Local Search, your site & Google updates 4

Hi and welcome to my first blog post here on the Expedia Affiliate Blog!
I’m new to the team here at EAN and you can reach me either right here on this blog or on twitter @searchmartin. I have been an SEO specialist for most of the last decade, and am here to help with all your inbound marketing questions.

A few weeks ago, Google took the unusual step of outing one of their many algorithm adjustments during a panel at the South by South West conference.

The objective of the update, which they have code-named “Venice” and its purpose is to give more results shelf space to local companies where the query is generic. If that’s not entirely clear, you can see what I mean with some screenshots over at Dave Naylor’s blog or SEOmoz.

One of the unusual elements of this update is that the results appear perfectly blended in the natural results, as opposed to most changes that are tested which invariably end up with a slightly different format. This means that there is very little to grasp onto by way of clues on how to rank specifically for these kinds of result – but that doesn’t mean we haven’t had a go!

Some Considerations:

  • the update is focussed on ranking entities with physical locations (like: hotels)
  • results vary depending on where the search is made (making result tracking tough)
  • only a select group of results are currently affected (but that doesn’t mean they won’t increase)

Another primary consideration in any algorithm update is its likelihood to be triggered against queries that you target. In this case the queries that appear to have been

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affected, are generic queries for which the user is often looking for a local result.

In the case of “hotels” as a query, it is perhaps unlikely to be hit on the basis that users are unlikely to be searching for results in the local area, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared!

How to get listed:

unlike normal local search, there is no specific submission routine for this class of result. Therefore it falls down to some conjecture how to get your result to appear – so lets take a look at a ‘real world’ example:
(please note, the examples have been sourced from this post on SEOptimise by Kevin Gibbons)

The screenshot below is for the search “eye test“, taken in Manchester (GB). The query is suitably generic & local focussed to trigger the new Venice style result set:

As you can see from the results, there is an entry from visionexpress.com who are a national high street optician in the United Kingdom.

Their site is fully national with pages for each branch where they have a physical store. Conceptually, that isn’t too far from a hotel affiliate site, as long as you have the correct amount of information on the page.

The screenshot below indicates the unique geo-location content on the visionexpress site:

The reassuring part is that while there are certainly a lot of local references on that page, there is nothing in the source code other than the parts that are annotated above. This can only mean that the indicators to appear in this new filter are most likely on-page.

So how do you get your site to appear in this area?

Well, funnily enough – this update just reinforces the message that was given to us by Mayday in 2010, and Panda in 2011: Get good content, or get out!

The examples that we have seen appearing all have reams of unique, local content. You have access to a lot of this information directly through the affiliate platform, but a human touch never goes amiss when building search friendly pages.

Wherever you can scale to creating unique content on your landing pages, you will always get more organic search traffic, and this update is no different. If every other travel site has exactly the same information as yours, why would a search engine rank yours first?

You have to consider one thing, and one thing only in SEO – what is your site’s USP? Where is its value add to the google index? Why is it a value proposition compared to the other million sites in your niche?

Unless you can answer those questions clearly, and your site reflects it, you will continue to be impacted by google updates. Unless your site has a clear focus, and unique identity, you will struggle.

About Martin Macdonald

Martin is Inbound Marketing Director at Expedia EAN. In his career he has executed organic campaigns in industries from Gambling to Entertainment before moving to Travel. He is a regular speaker at conferences worldwide about inbound marketing, and regular writer and contributor to respected publications on the topic.

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