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Google Confirms Biggest Local Search Algorithm Update In Five Years

Google Confirms Biggest Local Search Algorithm Update in Five Years

In December, Google rolled out a new local search algorithm update that is likely one of the most significant updates to local search in several years. They confirmed the update last week. Google described the update as “a rebalancing of various factors we consider in generating local search results.”


Vicinity: What is it All About?

In this update, proximity seems to be the primary ranking factor.

Local search results have long relied on proximity; however some businesses have been able to optimize to rank far from their actual location.

Google is reprimanding this practice with its recent Vicinity update, which will in turn give local search results more relevance. This gives businesses a better chance of ranking well in local searches, as they won’t have to compete with far-off businesses.

Researchers at one agency found that adding keywords into a Google Business Profile (GBP) listing’s name has diminished its benefit.

According to data, businesses that use keywords inappropriately in their names have seen their rankings drop. Businesses that have consistently complied with Google’s guidelines on keyword stuffing and those fighting name spam stand to benefit.

Local Search Ranking Updates

After the local search algorithm update hailed Vicinity rollout, the Local RankFlux tool detected significant changes to local search volatility.

Google’s algorithm update is measured by tracking daily keyword ranking movement via Local RankFlux, and its score is taken out of ten for each day.

Search volatility rose gradually during the rollout to a peak of 6.2.

It is not known if Google changed its local search optimization guidelines as a result of the update, but the company emphasizes improving local search results rather than changing its goals. To put it simply, it improves its ranking by giving more weight to proximity.

Local search results were previously based on the relevance of a business listing to the search terms. Search engine results too often returned results for businesses that were far away from the searcher.

It helps counter efforts by businesses in the local SERPs to game the algorithm by giving more weight to proximity. More and more businesses have been manipulating their content to win local search rankings when the business is physically located far from the search results. The SERP presence of local businesses that are located near the searcher is improved following this update, while businesses located further away from the searcher are suffering a decline in local share of voice.

How Does Vicinity Affect Local Business Owners?

In a statement, Google stated that “general business guidance remains the same”.

Google Search Central

There isn’t any change in the algorithm, as relevance, distance, and prominence determine results. Google’s advice also suggests that local businesses can increase their visibility by:

  • Completely enter the information
  • Locations need to be verified
  • Maintain accurate opening hours
  • Managing and responding to reviews
  • Add pictures

The user experience is always going to be at the core of any changes Google makes to its local search algorithm as it continues to develop it.

In order to achieve sustainable search success, local businesses must continue to adapt to the landscape.

Not sure where this leaves your law firm? Get in touch with Precision Legal Marketing today. Current Precision Legal Marketing clients can rest assured that we are hard at work, as always to ensure your SEO has minimal impact.

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