On February 27, Google released an algorithm update known as Venice. This update has largely flown under the radar when compared to other algorithm changes, such as the Panda updates. There were some major changes, especially if you are a local business or a search engine optimization (SEO) professional with local clients, that you should be aware of.
Here is what Google hopes to accomplish locally via the Venice update:
“Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.”
"Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user."
There you have it, so what does that mean for local businesses and local SEO efforts?
Local Universal Results
The first is that everyone needs to be aware of what Local Universal results are. In a nutshell this means that localized organic results, not just Places pages, are going to be triggered by location setting. No longer will a searcher need to enter in a state, city or zip code into the search to trigger localization of organic results.
Here is a great example from searching for criminal lawyer on a local search versus a national search.
The first shows a search for “criminal lawyer” with the location set to “United States”.
Now look at the same search when the location setting is changed to “Chicago, IL". The top two search results in the national search results appear below www.chicagocriminallaw.com by changing the location setting.
Local Universal results are, in a nutshell, local specific organic results.
By now it should be clear that if you own a local business or do local SEO, Google is now offering more available real estate to you.
Take advantage of this.
Use the Venice Update to Rock Boat
As mentioned above, local sites and businesses now have a very real opening to be seen and found in what used to be an area reserved for the “big boy,” organic search results for searches that DO NOT include a local modifier.
Here are four keys to taking advantage of that opportunity:
Add Local Landing Pages: Whether you are a large business serving many states or a local one, you need to have a landing page that is optimized for a single location. When possible, add the location into the URL: http://www.yourbusiness.com/Services/St-Louis-Missouri.
Localize Title Tags and Meta Descriptions: Make sure that both of these contain both appropriate keywords and location information.
Localize as Much of the Page as Possible: Make sure that body copy, H-tags and images are all optimized for location.
Localize Links: This is where the bulk of the work comes in and the majority of competition begins. We know that Google loves links so it is a given that they are going to play a large role in any ranking system. The same goes for Local Universal results. Links need to include anchor text that is location specific as well as keyword specific, i.e. “Repair Shop St. Louis Missouri”.
This algorithm change has not garnered nearly the attention that it should. It really affects nearly all search queries. Unless you manually change the location setting in Google, you will now be searching locally.
The companies that jump on this update and really focus on optimizing for the new Local Universal results, have the opportunity to gain a strong foothold in some seriously competitive terms.
No longer will the big sites, with a ton of non-location specific links have the upper hand. Rather sites that localize landing pages, on page factors and links, will now have an opportunity to challenge any company for those coveted rankings.