Not long after Yelp accused Google of manipulating its search results to favor its own content over that of the latter, the search engine giant updated the local search algorithm to fix the problem. Since the fire spread in the forest, there have been speculations about why does the update matter and how the update is going to affect the local businesses.
MozCast feature report shows the following changes to the local results:
Here’s what you need to know.
What did the Update do?
According to Search Engine Land, the local search algorithm update aimed to “provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals.” This means, search results will emphasize more on the searcher’s location in traditional search results and Google Maps. More local results will be added at the top of the search results page as compared to before. The update brought these changes:
- Improvements in the distance and location raking parameters. This means Google will be using the exact location of your business into its search results more than ever before.
- The update has also changed the way synonyms and misspellings will be used in determining the search results. Apart from this, there have been updates to the knowledge graph.
- A boost in ranking of local directory sites like Yelp, Zagat, Urbanspoon, OpenTable, TripAdvisor etc, causing the individual locations to not appear until the second page. Before the update, Yelp was often left out of the top search results, even in branded search queries which included“Yelp.” After the update, searches with “Yelp” appear at the top of the search results page.
Why the Update?
There are multiple reasons why Google brought about this update in the local search algorithm. We have tried to analyze a few of them:
- Recently, Yelp blamed Google of favoring its own results over that of Yelp, even in branded searches. It might be possible that the update is a result of Google lending an ear to Yelp’s problem.
- Google has frequently talked about how mobile is the future. Another reason of the update can be to provide a better search experience to mobile users. The update is tailored in such a way that mobile users who are looking to do local shopping can get location-specific listings for the products they are looking for.
How will it Affect Local Businesses?
- As a result of the changes in the local search result rankings, some local businesses may notice a change in web site referrals, leads and overall business.
- Small businesses might witness a change in their rankings. Whether this change is positive or negative cannot be said now. While some businesses will benefit significantly with the increased emphasis on local search, others might be pushed out of heavier traffic searches due to prioritizing of directories.
- Large directories will benefit more than small individual locations.
What You Need to do Now?
- First and foremost, make sure your business appears in the industry directories and review sites. Register your business with these directories and try to collect positive reviews.
- Keep a check on the local search terms related to your business to make sure they haven’t changed. If they have, update your strategy accordingly.
- If your industry keywords are appearing in local search results, you should get optimized for local search.
- If your industry keywords are no longer appearing in the local search 7-pack, make sure you are appearing in the organic results.
- In case your ranking has dropped as a result of the update, try to focus more on on-page optimization, backlinks etc along with local optimization.
- Review your referral and lead traffic to find signs of changes.
- Check for broken links, appropriate contact numbers and spellings in your Google Local listing. We recommend you to add this information in the footer of your site, so that Googlebots can find it on every page while crawling through your site. However, just having it on your Contact Us page will also benefit.
- After you have checked your site for NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number), check whether you have provided the same information on the directory listings and social media accounts. Multiple addresses and phone numbers can confuse search engines and give negative results.
- With the update, it has become more important than ever to build a mobile responsive and optimized website for your local business.
The local search algorithm update, popularly dubbed as the Pigeon update by Search Engine Land, is more likely to benefit small businesses, with more emphasis laid on the local search results. Like all other Google updates, it might take a few more days before we completely understand the impact the Pigeon update will have on businesses.
Changes in the Google algorithms, such as the Pigeon update, tells how vital is a professional SEO agency for your business. They will ensure your organization can roll with these punches. If you are not using an SEO service for your business, we would suggest you to check your local placement on Google and find out if there has been any changes in the past one week.
As of now, the update is rolling out only in the US English, we will update you when it will be made available to other countries. If you have any questions regarding the local search algorithm update of Google, you can feel free to ask us in the comments section below.