Major algorithm updates from Google are rarely disregarded. However in a year full of panda’s and penguins there has been little ado about the Google Venice Update. If you are a local business owner, the Venice update can help provide a bigger spotlight on your website or social media channel. This update occurred on February 27, 2012 and fundamentally changed localized search. According to Google’s search quality highlights:
“Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.”
“Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.”
Google will now return localized results for broad match keywords if they determine that it would be beneficial to the user. No longer are local keywords required to return localized search results. What this means is that if Google’s algorithms determine that a broad match search for a non-localized keyword such as “SEO” should return local results to the user, they will do just that. This is accomplished when Google “auto-detects” your location by using your IP address. This does not require your consent and will even occur when conducting a browser session in the “incognito” window.
You can see your location setting by simply performing a search in Google, then looking on the left hand side of the results page under the navigation. If you see your current city and state, Google has “auto-detected” your location through your IP address and will return more localized results as opposed to when your location is set more broadly such as to “United States.”
The Venice update can provide local businesses more impressions to local searchers who were not necessarily thinking about local businesses. It is more important than ever to not only have a strong presence on the web but also to have a strong presence in search. There are many channels through which you can accomplish this, and some great resources can be found on our blog under local search.
What goes on behind Google’s gates? Many a person in the search engine optimization field has dreamed of getting an inside look, much like Charlie did of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and that is what the inner workings of Google are like to an SEO — fascinating and often awe-inspiring. There are a few videos available that give a visual behind the scenes look at how the great minds at Google convene together and the process through which they tweak the algorithm.
The following are three videos that will make you feel like you have a front row “golden ticket.”
1. Search Quality Meeting: Spelling for Long Queries
This is an eight minute look at the Google team discussing whether to launch an algorithm change that relates to spelling for long queries. The annotations are insightful and sometimes humorous, but seeing the sparkle in the eyes of those there paired with the quick-witted dialogue is well worth your time.
2. How Google makes improvements to its search algorithm
This four minute long video is a must for every SEO. It gives a high level explanation of how Google implements hundreds of adjustments to the search algorithm every year. It is also a quick look at some of the Google greats who are behind changes in search.
3. 8.3.11 Inside Google’s Search Office: Matt Cutts, Ben Gomes, and Amit Singhal
Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineLand.com, interviewing Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google, Ben Gomes, Engineer at Google, and Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow and software engineer at Google, in the first of its kind Google interview at the Churchill Club.
In addition to these videos, make sure you are keeping up-to-date with Google’s Inside Search blog which posts a number of different kinds of updates including a monthly blog post highlighting search changes.
The last three search update blog posts were:
February 2012: Search quality highlights: 40 changes for February
January 2012: 17 search quality highlights: January
December 2012: 30 search quality highlights (with codenames!): December
Making sure to understand the basics of how Google evolves the search algorithm over time, how potential changes are tested before launch, and where to find which changes have made the cut is important for webmasters, marketers, agencies, and business owners. A seemingly small tweak at Google can increase or decrease your site’s organic traffic. Feel free to contact MoreVisibility if you have any questions about organic search.
In my latest newsletter article I wrote in detail about Google’s major algorithm update which happened almost 2 weeks ago. If you aren’t sure how this impacted your website, you can either request a complimentary Search Engine Visibility Report from us or analyze your site traffic through Google Analytics. In particular, segment the Organic/Natural Google site visits and then do a two week date range comparison of before February 24th and after. This will highlight any sudden drops in referring traffic which could likely be a result of a drop in positions and visibility.
Many websites saw a significant impact in their positions as a result of this change to the algorithm which determines how sites are listed in the search results for Google. It is common for these Google updates to get nicknames, so the latest one has been dubbed “Farmers Update” as it seems to target Content Farms in particular. We have seen some significant fluctuations in ranking toward websites that really should not have been effected. Google has acknowledged this may be the case and offered to review and reconsider these circumstances. Reach out to them for consideration, if you feel you were unfairly penalized by this latest Google update.
This is yet another example of why following Best Practices for SEO is so important to the longevity of your online business.
Slow and steady (and ethical) wins the race for Search Engine Optimization!