On July 24th, 2014 there was a major shake up in the Google Local Places listings on the first page of Google Search results. Upon waking up on Friday, July 25th I noticed quite a different in the “seven pack” that shows up with the Google Maps listing for competitive keyword phrases for a specific city or town (ie “Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer” or “Chicago Orthodontist”). Doctors, dentists, lawyers, real estate agents and other service professionals benefit greatly from the Google Local Places search result as it is prominently displayed on page one for heavily searched local keyword phrases.
As with any Google Algorithm update, it is going to take time for the Google Local Places search algorithm to take full effect. As of July 25th, 2014 I have noticed most major cities are seeing significantly different Google Local rankings than just yesterday. There are a few commonalities that I have noticed and I will highlight them for you so you can better understand how you can rank higher or why you might have been penalized.
Ranking Factors for the New Google Local Places Search
There are many ranking factors that have changed almost overnight. The most significant is domain authority. The natural links pointing back to a domain and the overall power of the domain seem to be a very important factor in what comes up in the “7 pack” or “3 pack”. More on the brand new “3 pack” in a bit.
As many have predicted, domain authority is now a major factor in the Google Local search results. It is no longer the case that a business with little to no web presence can rank in the “7 pack” or “3 pack”. Heck, Google has even taken out the addresses for some of the localized searches. For much more on the domain authority value for Google Local search please use the resource linked above. It goes into great detail explaining how to improve domain authority and why natural SEO is so very important.
Interestingly, it does not look as if location is all that important in the latest update. Prior to the July 2014 update location was essential. In fact, the proximity to the exact town or city was a huge factor. The closer you were to downtown Cary the more likely you were to show up for “Cary Laptop Repair”. This is no longer the case as domain authority and the website link portfolio seems to be much more important. Have you noticed something similar in your area?
DUI Lawyers Disappear?
Casey Meraz pointed out that DUI lawyers have now all but disappeared from the Google Local Places search results. Read his full article here: July 2014 Local Search Update. I do not tract DUI lawyers as much as Family Law, Personal Injury and Divorce Attorneys but I find it interesting that one specific vertical of the legal industry has been pulled while others remain. When search “Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer” there is now a “3 Pack” instead of a “7 Pack”. The “3 Pack” includes Joel Farar of Farar & Lewis LLP, an Avvo page and Girardi Keese. Having researched this area of practice for quite some time, I can tell you that these three have been very strong in the organic search but almost nowhere to be found in the Google Local search, until the July 2014 update.
Getting Back to the A or B Spot of Local Search
There is no argument to be made that local search generates money for businesses. In fact, a large percentage of business, customers and clients comes from those top two or three search results. If you have been sitting in the A or B spot for years and you were recently knocked lower or out of the “7 pack” or “3 pack” you will want to read this article:
If you are like many business owners, you check these search results on a daily basis. Unfortunately, some have found that they no longer have a stronghold on that particular keyword phrase. Doing an audit of your website and determining the domain authority and overall usefulness of your website is key after this “Pigeon” Google Local search update. If you do not have a quality link portfolio and your website does not rank well in Google search there is a good chance you will not stay in the A or B spot for long. The good news is that the situation is fluid. In the last 24 hours I have noticed many Google Local search results changing. If you use natural SEO and get references from quality resources such as blogs, news outlets and websites in your industry you are going to improve search visibility.
It is important to note that natural references take time and effort. A natural link is a link to one of your resources because the person that found that resource wants to reference it for their audience. It stands to reason that it will take time for these types of links to accumulate into a quality portfolio.
Does the Google Knowledge Graph Affect Local Search Results?
The just is still out on this but it stands to reason that if the algorithm triggers the knowledge graph a business, brand or company likely has many mentions across the web. The more brand mentions, the better it is for the overall SEO and search value of that particular website. There is much more here:
I have been monitoring the Google Knowledge Graph for months and it continues to evolve. As Google has stated many times, the knowledge graph is the future of search.
If you are a business that wants to stay ahead of the competition it is best to get active on Google Plus and start to receive brand mentions across many web entities like Amazon, Yelp, message boards and social networks. The more times the Googlebot sees the name of your business, the better. Think of all the times that WalMart or Exxon is mentioned around the web. Even if the mentions are not extremely positive it is still a human being talking about that particular brand.