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Google’s Vicinity Update: What Should YOUR Business Do About It in 2022?

Last month, just as the holiday season was really picking up momentum, Google decided to release its largest local algorithm update in five years. The resulting shift in how listings were being ranked in local search results sent many businesses into a panic about how to adjust their SEO efforts accordingly, especially since Christmas and New Year were right around the corner.

Google’s advice at the time: keep calm and carry on. According to the search giant, no immediate actions were needed from businesses whose listings already followed the established guidelines, and companies were advised to avoid making any drastic changes during the holiday season. This was terrible timing for businesses that were expecting December to be their busiest month of the year, and whose listings literally dropped off the map without warning. Still, there was little that could be done about it at the time, so businesses simply coped the best they could.

Now that the holidays are over and we know a little more about the mechanics of how the so-called “Vicinity” update has affected search results, what can your business do to adapt in 2022?

In many ways, Google’s mantra of “just keep following the guidelines” wasn’t bad advice, but it could have used some more detailed explanation to help businesses understand what was expected of them as these algorithm changes were implemented. In short, there were two main factors affected by this update:

1. Proximity is now more highly valued. Google made some fundamental changes to the way the map results are displayed, with a smaller and more zoomed-in visible area. In turn, priority is now given to a wider variety of relevant businesses in a hyper-local area, with less ability for businesses outside that area to manipulate their rankings.

2. Keyword saturation no longer helps. Businesses with keyword-rich names are certainly noticing a drop in their domination of a local area, as SERPs now feature a more balanced array of names that don’t necessarily include a lot of category keywords.

Given the nature of these changes, you can see Google’s point about there being nothing specific for businesses to react to. Your business is located where it’s located, so there’s not a lot you can do to modify your proximity ranking, and your company’s name and category are already determined, so all you can do is continue to follow the guidelines for best practices, and concentrate on making your online presence as helpful and valuable as it can be.

Although search engine updates always cause an initial wave of unsettling turbulence, in general this algorithm is a positive development, as it helps level the playing field for legitimate local businesses who were struggling to rise above the tide of spam listings and keyword stuffing that were unfairly influencing rankings. It also drives home Google’s stated commitment to rewarding quality and relevance above all else. In recent years we’ve definitely seen a shift away from the effectiveness of SEO “tricks”, and a strong boost for business listings that provide real value and quality content for their visitors.

Understanding how best to structure your SEO strategy in the midst of ever-changing algorithms can be a complex undertaking. If you’re concerned about how this most recent Google update has affected your rankings, contact us for a free consultation. We’ll give you a candid assessment of your current online presence, along with personalized tips to help get your business moving in the right direction in 2022.

COGO Interactive is an award-winning digital marketing agency specializing in online marketing strategy, web design, SEO and social media marketing. We work with clients in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, DC and across the nation.

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