Major Google Local Algo Changes - No it was a BUG, Now Fixed


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Local is changing it up again! Wish I had a crystal ball!

There has been buzz brewing for the past week or so about major changes in the local search results.
And even just how search works in general. For a few days people were unable to set search location or get it to stick. It appears it's working again now.

But the bigger concern is results seem to be more national organic and less localized. PLUS even if you set location to where you client is, the organic results you see are all for the actual location you are searching from and you don't get results that are localized to the search location setting.

PLUS packs are smaller and more scattered if you don't use a GEO modifer.
Just all kinds of changes!


Check out Mike's blog for overview.

<a href="http://blumenthals.com/blog/2015/05/24/google-location-results-still-screwy/comment-page-1/#comment-847510">Google Location Results Still Screwy | Understanding Google My Business & Local Search</a>

Here is my reply at Mike's blog after doing a quick analysis of a few SERPs.

I normally research with GEO because it's just more predictable and easier to do comparisons.

But the majority of consumers search without GEO. So most consumers are going to be seeing theses smaller pack/less localized results.

I just did some quick checks and noticed one additional little thing of interest...

I searched for Dentist, and then cosmetic Dentist in 3 markets.
Seattle, LA and Atlanta.

In all 3 cases when I search for the single word Dentist, there is no map, on top right to give you the signal that it's a local result and no pack above the fold.

When you scroll down you find there is indeed a pack and a map on the right side. But a smaller pack in most cases (3, 4, 7) than the 2 word phrase pulls.

For Dentist I also get the "occupation" info card on the right under the map. And national news and info sites about Dentist, as if it's a generic search, not a local search.

For Cosmetic Dentist in all 3 cities I get somewhat more normal local results.
Map top right and a full 7 pack.

However with both queries I get very mixed packs with results from surrounding cities, not just the city location is set to. So for instance Dentist (in Seattle) I get a 3 pack and there are tons of dentists there BUT it only shows 1 from Seattle. The other 2 are Bellevue. Cosmetic Dentist show 7 pack with Dentists from Bellevue and Redmond in the mix.

With both queries I do however get San Marcos listings in organic.

So, for the single word Dentist, based on no map up top, smaller packs and that "occupation" info card it seems like the algo is not picking up a strong sense of local intent.

But when you add a qualifier like Cosmetic to the query, she becomes a little more certain you are looking for local results.

However organic, pretty much still gives you results for your actual location, not the search location setting.

Chiropractor (Seattle) Same thing. No map top right, occupation box and lots of national results and news stories, like it's more of a generic search instead of a local search.

Not sure if anything I said above carries through to other queries. Just a quick and limited observation.

Other discussions here:

<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/+TerrySimmonds/posts/1BZ6guvy9mE">Has Google switched off location settings in Search Tools? The 1st thing I do…</a>

<a href="https://twitter.com/philrozek/status/601165487595192320">Phil Rozek on Twitter: "Anyone notice very diff. local results today? They aren’t local unless w/ a geomod. @mblumenthal @localseoguide @MaryBowling @darrenshaw_"</a>

However you cut it, looks like less localized results.

Couple this with other recent changes like +Local Search being nuked. And links to G+L from map listings being removed. Makes me a little nervous about where all these changes are heading.

My head is spinning!

Are you seeing flux? Noticing anything different than normal???
<meta property="og:type" content="article"><meta property="og:title" content=""><meta property="og:description" content="">
<meta property="og:image" content="https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CF3VG3iUsAEn37O.jpg">

 

jonkeel

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Hi Linda:

Ditto all around. Organic results set to my location in Cincinnati regardless of where I set the location tab. And, I'm getting different results by searching on city keyword and city state keyword. Ughhhh!
 

JoyHawkins

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I'm seeing massive differences between what I see on Google.com vs. Google.ca which tells me the US got an update that we have not got yet. Looks like what happened with Pigeon.

One thing I'm seeing a lot of is for big branded searches, Yelp being replaced with more results from the actual company searched.

Ex: "McDonalds Seattle"

https://www.google.ca/#q=mcdonalds+seattle - shows Yelp first. Urban Spoon is further down on the page twice


https://www.google.com/search?num=100&gl=us&q=mcdonalds+seattle - first result is now the (very unoptimized) McDonalds homepage. The second result is the equally un-optimized locator page.

SEM Rush shows a massive drop for Yelp this month as Andrew Shotland pointed out. If you look at their organic traffic for Yelp.ca in Canada - it's stable.
 
