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What Is Local SEO & Why Local Search Matters

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What Is Local SEO & Why Local Search Matters

Local search is an integral part of any SEO strategy targeting customers in a specific region, city, or neighborhood.

Simply put, local SEO is where you focus to improve your rankings and visibility in local search results such as Google’s Map Pack/Local Pack.

Organic SEO is how you improve webpage rankings in organic search. How your website ranks in those organic results can positively influence your Local Pack rankings, as well.

Organic listings are another great opportunity for your local business to appear in front of motivated searchers when Google determines that the query has local intent.

So, although local and organic SEO are interconnected in these ways, each requires a unique strategy with different optimization tactics.

Let’s start at the beginning – what is local SEO and why does local search matter?

What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the practice of search engine optimization for local search results.

On Google, that means helping your business listing in the Local Pack/Map Pack rank higher and appear more often in response to a greater volume of relevant queries.

Think of the last time you were out in the world, searching for something you needed. Maybe it was [men’s shoes], or [daycare providers], or [coworking spaces].

Google’s mission is to deliver searchers the best answer for any query.

And when its algorithms detect that your intent is local – that you are looking for something in the area around you – those Map Pack results will appear prominently on the first page of the search results.

They may be complemented by organic results about businesses and services in your local area, too.

If you search for something like [Mexican restaurants open now], local results may appear as the default view above all organic content. Google has detected that you have an immediate, local need.

The information available in local search results – business name, address, phone number, website, photos and videos, customer reviews and star ratings, and more – is more likely to answer that need than a plain blue link.

Adhering to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and creating a great user experience on your website are best practices for SEO in general.

This is essential if you want your website to rank in organic search results where Google has determined there is local intent to the query.

But, you can appear in the Map Pack without even having a website, as MapPack results are largely informed by your Google Business Profile (GBP) listing. They might include information Google has compiled from other places around the web and even user suggestions, too.

Google has a separate set of guidelines for local SEO, too, the most important of these being its ‘Guidelines for representing your business on Google.’

These guidelines are essential for maximizing your visibility in the Map Pack and avoiding getting your listing suspended.

As you work through our Local SEO Guide, keep the differences between local organic and the Map Pack in mind.

At times, we’ll talk about Google search algorithms, technical SEO for your website, on-page optimization of your webpages, etc. These topics refer to your opportunities to appear in local organic results and to support Map Pack rankings with your website’s presence.

As you’re reading about local reviews and star ratings, Google Posts, and other elements of your GBP, you’re learning about local SEO as it pertains to local results you see in Google Maps.

Why Local Search Is Important

Here are a few stats that prove how important local search continues to be for businesses:

  • According to Google, 76% of people who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a business within 24 hours, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase.
  • 30% of all searches it processes are related to location, also according to Google.
  • 61% of consumers said in a recent local search survey that they search locally every day.
  • A recent local SEO survey found that 82% of consumers read online reviews for businesses during a local search and spend close to 14 minutes doing so before making a decision.
  • 86% of people rely on Google Maps to find the location of a business.
  • Yelp appears in the top five search results for SMB searches 92% of the time.
  • Worldwide, 74% of in-store shoppers who performed their search before physically arriving at the store said they searched for things like [closest store near them], [locations], [in stock near them], and other types of hyperlocal information.
  • More than half of Internet users worldwide use a mobile device for their local searches.
  • 83% of searchers use Google Search to learn more about nearby businesses; 55% use Google Maps, 44% Apple Maps, 39% turn to Yahoo, and 31% choose bing.

How Google Determines Local Ranking

Google keeps its organic search ranking algorithms a closely guarded secret but is much more open about what it takes to rank in local results.

The three main categories of local ranking factors, according to Google, are:

  • Relevance.
  • Distance.
  • and Prominence.
‘How to improve your local ranking,’ Google, screenshot by author, January 2022

“Relevance refers to how well a local Business Profile matches what someone is searching for.

Add complete and detailed business information to help Google better understand your business and match your profile to relevant searches,” Google states in its help resource on how to improve your local ranking.

Google defines distance as “how far each potential search result is from the location term used in a search. If a user doesn’t specify a location in their search, we’ll calculate distance based on what we do know about their location.”

And prominence in this context refers to how well-known Google considers that business to be. This is perhaps the most complex of the local ranking factor categories, as search algorithms try to factor offline prominence into the equation, as well.

