Local SEO: Google Updates

Written by: Jason Bayless | October 25, 2016
Google is full of surprises when it comes to SEO best practices and its ongoing changes to those guidelines. A case in point: Google released an update in April of 2016 to its local marketing SEO guidelines. Contained within that update was three completely new factors affecting how a business ranks in a localized search. After a brief moment of panic, SEO professionals began analyzing and implementing these new guidelines to great effect for their local businesses. So, what’s new in Google’s latest set of local SEO guidelines and best practices?

First, Remember the Fundamentals of Local Rankings

Local rankings on Google aren’t determined solely based on a user’s location. Instead, there are three factors that determine where a local business ranks in both the “local pack” and in the overall ranking of relevant results.

  • Relevance: This refers to how well a company’s products or services match what a customer is looking for. Relevance is always the first aspect of a search ranking.
  • Distance: Businesses closer to a search user will be ranked and recommended first. Google calculates this based on any known factors about a user’s location, including their IP address or GPS position, if access to that information is permitted.
  • Prominence: This refers to how well-known a company is in the local area. A more prominent business will outrank one with a lesser known name, or one that has not been around for nearly as long. Prominence can also be ascertained from a business’ number and quality of online reviews and authoritative citations.

Accommodating These Factors: Updates to a Local SEO Approach

Now that Google has clarified exactly what the three biggest factors are in a local search ranking, how can those factors be exploited for the best possible performance in a relevant search? There are many ways to work within the Hummingbird algorithm, but a few of then apply especially to local searches.

  1. Master the “My Business” Page

    Google perceives a company as more prominent when it knows more about what that company does, how long it’s been doing it, and how many customers are satisfied with the service they received there. The “My Business” page contains a wealth of information that can be used for all three factors, including the business’ address, phone number, operating hours, and the date is was founded. This page can also be linked to a Google+ business page and include a star rating based on Google customer reviews. When it comes to relevance, prominence, and distance, this is the first place to start.

  2. Focus on Location-Related Keywords

    In order to compete for local customers, a business needs to win business using the best keywords. This is where the long-tai keyword approach comes in handy. Use longer keywords, inclusive of a business’ name, location, and even services, to attract customers from the local area. By competing for a narrower slice of the location-based pie, businesses can be deemed more relevant in a local search.

  3. Target Appropriate Local Areas

    Don’t target every community or region with the same approach. Target a small, appropriate local area, and focus on becoming the top result in that small geographic space. Optimize local SEO on a town-by-town, or county-by-county, basis for the best rankings and results.

Local SEO Updates Make It Easier to Win Business

Now that Google has clarified exactly what it means to rank highly in local search result, website administrators can focus their local SEO efforts on what really matters. From proper keywords to narrowly defined target markets, aligning SEO goals with Google’s best practices will make a substantive difference in local traffic and online rankings.