February 2012 was a record breaking month for search giant Google, releasing more algorithm updates in one month than any other month in the company’s history. Posted in their official blog, Google outlines forty changes made to their safe-search, autocomplete, Youtube, and more. The most important updates that we noticed regarding SEO, were in fact the ones having to do with updates to the Panda system (as discussed in our previous article Google Panda Effect Impact on SEO) and furthermore to the Local search results. As pulled from the actual post by Google
- Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.
- 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.
Figuring out what is really going being the curtains with Google is basically what has created the industry of Search Engine Optimization. As you can see by the two posts above, this is really all the information that consumers receive from Google on their various updates. Now we have to dissect what exactly this means for searchers, as well as the businesses, blogs and websites they are searching for.
Google Venice Changes
Next time to you make a search in Google, take a look at the left-hand side of the screen. Notice how there is a section that displays the region you are searching in? For example:
As set by default, Google will usually automatically search in your area when you type something into the search bar. For us at Elevate SEM, when we perform a search in Google, the location portion of the menu on the left side of the screen will automatically say something like “Kirkland, WA”. In this case, all search results that pop up will be from local companies and web pages located in or around Kirkland, WA. Now this does not mean that you can only search in your own region. You can actually search in any region, even nationally, simply by clicking the down arrow on that portion of the menu, and selecting a different region.
Venice and Local SEO
So now that we all understand what the Venice update has ultimately affected, it’s time to use this knowledge to our advantage. Most websites out there are very generalized, advertising to the nation, or even the globe as a whole. Very few websites are actually optimized for showing up in the SERP’s (search engine results pages) for local searches. The websites that are, are now looking to the past and patting themselves on the back. For those of you that are not optimized for local search, it’s time to get on it! Here are a few pointers that will definitely help out:
Most of you will find that the majority of the competition showing up at the top of the SERP’s for a particular region have webpages optimized for local searches. This means they most likely have local landing pages, local keyword rich content, even title tags, meta descriptions and meta keywords optimized for that region. You may also find that your competition is actually not locally optimized. Websites can gain rankings in the search engines based on age of their domain alone. If this is the case, even more reason to begin your local SEO and ultimately slingshot your webpage rankings past theirs. If the competition is in-fact optimized for local, it looks like you better get on the horn and either hire a professional company, or if you feel comfortable performing basic SEO, get in the back end of your website and start going to town. Since the Google Venice Update is so recent, it is very possible that your competition is yet to jump on the local SEO bandwagon. If this is the case, here is one of the best chances you will get to see your website ranking at the top of the listings. A great guide to performing local SEO can be found on this post by Ted Ives. Ted does a great job of outlining the various steps that need to be performed to get your website closer to where you would like it in the local SERP’s.
Don’t Just Modify Existing Content to make it Local
Those of you that have read Elevate’s previous article on the Google Panda Update are familiar with the punch in the face that a lot of websites with duplicate content recently took in their rankings. If your webpages are very similar to other pages on your site, or even those of your competition, this will not mean that you can just change around a few words to make the page more local. Google’s Panda Update, recently released, in a sense punishes sites with duplicate content – bumping them further down the SERP’s and rewarding the sites with unique content. What does this mean for you? It means it’s time to create some new pages for each of your local areas of business and create new, unique content that is keyword rich for that region. Make sure you don’t forget to do the basic local SEO on each of these pages – meta titles, descriptions and keywords.
Many local search listing platforms already exist. Make sure you are verified on Google, Yahoo, Ask, and all other local maps. Also, adding a KML file to your website will make sure that Google knows the precise address of your company. A full tutorial on adding a KML file can be found at Google Developers.
Another very important, very effective Local SEO technique is creating profiles in business directory websites, such as Manta, Yelp and Crunchbase. All of these profiles and links will create more keywords, content, webpages and overall more of a local presence for your SEO campaign. Need help on finding more directories? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a free list of 30 of the top web directories.
Overall, the entire SEO industry can see that the Google Venice update is now revolutionizing the way companies utilize their internet presence and how Google ultimately places webpages. Companies that were up against top players in their industry are now able to be found locally, rather than battling for a place in the global scheme of things. Keep checking back to SEM News and remember to subscribe via RSS for more industry updates, including news on Google and new algorithm updates.