If you’re a local business, you may have notice some changes in your web traffic or search rankings recently. Google has officially confirmed an algorithm update affecting local search results in November of 2019 (aptly being named the “November 2019 Local Search Update). The update is really geared around trying to make sure that if a user searches with local intent, that local search results will show up. For example, if you search for “female divorce attorney,” you’re probably looking to find a divorce attorney and want one that is somewhat local. The update utilizes “neural matching” which Google has explained as: The use of neural matching means that Google can do a better job going beyond the exact words in business name or description to understand conceptually how it might be related to the words searchers use and their intents…” (see the tweet).
So what Google is trying to do, as they have been for a long time, is better understand the intent of a user’s search and provide the most accurate results. In terms of this update, they’re trying to understand beyond brand names and very clear words when a user’s search intent is for a local result. If you’re interested, Search Engine Land has a good article on the update itself.
How Do Businesses Adapt to the Change?
There really isn’t anything you need to do as a result of this update.
Google is improving it’s recognition of signals, so most businesses would be best served just doing the types of things we would normally recommend anyway to have a bigger presence in local search. These are things like:
- Make sure your Google My Business listings are all up to date. If you have multiple locations, make sure you have a Google My Business listing for each location. Also, if you’re a doctor or attorney, there is a special “exemption” that Google makes for you. Normally, you can only have one Google My Business listing per location. Because of the nature of these professions, Google allows the practice to have a Google My Business Profile, and each practitioner to have a profile. So, try to take up the extra real estate if you have the opportunity and fill out a profile for everything you can.
- Make sure you have as many local listings as you reasonably can, and make sure they all have consistent information. “Consistent” means making sure the address is written the same way each time, the name of the company is the same, etc. These all make it easier for Google to correlate. If you’re not familiar with these local listings, they’re things like Yelp, Whitepages.com, etc. These listings, often referred to as “citations” simply show Google that the business is credible (it’s not a made up business or location) and confirms the information as accurate – all helping your site to be more likely to show up in search results with local intent.
- Have corresponding local information on your website. If you have a location in Jersey City but it’s hard to find the location information on your website, it’s likely that it’s going to be less-than-prominent in search results. We recommend having a page on your site devoted to each location (if you have more than one), with specific information to that location such as directions, map listing, and unique features of the location (doctors who practice there, specific services offered, etc.). If you just have one location, make sure your website has information that clearly reflects the location – town information, directions, etc. It should be clear that you’re a “local” business.
- Use schema microformatting wherever possible. This is basically code markup that tells machines more information about the data they’re reading, telling them “this is a phone number” or “this is an address.” This isn’t a huge factor, but anything you can do to make your code and data as clear as possible to search engines is helpful.
It’s really not about gaming the system – it’s all about trying to be as clear as you can to search engines as you tell them who you are and what you do in order to be seen as a solid result worth showing in the search results. You don’t have to be an expert (though it helps!), but you do need to take the time to make sure everything on your site is up to speed.
And of course, if you need any help, please reach out to us. We’re more than happy to give some guidance and engage with you if you need some help executing.