A few weeks back, our Search Agents scoured the SERPs, investigating the effects of Google’s yet-to-be-confirmed-or-denied Pigeon update. While Google still has yet to offer any definitive remarks on the matter, no search marketer can refute that U.S. local SERP results have changed dramatically. Like every Google update before it, Pigeon’s landing certainly begs the question, what do we need to do to adjust our strategy?
Yelp and Google Business Listings are Dominating Local SERPs
Problem: Yelp and Google-owned entities are heavily competing with their main page counterparts.
Solution: Think like Yelp.
Engage with your customers. Yelp is all about reviews, ratings and comparisons. Add reviews or testimonials page(s) onto your site with your customer’s name, rating, date, and other relevant information – after obtaining consent, of course. Including a widget on your Yelp page can also remedy this problem.
Another fix? Improve your pages’ semantic markup. For example, the reviews on your site can be marked up as “reviews,” which can help stand out with star ratings in the SERPs like Yelp. Schema.org is the preferred data markup method by Google, Bing, and Yahoo!.
These fixes aside, managing profiles in Google My Business and Yelp are no longer optional if SMBs want to compete in local SERPs. In short, get chummy with Yelp and Google+ for SERP success. Customers are rating your business on these sites, so keep active profiles, engage with reviewers, and attempt to resolve issues for repeat business. Businesses should apply these same practices to other influential local directories such as TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, and OpenTable.
Maps Are Hyper Local
Yes, SERP maps seem to be getting more localized under Pigeon’s reign. However, Pigeon shouldn’t change your local content strategy, just the way Google ranks that strategy. The new local search algorithm has been tied to more traditional Web standards, so sites still need quality, natural content with a strong backline profile to build domain authority and rank locally.
Here are some optimizing tips for new local searches:
- Make sure your business is verified, along with the right contact information, business description, hours, website URL, and more through Google My Business.
- Do you have multiple locations? Create dedicated local pages, each with unique, relevant content targeting your specific city/state in the meta data.
- Beware: Do not duplicate content across your location pages with the city/state as the only unique factor, as these duplications will not rank post-Panda. Each page should have standalone value to a user.
Optimize for the Local Carousel
Unlike local listings packs, Google’s local carousel was not affected by Pigeon, but remains a local ranking opportunity for businesses. Google derives these results from a combination of Google My Business and Zagat (a Google-owned property) listings, so maintain an active profile with a high-quality photo and positive reviews on both sites. Results are not sorted by name, rating, or price, but rather by the most relevant query result. However, the listing’s image and rating affect CTR, since we’re talking side-by-side competitors.
At the end of the day, Google’s going to change. Regularly. However, any impending changes will undoubtedly be instated to police the search engine in favor of marketers producing quality, responsible, creative content. The less marketers lean into exploiting new Google developments, and instead focus attention on improving content quality, the lower the likelihood of Google slamming those marketers with any future updates.
It’s pesky for SEO marketers but, ultimately with Pigeon, Google continues refining the user experience…with Google products.