In July 2014 Google released its largest LOCAL search update in a release named the Pigeon Update. If you’re following best practices (as in, you’re giving your customers what they want, regardless of what the search engines do) then you’re doing pretty well. In fact, Pigeon probably helped you. It definitely helped the likes of Yelp, Urbanspoon, OpenTable, Kayak, TripAdvisor, etc. since this new release put the results of those sites’ customer reviews ahead of Google’s reviews (which was a sore spot for quite some time).
This update is not only helpful for eateries, bars and other places, it’s also helpful for the Google user as well. The local search algorithm strives to take densely populated areas and actually pinpoint venues that are really “near you”, not just within a 5 mile radius, that realistically, in a city, would take you 40 minutes to get there.
The algorithm also attempts to pinpoint where YOU are, and tries to make your “neighborhood” (the area that’s actually “near you”) a moving target. For example, if you search for “nightclubs near Larimer Square”, but there are nightclubs closer to you on Wazee, the search results will take that into account and show you what is truly near you.
Another cool aspect of the update is how Google is trying – just like with its “natural search” updates – to look at a neighborhood not just as a visitor sees it, but a local as well. “Uptown” is not longer a general term that may have been used with land developers created a neighborhood 40+ years ago – but “Uptown” can simultaneously be categorized as “Arts Central” (or whatever the locals use for a portion of their neighborhood).
Overall, if you’re local, you need to think local.
Or, if you’re NOT local but you’re helping a client that has a limited service area (a bar, restaurant, hair salon, electrician) when you create content on your website, include the “locals” names for your service area, don’t just put “123 Main St” as your location – include the city, state, zip. Talk about the local area when you blog. All of it will help your website be seen by Google’s algorithm as belonging to that service area – and your potential customers will appreciate the information about the local area.