Location-specific ranking - please help!


hrafi

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I moved my business to a new office about 6 months ago and am have had local ranking issues ever since. Apologies if this is a long post, but I wanted to outline what has happened since the move as this seems to be a bit of an unusual issue.

I run a web design business (silversquaremedia(dot)com) that was previously located in Hornchurch. The site was up for a fairly long time, I did not carry out much SEO work on it and designed it to be fairly simple, without stuffing it too full of content/keywords. As I had a stream of work coming in at the time I left it at that. Over the space of a year it gradually moved up in rank, and as Google's algorithms progressively lowered the rank of more spammy sites, mine rose to the top. Eventually late last year I gained top spot for "web design hornchurch" and was on the first page for "web design east london".

I then moved the business to an office in Brighton in October of last year. I immediately updated the address on my Google Places listing, and this is where the trouble began. The process went a bit like this:


  • Changed address to Brighton, Google Maps didn't update the marker for over a month.
  • Emailed Google through the places settings, they told me "yes there is a problem" and said submit it through Maps.
  • Submitted a problem through maps, Google replied saying "yes there is a problem, submit it through Places".
  • Frustrated, I wondered if the search radius settings might have been the issue since the settings panel had changed since I first listed it. However, it would not let me change it without turning on "I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location" since the system had changed to auto-select the right settings. As a test, I turned it on and changed my delivery radius. Immedietely the marker jumped to Brighton.
  • I thought this is probably a Places bug, so I switched the setting off again. Suddenly the marker was back in Hornchurch. Figuring it might take time to update, I waited a week. No change.
  • I turned the setting back on, and set service area to specific places. Now the marker moved to Brighton again, but used the previous service radius setting.
  • I then set it to a service radius, and the marker changed to the previous areas I had selected. It seemed to be one step behind what I was doing, no matter how long I waited for it to update.
  • I turned it all off again, and the marker was back in Hornchurch.
  • I repeated this process several times and eventually the marker "stuck" in the new location after I turned off the delivery/service radius option. Google did not ask for verification for the address change.


At this point I thought my issues were solved. How wrong I was.

Although the places marker had moved, Google for some reason still seems absolutely convinced (according to organic search rankings) that the business is still in Hornchurch. A search for "web design brighton" does not list the site on any page, and it has been this way for half a year.

At first I thought maybe an algorithm change was responsible, but it is now clear this is not the case. How do I know this? Because searching for "web design hornchurch" still puts me on the first page this long after the move. If I had been penalised for a poor quality site, surely I wouldn't rank for that at all? Webmaster tools shows no penalties.

There is no reference to Hornchurch left anywhere on the site or in the source code, and it has been this way for quite some time. I have also gone through all other sites/profiles that I have control over and changed the location to Brighton to make sure this is not a backlink issue. None of the backlinks in WMT have any reference to Hornchurch, only to Brighton. There is only one site (a facebook auto-crawler) that still lists Hornchurch as a single tag on the page, but not in the anchor text since I contacted them to update the info. This is outnumbered significantly by the pages referring to Brighton. Even the website server is now in Brighton but that has made no difference.

I understand that Brighton is probably more competitive for web design that Hornchurch, and I do not mind improving the site to work my way up the rankings, but it all seems a bit pointless when I don't have a starting point in the top 1000 search results. I do have a site redesign in the works, including new content, a blog, keyword-specific service subpages, responsive layout etc. but it's all a bit of a last ditch effort since I can't see how this is the problem in the first place.

The only way I have managed to rank for anything at all is PPC, I ran a campaign for "web design brighton" for a while and Google had no issue with the relevance of the landing page to the term, but this seems to me to be quite a pricey way of "fixing" the problem given the high competition. Pausing the campaign did not put me back in the organic results, the site is nowhere to be found again (except for Hornchurch results).

I can't help but feel that Google has somehow tied my domain to the Hornchurch location given the weird Places problems at the start of this process and the fact that the site still ranks highly for searches in that area, but I have no idea how to fix this since they seem to be very specific about the issues they will accept questions on.

This has all had a very large impact on my business. I am starting to feel like advertising in local newspapers would be more useful and that any SEO at this point is a waste of my time and effort.

Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.
 

Linda Buquet

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Hi hrafi and welcome!

I just zoomed out from your area and searched for "Silver Square Media Brighton" your listing comes up on top but it shows a whole lot of other listings, like it's not sure what business I am searching for. However if I search for "Silver Square Media Hornchurch" the ONLY listing that came up is your listing in Bristol. So it seems maps still is more confident that you are in Hornchurch?

But seems a little odd that there is not an old listing marked closed or relocated that links to the new listing. I'm thinking maybe when you moved we still had the procedure where you were supposed to closed old listing and create new one at new address instead of just editing the address. BUT I'm not sure. I'm not as strong on the maps side.

If I were you I'd ask in the Map Maker forum. I checked your MM history, but now MM hides everything meaningful so I can't see anything.
 

hrafi

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Hi Linda,

Thanks for your reply.

I've just run the same searches in Maps and anything I enter (Silver Square Media Hornchurch or Silver Square Media Brighton) shows the same map marker in Brighton, since as far as I can tell there is no other company in the UK using this name. I'm not too sure why Bristol came up for you as that is nowhere near either Hornchurch or Brighton and there is no listing in that area, I have only created the one listing that is causing this problem.

When I moved office I checked the Google support pages and they said the correct procedure was the simply change the address, so I did not mark it as closed. I have wondered if this was the issue, but since the old process was not recommended by them any more I didn't see why it would be.

Since this has impacted my business quite severely, I have considered changing the address back to Hornchurch, marking it as closed, and creating a new listing (since I don't have much to lose with my total lack of ranking at the moment). My only concern about doing this was that if Google for any reason have to verify the change back or don't like the fact that it doesn't match the new address on my site, they may hit me with a penalty which would only make matters worse. I guess I would also lose my Google+ URL (which is a lot better than the original auto-generated one) since when I accepted the one they suggested they said I would not be able to change it in future.

I did not use Map Maker specifically to do any of this, I just used the "Places for Business" settings page to adjust the address and marker (again as suggested in the support pages).

Do you think it would be worth me changing the address back, closing (or marking as "moved") and then recreating the listing, or am I risking a penalty by doing all of that?
 

Linda Buquet

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Sorry no I said Bristol but meant Brighton.

No I would not change back, close and start over.

I would go to MM forum and ask for help like I said. I realize you created it in Places but MM is the backend that connects locations with maps and maybe with their tools they can see something I can't that could be edited or corrected.
 

hrafi

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Ok I'll post there, I've also just seen your sticky about advanced Map Maker info so I'll have a read through the link you posted in it.

Thanks again for your help.
 

Linda Buquet

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Ya I would not mess with MM yourself though. This is complicated and would take a Regional Expert Reviewer or Googler to help you untangle it I think.
 

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