Understanding Recent Google Search Changes
It’s no secret that it’s an important business strategy for shops to have a strong online presence. More and more, Google has become a controller of the online marketplace. However, frequent changes to Google’s algorithm means that staying on top of best practices can be difficult. The algorithm is a formula used to search out Web pages that contain keywords a user searches, then assigning a rank to each page based on numerous factors. Shops that don’t adapt are getting left behind when it comes to online conversions. Those that keep up, however, will reap the potential benefits of the changes. A recent algorithm change, Google Pigeon, made last year has impacted local search rankings and Internet marketing expert Tony Guo says that it could have significant impact for auto repair shops.
Guo, a top content creator for the Google Partners program and marketing strategist for small businesses, including numerous auto repair shops, breaks down the changes and how your shop can adapt.
Why does Google make changes to its algorithms?
Google makes money from paid advertising, not organic searches. When the algorithm changes, it’s to help users search more effectively. If the user searches and they’re upset there are too many Google ads, they’re not going to use Google anymore. It’s a dichotomy between Google wanting to make money from the paid ads and Google wanting to provide the best service possible for its users. When a change is made, it’s a balance between that. They want users to feel like what they’re getting back from their search is more relevant and helpful.
What is the latest change Google has made to its algorithm?
The latest change has been the Google Pigeon update. It was an update that occurred in July 2014. What happened was that once Google Pigeon happened, rankings for small businesses increased organically drastically. It’s because Google Pigeon is local. When somebody in Houston is looking for a repair shop, before Pigeon, it was impossible for a small repair shop to beat a large chain in rankings because they have a huge market and spend a lot of money in paid or organic marketing. Now, if someone is searching in Houston, Google is going to put extreme importance on shopping local. Instead of finding a huge company that’s far away from you, they’ll find a business closer to your location.
It has given smaller companies the ability to win. We’re doing a lot better because when somebody in Springfield is looking for mechanics, Google is going to be able to locate that person and find a mechanic in their exact area. Google Maps is a lot better than it used to be and that’s part of why they made the change. So they’re not going to send someone to a chain a few more miles away, they’re going to send the person to a local, shop closer to where they live.
It’s not like every local shop is going to benefit. It’s only going to be the shops that do certain things that Google requires. There are certain things they have to do, but if they do, they will outrank a Firestone.
How can shops benefit from these recent changes?
Pigeon is very good for local, but only if you make the effort to update your listings. Pigeon has helped a lot of my smaller business clients. Google really likes directories. Those are places like Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.—those directories with a lot of stores within them that have a lot of reviews. Anything you can list yourself in is good. The key is that you have to fill them out with the same phone number, address and name. Also, the number has to be a local number. If you use a 1-800 number, my tests show that it won’t be as effective as a local number.
It should be the same phone number you use for every single listing. I see this a lot with small businesses, that they will hire a marketing person and they left, so their phone numbers and addresses are all different. That’s going to confuse Google. When Google is confused, it’s not going to rank you well.
Whenever you do a Google search and you see a map, those are Google Reviews and they will help you get into a “local pact.” Local pact is very difficult to get into, but if you do, you will see a huge difference in business.
Are there any other updates shops should be aware of?
Another fairly recent update is the Hummingbird. Hummingbird was a huge change and Pigeon is actually an update of that change. When Google has a search now, it considers a business as an entity. Google profiles every company. They profile based on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and your website. Your website now becomes one element of how they rank you. Depending on how all these entities are perceived, that’s how they rank you now.
It used to be website versus website only, so people would buy links and do backlinking. That’s now being penalized because it’s not fair. You don’t want to create spammy websites. Instead of website versus website, it’s entity versus entity. If somebody’s website is better than someone else’s website, but the other person has amazing social media, great reviews, and they’re known for being experts in this field, they may rank better.
Twitter and Google also recently announced a partnership. Now you can search tweets on Google. That’s a big difference because your Twitter account becomes way more important. Every time you tweet, it can be searched on Google. The problem with Twitter is that it hasn’t been great for conversion, but if it shows up on Google search, Google is the best place for conversion.
They have not announced a partnership with Facebook, but if they do, all your Facebook posts would be searchable on Google. That would change how SEO is done. It will matter a great deal; normally when Google makes partnerships, they do a good job of making sure there’s a reason for that change.