It’s no secret to most SEOs and web content writers that Google seems to release a never-ending amount of updates to their search algorithm these days.
Although most SEO experts agree that the major changes that really shifted the web marketing landscape (and began to mold it into what we know today) started in 2011, the most recent update, Google Pigeon (so-named by Search Engine Land), has thrown many local search enthusiasts and SEO copywriters into a tizzy trying to keep up with it.
Local businesses whose rankings were negatively affected by the Pigeon update started flooding the internet with talk about what was happening as soon as the change took place, and SEO experts scrambled to mine and analyze the data, trying to determine what the results meant to their clients and the local search field in general.
To make a long story short, Pigeon seemed to cause so much confusion at first that now, several months after the original update, the best explanation of what actually happened can be viewed in a chronological timeline of events.
The Road to Recovery – Going with Google’s Flow
In light of the recent confusion and hubbub over Pigeon and its affect on local search for both big and small brands, it’s important to remember that Google doesn’t update their algorithm just for the heck of it. This update is meant to enhance local search (both Google Maps and web search) in order to bring about better, more relevant and higher quality results.
This is the age-old reasoning behind almost all of Google’s big updates. The goal is to show the user the kind of results they ultimately want. Take Hummingbird, for example: the update that helped Google’s algorithm become more efficient at answering longer questions. If you’re in a rush or you’re not sure how to turn your search query into the right keywords to return the results you want, isn’t it easier to simply type the question into Google? Of course it is.
One of the most notable aspects of the Pigeon update is the fact that distance has now become more of a factor in local search rankings. Meaning, if you are 10 miles from a city’s center, you are more likely to rank for that city name than someone 40 or 50 miles from the same center, simply by virtue of existing in that specific location.
What’s the biggest thing you can change about your website that will positively affect your ranking within local search results? It comes down to one little word: content.
Creating Locally Driven Content is Key
There has been much debate in the last few years over whether link building reigns supreme or whether content is king. As it turns out, it is very difficult to have a good link building strategy in place without generating good content first. It would seem that content wins after all. But the question then becomes — how do you make your content more visible without a link building strategy?
The hope has always been that great content naturally invites people to link to it within other great content. But there’s a quote I like to use when it comes to this stance: “Hope is not a strategy.” Good content will organically garner some good links, most likely, but it’s never guaranteed.
Having good quality links in place that point back to good content is really the best way to navigate the entire landscape. Any good SEO can tell you that. But what counts as “good content” these days?
Quality content post-Pigeon looks much like quality content did pre-Pigeon — it should be easily readable, informative, useful, interesting and visually appealing, and above all it should be relevant to the related subject of the page and the entire website’s products or services. But there’s one big thing that post-Pigeon content should always include that previously it may not have — a specific location.
Gone are the days when you simply listed your local business on Google+ or Google Places and magically it showed up within search results. Now with the advent of Google My Business and other major adjustments, locally driven content and brand mentions are arguably gaining more steam for websites than some link building strategies.
Above all, it’s been reported by many SEO experts that Domain Authority has risen to the top as one of the most important factors in a website’s ranking post-Pigeon.
How does one hope to improve their Domain Authority? It’s not exactly a straightforward process, and admittedly, getting a perfect score is nearly impossible (unless you’re Google or Facebook). But there’s one thing you can do that will improve your Domain Authority across the board — generate great content.
How to Localize Your Web Content
Now that we’ve hammered home the idea that content is the key to ranking well within search results, let’s go back to link building for a moment. Whether or not you invest in a link building strategy, you should undoubtedly invest in monitoring your link profile, which translates into your Domain Authority. Find out if directories or other sites are linking to you appropriately and with the right information. If the information mentioned does not reflect your actual business or the link doesn’t make sense, either ask to have the link removed or ask the site to update your company’s information as soon as possible.
Every piece of content you create from here on out, and every place your business is mentioned online, should include a local element to it. This will help boost your presence in local search results.
Stop thinking about the big picture for a moment and remember that if you drive local business to your company, Google will likely reward you with a better website ranking. If you’re a suburban retailer, don’t try to get the closest big city’s name into all your blog articles. Refer to the actual location of your business (whether that’s a town name, a region or a small community), and make sure that's what you’re incorporating into your content.
Content doesn’t translate into just articles, either. Take a look at your URLs, meta tags and company information pages. Are you including a local element in those areas as well? What about your local community? Have people heard of your brand or business? Why not? Think of it this way — if people around your local area don’t know who you are — why would Google want to show your website to them?
The answer may be as simple as updating existing good content to (organically, of course, no keyword stuffing) include a location and other local terms, and starting some new local content campaigns to get your website rolling from lower rankings up into post-Pigeon recovery.
No matter what you do, when it comes to developing content after Pigeon, just remember: location, location, location!