Reddit in Local, AI Overview Ads, Service Area Boost

Reddit in Local, AI Overview Ads, Service Area Boost

Reddit Colonizes Local

I can see the future Atlantic headline now: "How Reddit Ruined Google." Reddit has been showing up more often and for more types of search queries since: 1) "discussions and forums" (née Hidden Gems) became a more prominent feature the SERP and 2) Google did its ~$60M content licensing AI-training deal with the company. Arguably, Reddit is showing up too often for too many keywords. That now seems to be happening in local, according to a new study from BrightLocal. The research looked at 800 local SERPs, comparing informational and transactional queries in 20 verticals and 20 US cities. The objective was to determine how often Reddit appeared and its average ranking position (see graphic). BrightLocal found that Reddit showed up in 81% of local informational results (e.g., best [category] location) but only 16% of transactional queries. It also found that Reddit content appeared both within the "discussions and forums" module and outside of it as pure organic results. Given Reddit's new prominence it's attracting more spam. Perhaps the forthcoming Atlantic headline should instead be "How Google Ruined Reddit."

Our take:

  • A Glen Allsopp study earlier this year found that Reddit was dominating product search review results. And many of those results were spammy.
  • Google has elevated Reddit, Quora and some other social sources, partly in response to some users' turn to social for "more authentic" content.
  • BrightLocal's advice to SEOs: monitor Reddit for brand mentions. Engage organically when appropriate. Follow SEO content best practices (e.g., EEAT).

AI Overview Ads

Last week Google held its I/O developer event, which was all about AI. This week it held its Google Marketing Live (GML) advertiser event. GML was also about AI and how it's being integrated across Google's ad products. There were a number of announcements, including PMax upgrades, AI brand-compliant creative generation, more immersive shopping ads, merchant brand profiles (inspired by Google Business Profiles) and ads in AI Overviews, among several other things. Google has always said (and told investors) that it would monetize AI results or, conversely, that it wouldn't let AI results hurt ad revenues. At GML the company said, "[W]e’ll start testing Search and Shopping ads in AI Overviews for users in the U.S. They will have the opportunity to appear within the AI Overview in a section clearly labeled as 'sponsored' when they’re relevant to both the query and the information in the AI Overview." Ads are drawn from current Search, PMax and Shopping Campaigns. Google promised more and higher quality clicks for these advertisers, which is consistent with what it has said about engagement with AI Overviews generally. The only (very brief) mention of local was in the context of a pre-recorded retail case study.

Mockup of Ads in AI Overview
Source: Google

Our take:

  • Today AI Overviews aren't showing much in local, in contrast to the Labs incubation period. It will be interesting to see if LSAs do.
  • Beyond LSAs, there are potentially other opportunities including Search Ads with location extensions and Product Inventory Ads.
  • In the retail case study (Pandora) the company rep said, "We were able to see major incremental value using Omnichannel bidding, Performance Max for Store Goals and Local Inventory Ads."

Service Areas a New Ranking Factor?

While it's not confirmed, Whitespark has posted about the possibility that service areas is now a local ranking factor. Historically, service areas in Google Business Profiles have not impacted local rankings. There is now some evidence that it might have become one. Whitespark cites an example from Jim Allen on Twitter, who updated the service areas for his notary business to be more focused around specific target geographies. "Updated Local Falcon scans now show him ranking better in that area," the blog post reads. This is some evidence that Google may be tweaking or updating the local algorithm. Similarly, business hours was not long ago revealed as a new local ranking signal. Assuming service areas is a new local factor, Whitespark asks how strong a signal and whether it requires hiding the businesses address to obtain the benefit.

Service Area Adjustment Boosted Rankings
Source: Whitespark-Local Falcon

Our take:

  • Businesses that come to your location (SABs) represent many billions in annual revenues; it's a big chunk of GDP.
  • Google's awkward treatment of service areas prompted workarounds: service area pages, use of PO Boxes and faking it with WeWork locations.
  • Dealing with SABs has been a problem for Google for at least 15 years. In one sense LSAs were created to address the above "spam" issue.

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