Much of the news about the Google Local update, dubbed Pigeon, has been on the loss of local pack results. The loss is attributed to Google's desire to emphasize traditional Web ranking signals. First reported by Moz to be near 60 percent, then later reduced by multiple reports at a 23 percent loss of local results, one thing is clear - for many search terms, Google no longer returns the local pack.
Yet with the reduction in size and appearance of the local pack, comes the addition of map results for several terms that historically, have been absent. Anthony Shotland first highlighted this, yet I will uncover the issue more in depth.
How absent? This could be similar to finding American Passenger Pigeons which are thriving in the thousands, after being extinct for over a century. Even more odd, is the terms have full local packs. This is in contrast to many search terms post-pigeon that were reduced from seven results to three in the map pack.
Here are the high level terms now triggering the local pack.
- IT consulting
- Marketing agency
- Advertising agency
- Agency (triggers carousel for some locations)
- Marketing agency
- Marketing consultant
- Internet marketing
- Real estate consultant
- Web design
- Graphic design
- Website company
- Web development company (very limited pack results)
The addition of these terms is significant, not only for their long absence (six years since reported by Blumenthal), yet these now visible industries have historically been unable to rank for any relevant local terms.
Prior to pigeon, the Information Technology Consulting industry was visible through only two terms: computer consultant and computer repair. Both confuse consumer and business to business results, making the benefit of ranking locally muddied. This is a possible indicator as to why these local pack results were added.
For advertising/marketing agencies, there were zero terms that ranked in local results. Now the industry has many search term variations that rank. Even the carousel is appearing for 'agency'. A confusing term that could include modeling agencies, marketing, real estate and more.
Another insight that many have pointed out is the lack of local real estate terms, yet "agency" could see a real estate agency listed as well as "real estate consultant." These are a few of the only real estate related terms left in the local pack after the entire industry was mostly wiped clean from the map pack.
How Significant is the Addition of These Service Terms?
These are industries that historically have been deliberately blocked from Google in local search results. Mike Blumenthal first reported in 2009 the absence of SEO, in the U.S., Canada and UK.
Here is the confirmation from Google's Joel H. in 2009:
Today, we're intentionally showing less local results for Web design / SEO queries. For example, [web design sacramento] doesn't display local listings today. We believe this is an accurate representation of user intent. In some cases, we do show local listings, however (as NSNA/php-er noted) [Web design in bellingham]. I'm sure some of you feel we should be displaying local results for queries like [Web Design Vancouver]. I understand that concern, but based on our understanding of our users, we feel this is the right decision for now.
So Why Were New Services Added to Local?
Likely, the same reason they were removed in the first place, user experience. Google is constantly testing user satisfaction. Google has a variety of methods to test different search layouts. It could have been through controlled user testing or the fact that the local pack wasn't removed for these terms in 2009 from other countries.
Regardless, these terms do not appear to be a temporary fluke. They have been added across the board, exposing the marketing, consulting and design industries to the local pack.
What Should Businesses Now in Local Do?
It's kind of like dating again after a six-year break, you quickly realize how rusty your game is... For many service businesses now ranking in the local pack, start at the beginning.
Look at the NAP (name, address and phone). It's likely to have duplicates and old locations, as these industries tend to move around a lot. Remove and clean up duplicates, it not only adds more correct citations to your correct information, but removes the confusion to search engines.
There also tends to be few if any reviews, as reviews are hard to come by when you're building websites vs. burgers. (Editor's Note: Web design companies with reviews, like Orbit Media shown below, stand out on the SERPs.)
Create a local review strategy, reach out to recent, satisfied clients. Adding a few reviews to your Google + listing can overpower the duplicate NAP and may be enough to get you quickly ranking.
Corey Barnett is a Digital Marketing Consultant at Globe Runner. He works with multiple clients in search visibility with expertise spanning search marketing, Local SEO and content marketing. He enjoys writing in his free time and shares insights on his personal blog at cleverlyengaged.com/blog.
At an early age, Corey Barnett witnessed his father make the leap into becoming an independent, self-employed sales director. For three years, Corey wore many hats, working as a corporate marketing manager directly for the Chief Strategy/Marketing Officer. He acquired a wealth of experience: ExactTarget email marketing, Drupal content management, print marketing, reputation management, search optimization, B2B lead generation, event planning, social media, copywriting, and more. Even though Corey knew they were about to be acquired by the largest advertising agency in the world, he left to make his own mark in digital marketing at the perfect time. Craving independence, direct accountability to clients, and specialization in inbound marketing, Corey started his own agency 2.5 years later, he bills himself as a full-stack digital marketer for clients in industries as diverse as insurance, law, home services, auto, technology, and more.