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Hi Linda:

Ditto all around. Organic results set to my location in Cincinnati regardless of where I set the location tab. And, I'm getting different results by searching on city keyword and city state keyword. Ughhhh!
Thanks for confirming Jon. Looks like this update so far as done the exact opposite of your business name: "Improved Results" :eek:
 
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I'm seeing massive differences between what I see on Google.com vs. Google.ca which tells me the US got an update that we have not got yet. Looks like what happened with Pigeon.
Thanks for all your insights Joy. I had not as yet checked Google.ca results.
 

JacobMaslow

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No change in Mozcast so far. What you are seeing might be a test or something wonky with some data centers. It can also be related to the quality update. Might be an unanticipated side effect - ie local sites failing quality scores.

MozCast Feature Graph

New quality update is a change to the algorithm and runs constantly. Pages that are lower quality will not surface as highly until the quality gets better. It is possible that local sites are getting hit hard.

The Quality Update: Google Confirms Changing How Quality Is Assessed, Resulting In Rankings Shake-Up
 
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Good points all Jacob! Thanks for bringing that up. I didn't have a chance to check MOZ yet.

As I mentioned on Google+ it could have something to do with proposed maps algo change too.

<a href="http://www.localsearchforum.com/google-maps/32103-google-tweak-pigeon-algo-due-racial-slurs-google-map-search.html">Google to Tweak Pigeon Algo due to Racial Slurs & Google Map Search???</a>

If they felt pressured to tweak Pigeon quickly, maybe it came out half baked.

But this seems to be more about the local search intent parameters changing.

But who knows. We could be seeing the affect of a couple different new algo changes at once.
She sure keeps us on our toes! :rolleyes:
 

Tyson Downs

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Yeah, seeing funny things here too.

Example:

a cityname dentist search term that I am working with currently went back to a 3 pack instead of a 7 (search volume is 100+ and always had a 7 pack), but the one ranking #1 in the pack and #2 organic (just below the pack) has a title tag:

Business name : Home

Example:

Awesome Dental : Home

And the #6th organic result is for a dentist with cityname as his last name who happens to be about 150-200 miles away from the city I am searching in!

His domain is
lastnamedentistry.com (lastname=cityname too)
Title Tag:
Different City Dentist | Suburb City Dentist | Last Name Dentistry

Not sure if any of that makes sense, but yes, I am seeing similar weird stuff.
 
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Thanks Ty and everyone for weighing in.

More in-depth discussion at our <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/101037504613481726969/posts/HKRosujgUfd">Local Search Pros G+ Community</a>

Plus here are new posts from today about the algo changes:

<a href="http://searchengineland.com/google-local-search-results-shifting-after-google-maps-bomb-fix-221590">Google Local Search Results Shifting After Google Maps Bomb Fix?</a>

<a href="https://www.seroundtable.com/google-local-map-update-20348.html">Google's Local Results Have Drastically Shifted</a>

<a href="http://www.thesempost.com/google-bomb-fix-brand-bias-google-local/">Google Bomb Fix & Brand Bias Increased Google Local Pack & One Box Results?</a>
 
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Some pros speculate this is the Quality Update, others the Doorway Update and the majority say it's related to the update resulting from the racial slurs on Google maps.

What do you attribute these changes too? One of the updates above or something else?

(I'm calling something else - I don't think it's any of those.)

I can't ask my contacts at Google on the Local side because they won't discuss ranking changes at all. But I asked Barry Schwartz to reach out to his Google contacts because I think this change is more on the organic/display side of the house.

What kind of shake-ups are you seeing in the local markets you track?

PS I saw a really odd result yesterday. Let me go find it.
 
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OK Here's an illustration of how weird this algo is.

Set location to Dallas TX and search for Dentist.

Yesterday all but 2 of the listings were for Mint Dentistry. Today 4 out of 7 are.

So that's one unique change. Before the algo would not award the same company with multiple spots in that pack like that!

But the other even more important change is ONLY 1 listing is IN DALLAS!

The rest are from surrounding areas.

Q1 - With a huge metro like Dallas with hundreds of Dentists and likely 30 very strong listings at least, why would Google only give one Dallas Dentist a spot if you have location set to Dallas???

Q2 - Maybe we should find out what Google likes so much about Mint Dentistry???


IMPORTANT UPDATE 11:30 5/25

I asked Scott Davis over in the Search Engine Land comments to grab a screenshot of the results he sees for the query above. "Dentist" with location set to Dallas.
He's sitting near there in Plano.


The results he got are RADICALLY different. They are MUCH more relevant and what we would expect to see in a normal pack. For one thing all results are in Dallas. For another they aren't dominated by Mint Dental.

