Global SEO updates like Panda and Penguin changed fundamental ranking processes across the board, but one of Googleâ€™s latest changes, deemed the â€œPigeonâ€ update, has made an impact on a much more local local level. The Pigeon update, designed to give users a better search experience when looking for local businesses, has put a stop to some old local SEO tactics while paving the way for a handful of new ones.
Google now favors the information found on local directory sites, such as Yelp, with more weight, and uses more offsite information to generate immediate local search results. If youâ€™re running a local business and you want to stay ahead of your competitors, start implementing these three new local SEO strategies:
1. Ensure Data Accuracy and Consistency Across the Web.
Now, more than ever, Google is cracking down on local businesses whose information is inconsistent or difficult to verify, and rewarding local businesses with clear, concise, and easily-available information. Your first and most important tactic should be to peruse the Web for mentions of your business and claim new profiles on local directories. Mentions of your NAP (business Name, Address, and Phone Number) are becoming major local ranking signals, so the more instances of that information there are across the web, and the more consistent that information is, the better.
Your first step is to claim your local profile pages on every local directory you can find (or at least the ones that are relevant for your business). Google+ and Yelp are must-haves for almost any business, while other sites like TripAdvisor and UrbanSpoon are dependent on your specific niche. Most of these sites allow you to claim your local profile for free and take charge of updating it with accurate information and images. Yext provides a tool to easily check many of the major directories, and also shows you how your NAP information appears on each one, highlighting any inconsistencies.
Quantity is significant; the more instances of your data appearing on the Web, the better. But the more important factor here is consistency. Google notices when your NAP information is in the same format, and it will reward you if that format is exactly repeated across each platform. However, any discrepancyâ€”even changing the word â€œroadâ€ to the abbreviation â€œrdâ€â€”could register as an inconsistency, and weaken the impact of your efforts.
Once youâ€™ve completed an initial round of claiming and cleanup, you can start your regular ongoing efforts. Once a month or so, do a routine check of your local profiles and see what other opportunities there are for you to update your information or claim new profiles on up-and-coming platforms. Itâ€™s also a good idea to include your NAP (consistent, as always) on other forms of external posts, such as press releases and guest blogs.
2. Drive Your Customers to Google+ and Yelp (and Similar Local Directories).
The Pigeon update did more than just boost rankings for sites with consistent information across the web. Possibly in response to an accusation that Yelp pages and reviews were not treated favorably in Googleâ€™s algorithm, Google updated their ranking structure to improve Yelp page ranking positions. For some small businesses, Yelp review pages actually started ranking higher than the companyâ€™s website.
This new ranking system has been seen as interference by some business owners, diverting traffic away from their companiesâ€™ webpages. However, it also represents a key opportunity. If more people are visiting Yelp to help make purchasing decisions, and Google wants more people to go to Yelp, all you have to do is spend more time getting people to go to your specific Yelp page.