Earlier this month Google implemented an update to their local search algorithm, which controls the “Local 3 Pack” of results that appear in the search results below a map when you search for something that is available in your area, as you can see in the example image below.
Searcher Location More Important
One of the things that this update (which has been nicknamed “Possum” although who knows where they come up with these) has done is to make the location of the searcher even more important in determining which result is shown.
Not only has the searcher’s location increased in importance, but Google is also now more likely to show a business in the results if, in addition to being physically close to the searcher, they have optimised their location data (and content) for search.
Some other changes have been made as well, although the two mentioned above are by far the most important ones. Unbranded searches will no longer necessarily show similar businesses which have a close proximity to each other, and brand authority has been increased as a signal, so if you’re very close to a competitor, the one with the better known brand is going to be more likely to show.
Taking Advantage Of Local Search
So, what can you do about it? Well, obviously you can’t control where the person doing the search is in relation to your business. But you can make sure that the location information on your site is optimised, (maybe even marked up with the relevant schema notation), and that your content is also optimised for your location.
Another thing you can do is start working on your brand recognition and trust. The more widely known and talked about your brand is, the better your chances of showing up in a local search.
For businesses that rely on physical visits, optimising for local search can be an important factor.