Google Updates Impacting How Local Businesses Appear in Search

Google has been making an effort to make their search results show local information better for some time now. The search engine recently launched two major updates to their algorithm, both with a goal of diversifying local map results in organic search. These updates can either have a positive or a negative impact on your business.

The first update to the Google organic search algorithm did not directly penalize or remove any businesses from Google My Business, but it could have made your listing disappear from Google’s Map Pack. When you search Google for a local keyword the search engine will show a selection of local listings on the top or middle of the search results page, this is commonly referred to as Google’s Map Pack.  Many in the SEO world have dubbed this first algorithm update as the Possum update, due to the fact it caused otherwise functional local listings to ‘play dead’ and disappear from the map pack on the search results page.

The Possum update was first launched in 2016 many businesses that had brick and mortar locations physically near or with shared ownership as another business with the same name found that their listings were hidden in search results. This also caused businesses that shared office space with another business operating in the same industry to disappear. Businesses did not need to share addresses to be affected, there were some cases of competitors with addresses on the same street being negatively impacted by the update. The update also gave more weight to the searchers physical location. For example, a person living in Markham who searched Google for ‘plumbers’ would see a much different search results page than someone doing the same search in Oakville.

Google doesn’t necessarily make updates to their algorithm to penalize website owners, their goal is always to make search more accurate, useful and relevant to their users. The Possum updated filtered out businesses with the same name or who offered similar services with the goal of providing more diversified results. Some industries were impacted more than others with this update. It’s not uncommon to see various doctor, lawyer, and insurance offices clustered together in a certain region of a city. It’s very likely that some of these businesses were negatively impacted by the Possum update (especially for those operating in the same building).

Over the years, Google has earned a strong reputation for being receptive to the feedback of their users, and an additional update was launched to lessen the negative impact from the Possum update. In August 2017, Google launched an algorithm update nicknamed Hawk to curb the negative effects of the previously issued Possum update. Hawk was able to tighten the proximity filters of Google, this helped many listings wrongfully hurt by the Possum update to start appearing again. Unfortunately, the update to the algorithm did not help businesses operating in the same building from cancelling one another out.

Are you finding that your business is losing local traffic due to the Possum algorithm update? Here are some useful tips if the Hawk update didn’t help:

  • Focus on your local online presence – Take advantage of the many tools and features included in Google’s free Google My Business account to maintain local visibility. Be sure to fill out as much information as possible and keep everything up-to-date. Try to make to your audience on a regular basis.
  • Add a local spin to your content – Content is extremely important online and it can really help with your local search results. When writing content you’ll want to think local and give your content a local flavour.
  • Post relevant and local content on all platforms – Try to connect with other high-quality websites in your local area and ask them to backlink to your website. Ensure that any page being backlinked to contains relevant and localize content. This strategy will show Google that you are a local authority in your market.

It’s important to have a strong understanding of how Google operates and the updates to their algorithm. Google’s focus on diversifying the local content they show can be an excellent opportunity to rank higher and get qualified web traffic. At Insiteful Solutions, we’ve been helping businesses rank higher in Google with sustainable SEO strategies. Learn more about how SEO can generate traffic for your business by contacting us today.

How Voice Search and Smart Speakers are Changing SEO and Content Marketing

It’s hard to believe that the Internet has been part of our lives for over two decades. During this time, we’ve seen dramatic changes on people interact with the Internet. Smart speakers are becoming more and more popular in today’s homes. Devices such as the Google Home and Amazon Echo have made it possible to perform Google searches by simply saying a couple of words. Many newer vehicles are equipped with Bluetooth technology that syncs your Apple or Android phone to your vehicle while you drive. It’s estimated that half of all searches will be performed as a voice search by 2020. People are drawn to the ability to make easy, fast and accurate searches without typing a single word.

