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Local Search Results are Recalibrated by Google Algorithm Update

Local Search Results are Recalibrated by Google Algorithm Update

Google rolled out an algorithm update in December 2021 that has proved to be the most significant local search update in the past several years. Google confirmed the update a few weeks ago. In its usual understated manner, Google described the update as “a rebalancing of various factors we consider when generating local search results.”

For local searches, proximity, relevance, and prominence all play a role. Although Google does not disclose the exact weighting of each factor, it is clear that proximity has become more important as part of the rebalancing. This may affect your business listing in local search results.

Local 3-pack Ranking FactorsGoogle has not announced changes to its guidelines for local search optimization; however, the update does not change its overall goals for local search; instead, it focuses on improving the quality of local search results. To put it simply, it is improving its ranking by giving greater weight to proximity.

A business listing’s relevance to a search term used to determine the top rankings in local search results. This often resulted in the SERPs returning a search result that was far from the searcher’s location.

The updated algorithm favors proximity over distance and helps combat attempts to manipulate the previous algorithm, especially by less-than-local businesses appearing in local SERPs. The ability to manipulate their content has allowed more businesses to achieve local rankings for searches that are geographically distant from their actual location. As a result of this update, businesses that are located close to the searcher are seeing an increase in their SERP presence, while businesses located further away from the searcher are experiencing a decline in their local share of voice.

Another observation underlines Google’s longstanding, closely related secondary goal of fighting spam: we are seeing a shift in the share of voice from businesses with keyword-optimized names to those without keywords. There are no specific guidelines from Google on this point, but its guidelines against keyword stuffing provide some insight.

The local 3-pack results and map design in the SERP are also being updated concurrently. With the new desktop search design, the results are placed on the left side of the page, and the results are accompanied by a square map. Since the update is being rolled out simultaneously with the algorithm update, it’s unclear how the design change will affect results.

 

Coffee Shops Near Me

Takeaways from the Study

The latest Google algorithm update for local search gives more weight to proximity as a ranking factor. Google’s rebalancing effort is already having an impact on search results: prominent and relevant business listings that are geographically further away from the searcher are dropping in search rank, while nearby, relevant businesses with previously less prominence are rising. Additionally, the SERP is protected from attempts to game the system by reducing consideration for keywords in the business name.

Businesses that are reliant on local customers have a better chance of reaching those customers in the future and should invest their time and efforts into optimizing their business listings. In contrast, businesses that were performing well in local searches far away from their location in the past may no longer be able to do so and will need to recalibrate to serve customers farther away.

 


 

2024 Map Pack SERP Listing – UPDATE

Concern: We’ve observed instances where the map pack has been relocated to the bottom of page 1, and in some markets, it is no longer visible at all. This has raised concerns among our clients who question the significance of being in the map pack if it isn’t prominently displayed in the SERPs.

 

We’ve also noticed that for certain searches, the map pack very noticeably has moved down to the middle or bottom of the page; sometimes not even showing up. What we’ve seen is this change seems to be contingent on certain markets, searches, and devices.

For example, the map pack for “sell my house fast Milwaukee” on desktop is in the middle of the SERP. However, when searching “sell my house fast” in Milwaukee, the map pack is at the very bottom. Huge change. We think this is due to User Intent, at least Google’s algorithm for user intent. Interestingly, the map pack on mobile for “sell my house fast Milwaukee” is still at the top.

This gives some insight into what’s going on. What we’re seeing with map pack placement is either arbitrary or Google testing new processes; primarily because desktop vs. mobile is different and because the search intent shows different placement too.

I’ve searched Google’s documentation but there’s no documented cause/effect as to the random placement of the map pack.

Here’s a few of our thoughts:

  • Map pack placement is certainly still in a testing phase. Meaning it could change again tomorrow.
  • Google’s algorithm is volatile, but the changes are tied to improvements. A better algorithm for us equates to better CTR and better leads.
  • Significantly more searches are done on mobile than on desktop (64% vs. 35%), and the map pack remains at the top on mobile.
  • The GBP is an authoritative Google property and will always hold weight
  • GBP ranking isn’t just about SERP, but Google Maps as well. Google Maps is the world’s most used mobile app – and pulls its NAP info directly from the GBP.
  • Regardless of the position, a GBP is essential for any business’s online presence. Especially after what small businesses experienced from Covid. It improves a business’s local SEO ranking.
  • Google Reviews are directly tied to the GBP. Another ranking factor.

map pack at bottom of serp

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