The Elusive Google Algorithm

“How do I get into the Google 3-Pack when customers are searching locally on their mobile devices?” is a question that every multi-location marketer would love answered immediately and quickly.  Most customers make decisions on where to buy and eat based on what they see first on their phones — along with reviews.

“People are signalling their intent every time they turn to digital for assistance. The challenge is to know your customers – really know them – so that you can predict that intent.”

Allan Thygesen, President of the Americas, Google

This quote is especially relevant. As Google gets “smarter” about customer behavior — how and what people are searching — they refine their algorithm, making it easier for mobile-local consumers to easily find what they want and need — and for companies to respond accurately to those searches. Human behaviors are analyzed and used to make the search process more streamlined for seekers and sellers.

Personalization is the guiding principle in the new local search world. As consumers’ mobile-local searches become more specific and frequent, Google is responding to those behaviors by creating search logic that enables people to find what they’re looking for — quickly and accurately.

Although we don’t purport to have all the answers to “cracking the algorithm,” we track and study trends and results and can help you understand the many current factors that influence the 3-Pack (aka Map-Pack). The word “current” is especially important, because Google made 3,000 changes to its algorithm in just one year. That’s 8 times the number of changes they made in 2009.

As marketers are discovering, mobile-local searches are their own unique category. In fact, most searchers don’t even need to type “near me” anymore, because their phones will automatically show them the closest places to buy, shop, and eat.

Google is continuously refining its algorithm and, in fact, runs close to 600K search quality tests in just one year to make sure that people can find what they’re looking for. The acronym E.A.T. (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) is at the core of this evaluation. Google also uses the term Quality Score, which refers to how relevant a particular keyword (or set of keywords) is to a search.

Since 2003, Google has been fine-tuning its search methodologies. Many of them affect local search results. Some of these changes have been minor and others have been significant. For example, the significant 2015 change, known as mobilegeddon, which:

  • Checked whether the site is mobile-friendly
  • Gave priority to those well displayed over mobile devices
  • Down-ranked less mobile-friendly pages

It was in direct response to the growth of mobile-local search industry experts track every adjustment and how it may impact rank.

What types of changes factor into those 3,000+ changes? According to Google:

“Some of these were visible launches of new features, while many others were regular updates meant to keep our results relevant as content on the web changes. And some are also improvements based on issues we identified, either via public reports or our own ongoing quality evaluations.”

Google’s latest algorithm update is a clear attempt to meet customer needs by improving the relevance, accuracy, consistency, and timeliness of the responses they find in their searches. As consumer search patterns evolve and machine learning plays a bigger role in tracking these behaviors, rankings will change accordingly.

So what can human multi-location and franchise marketers do to ensure better mobile-local search results?

  1. Know your customers and their behaviors. As the above quote from Google enforces, we are living in a world where no two people search the same way or in a linear pattern.
  2. Take data accuracy, thoroughless, consistency, and timeliness seriously. Proximity Search Optimization™ is not a “one and done” exercise. Dedicate resources to updating data for every location and critical keyword.
  3. Optimize your business’ Google Knowledge Graph.
  4. Stay on top of changes. We at MomentFeed are continuously monitoring algorithm changes and how they impact our clients’ search results — recommending and helping them implement actions that improve their rankings.
We can help analyze your current search methodologies and offer Proximity Search Optimization™ services — connecting you with those consumers who are searching locally for what you offer.
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