Sudden Google Update Shakes Up Local Brand Rankings

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.

Have you noticed a change to your rankings in the past few days? Get in touch with us at or leave a comment below.



5 thoughts on “Sudden Google Update Shakes Up Local Brand Rankings”

  1. Rob Skovell says:

    I know I’m not alone, I am quite frustrated by the weekly babble by so called SEO gurus that state, that so many things about ‘my’ website contravene Google’s rules of engagement. However when my website was launched in 2004 the ‘seo guru’ advised me to link to such and such and have millions of ‘keyword rich’ words on every page!

    My question to anyone – where can i find the google rule book on ‘my’ website?

    Free headshot to the anyone who provides the link.

    1. Chris Morley says:

      Hi Rob;
      Just had a quick look at your site; I think if you submitted your XML sitemap, robots.txt to Google, added ALT.txt to all images as well as using some META keywords and descriptions – it might help with your SEO.


    2. Todd Wright says:

      Hey Rob – there is no rule book – that’s why SEO also stands for search engine opinion. There is however a collection of best practices and tested and proven outcomes. Search has come along way since 2004 so don’t be smoking any of that old gear!.

      two great resources below – If there was a rule book that google has written the guide below would the foreword. It’s their starter guide:

      Google Webmaster’s ‘Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide’

      The other great resource we use is the Goodness over at SEO Moz – If you want to be doing it yourself – a refresher of SEO basics wouldn’t go astray – SEOMoz’s ‘Beginners Guide to SEO’

      Remember – the O is for opinion not just optimisation, and this is just mine. Maybe it should be SEOO.



  2. James says:

    SEO friendly URLs and on page optimisation in regards to unique content, title tags ,h1 tags even before submitting the sitemap/robots.txt.

  3. Tom says:

    The guys above have it right. I engaged a major Aussie SEO company to take my site to page one, which they did at considerable cost. Great …. that is until the site was penalised and fell into a black hole (a Googhole?) from which it probably wont ever emerge. The advice I got? Ditch the domain and start again – they could help. I don’t think so!

    I did start again with a new domain name – addition of a hyphen. This time I stuck to the basics as suggested above. No more SEO gurus. Lo-and-behold, my new site on its new domain was back where I wanted it. Keep it simple I guess. No secret squirrels tricks.

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