Being visible in Google Local listings is as important as being in the Yellow Pages was back in the 1980’s. Over the last few years, the specific area of focus has become the ever shifting and changing local pack.
This listing of businesses in search results highlights the local businesses Google thinks are more relevant to the search. However, all is not well in the search land at Google.
The Filtering Has Begun
Google’s algorithm is one giant filtering project. How does it determine what is displayed and in what order? It simply filters out results and then ranks what remains. While this may be an oversimplified explanation of how Google works, it fits given the various updates that have rolled out. Penguin, Panda, Payday Loan, and Phantom updates are at their core actually modifications to the filters, excluding more sites based on content, links and more.
In a September 6, 2016 article, Search Engine Land identified a major shift happening in the local results, both the pack and the expanded results, which many industry experts have confirmed. The attempt would seem to be to remove fraudulent listings from the search results. After all, what searcher wants to call a business that actually does not exist?
From a user perspective limiting down the number of results in the digital phone book makes it easier to find a legitimate business. However, on the other hand, if a business is not playing the game the way Google wants them to, they will not be listed, and even if a searcher wants to see them, will not.
What Does Google Consider In The Local Search Filter?
Google never does specifically tell anyone how their algorithm works. From a philosophical perspective, they do not want anyone to manipulate the results by understanding all the details. A practical perspective tells us that no one really has a firm grasp on the entirety of the algorithm, considering there are hundreds of programming engineers that work on the algorithm every day, with groups that oversee specific components of it.
That said many industry experts conduct frequent large-scale tests to be able to identify the correlated factors on the search results.
For this particular filter update, it appears there are many factors in play:
- Age of your business listing – Generally speaking, the older the age of your business, the more likely Google is going to list your business in the results. The same are true for reviews. If all of your reviews are recent, then they will not be as powerful today as they will be in a year or two.
- Organic Ranking – SEO is extremely important as a holistic marketing opportunity. Being visible in the standard search results, outside of the local listings, is a big factor to your listing on the local search results. Some tests show that being listed in the top 10 results for a search will yield a higher likelihood of being present in the local results as well.
- Duplicate Listings – Google hates duplication. This is especially true with business listings. However, just because your specific business is not duplicated, does not mean it is not being filtered as a duplicate. Google filters some businesses using UPS Stores and PO Boxes for their business address. One particular example found that one business listed a UPS Store, and the suite number listed was different from those of the businesses legitimately at the same address. Google then filtered it. Another thing to watch out for is if a prior business is listed on Google with your address or phone number. Even if that business is no longer operating, if Google does not know that, it can cause issues with your business being filtered.
How To Avoid The Filter
The first thing to keep in mind is that this is a filter not a penalty. When you encounter a penalty, such as a suspension, it affects your site in all search queries. In the filter, you may find your site impacted for some search terms and not others. That means you can avoid the filter altogether and reverse course if you’re being filtered.
Here is how to avoid the filter:
- Closely manage your online presence. This is the most important thing to avoiding the filter. Create and claim your online profile with Google, known as Google My Business. Make sure no other businesses are listed with your address or phone number. Also, be sure you are not using a PO Box or UPS store type of address, that could cause you trouble. Finally, keep an eye on your online profile to catch any other business who may be attempting to squat on your information.
- Implement great SEO This goes without saying, if you are trying to develop a strong presence in the search engines. Avoid any spammy type activity, any crazy link building strategies, and any strategies that guarantee to get you to the top of the search engines quickly. These strategies will not only flag you in with the filter, but could also cause Google to slap you with a penalty or blacklist you altogether.
- Track your website traffic and ranking. Track your analytics and ranking to know if something is happening with the search engine results and your site. Be sure you are looking at not only the core rankings, but that you are also especially looking at the local listings ranking, including the 3-pack. Keep an eye on the volume of traffic coming from Google and the number of queries your Google My Business listing has. This will be an early indicator of problems.
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