Google released a new update to their Local Search algorithm a few days ago and it may mean big changes in how your Google+ Local Page and website rank in the local search results.
The Pigeon update (informally named so by Search Engine Land), is not a penalty based update like the Penguin (bad links) and Panda (bad content) updates, but a change in the overall algorithm that determines how Google+ Local Pages and websites rank in the local search results.
While it's still early to know all of the details of the update, here are some of the details being pushed out by some of the authority SEO sites on the web. The update is currently only in the U.S., but Google says it will eventually be rolling it out to other countries.
So what do you need to know?
Higher Emphasis on Strong Domains
It looks like the Pigeon update is placing a higher emphasis on the strength and domain authority of the website itself, meaning stronger domains are getting a boost in the local search results. The local search algorithm that Google uses is different from the main search algorithm, though there is overlap in the signals they use to determine rankings in the search results.
While domain strength has always been a factor, it seems that Google is placing a higher emphasis on the website itself to determine local rankings.
So what should you do?
If you've had success before with your Google+ Local Page in the past and didn't pay much attention to your actual website, it may be time to change that. Many Google+ Local Pages can rank highly regardless of your website if it the page is setup correctly and it has a lot of customer reviews. While these factors will still play a big role, businesses should take a look at their websites and make sure they remain accurate and updated with fresh content.
Directories Have Made Gains
Big directories seem to have made major gains with the new update. If you look at this sample local search for “plumber san francisco”, you'll see that Yelp dominates the local search results. Numerous local seo blogs are reporting similar results for other local search terms. Hopefully this over-emphasis on directories will iron itself out once Google makes some tweaks to the algorithm, but it looks like directories got a win here.
So what should you do?
If directories are showing up in the local search results for your main keyword terms, it may make sense to start building a presence on that directory and get some reviews posted there. I'm not a fan of paying for directory listings, luckily most of the major ones are free to use.
Just like with local seo before, getting a profile and proper citations on high quality directories is always a good idea. It helps Google determine that you're a legit business in the area and gives them the confidence to rank you in the search results.
Changes In How The Local Listing Packs Display
For many local searches in Google, they will display what's called a “Map Result” or “7 Pack” listing. This is a search result where the Google Map displays along with a list of local businesses. Early tests have seen that these types of results have been reduced, some say by as much as 23%. It's too early to tell how much these types of results will be affected, but it looks they will be showing up less often.
What should you do?
Make sure your website is optimized for your local area and you are doing things to increase the domain strength of your website. Making sure your NAP (name, Address, Phone#) are displayed prominently and accurately, adding fresh content and getting links back to your website are all ways to increase the strength of your website over time. Basically, time to do some SEO on your website.
Local Carousel Seems Unaffected
While the Carousel only shows up for a very small number of search results and only for specific searches (like restaurants), it appears that it is unaffected so far with the Pigeon update.
So what should you do?
To get the most out of search results that feature the Carousel, make sure you have high quality images uploaded to your Google+ Local Page as well as customer reviews, as these are both highlighted in the Carousel.
If you're new to Local SEO or need to go back and do a refresh, here are some general tips for you.
Make sure you have a Google+ Local Page
If you don't have one (it used to be called a Google Places page), make sure you go and set one up, it's free. If you do have a page, now is a good time to login and review your listing. Makes sure the listing is live, information is accurate, you have uploaded nice images to your listing and that you have a process in place to get some more customer reviews.
Now is a good time to look at how many customer reviews you have online, not only in Google, but on the major directories like Yelp and Yellow Pages. If your reviews are lacking, now is a good time to start calling people to write reviews for you.
Local Information on your website
Review your website and make sure that your location information is displayed prominently throughout your website. I like to display location information in the footer so it shows up on every page of the website. At the very least, make sure you have it written out on your contact us page.
Make sure your NAP is accurate
Make sure that your NAP (Name, Address, Phone#) are accurate and the NAP on your website is the same on your Google+ Local Page. If you run a Google search on your phone number (the most distinct item out of the three), you'll be able to see other websites that have your information and can check to see if it is accurate. If you are in the U.S., you can also go to Getlisted.org (now MOZ Local) and run a check of your website to see where you are listed.
Have a question about local seo? You can contact me here.