In the course of my work, I’ve occasionally had reason to be embarrassed in front of a client. I remember one scenario clearly- I had spent days preparing my presentation. Come the day of the meeting, my client remarked on something they’d noticed in the local SEO report, their traffic and rankings seemed to be going down. Their business didn’t seem to be attracting more local clients and if anything, they seemed to be losing them.
Now, as a digital marketing consultant, this isn’t something you want to be dealing with. You want your client to be happy with their search engine ranking and you want their customer base to keep increasing. That’s the ideal scenario.
It’s Not Your Fault, It’s Google’s Algorithm
Luckily, I had an explanation ready for this particular client. There was a simple reason to explain what was happening- Google was behind it.
A few months prior to this meeting, I’d noticed that Google had changed how it ranked businesses in search results. The local pack results I got whenever I searched Google for a local search term made no sense.
For instance, a search for “electricians” brought up the results of several businesses close to where I was (or rather, where Google thought I was). Refining the search further to something like “Moab electricians” gave much better results but still, not what I expected to see.
I then realized that Google had changed its ranking system and now a businesses’ proximity to the searcher largely determines how it will be ranked in local search results nowadays!
It seems that proximity now carries more weight, as far as ranking is concerned, than the traditional ranking signals we were used to such as website content, citations, links and reviews. Now your search results are more likely to bring up businesses close to you regardless of their reviews, websites or even whether they have verified Google listings or not.
How Does This Affect Local SEO Strategies?
The major downside to using customer proximity as the major ranking factor in local search results is that the results will definitely suck. Customers often care about finding the best business, not necessarily the ones closest to where they are. They want to interact with competent, reliable businesses with good products and services and they don’t mind going a few extra miles to get such businesses.
Thanks to this ranking method, I’ve had to change some of my SEO strategies. I’ve told my clients that they need to diversify their local optimization efforts beyond Google e.g. they can aim to get on some local top 10 lists on Yelp, TripAdvisor, or whichever other sites that will get you closer to your customers.
That being said, it’s comforting to know that local SEO isn’t dead. Businesses simply have to diversify their reach and step up their optimization efforts. This is something that I can help with.
Schedule a consultation and let’s work together to get your business ranking highly locally once again.