Hello, and happy holidays!
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about Local Search Tips, so I figured I should probably write one last post before we ring in the New Year. The topic? A countdown list of the top three noteworthy local search engine optimization news items for 2014.
Cheers, and enjoy.
Top 3 Local SEO News Events in 2014
#3: Bring your local business online (with help from Google)
Maybe it was in preparation for BDC Small Business Week, an event celebrating Canadian entrepreneurs that takes place across Canada during the third full week of October every year. Or perhaps it was in anticipation of the annual Shop The Neighbourhood event hosted by the YellowPages on November 29th.
Whether or not these events are connected isn’t important. What matters is that November is all about supporting local business, and Google definitely jumped on that bandwagon this year by releasing a series of how-to videos helping local business owners of all technical levels get their business found on the web.
This includes step-by-step guides on how to create a Yelp business page, a Facebook page or a Google+ page for small businesses. You’ll also find videos with tips and advice on:
- How to determine your business’ value-add and online goal
- How to find your potential customers online
- How to differentiate your business from the competition
- …and more
If you’re reading this as a small business owner, then I definitely recommend viewing these video guides. They’re made for beginners and are easy to follow, plus they come straight from Google so you can’t go wrong!
#2: Go mobile-friendly or go home
Anyone familiar with 90s pop culture and grew up watching Saved by the Bell on TV (guilty!) will likely remember that massive Motorola DynaTAC brick cell phone that Zack Morris used to carry around.
Well that was over two decades ago, and cellular phone technology has definitely evolved since then! Remember car phones? PDAs? Clamshell flip phones? Devices with monochromatic screens, or had displays so small you needed a specialized mobile browser to view web content?
Thanks to explosive growth in mobile-cellular subscriptions (6.8 billion total as of 2013, meaning there are almost as many cell phone subscriptions as there are people in the world!) and the giant leaps made in smartphone technology over the last few years, it’s a foregone conclusion that the number of people using their phones to browse the Internet will skyrocket in time.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Google decided to step up their game in October and November 2014, and sought to improve user experience in mobile search. Webpages that passed their new Webmasters Mobile Guide and followed Google’s mobile SEO best practices would be rewarded with a “mobile-friendly” label in search results.
Google has stated that this is only the first step in helping mobile users achieve a better mobile web experience. So if you’re reading this as a local business owner with a company website that’s not fit for viewing on a cellular device, be prepared for search algorithm changes to come in 2015 when Google will begin using mobile friendliness as a ranking signal.
#1: Google Panda and Penguin, make way for Pigeon
Some of you may be familiar with the various search algorithm updates rolled out by Google over the last few years.
First there was Google Panda, released in February 2011 to penalize “thin content” sites made up of webpages with duplicate, little or no content. Then came Google Penguin, which initially launched in April 2012 to bring down websites that participated in deceptive and manipulative link schemes. And in between there were other more minor algorithmic search penalties.
But 2014 marked the release of a Google algorithm update that specifically targeted local search results. I’m talking about the roll-out of Google Pigeon on July 24, 2014.
What exactly is Google Pigeon, and how does it affect you as a local business owner, you ask?
At its core, Pigeon was a new algorithm unleashed by Google to provide “more useful, relevant and accurate local search results” to users searching locally for goods and services provided by businesses nearby.
So how have things improved? Well first of all, Google has improved the way they calculate geographical elements like distance and location as ranking parameters.
Also, many of the features normally found in Google’s regular web search engine have now been applied to this new local search algorithm. That means users can expect to find more Knowledge Graphs in local search results, along with deeper integration of synonyms and spelling corrections.
All of this boils down to one thing. If you’re a local business owner with a website that tries to deceive Google or manipulate local search rankings in any way… now is the time to put an end to those black-hat SEO strategies! You don’t have to fill your website with landing pages built around repeated mentions of your target keywords or service areas. And don’t bother going after misspellings. Google is now smart enough to see through all of these deception tactics and they will penalize you for it if you’re not careful.
As for those Google Knowledge Graphs that keep popping up on the right hand side of local search results pages? If one doesn’t appear for your business when someone searches locally for your company name, then you’re losing business from potential customers. Which is why it’s crucial that you set up a Google My Business page right away if you haven’t done so already. It’ll get you found in Google local search results, as well as in Google Maps and on Google Plus!