Google Local Algorithm Updates

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Google regularly updates its local algorithm. These updates play a big role in how Google listings perform in local search results. 

It is important to understand that Google’s local algorithm is very different from its general search algorithm. The local algorithm is updated separately and less frequently than the general search algorithm.

Just as with Google’s core algorithm, Google’s local algorithm updates are made based on changes in culture and technology. As more consumers conduct “near me” searches on mobile devices, it is becoming increasingly important for brands to rank well in local search.

In the past, major updates with code names like Panda and Penguin have caused significant shake-ups in search rankings. However, in more recent years, the changes Google has made to its local algorithm have been more subtle. As a result, it can be hard to distinguish between major updates and the minor fluctuations that occur all the time in Google search.

One of the best ways for brands to deal with Google’s local algorithm updates is to keep all local citation information accurate and up to date. Making sure that the information on all Google My Business profiles is relevant is important, as well. Brands should also be removing duplicate listings and incorrect information if they want to perform well in local search.

Another way for brands to stay on top of local algorithm updates is by using a tool like Bright Local’s Local RankFlux. This tool helps monitor ranking volatility in Google listings overall, and for specific industries. Ongoing fluctuations of more than three rank positions, on average, are usually classified as “possible updates.”

Neural Matching Update

The neural matching update in November 2019 is the most recent local algorithm update officially acknowledged by Google. At the time, Google confirmed that it was making use of neural matching as part of the process of generating local search results. 

Neural matching is an AI-based system. Using neural matching means Google can do a better job of going beyond the exact word in business name or description, to actually understand conceptually how the words people search for are related to their intent. You can read more about neural matching and Google’s 2019 local update in this blog post on Search Engine Roundtable.

Although there appeared to be another major update to Google’s local algorithm in May 2020, that update turned out to be a bug on Google’s part, and it was later corrected. 

For the latest news on any future updates to Google’s local algorithm, make sure to follow the Brandify Blog


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Google is regularly updating its local algorithm. These updates play a big role in how web pages perform in local search results. 

Just as with Google’s core algorithm, Google’s local algorithm updates are made based on changes in culture and technology. As more consumers conduct “near me” searches on mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, it is becoming increasingly important for brands to rank well in local search.

In early 2020, Google released its most important local algorithm update yet. That update, known as “Possum,” puts an increased emphasis on proximity to your servers and the user’s location when deciding which results to show first in local search. As a result of this update, the average distance between a search location and the results in the local pack have been greatly reduced.

Google’s Possum update has the greatest impact on businesses located outside of city limits and businesses that are located at the same address as a similar business. Many of these businesses have been filtered out of local search results entirely after the latest local algorithm update. 

The update is not impacting service area businesses nearly as much. Google did announce limits to the number of service areas that can be added by a business. Service area businesses now are limited to 20 cities, districts, or postal codes per listing.

The best way for brands to deal with Google’s local algorithm update is to keep all local citation information as accurate as possible. Making sure that the information on all listing pages is relevant is the key here. At the same time, brands should also be removing duplicate listings and incorrect information. 

As Google continues to update its local algorithm, the search giant appears to be putting increasing emphasis on customer reviews to determine placement on local search results pages. Online reviews are one of the ways that brands with multiple locations can add local-related and business-related keywords to their webpages. Asking for online reviews is now a key part of a well-rounded local search strategy.

For advice on how brands with multiple locations should solicit reviews, see this guide to first-party reviews.