06/19/2012 (press release: qamarzaman6) // Dallas, Texas, USA // Qamar Zaman
In Google’s constantly shifting approach to search ranking organization, the company’s highly complex algorithms are frequently being tweaked and updated in efforts to produce results most likely to be relevant to the search terms being entered by users. Over time, Google has improved upon its one-size-fits-all approach to online searches by introducing customized results based on the location of the user. About one-and-a-half years ago, Google combined its Local Intent searches with the index of Local businesses in Google Places to produce Blended Place Search, making it possible for a basic search term of “laundry” to return a list of laundromat locations in close proximity to the computer through which the search is being conducted. Further updates like “Panda,” “Venice” and “Penguin” further improved upon the quality of the top search results returned. But the new release of Google +Local in late May has once again caused upheaval in how local search rankings are organized.
Top Factors Affecting Local Search Rankings
The new changes haven’t produced a seismic shift in how local search rankings are organized — in fact, the top two most influential factors are the same now as they were a year ago — but beyond the very top tier, various search factors have switched places in terms of priority. As was the case in the past, the physical address of a location and its category association remain the top two factors in local search rankings. Following those are the Proximity of Address to Centroid, which has increased in importance, and the Domain Authority of Website, which has dropped from the No. 3 spot. Quantity of Native Google Places Reviews also remains one of the top factors. The biggest change in the most recent algorithm shift is that citations in directory listings like Yelp.com and AngiesList.com have experienced a downgrade in their ability to influence search engine rankings.
Reducing the Importance of Directory Citations
The primary reason citations have had their influence reduced is that these directory listings are easily manipulated by companies, causing them to appear more prominent and reputable than may be the case in real life. Google tracked these citations by combing through directories and keeping track of the listings for each entity. The problem, though, is that these listings could be easily manipulated, and businesses could ascend to the top of search rankings simply by creating a bunch of false directory listings. While citations still have some weight, other factors like positive reviews and links from other websites, as well as quality content, are receiving more focus and making it tougher to falsify online reputations.
What the Changes Mean for Small Websites
The biggest takeaway for any website — particularly small business websites — is that Google has improved its algorithm to focus more in quality content and websites rather than listings and other easily manipulated factors. To put it in the simplest terms, quality is taking the place of quantity in regards to how Local Search rankings are conducted. While this could cause an initial reorganization of search rankings, and even though more tweaks are sure to come in the future, the most important thing to note is that Google’s continual refinements are designed to reward high-quality, relevant websites that put effort into giving their website visitors what they want.