According to Whitespark’s ‘2021 Local Search Ranking Factors’ survey, these are what local SEO experts believe are the top Local Pack ranking factors:

  • GBP primary category.
  • Keywords in the listing title.
  • Proximity of the business address to the searcher’s location.
  • Physical address in the city of search.
  • Additional GMB categories.
  • High numerical star ratings.
  • Completeness of GBP listing.
  • Quality and authority of inbound links to the associated domain.
  • Keywords in native Google reviews.

Improving Your Local Search Presence

As you can see, local search is an essential channel for businesses of all kinds that serve local customers – franchises, retail chains, so-called Mom & Pop shops, financial services brands, service providers, enterprise brands, and SMBs alike.

In ‘Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improve Your Local Search Rankings,’ you’ll find everything you need to know to develop and implement a successful local SEO strategy.

You’ll learn:

  • The top local ranking signals you need to know and why they matter.
  • How to create a winning local SEO strategy.
  • Tips and a process for analyzing the competition in local search results.
  • Why accurate NAP information and user experience are so important in local SEO.
  • How and where to find the best local link building opportunities.
  • Why reviews and star ratings matter – and how to make the best possible use of them.
  • How to completely optimize your GBP listing.
  • All of the different attributes you need to know to help your GBP listing stand out and convert customers.
  • Local SEO and listing management tools to save you time and improve your performance.
  • And a lot more.

You’ll hear from local search experts Ben Fisher, John McAlpin, Alexandra Tachalova, Marshall Nyman, Maddy Osman, and others as they share their best tips and advice to help shape a strategy built for your business.

Download the guide free right here.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

What Is Local SEO & Why Local Search Matters




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Google Hints At Improving Site Rankings In Next Update

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Google Hints At Improving Site Rankings In Next Update

Google’s John Mueller says the Search team is “explicitly evaluating” how to reward sites that produce helpful, high-quality content when the next core update rolls out.

The comments came in response to a discussion on X about the impact of March’s core update and September’s helpful content update.

In a series of tweets, Mueller acknowledged the concerns, stating:

“I imagine for most sites strongly affected, the effects will be site-wide for the time being, and it will take until the next update to see similar strong effects (assuming the new state of the site is significantly better than before).”

He added:

“I can’t make any promises, but the team working on this is explicitly evaluating how sites can / will improve in Search for the next update. It would be great to show more users the content that folks have worked hard on, and where sites have taken helpfulness to heart.”

What Does This Mean For SEO Professionals & Site Owners?

Mueller’s comments confirm Google is aware of critiques about the March core update and is refining its ability to identify high-quality sites and reward them appropriately in the next core update.

For websites, clearly demonstrating an authentic commitment to producing helpful and high-quality content remains the best strategy for improving search performance under Google’s evolving systems.

The Aftermath Of Google’s Core Updates

Google’s algorithm updates, including the September “Helpful Content Update” and the March 2024 update, have far-reaching impacts on rankings across industries.

While some sites experienced surges in traffic, others faced substantial declines, with some reporting visibility losses of up to 90%.

As website owners implement changes to align with Google’s guidelines, many question whether their efforts will be rewarded.

There’s genuine concern about the potential for long-term or permanent demotions for affected sites.

Recovery Pathway Outlined, But Challenges Remain

In a previous statement, Mueller acknowledged the complexity of the recovery process, stating that:

“some things take much longer to be reassessed (sometimes months, at the moment), and some bigger effects require another update cycle.”

Mueller clarified that not all changes would require a new update cycle but cautioned that “stronger effects will require another update.”

While affirming that permanent changes are “not very useful in a dynamic world,” Mueller adds that “recovery” implies a return to previous levels, which may be unrealistic given evolving user expectations.

“It’s never ‘just-as-before’,” Mueller stated.

Improved Rankings On The Horizon?

Despite the challenges, Mueller has offered glimmers of hope for impacted sites, stating:

“Yes, sites can grow again after being affected by the ‘HCU’ (well, core update now). This isn’t permanent. It can take a lot of work, time, and perhaps update cycles, and/but a different – updated – site will be different in search too.”

He says the process may require “deep analysis to understand how to make a website relevant in a modern world, and significant work to implement those changes — assuming that it’s something that aligns with what the website even wants.”

Looking Ahead

Google’s search team is actively working on improving site rankings and addressing concerns with the next core update.

However, recovery requires patience, thorough analysis, and persistent effort.

The best way to spend your time until the next update is to remain consistent and produce the most exceptional content in your niche.


FAQ

How long does it generally take for a website to recover from the impact of a core update?

