A number of Australian businesses will have discovered they are suddenly ranking well for certain location-based keywords. Others will witness a sharp drop.
As of May 1, Google appears to have begun tweaking its rankings algorithms once more, beginning with the removal of the ‘places’ option in Google search.
Jim Stewart, CEO of StewARTMedia first noticed the change on Wednesday. The company handles a number of SEO/SEM clients, so the natural concern was how any Google change might affect them. By this morning, further changes had begun to occur.
“A number of our clients started ranking really well for certain keywords in the location they’re based in,” Stewart says. “It seems that if they have an address listed in a given locality, they were suddenly ranking really well for their chosen keyword(s) in searches made in that town or city. Some clients that were previously ranking 50th for a given keyword in Melbourne are suddenly in the top ten for that location.”
Other companies appear to have been pushed further down the ranks if they aren’t physically present in a given location. According to StewARTMedia, the brands that have so far been negatively affected include:
However, further changes to Google’s search algorithm appear to have been made, with some sites being further penalised for any ‘spammy’ behaviour.
“The location-based information certainly seems to be a big part of it,” Stewart explains, “but we’re also aware of a number of brands that appear to have been further penalised for having a spammy back-link profile. It’s almost like a combination of changes – it feels like a local Penguin.”
Google has been contacted for comment, but hasn’t responded by the time of publication.
It’s yet to be seen whether these sudden changes will level out, or whether these businesses have been taken a more permanent hit (or lift, in some lucky cases). Either way, there will be a lot of frustration for the companies that have come out worse for wear.
Jasper Vallance, Director of Online Retail Consultant, says that this latest update should come as no surprise, as Google has previously warned of ongoing algorithm updates throughout 2013.
“Just like mobile, local is a big focus for Google,” Vallance explains. “It is no surprise Google would be updating its search algorithm to preference businesses that have an actual business near the location you are searching for – and there probably isn’t too much you can do about it unless you want to set up more physical locations. This presents a great opportunity for small businesses who have a physical store to sort out their Google Places page.”
In order to ensure you have the correct approach to Google Places, Vallance offers the following pointers:
- Take ownership of your listing – Write a description of your business that highlights all your services and use keywords people may be searching for.
- Don’t forget the frills – Add photos that showcase your in-store experience to entice people in and consider creating a video to introduce your services.
- Invite open feedback – Ask loyal customers to provide customer reviews on your places page when they are in store.
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