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Google’s Venice Update and Local SEO

Andy Williams

by Andy Williams on 3rd April 2012

Google LogoGoogle’s Venice update in February brought about 40 algorithm changes – a number of which have sparked a few debates.

One update that is causing the most discussion is the change to how links are evaluated, and how this will make a difference. Google have announced certain link signals will be turned off. Some people are now more convinced that Google are looking to move away from link strength as being a ranking factor with Social now becoming the main player along with creative content.

Until we start to see the effects, I don’t think any of us can do any more than guess. Google may become smarter in the way it treats links, but personally I don’t think link building will ever become an ignored practice.

However the update I am going to focus on today is Google’s update to Local Search. This is a hugely important update that appears to have slipped under the radar; it’s an update that’s already up and running.

The ‘improved local results’ update now means that entered search queries don’t have to contain a geographic location for Google to deliver location related results.

Here is the update Google provided in their blog post:

“Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.”

So what does this mean?

Basically if you don’t have a local strategy – you had better get one.

Before, Local SEO was all about including locations in Title tags and on page factors to capture anyone searching for related local terms. Unless someone searched for Doctors Surgery ‘in Southampton’ they would most likely have national results displayed.

With this new change from Google you don’t even have to be logged into your Google account to have localised results returned to you.

Unless you physically change your location to a more generic ‘UK’ (or whichever country you are in), Google will return results related to the location they believe you to be in. Think about that a bit more – how many Google users actually know they can change their location?

Lets have a look at an example.

Below I have searched for the term ‘Doctors Surgery’ having changed my location to UK:
I am also not logged into my Google account.

Local Search


Now if I set my location back to Southampton you can see the difference in the results returned to me:

Local Search


So by location alone (which is picked up by Google regardless of whether you are logged in or not) we are now seeing more localised results. We don’t need to enter the location in our query.

As I mentioned earlier – It’s now more important than ever to have some kind of local strategy.

This is a new update and I have seen some mixed results with clear confusion from Google as to the difference between American locations and those in the UK (of the same name). However, with such a big update you can expect this to be fixed.

There is no avoiding this, whether you like it or not Local is now a huge part of the algorithm.

So what should you be doing?

I have spoken about Local SEO before and as you can see from the second screenshot example, Google included Google Places profiles. You need one. Regardless of whether you are including Local in your strategy or not, you should have one. More so if Local is your target.

If you don’t have one – get one.
If you do have one – make sure you verify it.
If you have verified it – make sure you have completely optimised it.

Get Google Reviews.

What about On-Page?

All the old rules apply. In fact these apply more than ever. By old rules I do of course mean those that are relevant and matter, not old hat techniques.

Look at all the conventional on-page areas:

  • Title Tags
  • Meta Description
  • Content
  • Address
  • Telephone Number

As I said, this isn’t anything new; these are factors that have always been important. The difference is that because Local is now embedded into the algorithm, this information could become the difference between appearing on the first page for more generic terms or being placed on page two.

What if you serve certain locations but don’t have a physical address (in that area)?

Create landing pages for each of your locations.

Make sure local information is included but doesn’t duplicate your content from other areas of your site.

Here are some pointers:

  • Including the location in the URL
  • Include the address
  • Add a Google Map
  • Depending on what you are offering, adding local information may enhance your service

What else can you do?

Markup Your Address in Schema.

Google are really pushing this at the moment. They love Rich Snippets, and Schema is their chosen platform. You can use others but why go against what they are recommending.

By adding your address to microdata code you will be further highlighting to Google your location and relevance to that location.

Here is a basic example using one of Google’s addresses:

<div itemscope itemtype=”schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<span itemprop=”name”>Google Inc.</span>
P.O. Box<span itemprop=”postOfficeBoxNumber”>1234</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Mountain View</span>,
<span itemprop=”addressRegion”>CA</span>
<span itemprop=”postalCode”>94043</span>
<span itemprop=”addressCountry”>United States</span>

So there you go, having a local strategy is no longer an option, it’s essential; and this is one update you can’t ignore.

Andy Williams

Andy Williams

Andy Williams, our DADI award winning Digital Marketing Manager will be giving you useful insights into local search and the overall SEO landscape. Andy has over 9 years experience in the SEO industry including 2 years as the in-house SEO consultant with a leading Web Design company.

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  • Jim Seward 3rd April 2012

    Nice round up of Venice. Particularly like the no nonsense markup for address data in schema #win there :-)

    Reply to this comment

  • Dean Marsden

    Dean 3rd April 2012

    Glad you posted about this Andy. It is so important now if you have a local business to make sure you are visible, a lot more searchers are going to see localised results from now on.

    It is worth highlighting for SEO’s that if you enter UK or United Kingdom in the change location field in Google you will see the general results. Likewise if you have a client in a particular area, entering their location works well to show you what local results they might see.

    Reply to this comment

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  • Darren 3rd April 2012

    How accurate is the location from Google though? I’m not logged in to my Google account, have not touched my location and it says Brighton & Hove when I’m in the centre of Southampton, how does it decide your location?

    Reply to this comment

    • Andy Williams

      Andy 3rd April 2012

      Hi Darren,

      Thanks for your comment.

      The location Google assigns you to isn’t always the most accurate. Your IP will have a big say in how Google does this.

      From a users point of view, if you have been assigned to a region you aren’t truly in then the results will end up being less relevant – but local results are now being displayed so all site owners need to get up to speed on this.

      Reply to this comment

  • Hi Andy, good summarization about venice update. I have a question though, what about for the websites that are targetting global market? what advise can you give? Thanks

    Reply to this comment

    • Andy Williams

      Andy 11th April 2012

      Hi Ben,

      The issue that needs to be remembered here is that regardless of what you are looking to target this update means Google want to display local results.

      So even if you are looking to target a global market you should still include a more localised strategy simply to maximise your chances of appearing.

      Due to the nature of this update there will be certain search terms that are so generic that local results simply aren’t relevant but you shouldn’t rely on this.

      Target global but include the tips above (a majority of which should naturally fit into any strategy without upsetting your main targets).

      Reply to this comment

  • John 5th April 2012

    Nice summary – I can certainly vouch for the address markup. I have a client that I was battling to get onto the first page for the city they are in, couldn’t get them higher than half way up page 2. Added the markup and within a few days they were at position 2 for their main target phrase (and have stayed there since).

    Reply to this comment

    • Andy Williams

      Andy 11th April 2012

      Hi John,

      The address mark-up is certainly a top tip.

      Google are really pushing this and the use of Schema at the moment so it should be a must for all site owners regardless of whether you are looking to use a local strategy or not.

      Reply to this comment

  • Julie South 5th April 2012

    Hi Andy – thanks for doing the research involved in creating this – I really appreciate the fact you “converted” Venice into plain, simple, non-techy English.

    I’m interested to learn if there’s a way Schema info can be coded so that it’s “included” for Google to read & recognise, but not displayed on web pages (cos it doesn’t look very pretty LOL)… d’you know if this is possible?

    And in regard to some initial hiccups regarding places in the UK/US – I’m based in Hamilton, NZ. More & more often now Google confuses here in NZ with Hamilton in Canada… as you said – teething problems I’m sure Google will sort out soon enough.

    Smiles to you in Southampton from Julie in Hamilton, NZ

    Reply to this comment

    • Andy Williams

      Andy 11th April 2012

      Hi Julie,

      Fingers crossed these teething problems will be ironed out soon.

      However this isn’t the first time mixed results have been seen and we have all waited and waited for it to be solved. Hopefully this will be such a big update that it will be sorted out.

      Reply to this comment

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