Recovery timelines can vary and depend on the extent and type of updates made to align with Google’s guidelines.

Google’s John Mueller noted that some changes might be reassessed quickly, while more substantial effects could take months and require additional update cycles.

Google acknowledges the complexity of the recovery process, indicating that significant improvements aligned with Google’s quality signals might be necessary for a more pronounced recovery.

What impact did the March and September updates have on websites, and what steps should site owners take?

The March and September updates had widespread effects on website rankings, with some sites experiencing traffic surges while others faced up to 90% visibility losses.

Publishing genuinely useful, high-quality content is key for website owners who want to bounce back from a ranking drop or maintain strong rankings. Stick to Google’s recommendations and adapt as they keep updating their systems.

To minimize future disruptions from algorithm changes, it’s a good idea to review your whole site thoroughly and build a content plan centered on what your users want and need.

Is it possible for sites affected by core updates to regain their previous ranking positions?

Sites can recover from the impact of core updates, but it requires significant effort and time.

Mueller suggested that recovery might happen over multiple update cycles and involves a deep analysis to align the site with current user expectations and modern search criteria.

While a return to previous levels isn’t guaranteed, sites can improve and grow by continually enhancing the quality and relevance of their content.


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Google Reveals Two New Web Crawlers

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Google Reveals Two New Web Crawlers

Google revealed details of two new crawlers that are optimized for scraping image and video content for “research and development” purposes. Although the documentation doesn’t explicitly say so, it’s presumed that there is no impact in ranking should publishers decide to block the new crawlers.

It should be noted that the data scraped by these crawlers are not explicitly for AI training data, that’s what the Google-Extended crawler is for.

GoogleOther Crawlers

The two new crawlers are versions of Google’s GoogleOther crawler that was launched in April 2023. The original GoogleOther crawler was also designated for use by Google product teams for research and development in what is described as one-off crawls, the description of which offers clues about what the new GoogleOther variants will be used for.

The purpose of the original GoogleOther crawler is officially described as:

“GoogleOther is the generic crawler that may be used by various product teams for fetching publicly accessible content from sites. For example, it may be used for one-off crawls for internal research and development.”

Two GoogleOther Variants

There are two new GoogleOther crawlers:

  • GoogleOther-Image
  • GoogleOther-Video

The new variants are for crawling binary data, which is data that’s not text. HTML data is generally referred to as text files, ASCII or Unicode files. If it can be viewed in a text file then it’s a text file/ASCII/Unicode file. Binary files are files that can’t be open in a text viewer app, files like image, audio, and video.

The new GoogleOther variants are for image and video content. Google lists user agent tokens for both of the new crawlers which can be used in a robots.txt for blocking the new crawlers.

1. GoogleOther-Image

User agent tokens:

  • GoogleOther-Image
  • GoogleOther

Full user agent string:

GoogleOther-Image/1.0

2. GoogleOther-Video

User agent tokens:

  • GoogleOther-Video
  • GoogleOther

Full user agent string:

GoogleOther-Video/1.0

Newly Updated GoogleOther User Agent Strings

Google also updated the GoogleOther user agent strings for the regular GoogleOther crawler. For blocking purposes you can continue using the same user agent token as before (GoogleOther). The new Users Agent Strings are just the data sent to servers to identify the full description of the crawlers, in particular the technology used. In this case the technology used is Chrome, with the model number periodically updated to reflect which version is used (W.X.Y.Z is a Chrome version number placeholder in the example listed below)

The full list of GoogleOther user agent strings:

  • Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 6.0.1; Nexus 5X Build/MMB29P) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/W.X.Y.Z Mobile Safari/537.36 (compatible; GoogleOther)
  • Mozilla/5.0 AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko; compatible; GoogleOther) Chrome/W.X.Y.Z Safari/537.36

GoogleOther Family Of Bots

These new bots may from time to time show up in your server logs and this information will help in identifying them as genuine Google crawlers and will help publishers who may want to opt out of having their images and videos scraped for research and development purposes.

Read the updated Google crawler documentation

GoogleOther-Image

GoogleOther-Video

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ChatGPT To Surface Reddit Content Via Partnership With OpenAI

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ChatGPT artificial intelligence chatbot app on smartphone screen with large shadow giving the feeling of floating on top of the background. White background.

Reddit partners with OpenAI to integrate content into ChatGPT.

  • Reddit and OpenAI announce a partnership.
  • Reddit content will be used in ChatGPT.
  • Concerns about accuracy of Reddit user-generated content.

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