New Changes to Google Algorithm Shuffles Local Search Results

Recently, local search observers noticed that the ubiquitous “7-pack” on Google searches had disappeared for some business categories. The “7-pack” is the grouping of local businesses that used to appear when a user searched for “restaurants in Denver,” for example.

This change was brought about by a tweak to Google’s algorithm, dubbed “Pigeon” by Search Engine Land. Among other changes, Search Engine Land has noted that “the new local search algorithm ties deeper into the site’s web search capabilities, leveraging hundreds of ranking signals, along with search features like spelling correction capabilities, synonyms and Google’s knowledge graph.”

While met with dismay (or simply cautious observation and testing) by many search engine optimization (SEO) experts, we think impact from the algorithm change is still up in the air. It’s not been rolled out for all industries at this point, but we should assume it will in the future.

With the new update, Google is returning search results that tend to favor popular directories, such as Yelp. These sites, with their large number of “ranking signals” are hard to beat for small and medium businesses. But don’t despair: there are always actions you can take to help Google serve up your business in search results, even with the “7-pack” dropoff.

  • Claim your Google+ Local Page (now accessed through the new Google My Business dashboard). We’ve noticed in our testing so far that Google is returning businesses with plenty of reviews from their own product, Google+ Local.
  • Make sure your business listing information is correct. There’s never been a better time to get a handle on incorrect business information such as name, address, phone, hours and website.
  • Ask your customers for reviews. It might feel awkward at first, but without reviews, your business may not show up in search. Never offer rewards for a review, but you can ask happy customers to take a few minutes and review their experiences on your Google+ Local page and Yelp.
  • Publish fresh content. It’s no secret that search engines love new content. So, sit down and make a simple calendar of what content you will post (short updates, blog entries, images, recipes, motivational sayings, sale announcements, etc.), and when you will post it.

Nothing is constant in business except for change. Here’s hoping this latest Google tweak improves your online search ranking. But if it doesn’t, try the suggestions above. And let us know what you’re seeing in your search results.

Matt is the CEO of Connectivity.