Smart homes are becoming more and more popular and they are controlled by a relatively inexpensive device. With only a few words you can control the music you hear, what streams on your television, control the heat, turn off the lights, ask for directions, order socks on Amazon, and easily perform dozens of other common household tasks. You can also ask Google any question you that randomly enters your brain.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and content marketing are core to most online marketing strategies. For years, we’ve been building campaigns with the understanding that people are using a keyboard or phone to make searches in Google. People can be lazy when they type a search in Google, the search engine does a great job at understanding the search term you’ve entered, even if it’s not accurate. For example, ‘Pizza shop Toronto’ will not always produce the same results as ‘I want to order pizza in Toronto’.

Voice searches take a lot less effort than typed searches. People talking to their Smart Speakers are more likely to provide complete information and full phrases.  This could be a game changer for companies who embrace voice search in their online marketing strategy.

Traditionally, SEO is the practice of optimizing a webpage for keywords that Internet users utilize when searching Google for a specific product or service. For a pizza place to rank in Toronto, the page should include references to both ‘pizza’, ‘Toronto’ and any other relevant keywords throughout the page. Ideally, the page’s headings, META tags, anchor links and other elements would include the keywords your customers may use on Google. Voice search could potentially change the way we write online content and perform SEO.

People are getting used to using their Smart Speakers and onboard vehicle technology to perform Google searches. Practise makes perfect, and it doesn’t take long to realize that these devices work best when more detail is included in the voice search. Again, it takes a lot less effort to talk than it does to type. The ease of voice search makes impulse searches a lot more common. It’s estimated that the average person will have 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts in their head during a day, that’s 35 to 48 thoughts at any given minute. Smart speakers make Google searches effortlessly if you want pizza you can ask for instant information.

To beat your competition on voice-activated searches, you’ll want to add more detail to your content. A more conversational tone in your content is the best way to capture voice-activated search traffic. Spend the time and use this logic on all pages of your website. Be sure to include localized information throughout your site, a Smart Speaker or vehicle will seek the closest brick and mortar location that’s related to a search.

A voice search will usually be a sentence or a phrase. Study your Google Analytics and come up with a list of common searches using multiple words and integrate these terms into your content. Think about how you would answer a question posed to a Smart Home device with the information on your website.

The times are changing and it’s time to prepare your brand for increased voice searches. Over half of all teenagers regularly perform voice searches on Google, and over 40 percent of adults do the same. SEO isn’t going anywhere, but voice search is quickly changing how information is found online. This means your content is going to need to take this growing segment into account.

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Google Analytics Update: Data Retention Solution to Protect Sensitive Customer Information

Headlines during 2018 have been full of big tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn having security breaches. It’s been a problem that many people have been concerned with, data is important in today’s online economy and governments around the world are introducing laws to protect citizens. The European Union are in the process of introducing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the goal of the legislation is to provide protection on data is stored and managed. This has caused many companies to question their own processes and review their policies on how long data is stored.

Recently, Google announced that some changes to their Google Analytics tool. Users will now have the ability to set the amount of time before user-level and event-level data is automatically deleted. The update is scheduled to launch to the public on May 25th, the same day the European Union’s new online security is officially active.

After logging into Google Analytics, users will have the ability to tell Google how long they want their web traffic data stored for. There will be options for 14 months, 26 months, 38 months, or 50 months; after this point, all data will be automatically deleted. Any aggregated data will remain when the user data is automatically deleted. Other Google Analytics data affected by this update includes cookies, user identifiers, advertising identifiers, DoubleClick identifiers, Android identifiers and Apple identifiers. These elements could be important to your online marketing tracking and you’ll want to ensure they are properly backed up if you want to keep them.

Many website owners have a lot of Google Analytics data stored on the company’s cloud, especially with the more sophisticated tracking options offered over the last few years. It’s important to ensure you have a plan to keep your historical analytics data over the next couple of weeks. The upcoming update from Google will not only help the company comply with new European data policies, it will help the tech giant save a lot of money by decreasing server strain.

Historical analytics data can provide your company with some excellent insight into the growth of your online brand. Keeping more data than needed can open the door to potential breaches when your Google Analytics account is not properly secured. Evaluate your need and determine the best Google Analytics storage policy for your company and be sure to adjust your settings accordingly before the May 25th launch date.