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2012: The Year Google Became Local

Web Bureau

15 August 2012 by Web Bureau

Geo-location is a currently a topical buzzword in the world of SEO.

Search engines are continuously updating their algorithms to ensure that users see only the most relevant search results and recent trends indicate that location is having more of an impact on rankings. Of course, some sectors lend themselves more naturally to localised searches, for example, hairdressers, restaurants and other businesses, which tend to have a more localised target audience than industries such as finance and marketing.

Over the past couple of years, the rise in prominence of both local searching and mobile search has led Google to focus their efforts on localising and refining search engine results. In recent months two updates have been rolled out, which focus on using geo-location in search - Google- Local and the Google Venice algorithm. Given that an alleged 97% of consumers research local businesses before making a decision to buy, it was only a matter of time before Google decided to capitalise on local SEO.

Google- Local

Google- Local was created to replace Google Maps. The most noticeable differences are the replacement of the old star-rated system by Zagat’s 30 point scoring system, reviews based on a number of different categories, different filter categories for reviews and indexed search results. Some speculate that Google- Local is Google’s attempt to push its faltering Google- social network by persuading business owners to increase their ranking by joining Google- and in turn, encouraging their customers to set up an account to facilitate interaction between the business and the customer.

Google Venice
Introduced in May, the Google Venice algorithm is Google’s attempt to better identify the searcher’s specific location and tailor their search results accordingly. In theory, Google determines where the user currently is, and when they type a keyword into the search engine, the search results will reflect their current location.

The Venice update, like other Google algorithm updates, is not without its fair share of controversy. SEO professionals are divided in opinion over whether it will prove advantageous to themselves and their clients, particularly the smaller, locally operating companies. Another worry is that sometimes your location, as identified by Google, and the map listings on the search results can differ, leaving you in confusion about where Google is going to tailor your result to. Google uses your IP address to determine your location so unless you set your own location, Google may attribute it to that of your ISP. This means that smaller areas and businesses within them may be overlooked by Google in place of a larger, more recognisable location, nowhere near your proximity. This can also prove counter-productive and frustrating to the user conducting the search in the first place. Another grievance is that once Google has amended your SERPs to start focusing on your location, you cannot undo it.

Given the hastiness at which these changes have been introduced, rumours are rife among the SEO community that Google has major plans in store for local search. The over-riding opinion is that Google is adopting a “use now, fix later” approach to local search. They want to pioneer the format before their competitors get on the ball.  

The most important measure to take if your site rank has been affected by the recent changes is to analyse how the above mentioned and future updates will affect your site and engage in an appropriate strategy to optimise your business for localisation.

Here at The Web Bureau, we are on hand to offer expert advice on the changes to SEO and help your business to take advantage of local search. Contact us today for more information on our SEO services.

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