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Big Google Local Update – How Will It Affect You?

Written by Kurt Steinbrueck

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In their ongoing efforts to improve search rankings, Google has once again done an update of their algorithm.  This time it was in regards to local search and effected both the Google Maps results as well as searches for local-related keywords in their universal results (a normal search).  So far the update has only effected the U.S., but with an update this big, it likely will eventually be rolled out into every country/region.

So far Google has been pretty tight-lipped about the update, only providing a few somewhat generic bits of information.  The rest we’ve had to discern for ourselves.

So, what do we know so far and how will it effect you?

What We Know So Far:

  • local-3-packSearch results from non-local IPs using local modifiers (e.g. “near Tampa”, etc) are not showing the same results as local IPs, especially in terms of showing the local 3 or 7 packs (the set of specifically local results that are set aside in the search results.  Click here for a full sized example.).  In other words, if you are in Topeka, KS preparing for a trip to Disney and search for “restaurants near Orlando, FL” you will probably not see the 7 pack.  However, once you arrive in Orlando and do the same search, you probably will.
  • There has been a significant decrease in the number of keywords which return local 3 and 7 packs at all.  Two studies have shown about a 24% decrease.
  • It connects local more with the same signals Google looks at for universal rankings.  Local search results used to be governed by their own signals to determine rankings.  Now local results are determined by many of the same signals as universal results.
  • It connects more with Knowledge Graph, spelling updates, and synonyms.  Basically, Google better understands what you are searching for and may return instant answers via Knowledge Graph.  (Knowledge Graph is Google’s repository of information they have collected which allows them to answer people’s questions directly without directing people to other websites.)
  • Google said that this new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.  In some cases, Google has also decreased the area they’ll use for their search results.
  • Local directories, such as Yelp, have seen a bit of a boost, making it even more important to be listed in the major local search/review sites.
  • There is less duplication comparing the local 3 and 7 packs and the rest of the results in the universal search.  Before, you may see many of the same websites in both the regular results and the local 3 and 7 pack.  Now, you’ll likely see different websites.

This is what we’ve seen so far, but this is pretty early on and there’s always a lot of movement for a while after a major update.  We may find additional changes as the dust settles.

What Does This Mean for You?

  • Possible decrease in visibility: If your website showed up in the local 3 or 7 packs and not the rest of the universal results, you may see a decrease in visibility if your keywords are ones for which Google is no longer showing the local packs.  If this is the case for you, then you need to work to show up in the top universal results.  Also, if you had duplicate listings in the universal and local packs, you may now only have one listing.  There isn’t really anything you can do about that.
  • If you are far from the city centroid, you may have more trouble ranking well.  It’s always been more difficult to rank well if you are on the outskirts of your town, now it will probably be even harder.  This is all the more reason for you to be working to get lots of positive reviews and ratings as well as building links and social shares to your website.
  • If you have a lot of links to your website and have a well optimized website, you may see a boost in your local rankings.  Since these types of signals are now better connected to the local results, they will help more.
  • You need to have listings in local directories/review sites.  Yelp and others have become even more prominent.  So, you need to have those listings.

We’ll continue to watch the effects of the update and let you know what we find as well as letting you know if Google reveals anything else.  If you’d like help with having more visibility in the search engines, let us know and we’d be happy to help.  You can request a free, no-obligation consultation here.

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    About the author

    Kurt Steinbrueck

    Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .


    • Kurt, local search can make a huge difference in the success or failure of local businesses, plus it impacts people looking for churches and schools. Thanks for continuing to keep a close eye on the search engines and letting us know what's changing.

    • I have learn some just right stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how a lot effort you put to make this sort of fantastic informative site.

    • What solid post this is for me and usually posts some really exciting stuff like this.Thanks for continuing to keep a close eye on the search engines and letting us know what’s changing.I used to be more than happy to seek out this web-site. [link removed by moderator]

    • I use to thing managing a website was an easy stuff untill i got one, now all i can say is “Jesus take
      the wheel”, because it gets frustrating sometimes when google updates make you want to just give up!!!! but we are still standing strong……..