In September this year Google made some changes to its local search algorithm which was big enough for SEO practitioners to classify as a major update they dubbed “Possum”.
Since then Joy Hawkins, a Canadian Local SEO expert who is a part of Google’s Top Contributor program has been monitoring the search results and observed a 64% change in the results for companies she has been tracking.
What are the major changes?
Businesses that fall outside of physical city limits have seen a spike in ranking. Traditionally if the physical location of a business was outside of the postcodes of the city/suburbs they were servicing it was very hard to gain ranking traction in the maps results. Since the Possum update, many of these businesses have seen significant increases in local search rankings.
Google is now filtering based on address and affiliation. Since this update, we are seeing a lot of businesses filtered out due to the address of the business being the same as another listing in their same category (same type of business). Google has become quite sophisticated in the filtering techniques and instances have been identified where businesses with two listings that were named differently, had different phone numbers, different websites and different addresses eg different suite numbers never appeared together at the same time.
The physical location of the searcher is more important than it was before. Most likely in alignment with the new “mobile first” approach Google are taking search results are impacted by the searchers location. A good tool to use to check search results from specific locations is this one from BrightLocal.
Why should you care?
Consistency in information available on your site, in citations, directory listing and around the web pertaining to your business is more important than ever. Without accurate and consistent information your business will struggle to rank in local search results. Also, as the mobile first approach from Google is bedded in, Local search and location information will become more and more important.
This could also have implications for cooperative business models such as law chambers where different lawyers with separate websites and contact details do use the same building. Also, situations where multiple similar businesses reside in the same building/tower. Maybe not enough to move premises but be aware that not all listings may appear in the 3 pack or first-page maps results at the same time as your competitors. It is therefore even more important to ensure your Local Search SEO is better then the others! ..