Almost half a decade ago we saw Google release one of its biggest algorithmic updates yet. Surprisingly, very few SEO professionals took notice, as they focused their attention on the stream of updates that came out at the same time, including Panda 3.3. The Google Venice update slipped under the industry’s radar, and with it, the generic landing page as we knew it. It drastically changed the search engine marketing landscape by localising organic results on broad search queries deemed to have local intent such as ‘Plumbers,’ resulting in many businesses missing the opportunity to optimise their landing pages.
The Venice update marked the beginnings of Google favouring localised landing pages to the detriment of more general and generic landing pages from its SERPs. In August 2015 we were introduced to a newer, more obvious, update that gave us even more insight into how Google determines a business’s local ranking.
Google’s “Local Pack” changed from showing seven results at a time, to only three and more recently two with an advertisement slot. These are the first set of results a user typically scrolls to, and research has suggested that users deem this content as more trustworthy than other search results. This makes it particularly important for a business to achieve placement in this section and get noticed.
So what these updates result in is an even bigger sense of competition among businesses to be placed within both the Local Pack or at least as high up in local SERPs as possible. But in order for a company to achieve this visibility, marketers need to adopt localised SEO strategies.
Optimise your information
Google determines a business’ local ranking through using the information provided on the company’s Google My Business Page. It’s vital that a business has a Google+ company or brand page and tells it as much about the business as it can to ensure visibility within local SERPs.
First and foremost, the most vital information that needs to be correct is a business's NAP details (name, address, and phone number); these details and their consistency across the web are one of the key factors impacting listings rankings.
Google uses this address information to determine the business’s proximity to the user. Up until July 2014 the closer the business was to the centre (or centroid) of the user's location or the location they were searching for, the higher up in the search rankings the business would be. However, the search engine recognised how unfair a signal this was to use in determining quality and have elected to incorporate more traditional signals such as links and content.
Another way businesses can improve their local rankings for relevant searches is by ensuring they have a keyword-targeted description on their profile. The more detailed information a business can provide, the higher it could rank within local SERPS. However, keep your business name to your actual business name rather than attempting any keyword stuffing. It’s more likely to have a detrimental impact.
There’s a high correlation between placement at the top end of SERPs, and positioning within the local pack and user reviews about the business. Reviews are becoming an essential tool for local businesses to gain prominence in a search engine’s results, and to gain users' trust. Their reviews on a company’s website and Google My Business page should encourage more click-throughs and ultimately conversions or physical visits to a business’s landing page.
Be creative when asking customers for reviews. Incentives are a great way to interact and ask customers for reviews. Google do state however that offering money or a product to others to write reviews for your business or write negative reviews about a competitor is against their guidelines.
Using social media sites such as Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram helps boost local content your company is producing and may have second-order effects of raising your local SERPs presence by way of backlinks.
Localise landing pages
A further way a business can improve their localised search rankings is through optimising all their landing pages with relevant, geographical keywords. Companies should first of all be including their NAP details on all their landing pages to boost positionings.
These companies should not just be optimising their landing pages with NAP details, but they also need to be localising their content. Which includes titles, labelling of pictures and sharing of local goings on in the area they do business.
For example, a restaurant based in Reading should be ensuring that they are weaving local keyword elements into both existing content and new. Businesses need to research their audiences and build their content around this. They can do this by writing content around particular subjects relevant to their area, promoting events nearby or writing about local suppliers. This makes the restaurants landing page content both relevant and hyperlocal.
It’s important for companies to realise that these localised updates are continually being created and changed to coincide with mobile devices where all queries are deemed to have local intent by Google. These devices automatically use localised results and, with the increased use of mobile search, Google will keep the updates coming in order to optimise its search engine to provide relevant content.
Businesses need to ensure they have a mobile-friendly website and an SEO strategy that suits this. They’ll need to keep track of the way users use mobile search and incorporate this into their content and keywords.
Ultimately, we are seeing more and more companies that have failed to optimise their SEO to meet both the Venice and local pack update requirements, and are struggling the most to make it onto Local SERPs. Businesses need to start adopting local SEO strategies in order to gain more authority within Google’s local pack. This will entail following user’s trends and needs and optimising their content with more of a local feel. Matching and adapting digital SEO strategies to Google’s local algorithmic trends will essentially ensure you remain visible on the local SERPs, leading to more conversions in the long run.