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by Andy Williams on 3rd April 2012
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.
Now if I set my location back to Southampton you can see the difference in the results returned to me:
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:
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:
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=”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.