Google Announces Local Search Rankings Changes

Posted by on March 2, 2012 in SEO [ 2 Comments ]

On February 27th, Google announced more than 40 search engine changes on their Inside Search blog. While the scope of these changes will effect numerous aspects of search engine optimization, a lot of business owners will find two of these changes especially interesting.

Specifically, Google has addressed the relationship between local search results and so-called “normal” results:

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.

as well as increased the likelihood that a local video will appear in YouTube search results:

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].

If your concerned about how these changes will impact your local search engine optimization efforts – and interested in learning how you can take advantage of these new changes – read on.

Biggest Change – You Need More Than Just Citations To Rank #1

In the world of local search engine optimization, practitioners frequently talk about the importance of “citations,” which refer to any sort of directory listing that includes a local business name, address, and phone number. For the last couple of years, Google has collated citations from a wide variety of websites (everything from to to, and then used the volume and consistency of these citations to help determine which businesses should rank for any given local search term.

If, for example, a Denver-area plumber wanted to rank #1 on Google for the search term “Denver plumber,” he or she needed to make sure to get their business name, address, and phone number listed in as many directories as possible. By doing so, our example plumber could increase their rankings and – combined with some positive reviews from some happy clients – rank 1st for their target term.

As you can imagine, Google’s dependence on citations (which really aren’t anything more than what you’d find in a phone book) was vulnerable to manipulation. All a local business needed to be #1 was a copious amount of directory listings. Google’s change now means that, in addition to citations and positive reviews from customers, a local business also needs a website with quality content and links from other websites to be ranked first.

What this means to you: If your business has been ranking #1 on Google for your local search term, this change means it’s time to invest in quality website content (if you don’t have it already) and start promoting your site to get links. Otherwise, your rankings could slip.

If you don’t currently enjoy #1 rankings on Google for your local search term, this change means that you’ve got a better chance than ever of grabbing that top slot. Create some great content, promote that content to build links, and get your clients to review you.

Smaller Change – Local Business Opportunities on YouTube Continue To Grow

The second, smaller change that impacts local businesses relates to the way that Google generates search results on YouTube. Under the new system, a search on YouTube is more likely to show videos that are locally important. If, for example, your business has uploaded some videos to YouTube – and if those videos have been tagged with local search terms and/or assigned a location – they’re more likely to be seen now.

What this means to you: If your local business hasn’t uploaded any video to YouTube yet, this is one more reason to get going. Not only is video vital to the long-term success of any web marketing strategy, but now local business owners have even more opportunity. Time to bust out the video camera.

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Author Jason Lancaster is the founder of Spork Marketing, a Denver Internet marketing company that specializes in search engine optimization and marketing.

2 thoughts on “Google Announces Local Search Rankings Changes

  1. avatarJason Lancaster

    Zhang – Google’s announcement didn’t specify that these changes were limited to English language searches, but my guess is that they are.

    I’d also guess they’re limited to N. American search results too.

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