Google Update: Local Search Shakeup

October 07, 2015

Collective Measures
Two months ago, Google updated local search and Collective Measures has analyzed the initial results to see how it's impacted search for different industries.

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On August 6, Google implemented a sweeping change to its local search display, replacing the traditional 7-pack of listings to a 3-pack for all local results. The new layout, according to an seoClarity study, displays above organic results 93% of the time:

local search image

While the layout is consistent across industries, its impact on website traffic and rankings varies based on the industry. This holds true for the many Collective Measures clients that have a local search presence. Below are three examples of how the new normal for local search is influencing both organic and local traffic.

Industry Examples

Home Improvement Industry: -14% local, +1% organic

  • Takeaway: By volume, the organic growth eclipsed the local drop, and this industry’s seasonality is a factor. The website we analyzed traditionally ranks better in organic results than in local, so the update has ultimately improved its organic visibility by removing four listings.

B2B Service Industry: +16% local, +4% organic

  • Takeaway: There’s nothing better than seeing two positive numbers next to each other. This is a unique case where local results feature brick & mortar businesses, and organic results feature non-local service pages. This website ranks well in organic and local search, so shortening local results naturally improved organic visibility.

Secondary Education: +15% local, -5% organic

  • Takeaway: The growth in local traffic came from mobile devices (14%), with some help from tablets (23%). Mobile comprises 87% of all local traffic. The 5% decline in organic traffic is the most traditional side effect of local search improvements.

As you can see, Google’s updates impact industries in vastly different ways. The only way to truly answer the question, “How does this update impact us?” is to track each algorithm or design update, and research your website’s traffic, engagement, and conversions over time.

Here are a few ways to get started

1. Organic and local SEO strategies must inform each other. Most results that include local 3-Packs feature organic results from local businesses. For every location page on your site, it’s essential to have unique content that demonstrates your value to the local searcher and their community. Identical content on multiple pages (with only the location keyword changed) is no longer sufficient for ranking well in local OR organic search.

2. Track your Google My Business traffic. In order to learn how important local search is to your business, you need to track Google local traffic as a separate source. This can be done through adding utm tracking codes onto each website link in your Google My Business page. Google’s URL Builder is a great place to start.

3. Diversify your local presence. It’s easy to focus on Google when it’s the largest elephant in the room, but there are many other local and niche websites that can drive localized traffic to your site. Apple and Facebook are both investing heavily in local search, and Yelp continues to rank well for many local Google searches. Learn how people interact with your business, and build a strategy to improve visibility on each site.

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