for listing a virtual office.

  • Once caught, the business name is muddy on Yelp, where their profile is stamped with a nasty public notice for engaging in prohibited practices.

What we have here, then, is not a local SEO strategy, but shreds and shreds of misinformation that could lead to reputation damage, wasted time, and wasted marketing budgets. These are significant real-world consequences.

A mind of metal and wheels

Last year I was invited to contribute an article to a major publication, commenting on the topic of how writers like me feel about the intrusion of AI into our craft. I wrote a thoughtful essay titled art against the machine, in which I drew on JRR Tolkien’s philosophy of tooled human use against the coercion of wills which underpins the development of many machines. My essay still remains unpublished, because the publisher rejected it in favor of an AI ode that urged writers to sublimate our fears and embrace the agenda.

My sincere feelings were clearly not a good match to the publisher’s agenda and the AI ​​debate should definitely include all voices and viewpoints – some people are very excited about the arrival of ChatGPT and will praise the analogue of Google, if and when it arrives, but Others are don’t clap. Teachers, for example, don’t seem to think you get the world’s next Tolkien when machines “think.” My view at the moment is that, if I were to use the current incarnation of ChatGPT to write my column on the Moz blog, you would all be reading local search marketing misinformation right now. I am a firm believer that you deserve better from me.

In all fairness, I want to conclude that ChatGPT correctly answered my questions about local SEO, correctly referencing sections of the almighty Google guidelines. I was pleased when he was able to speak Swedish to me and surprised when he was able to answer me in Irish Gaelic. But the bot lacks the art of elven. I asked a question in Sindarin and ChatGPT had no idea what I was saying:

When I translated my question into English (Westron, for all you Tolkien philologists), ChatGPT understood what I wanted, and its response contained a revealing proviso that should be a reminder to all AI users of a key difference between cars and us.

For now, I’ll continue to write my column the old-fashioned human way, recalling specific (and wonderful!) interactions I’ve had with local business owners and industry peers, and continually drawing on my own experiences.

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