If I had a client that WAS in the pack and checked their ranking and got the Minty screenshot at the top. I would be telling them, sorry the algo changed and you are no longer in the pack. When in reality, it's just this screwed up GEO location thing, and I'm not seeing accurate results any more because I'm not located there.

So the big problem here is that rank trackers are going to be off and even just a consultant doing a direct Google search from their location, to see how their client in another state is ranking, is going to see results that are WAY off, like mine was in the top screenshot!

UPDATE 4:30 5/25 - Adding all the different ranking reports for Dentist (Dallas) in this post so not so scattered.

(11:50)I am not seeing the same discrepancy when I change in search tools to Dallas.

Here is my Dallas search Awesome Screenshot
(12:25) I just double checked and now I'm getting totally different results

Now I'm getting a 3 pack.

My screenshot. dentist - Google Search | Awesome Screenshot

I think results are kooky and changing so much because this update must still be rolling out.

Remember how cray cray Pigeon was right at the beginning?
(3:25) Now I'm getting totally different results.

Now it's 7 pack again. But all the extra Mint Dental's are gone, but still a pretty mixed pack with other cities in it. Vs Scott's pack from Plano which was all Dallas.

Here's my latest: :eek:
dentist - Google Search | Awesome Screenshot


 
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True! PLUS there is no map on top right above the fold to give searchers there is any indication that there are local results on the page.

From above the fold it looks like a pure organic result.
(On desktop with my 27" monitor.)

PLUS notice on the right under map there is an "Occupation" info card.

So the algo is treating the organic part more like a general national query. I see lots of national results like 1-800 Dentist or general articles about Dentistry.

NOTE: Something new was just brought up in comments at SE Land.

You know how now even if you set search location to another city, the organic results show you listings for your IP location???

Check out the location setting at bottom of the page. They show your physical location, not the search location you set. (But maybe it's always been like that?)
 
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Oh forgot to mention - so many changes and nuances I keep discovering that I forget to share them all... :rolleyes:

Even though for nonGEO terms we are seeing an overall reduction in the size of the packs, according to the Moz Feature Graph, local packs overall are up.

I think that's due to the doorway algo killing off or demoting a lot of the directory sites.

 

Owen Kane

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Not seeing much in the way of any changes up hear other than the pack only list 3 with a "More" at the bootom which when clicked shows the results with a map. The map and the 3 pack is new in the past week. Diferences here seem to b based on business type. These are for pubs a similar one for car dealerships brings up the old pack and display. Other than that the results are still localized.





 
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Thanks for the screenshots Owen!

Joy mentioned on G+ too that she's not seeing results change up in Canada.

That's just like Pigeon. The algo only changed in US for the 1st few months.
 
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Wearing my tinfoil hat now but...

Wonder if this shakeup and all the other recent changes that diminish local search is making room for this rumored change:

<a href="http://www.localsearchforum.com/google-local/30256-breaking-google-getting-into-home-services-market-like-amazon.html">BREAKING: Is Google Getting into the Home Services Market Like Amazon?</a>

/removing tinfoil hat now... :eek:
 

HoosierBuff

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I'm really not seeing it in any of my client's data yet. Though, it depends on the timing. If the timing is the 15th, then, I don't see much. If it is the 22nd, then, I can't tell yet because Memorial day makes the traffic weird.
 

HurricaneK8

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Getting the same weird results in small town in Ontario.

Location is set to "Toronto", map results are showing Vaughan, Mississauga, Toronto, but organic results are showing "Mitchell, On" yellowpages, yelp, etc. which isn't where we are either, but sometimes the IP address pulls that location up for searches.

I really hope this is a bug...
 
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Extremely important update in post #11 above.

I asked Scott Davis over in the Search Engine Land comments to grab a screenshot of the results he sees for the query above. "Dentist" with location set to Dallas.
He's sitting near there in Plano.

CHECK OUT THE SCREENSHOT in POST #11.

The results he got are RADICALLY different! They are MUCH more relevant and what we would expect to see in a normal pack. For one thing all results are in Dallas. For another they aren't dominated by Mint Dental.

If I had a client that WAS in the pack and checked their ranking and got the Minty screenshot at the top. I would be telling them, sorry the algo changed and you are no longer in the pack. When in reality, it's just this screwed up GEO location thing, and I'm not seeing accurate results any more because I'm not located there.

So the big problem here is that rank trackers are going to be off and even just a consultant doing a direct Google search from their location, to see how their client in another state is ranking, is going to see results that are WAY off, like mine was in the top screenshot!
 

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