Recently, while running some of my regular checks, I noticed that my client’s page had been pushed down several positions in the rankings (and off the first page) for the term ‘hearing aid’, because three local pages had now jumped into the main search results (not just the local pack).
The most unusual part of this was that some of these location pages were for sites that hadn’t typically ranked on the first page for this particular search. This means that Google wasn’t just changing the ranking page for already high ranking sites, it was favouring typically low ranking sites based mainly on location.
Why has this changed?
When checking these results again, the search results had returned to normal with these location results disappearing from the first page. It appears that Google is testing the use of location as a ranking factor. If nothing else, this gives us an indication of Google’s current intentions. We know that one of Google’s priorities is to provide users the most relevant results possible. If a user wants to buy a pair of jeans in a store, but gets served with results for stores that aren’t nearby, that search is not relevant to the user, so Google is looking to resolve this issue.
With the rise in mobile search, we also know that many more searches are being made on the go, meaning that providing search results of things that are nearby is becoming even more important which may be why Google is testing this adjustment to their algorithms.
Will this affect all search queries?
No. It would be foolish of Google to serve up local pages for queries that require a purely online experience such as informational searches (such as How does Donald Trump style his hair… you can find out here by the way) or purchases that are generally made online (like booking a flight).
How does this change how I do SEO?
For now, Google is only running tests, so there may be nothing that’s going to change, but if Google does roll out this update it could change a lot:
- Local pages will gain increased importance making it essential that they be fully optimised for relevant search terms as they will now have potential to rank for high search volume terms.
- Relevant search terms for local pages may change as high search volume queries (such as “hearing aid”) that rank local pages may take priority over more longtail, local specific terms.
- Optimising more fully for local directories may become more important. You might have noticed that one of the local pages that jumped up the rankings was yell.com. If these pages start appearing more commonly in search results, you’ll want to make sure that your site is visible on these sites.
- While general rankings may not change, sites will find regional differences in rankings making it hard to get a true impression of a site’s ranking performance. Some sites may see a decrease in traffic as in certain regions, they may see a drop in rankings while others may see a traffic increase with their location pages jumping up the rankings. Businesses may need to consider how they can accurately keep track of keyword performance.
We’ll keep you posted on whether any permanent changes come into play, in the meantime, it might be worth taking another look at those neglected location pages…