Google Panda Google PenguinWhile nobody in the web community looks forward to Google updating their search engine algorithms, it is certainly a necessary evil on today’s web with millions of spammy sites still finding ways to hold on to their undeserved rankings.  The latest update by Google, unofficially nicknamed “Pigeon”, sought to bring additional justice to cyberspace by updating the way local websites rank, plus returning to some of their prior core practices in site optimization.

How will this affect our Upstate businesses though?  The major changes are listed below-

A Focus on Local Searches

We’ve all known for some time now that Google is trying to localize the entire world, and the Pigeon update is making it much harder to sneak into its local rankings just off reviews and site traffic.  The new algorithm focuses more on traditional ranking models such as page authority, keyword usage, and relevant backlinks.  In layman terms, this means that it will be much harder for a poorly optimized website to rank well in local searches.

Google’s Rule of 3 & 7

Google has also announced that a large majority of their local results will be slimmed down to just three listings instead of the traditional seven.  While some businesses haven’t seen any change as of yet (restaurants, gas stations, etc.), less competitive markets are already up in arms about the new three-listing format.  If your company didn’t make the cut, don’t panic just yet, because this part of the algorithm is still a work in progress.

Less Focus on Review Sites

Additionally, Google has decided that review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List were given a little too much authority how the local searches were classified.  While they are still taken into consideration, the overall goal here was to bring them more in line with more natural indicators- like a website’s natural traffic or the time spent on-site.   We are still advising our clients to keep a close eye on their reputation across cyberspace, however, because reviews impact a lot more than just search engines.

Social Media Boosts

Another factor of the latest Google update is the impact that social media has on both local and regular search results; the web giant has clearly stressed that these accounts are crucial for natural growth.  In fact, Google + now gives do follow-links to encourage completing as many social media profiles as possible, which is a tactic that we’ve always stressed to our customers anyway.  Still, if you’ve been holding off creating business accounts on Pinterest, Foursquare or other secondary sites, now is the time to do it.

Overall Thoughts

Compared to some of the more recent Google updates in 2012 and 2013, there was very little to surprise the SEO community this time around.  The message to be learned here for Upstate businesses is that your local results are as important as ever, and this trend will only continue to grow moving into 2015 and beyond.  So if you haven’t paid enough attention to your local listings in recent years, contact us as soon as possible so we can optimize your local presence.