It’s feeling like local is the big winner as latest SEO changes for the Google search algorithm start to move rankings around.
Last month, Google quietly updated its local ranking algorithm, with deeper integration with its standard Web search capabilities, with less favouritism toward Google Places listings.
Previously, local searches on Google revealed carousel results and then a list of organic results, such as a list of individual restaurants.
Under the new scheme, users may see directories showing up in the search results below the carousel including OpenTable, Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor.
While Google gave no name to its recent algorithm change, in keeping with the animal theme – Panda, Hummingbird and so on – Search Engine Land has nicknamed the latest update Pigeon, after the birds that tend to fly back home.
Google confirmed that the update started to roll out on July 24 for US English results, and it’s not yet known when the update would roll out more widely in other countries and languages.
The aim of the update is to provide a more useful, relevant and accurate local search results. And unlike Penguin and Panda updates, this is not a penalty-based update(aimed at cleaning the SERPs from low-quality content), but a core change to the local search ranking algorithm.
Addressing the ‘Yelp’ problem
Although Google hasn’t given a reason for its local search update, the move may be an attempt to tyackle the ‘Yelp’ problem.
This is where Google was charged with manipulating results to put its own listings ahead of other directories, regardless of search term, popularity or other traditional SEO practices.
A report by Yelp detailed one specific search term – “gary denko yelp” – and found that the results listed the official Gary Danko, a well-known restaurant in San Fancisco, California, website and multiple Google+ listings and pieces of content ahead of the Yelp listing that was specifically searched for.
While this is not listed anywhere as the actual cause or motivator behind the update, since the change, the same search term now lists the Yelp listing for Gary Denko first in Google results.
The move means that directories such as Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor that list local eateries and attractions will no longer have to battle Google’s listings.
Instead, retailers and restaurants that use online directories can focus on the directories that attract the most attention, instead of catering to the requirements and needs of Google.
The update will also affect retailers and local businesses relying on traditional SEO for their own websites. Due to the increased prominence of listings, this means that local retailers looking to boost search rankings will struggle more if they choose to go it alone without the support of larger networks may be more difficult than ever.
The move follows the launch of Google’s new local marketing platform “Google My Business.”
Formerly called Google Places for Business, Google My Business, is where businesses can manage location listings to display on Google Maps, Google Search and Google+.