There has been a lot of discussion of Google’s recent algorithm updates, but one of them is proving to be a game-changer, and it’s something a search marketer needs to be aware of.
In Febrary, Google announced about 40 changes (You can see them all here), but today we’re going to be looking at the launch codenamed “Venice.”
SEO Consultant David Whitehouse says it could be one of the biggest SEO changes in a long time. Commenters are reporting that the Venice update will mean a dramatic increase in traffic for local and regional sites.
We here at RetargetingNews believe it also could have impact on national sites and marketing campaigns.
Here’s the change, in Google’s words:
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.
Go search for something on Google. Go ahead. I’ll wait right here.
Got it? Look at the left side of the page. You’ll see your location. Google gets it from your IP address or from the “My Location” feature if you have Google Toolbar installed.
Searching the “location + keyword” six months ago is pretty much the same as simply “keyword” these days.
This means localized landing pages are now winning the rankings war.
Let’s look at an example: WebMD doesn’t have an office in Los Angeles. But look at this landing page URL:
Thanks to this localized URL, folks who live in Los Angeles and who are searching for health information online will likely end up seeing WebMD in their search.
It doesn’t matter if you are promoting a neighborhood business or if you do business all over the world. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t have a physical address. You need a local plan. In addition to optimizing for your product search terms, you have to optimize for cities. EVEN IF YOU AREN’T IN THEM.
What else? Make sure the title tag and description for these landing pages have the location name plus the keyword you’re focusing on.
As for the content on these landing pages, localized content is important. Here’s your chance to be creative. Create local-based reviews. If you have a great testimonial quote from “Don. M,” make sure “Don. M” is from Los Angeles if his quote is on your Los Angeles landing page.
Oh: one more thing. Don’t copy and paste content for all your landing pages. This shortcut is a strike against you in Google’s eyes.
In addition to localized landing pages, here are some other things your sites need to incorporate:
A KML file: Keyhole Markup Language (KML) is a file format used to display geographic data in Google Maps and Bing Maps. Google recently stopped looking at the Geo Sitemaps format, but KML formats are still in play. Learn to create them here.
Local links: Build local links by blasting locally-focused marketing. Find hyperlocal blogs in your target city and see if you can write something related to your industry on them. Use the “byline” (where the author’s name is) to get your “location” and “keyword” in. Point back to your main sites with anchor text targeted for brand, location and keyword.
Mark up your address in schema: Schema is Google’s chosen platform to define certain kinds of content. By adding your address to microdata code you tell Google your location and relevance to that location. A couple of tools that can help you get started are schema-creator.org and microformats.org.
To learn more about schema.org, read the Getting Started guide.
Here’s an example from schema.org:
Jane Doe <img src="janedoe.jpg" />Professor 20341 Whitworth Institute 405 Whitworth Seattle WA 98052 (425) 123-4567 <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a> Jane's home page: <a href="www.janedoe.com">janedoe.com</a> Graduate students: <a href="www.xyz.edu/students/alicejones.html">Alice Jones</a> <a href="www.xyz.edu/students/bobsmith.html">Bob Smith</a> With Microdata:<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Person"> <span itemprop="name">Jane Doe</span> <img src="janedoe.jpg" itemprop="image" /> <span itemprop="jobTitle">Professor</span> <div itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress"> <span itemprop="streetAddress"> 20341 Whitworth Institute 405 N. Whitworth </span> <span itemprop="addressLocality">Seattle</span>, <span itemprop="addressRegion">WA</span> <span itemprop="postalCode">98052</span> </div> <span itemprop="telephone">(425) 123-4567</span> <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" itemprop="email"> email@example.com</a> Jane's home page: <a href="www.janedoe.com" itemprop="url">janedoe.com</a> Graduate students: <a href="www.xyz.edu/students/alicejones.html" itemprop="colleagues"> Alice Jones</a> <a href="www.xyz.edu/students/bobsmith.html" itemprop="colleagues"> Bob Smith</a> </div>