Saturday, September 24, 2016

Google Algorithm News: What You Need to Know About Local SEO

For the SEO community, summer went out with a bang. Just before Labor Day weekend, according to webmasters and Search Engine Land, Google implemented several big algorithm updates--to its core algorithm and local search.

As the website Vertical Measures noted, the change seemed to have occurred on September 1--at least according to Mozcast, "a weather report," as Moz describes it, "showing turbulence in the Google algorithm." On that day, Google's algorithm was a scorching 108° and stormy.

The date is notable because it lands nearly a year after the last major local update, in August, 2015, which changed the local "7-pack", where seven local businesses were featured on the SERP, to a trim "3-pack."

This new local update, which seems to be more evident than the core algorithm change, effected rankings within the highly competitive three-pack; a subsequent update might have effected local organic results.

"Most the local SEO experts are saying this is related to a quality update based on Google removing a lot of spammy local results," Barry Schwartz reported for Search Engine Land. "Local results have thus shifted and changes because removing a local result due to quality issues will result in different local results showing up."

Is your website intended to reach a local audience?

If so, now is an important time to pay attention to Google's algorithm updates. More than ever, it is crucial for local sites to optimize precisely for local audiences. Paying attention to the recent changes can give you clues about how to optimize.

Now is the time to optimize precisely for local results! [Picture Source]

Have You Lost Your Spot on the 3-Pack? 

With this new update, Google has become much more precise about the 3-pack. As Search Engine Land noted in its article about the update, "The physical location of the searcher is more important than it was before."

A local search for "Mexican restaurant." The "local 3-pack"--the three local businesses listed on the SERP has become more precisely attuned to the searcher's location. 

Apparently, Google wants to offer the person-on-the-street a more precise view of local businesses. Depending on where you Google your own business, then, you may or may not show up on the 3-pack results.

If you Google your business from nearby and don't show up on the 3-pack, you should not necessarily panic. As SEO PowerSuite noted after the 2015 local update:

"Google's local packs depend on the searcher's IP so much that you and your neighbor could literally be getting different results for the same query."

With this new update, the local results seem to be even more precise to the searcher's IP.

At the moment, there is not much a business can do to change the local results of the 3-pack--short of changing business locations, but you can check your local ranking from any given location by using BrightLocal's search ranking tool.

Make Sure Your Keywords are Hyper-Specific 

Some webmasters have cited changes in organic keyword rankings for local clients. Search Engine Land noted these changes in the 3-pack, too:

"I’m seeing lots of reports of variations of the 3-pack based on slight keyword variations...Since the update, we are seeing a lot more fluctuation between similar keywords."

Unlike the 3-pack rankings, this change offers an opportunity for enterprising local businesses: optimize for hyper-specific keywords. Now is the time to perform updated keyword research.

Search Engine Land notes that some people are seeing varying results for similar--but minutely different--keywords. Before the update, for example, you might see similar results for...“Los Angeles Chiropractor” or “Chiropractor Los Angeles” or “Chiropractor Los Angeles CA.”

"Since the update," Search Engine Land writes, "we are seeing a lot more fluctuation between similar keywords. In some cases, I’ve looked at a listing that was filtered for one query but then appeared back in the local results if you added the state abbreviation to the keyword."

Performing keyword research, you can easily sort short- and long-tail keywords by search volume, difficulty index, and competition. The key here is to optimize for a variety of hyper-specific keywords suitable to your local audience.

Make Sure Your Google My Business is Accurate

Most savvy business owners know that Google offers a free business listing--even to businesses without websites. Links to your My Business page are not available to browsers, but Google uses most of the info from your page for its 3-pack.

Now is the time to ensure that your listing is optimized and accurate.

If you haven't done, so fill out your Google My Business listing with a unique description, a good profile image and cover photo, additional photos of your service and/or product, and, of course, accurate phone numbers and a business address. Of course, too, make sure all the information is consistent with your website.

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