In late July, Google rolled out an update to their local search algorithm. This came somewhat as a surprise to most in the digital marketing world as Google gave little heads up that it would be making changes. Google didn't even give the update a name; 'Pigeon' was improvised by the online media resource Search Engine Land.
In the past we have seen updates that focus on excluding non-relevant results to local searches. This update instead focuses on strengthening the relevance of top local search results.
Most of the updates are behind the scenes, but there are some clear changes happening to local SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) that marketers and local businesses should be aware of:
- Many internet users have become accustom to Google's Local 7 Pack (a map preview with a list of 7 local results to your search query on the SERP). With this update, we are seeing the Local 7 Pack less often.
- Another change we are seeing is more top results from 3rd party directories like Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Open Table. Previously, Google had favored their own directory listings or the websites of local businesses in results.
- The update comes with improvements to their distance and location ranking as specified by the user's geographic location.
Your SEO will be competing more with large 3rd party directory websites for rank. This could mean that your website has fallen down in local search rankings. As websites like Yelp move up in rankings it is even more important for local businesses to be utilizing these directories and encouraging customers to leave positive reviews.
How will these changes affect local businesses? Don't fret. Most of these updates will not significantly change your search ranking or traffic if you have been putting out optimized and engaging content all along. Some may see a slight drop in organic search traffic but this will likely be offset by an increased number of referrals from 3rd party sites. Just keep an eye on your traffic and referrals and assess your use of directories. Optimize your content on these sites and ensure all of your business information and addresses are up to date.