Google made 40 changes to it’s search functions during February. A record for Google apparently, even if many of the changes are very subtle ones. Of interest to many small business owners will be the changes made to local search. This is one area that Google has worked hard to improve, and for many small business, the results have been very encouraging. It can be hard for a small business to compete with large national businesses and local search has really helped to level the playing field.
Before looking at the changes made to local search, we do recommend that every business, particularly if you’re a small business owner, that you claim your business through local search. Most businesses are already listed, they just require claiming, and the benefits of claiming far outweigh any negatives (if you can find any). In fact, not claiming your business could cause more harm over time.
So what changes have Google made to local search? Google have very kindly published all forty changes. The changes that affect local search include:
Improvements to ranking for local search results. This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.
More locally relevant predictions in YouTube. We’ve improved the ranking for predictions in YouTube to provide more locally relevant queries. For example, for the query [lady gaga in ] performed on the US version of YouTube, we might predict [lady gaga in times square], but for the same search performed on the Indian version of YouTube, we might predict [lady gaga in India].
Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.
Improvements to freshness. We’ve applied new signals which help us surface fresh content in our results even more quickly than before.
For small businesses, the last two are of particular note. If you publish content regularly, for example, on a blog, then combination of fresh content and improved local results could help drive your pages closer to the top of page one. It should be pointed out, however, that this will only occur if you include local SEO concepts to your content – this could include regional names in content titles, service areas on every page of your content, along with any other regional information that could help a search engine target your site.