Google has released yet another change to their almighty search algorithm. Each year Google updates its algorithm over 400 times. Each change is an attempt to make their search engine even better. The recent update known as Pigeon is specifically aimed at providing a better local search experience. In this post I will highlight some of the local Internet marketing changes this update provided, what it means for certain businesses, some unintended consequences and how to continue marketing your company online for optimal search results.

Local Internet Marketing Targets The User Not The City

As with any search engine update there will be big changes and gradual changes that will slowly be implemented over time. Right from the jump, the biggest change we have seen has to do with the size of the region in conjunction with a local search result. The radius of each search result has become smaller across the board for both desktop and mobile users. For mobile users, the radius is much smaller meaning returned search results are within a few miles of the user’s location. What does this mean? Simply put, Google is trying hard to return results that are closer to your location. For businesses in the suburbs like Bethesda, Silver Spring or Rockville trying to rank locally for Washington DC you may see a decrease in traffic over the coming months. Now more than ever it’s important to have an office location in the city your website is targeting for search results.

Location, Location, LOCATION!

Real world real estate rules are quickly merging with the online world. If your business is located in an area with a lot of shoppers then it seems that you would see an increase in local traffic to your website. If your business is on the outskirts of town away from the larger shopping centers you may start to see a decrease in traffic. The caveat here is this will affect certain businesses differently. For example Chinese restaurants or coffee shops will be very competitive so the radius in which they will rank locally will be much smaller than hot tub retailers or nursing schools. Speaking of real estate, some realtors who may have found success ranking online covering larger areas (like Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia), will be affected by this local Internet marketing update as well. You will find it harder and harder to rank for an area without an office address and local phone number. Over the coming months you may see a drop in rankings for the areas that are farther away from your office or home base due to the fact that this industry is highly competitive.

Unintended Consequences Of Smaller Search Regions

Usually the biggest unintended consequence of any update is spam. Generally, Google will roll out an algorithm update that is large in scope with a grand vision. As with anything on this scale, it won’t be perfect the first time and tweaks (or many smaller updates) will need to be made. Some people practice deceptive SEO tactics where they will spot vulnerabilities in a search engine update and try to game the system. For example in this update they may try to establish fake online listings or citations in different cities to try and rank higher for local search results. Since the radius is shrinking for local search results in each city, they’re might not be enough choices or competition for certain industries. This would allow room for someone to create fictitious listings to fill in those gaps. While they may see a boost to rankings early on before they are caught, this is NOT the type of strategy you want to utilize for your website. Although spam is usually the last thing Google will address in their updates, eventually they will find, lower and even remove your page or listing from their directory. The last thing you want for your website is to be flagged by Google and slapped with an auto or manual penalty. It can take a longtime to remove the penalty and repair your rankings, so it’s just no worth the temptation of a short-term boost in your rankings. To help do your part in fighting this type of spam in search results you can report false listings through Google Map Maker.

Marketing Your Company Online Moving Forward

Its true Google has a big slice of the search engine pie. When it comes to online marketing you must factor Google as well as other search engines like Bing and Yahoo into your Internet marketing strategy. With that being said there are marketing strategies you can implement that can be update proof.

Building your brand and growing your brand awareness should be at the forefront of you overall marketing strategy. Brand searches (when someone types your company name into Google) are easy to rank for in the top 3 results on Google. For the most part you should be able to claim the number one spot in the search results unless your brand name is a common search phrase or company name. Try to incorporate your offline public relations tactics into your online PR strategies to get your company recognized.

You should also be diversifying your marketing strategy. If your Internet marketing strategy is relying on Google for 100 percent of your traffic then your website is subject to the fate of their rules. At Plush Marketing we believe SEO and on-page optimization is important to be able to compete with other websites within the search results. It’s also important to be creating relationships with customers, strategic partners, blogs and publications within your industry. Create a reputation with your clients that set your business apart from the competition. Attend online and offline networking events to create a buzz about your business and to generate referrals. Also don’t forget, quality links are still king (and will be for the foreseeable future) so acquiring honest links should be high on your Internet marketing to do list.

Last but certainly not least, never “set it and forget it!” If you are going to put in the time to increase your online marketing efforts, it’s important to constantly be updating and managing your on-page optimization, your online business listings, internal/external links, customer engagement and online reviews. At the end of the day the goal of the search engines is to return search results for trustworthy websites with high customer engagement. If your Internet marketing strategy encompasses the same goal, then you should be able to withstand any and all updates that alter the landscape of search.

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