Google regularly changes its algorithm which can affect Local SEO and the rankings of some businesses. Google’s motivation is to improve the experience of the general public rather than to make things difficult for local businesses. A new service has been developed to monitor these changes and can be seen below.
Whenever the monitor goes above a certain number and changes from green it an indication of algorithm changes. The service breaks that down by industry so you can see if yours has been affected. Recently the majority of the changes have been in the hospitality sector.
The major local search factors remain unchanged
- Relevance. Relevance refers to how well searches are matching with a local listing. Adding complete and detailed business information can help Google better understand your business and match your Google listing to relevant searches from customers.
- Distance. Distance is calculated by how far each potential business is from the location terms used in a search. If a customer doesn’t specify a location in their search, Google will calculate distance based on what’s known about their location from their device.
- Prominence. Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous landmarks or well-known brands are also likely to be more prominent in local search results.
A relatively recent change is that prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the Internet (like links, articles and directories). Review count and score are also factored into local search ranking – more reviews and positive ratings will improve a business’s local ranking. The business’s position in search results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimisation.
Google is the New Home Page in Local SEO
Some experts are saying “Google is the new Home Page” for local businesses and this is a definite change. It makes Local SEO even more important than it used to be. What it means is that Google will serve up the entity (local business in this case) that best matches the search query. The entity is displayed in a knowledge panel (on the right-hand side on a large screen device) and provides a summary. The summary includes all the information that Google thinks is relevant.
The net effect of this is that customers no longer need to click through to the website to get the most relevant information. Hence Google is the new Home Page. This also means that Google Analytics does not see these searches as they never reach your site.
Google has also improved its dashboard for business listings with additional features such as Products and Services. The features are dependent on the business category as not all businesses have Products for instance. The dashboard remains one of the best tools to help with Local SEO.
Products is a big change as it is related to other Google products such as Google Merchant Center and surfaces across Google. In summary, if you are a store then Google provides an e-commerce platform for you which can be integrated with Google My Business. Even if you are not using e-commerce, you can use the products section in your dashboard if it exists for your category.
The move to Mobile in Local SEO
Another change is the drift towards mobile devices. Google My Business dashboard is available as an App on smartphones and has some unique features such as messaging. Study after study has shown that searches, particularly local searches, are happening more and more on mobile devices. Considering that Google takes the user’s location into consideration, it is not surprising that they would begin to give users on the go the edge in the searches. Today, in order to make the most of Google and its page ranking algorithm, business owners must ensure their websites are mobile-friendly.
A related change is “voice search” which is becoming mainstream with tools like Siri and Alexa. It is likely that further adjustments to websites will have to be made to make them more “voice friendly”.
Facebook has become a Local Search engine and e-commerce platform in its own right. It is quite possible these days for both businesses and consumers to live exclusively in the Facebook world to do business. Facebook owns Instagram and it is possible to set up a Store on either platform which is similar to using Google Merchant Center. It is not a recommended business strategy but it just shows how far Facebook has come. Both Facebook and Google are targeting the success of Amazon and eBay with their merchant offerings.
We work with your website designer to improve your ability to be found in Google and other search engines. Also, to look good wherever you may appear online. We specialise in local SEO and most of our work is off-site. But there may need to be some on-site work undertaken by your webmaster to complement what we do. If you would be interested in finding out more, please use the Contact Form on our website.