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Adapting to AI in search: How local businesses can prepare for customer behavior changes

Marketing
Andrew Adams

The way consumers find information through search engines is changing again— this time, with the introduction of generative AI into search results. Google and other search engines use generative AI to give individuals simplified search results. This AI-powered result means users no longer have to look through several of the top search results to find the answers.

Generative AI in search will change how users look for information, but how will local businesses need to adapt?

Understanding generative AI and its integration into search

Generative AI creates diverse content from simple prompts. Its development transformed engagement by emulating human-like interactions and gathering data-driven responses. Integrating AI into search will alter interactions between consumers and businesses.

Instead of a search engine returning results based on specific keywords, generative AI search can understand more conversational and complex search queries. Google will pull information from your website based on traditional SEO and evaluate your customer reviews, third-party directories, and other sources to create a more robust search result.

As users get accustomed to this conversational search approach, they’ll begin asking more detailed questions and relying on search engines to determine the answer. Generative AI in search marks a notable shift in our digital landscape. Discover seven insights detailing how this new technology affects your business.

How will your business perform in the future of search? Request a free Digital AI Audit from Scorpion.

7 ways generative AI will change search


The addition of AI into search is more than a Google algorithm update. AI will fundamentally change how people interact with search engines, and it will significantly change how businesses approach digital marketing. Here are seven ways that search will change consumer and business search behaviors:

1. Consumers will move from search to conversation

The first major shift changes how users interact with search engines. Users are shifting from keyword-based searches to asking more detailed questions. The future of search will be more conversational, like a chat with a knowledgeable friend. Conversational search enhances accessibility to information and enables follow-up questions.

“Plumber near me” will become “Affordable plumber who can unclog my kitchen sink today.” Instead of Google looking at keywords for plumbers in the area, the search engine will also examine websites, customer reviews, and more to find plumbers that meet the additional criteria, including:

  • affordable
  • clogged sinks
  • same-day service

This shift allows consumers to be more specific in their search while also prompting businesses to provide more information to create a conversation.

2. Customer reviews will be foundational to discovery

Customer reviews are even more influential in AI-powered search results. Google searches through your reviews to help determine if your website is a good result for a user’s query. This new conversational search approach incorporates insights from your reviews. When users search for specific attributes - affordable, dependable, efficient - Google will look for user reviews that echo those same sentiments.

This influences how prospective clients perceive and discover your business. The sentiment and descriptions shared by clients in reviews directly shape search outcomes.

3. Clear, helpful content will become more critical

Your website content should address users' nuanced, dialogue-based queries. Your website lets you showcase who you are, how you help your customers, and what sets you apart from competitors. As search queries get more specific and conversational, your website content should focus on information that will help answer those questions.

Your site should vividly showcase expertise, success stories, FAQs, and services. This essential information is necessary to maintain visibility in search results. Conversational search will focus on website content to find more specific information for search results. Ensure your website discusses the specifics of what you do and how you do it.

4. Third-party directories will still have relevance

Directories such as Yelp, AVVO, and Thumbtack maintain value in Google's conversational search. These directories offer essential information to users engaged in conversational search queries. While generative AI search pulls information from your website and reviews, it also looks at third parties to help strengthen the results. These directories can be monumental when someone is looking for the best divorce attorney in a region. In this case, Google may include an AVVO list of the 10 best divorce attorneys.

Ensuring a strong presence across relevant directories is necessary so your business is included in more search results.

5. Your client experience will differentiate you

In the future of search, your prospective clients won’t merely search for a service provider nearby. Users will refine their search by specific attributes when looking for a provider.

For example, they may search for a “responsive car wreck attorney near me.” Or an “HVAC provider that accepts credit cards.” Generative AI search gathers data matching user preferences from various online sources. Consumers will be more detailed in their search, meaning businesses must be clear about the client experience. Your website should talk about how you do business - including payments, communication styles, and any other things that set you apart.

6. Specificity and transparency will bring an advantage

With conversational search, potential customers seek detailed, direct answers. Your website should offer more than basic details. It should include pricing, explanations of services, and potential outcomes. The more specific you are, the better your business can offer value to potential clients. And the more value Google will find from your website.

You may be hesitant to include more specific information. However, with generative AI search, Google is looking for websites that answer a user’s detailed questions. The specificity on your website tells search engines that you’re the best in the business.

7. Demonstrating expertise will elevate results

In traditional search, a user may look for one search term, “Can I finish my basement myself?” and then scan through the results to see if they can do it themselves or not. With generative AI, that same search query would give the user an AI overview of the answer and also prompt them with follow-up questions, such as:

  • What is the most expensive part of finishing a basement?
  • What to do before finishing your basement?
  • Can you finish a basement without drywall?

 

These follow-up questions give searchers more insight into their original search term - and allow businesses to shine.

Focus on common questions you receive during a consultation to get started. Develop a strategy for potential industry-related inquiries. Addressing these questions with expertise can boost your visibility in AI-based search.

How your potential clients will use Google’s AI search

Users will be more specific in their search queries. Instead of a “personal injury attorney near me,” they will ask Google for a “Responsive DUI lawyer accepting credit cards.” Google's AI scours websites, online reviews, and other sources for these details. The result is a condensed snapshot like this:

 

As you can see, there are names and contact information for firms in the results. These featured firms had robust information, including payment options, online.

Here’s an example of a search result that pulled information from external review sites. Google integrates external review sites into search results, giving prominence to top matches:

The AI-powered summary means that consumers may only look at one or two websites that Google recommends. In some cases, a user could ask a general question about adoption laws in California and find the answer to their question on a lawyer's website, prompting the user to call that attorney for legal advice.

Strategies to adapt and succeed with generative AI in search

The proactive efforts your business takes now will position you for success. Ensuring a current, relevant, and robust online presence is more important than ever. Consider integrating these key strategies into your marketing plan:

  • Regularly check all reviews: Monitor all reviews and encourage satisfied customers to review. Ask them to focus on specific aspects of your business that make you stand out.
  • Maintain up-to-date information across platforms: Keep platforms updated with current operating hours, pricing, payment methods, and customer preferences. This applies to both managed platforms and third-party directories.
  • Highlight unique aspects of your business: Showcase unique features like free consultations, multilingual services, or team credentials.
  • Address frequently asked questions: Provide comprehensive answers to common customer queries on your website.
  • Offer diverse communication channels: Meet clients where they are by offering chat (bonus for custom AI chat), web forms, texting, scheduling, and online payment options.
  • Consider strategic Google ad campaigns: Strategic Google ad campaigns enhance visibility in competitive regions.

Positive reviews, unique online content, FAQs, and diverse communication channels are essential. Stay ahead in the digital landscape by working on these strategies.

Partnering for search success

Your online presence becomes crucial in the future of search. You need a marketing partner who can keep your business relevant and successful. Scorpion assists local businesses with review monitoring, SEO rankings, and digital advertising. Our expert team is well-versed in local marketing changes, ensuring our clients stay ahead of updates.

To discover how Scorpion can elevate your online presence, contact us today.