Is your business optimized for local search and using Local SEO?
How does local search in Google really work anyway?
Let's dive a bit deeper into online tech today!
My aim here will be to go into the intricate world of Google Search algorithms and breakdown what has changed and what you need to know related to local search engine optimization (SEO) in simple terms.
Going big picture to give you some background, the first thing to know is that Google makes changes to their search algorithm each year. They do it to continue to serve the end user, those doing searches, so that you get the best search results for your search term you input.
Of course, Google also needs to stay ahead of those "black hat SEO's" who try to game the system and artificially rank a website in results even though they should not be there. It's ever evolving and changing! Google wants to provide the best relevant results, and thwart the attempts of companies trying to circumvent this with techniques that artificially rank sites higher than they should really appear.
Google typically makes 1-3 main changes a year and numerous small changes in-between to their search engine algorithm. In the summer of 2014, Google launched a new update, called Pigeon, in the US that was the first big change really focused specifically on local search results. The new algorithm is intending to improve local search results by displaying more relevant, accurate and useful local pages. So I'm going to dive into what changed and how your search results are impacted.
There have always been discrepancies in the search results displayed from searching Google Maps and the regular Google search. The results displayed are different, which showed that there was no connection between the 2 searches. Pigeon changed that. The algorithm searches in both areas and displays results from both. The intent is to bring cohesiveness to make searching locations easier, and it seems to be much improved in this area.
Local directories have not shown up well in Google search results for years. Google had pushed its own pages to top ranks at the expense of the local directories. Yelp at one point brought up the issue where their pages would be ranked below the Google’s pages even when the term “Yelp” was included in the search query. The launch of the new algorithm changed and seems to have resolved this issue, giving local directories higher rank even when the search query was generic. This means your local search should return better local results and local directories, such as a chamber of commerce business directory, should rank higher in search results.
It's common for a given neighborhood to have several names, such as the official subdivision and the historical or slang term. These names were most likely captured in Google Maps but not necessarily in Google web search. Searching conventional names and common names such as “Uptown” before the release of Pigeon would bring different results. With the cohesiveness of the two searches and improved location results, searching any of the different names that a neighborhood goes by will give the same or inter-related search results. It's an upgrade that Google now recognizes more intuitively the multiple names for a given location and combines results of each into one, more relevant search result.
Pigeon update’s algorithm is made to use both location and distance to give local results. The distance factor can also influence the results displayed even when the search query is for a specific location. For example, Sam is near the south edge of Goshen. He searches for a restaurant using Google Maps, the results will be displayed according to their distance from him. If Sally is just few miles from the edge of Elkhart in Dunlap area and she's searching for a nearby restaurant, she'll receive restaurants in both Elkhart and Goshen. Thus, search is location specific and geo-targeted. This is the new local SEO.
Local businesses have always fared less than well against the online giants in search results. This also has made some progress and positive change with the launch of Pigeon. The rank of online giants without specific (storefront) location in the towns which they had optimized for on their sites were dropped lower in search results. Local businesses, with local business addresses significantly moved up. This benefited local businesses which had optimized their websites or their social media sites to show the specific location of their operation. This is now going to be part of local SEO strategies moving forward.
So what is a local business to do to take advantage of these new changes? Keep the basics in front of you including adding new content regularly to your site that includes your key phrases such as company name and product, as well as ensure you have a good contact page with your company name and address in text. As well, in order to always have your site updated and adjusted to focus on maximizing the latest changes it can be valuable to hire an outside SEO expert. Hiring experts such as a SEO company Melbourne offers you both SEO expertise and local SEO techniques that can make all the difference.
The value of this local SEO update by Google is that they are working to help the local small business stay relevant and be found in the competitive world of online search results.