Google’s new algorithm update for local results
Local Google search is changing and I advise you monitor developments closely as local and organic search merge.
You simply can’t take Google traffic for granted. I know I harp on about this, but if your SEO has tunnel vision, you could be left without a business.
It was perhaps inevitable Google would seek to align local search more closely with the ranking signals used in its main search engine. If you are a UK business you won’t have noticed any changes. But in the US, changes have been noted within the general search results pages and within map searches. While this algorithm update may not be finished, you can bet it will be heading over here sooner rather than later. So what’s going on and what are the implications for your business?
In late July, in the US, Google rolled out an algorithm update for local search that’s having a profound impact on local search results. Google believes this will provide searchers with a better experience but it’s clear from what I have been reading there is some fine tuning to do on Google’s part. Such developments are rarely a one-time deal.
Google map listings have been an important referrer for many local businesses. But it’s clear not all businesses are there on merit and the listings for some searches can be cluttered showing up to 7 entries. What the new algorithm seeks to do is to better provide results based on merit and taking more account of the searchers location and distance parameters.
In practice the new algorithm reduces the amount of local map listings appearing on the first page of the serps and it appears to be the case directories of local listings such as Yelp and yellow pages type of directories, may experience a higher ranking than before. This doesn’t sound good for small businesses, and the view among commentators is that this position may evolve over time because it probably isn’t good for searchers either.
The general trend with organic results is that they are getting pushed further down the page so that they may not appear “above the fold”. This local search algorithm update appears to further this trend because its actively changing the way the first page of the serps looks like. This is something i have been predicting for a few years now.
Before the update, dubbed “Pigeon” by the media , it was common to see results for local searches include up to 7 local map listings. However for some researches this number is very much reduced . The question, I suppose, is whether the results returned before the update were accurate and helpful enough? Possibly not, as the results retuned incorporating local lap listings may not have been retrieved entirely on merit. It was the best set-up Google could achieve at the time. Google perhaps now realises it doesn’t have to be a yellow pages type directory. It can leave that to others.
Some commentators are estimating the number of local business listings appearing in the serps has dropped by just under 25%. Researchers also report some searches may have gained entries from Google local listings. It’s probably fair to say things are still in a state of flux. That said, more results are displaying only 3 map entries than previously.
I surmise that the move to ranking signals and better local search parameters gives Google more control over which local businesses appear near the top of the serps.
What should you do about Pigeon?
If you’re a local UK business, you will have to deal with this issue at some point. Here in the UK we have the benefit of some foresight. The question is how should you respond to the merging of local and organic search?
This development will benefit those local businesses that have good organic rankings for local search terms. If this isn’t you, then I would suggest there are two lines of attack.
The first is a superficial one. You should ensure every facet of your internet presence, including social media has the same local information. On your website you should include this information in your footer but don’t be spammy about it.
The second level involves an analysis of your traffic and the extent to which you have correctly applied local SEO. Local listings on Google maps was never a substitute, but now is the time to find out if you’re getting found for the right searches on the organic listings.