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The Google “Venice” Update – Power to the (Local) People

There are countless Google updates happening at any one time and to be fair, most of them aren’t worth talking about. However, we’ve realised that when Google go to the effort of actually naming an update, it’s probably worthwhile paying some serious attention. Just think back to “Google Panda” and “Caffeine” and I’m sure you’ll catch my drift!

At number 26 on Google’s latest list of 40 updates is the topic that we’re all talking about; “The Venice Update”. But what’s it all about?

To put it simply, the Venice update has been initiated to make improvements to search results by making them more “location” specific. The idea is that by utilising information from the “normal” SERPS Google can trigger more relevant Local results. We’re not talking about location specific searches here (e.g. London shoe shops), the Venice update alters the organic listings for generic search terms (e.g. shoe shops) based on the user’s location.

This means that results which were typically dominated by the BIG brands will now also include “promoted” organic listings for local businesses, depending on where you are searching from. This is great for smaller, local companies who have “town/city specific” websites, but makes it difficult for national sites to compete unless they focus heavily on developing their “city/town” specific pages.

Generic Search Term = “Italian Lesson” – Location = “Swansea” (This is the Venice update after all)

Same Generic Search Term “Italian Lessons” – Location – “Manchester”

Screen Grabs of the Google Venice Update

Impacts of the Google Venice Update 

In a way, this update takes us back to the beginning of the internet days, when all businesses were equal and had the same opportunity to rank highly. They say the Venice update has “levelled” the playing field; but has it? You could argue that the update is more beneficial for the small, local company. Some even suggest that the strategy has been designed to push national companies to spend more on their paid listings, creating even more revenue for Google. But would Google really be this deviant?

The idea of local results being “promoted” makes sense on a superficial level, but when we think about it harder, we see that it’s just not that simple. It’s all very well Google promoting your nearest pizza delivery company, but what about service based businesses that are not dependant on location? If you are looking for an SEO agency, are you looking for the nearest SEO agency or the best SEO agency? Surely results should reflect their quality, not simply their proximity. If Google starts “bumping up” local businesses, we may find ourselves spending even more time refining our searches in an effort to find what we want and surely that’s a step backwards?

How to Respond to the Google Venice Update

The Little Guy – Local Suppliers

For town and city specific websites which serve their local area, little will change. Of course it’s vital to maintain a fit and healthy website and continue to build local citations and generate quality links from other local companies, but on the whole the Venice update will do nothing but good things for your rankings. In fact, now is the time to start optimising for more broad term keywords as Google will assist you in your local area.Sit back and make sure you are ready to deal with the increased traffic and business leads.

 The Big Boys – National Providers

The Venice update makes it even more important to build and develop pages which offer city and town specific information. It’s no longer enough to offer information on a regional or county level, we need to offer more detail. Don’t let this scare you – just repeat the old mantra; “think of the user”. What do they want to see? Your location specific pages should act as micro sites. Users should be able to find out everything they need to know, without having to consult the “main” section of your site. Examples include;

- Opening times (be specific and keep updated, include holiday periods)

- Address (Include directions and Google maps. Make sure this is identical to what you have for the local Google places listing)

- Phone numbers (Include an area code specific contact number. Must also be exactly the same as the Google places listing)

- Contacts (Who do your users need to talk to at your Newcastle branch? What about your Manchester office?

- Services and products (Be very specific about what your “Bristol shoe shop” stocks. The user should know everything about your Bristol branch from this page/pages.

Local Citations and Link Development

Your link building strategy should support your local business pages. We have to be even more specific about where we obtain our links. It’s great if you have a link from a “shoe shop site” in Wales pointing at your “Bristol shoe shop” page, but we need to be obtaining links from “Bristol sites” to our “Bristol” pages and listings and “Swindon sites” pointing to our “Swindon” pages.  This includes using local directories and websites which focus on the location in question. Don’t just think of the user, think of the “local user”.

Ben Holbrook

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2 thoughts on “The Google “Venice” Update – Power to the (Local) People

  1. Pingback: Marketing Day: March 13, 2012