Google Shakes Up Local Search

Written by: Jason Bayless | October 29, 2016
For small businesses that serve local communities, few things are more important than Google Local Search performance. That’s why many small business owners might want to take note of a major change implemented by Google that affects how businesses rank in its Local Search results. in April 2016, the company dramatically changed the link between Local Search and general search results, and this could impact local companies in either a positive or negative way immediately.

The Big Change: Linking Local and Overall Google Rankings

Until 2016, Local Search results provided by Google were generally not strongly influenced by a company’s overall ranking and performance in a more standard, location-agnostic search result. This was actually good for some companies, since they could overcome their poor overall ranking in a general, keyword-targeted search, and still be at or near the top in a local search based on a user’s mobile location or discoverable IP address. That’s no longer the case.

As of April 2016, Google is creating a strong link between a company’s general search result performance and its ranking among Local Search results. For companies that already rank quite well in general searches, this is typically no big deal. There will likely be no major shift in how their company appears or ranks on a local basis. For those businesses that don’t perform the best in Google’s overall ranking, things are going to get a bit tougher until the change’s effects are mitigated. There are several major impacts from this adjustment to Google’s Local Search algorithm that are worth noting. Each case will vary, based on a business’ overall ranking and its performance in other types of local or non-local results.

  1. Good Rankings Get Better Treatment

    This is one of those Google changes that rewards the cream of the crop, at least in most cases. Local businesses with a strong overall Google ranking will find that they either maintain or improve their performance in Local Search results. This could benefit companies with a strong SEO strategy, strongly targeted keywords, or a broader reach that boosts their ranking in the eyes of the Hummingbird algorithm. In this case, “the best get better.” But it’s not all good news.

  2. The Middle of the Pack Could Slide Backward
    While local businesses with a strong SEO approach and a top-notch Google ranking will be rewarded by this new “link” between local and overall performance, many others won’t fare so well. In fact, companies that rank near the middle or bottom in the overall Google rankings could find themselves sliding backward in Local Search results. This is simply because a new factor has been added to the mix when determining the local rank. Businesses can overcome this in several ways, including an improvement in their overall Google ranking through enhanced SEO or other corrective measures.
  3. The Importance of Conventional SEO Has Increased
    At the beginning of Local Search, many local businesses operated in such a way that they were able to ignore conventional SEO pressures and requirements while enjoying a top ranking among local results. Because a company’s overall ranking and their local search ranking were independent, this was a major boon to smaller companies that may have lacked their own website or a cohesive approach to SEO. Now, most companies will find that they can only achieve top billing in local results if they maintain a conventional website with conventional SEO best practices in place in every page.

Things are changing for local businesses who want the top spot in a Google Local Search results page. Now that local and overall rankings are linked together, even small businesses will need to invest serious time and effort into a cohesive, conventional SEO approach that drives up rankings on both platforms simultaneously.