Google Confirms Biggest Local Search Algorithm Update in Five Years

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Google has confirmed the biggest algorithm update in five years and is set to change how businesses position themselves. This will likely impact SEO, ad placement, and local searches as a result of Google’s new policies on mobile-first indexing.

Google has confirmed that their biggest local search algorithm update in five years is coming soon. With the update, Google will be focusing on placing businesses and services at the top of search results. Read more in detail here: google algorithm update 2021.

Google Confirms Biggest Local Search Algorithm Update in Five Years

Many local companies have seen significant changes in their local search ranks in recent weeks, and Google has now confirmed that the local algorithm has been updated. 

Sterling Sky has dubbed this update ‘Vicinity,’ and it will be available between November 30th and December 8th. This is the most significant update to the local algorithm since Possum in 2016, and it has wreaked havoc on rankings.

In a tweet on December 16th, Google verified the update:

Our local search update for November 2021 is now complete. It started on November 30 and ended on December 8. It included adjusting a number of parameters that go into creating local search results. The following general business advice remains unchanged:

December 16, 2021 — Google Search Central (@googlesearchc)

What Is the Purpose of Vicinity?

The name of this update comes from the fact that it seems to prioritize proximity as a ranking criterion.

Although proximity has long been a key indication for local search results, companies may also optimize to rank distant from their real company location. 

Google looks to be cracking down on this with the Vicinity upgrade, which will automatically make local search results more relevant to the user. Firms will have a better chance of ranking high in relevant local searches since they will be competing with fewer businesses that are farther away. 

According to Sterling Sky’s study, the potential benefit of adding keywords to the company name of a Google Business Profile (GBP) listing has reduced after the modification.

Businesses who include keywords (inappropriately) in their names have witnessed a significant decline in search ranks, according to Sterling Sky research. This is likely to be a gain for organizations who have regularly obeyed Google’s keyword stuffing restrictions, as well as those that have dedicated work in combating name spam.

“I’m delighted to believe that this upgrade has dialed down the effect of keyword stuffing in company names,” said local search specialist Claire Carlile.

“I’m witnessing a massive gain in map exposure for a firm in the healthcare specialty that has suddenly risen in prominence while rival listings that were keyword crammed have fallen in the ranks.” I’m quite curious as to what other folks are seeing!”

Changes in Local Search Rankings

Our Local RankFlux tool detected large changes in local search volatility around the conclusion of the Vicinity deployment.

Local RankFlux examines daily term ranking movement to detect oscillations and highlight possible Google algorithm modifications, giving each day a score out of 10. 

During the launch, search volatility progressively increased to a high of 6.2. 

Latest Local Rank Flux Score

As you can see from the graph above, after the November 2021 local search update, search volatility gradually reverted to normal levels.

Within the local area, massive ranking variations were recorded across a broad variety of businesses. 

Here’s an example of how a key search term’s ranking changed for one company before and after the launch.

1st of December: 

Local Search Grid

15th of December:

Ranking Results Local Search

The firm in issue has improved its ranks in the near local area, as you can see from the two photographs above. 

Update on the Possum

Possum was the final major update to the local search algorithm before Vicinity. Possum was introduced in 2016 to help better filter the results in the Local Pack and Local Finder. This meant that if numerous firms of a similar sort operated out of the same building, the majority of them would be excluded from the search results.

Local SEOs speculated at the time that Possum was putting greater focus on proximity as a local ranking criteria, as well as reducing the impact of a website’s organic authority on Local Pack/Finder ranks.

Redesign of the Google Local Pack

The Vicinity upgrade came out at the same time as Google changed the look of the Local Pack. As a consequence of the change, all Local Pack results will now display a list of three results on the left and a map on the right in the coming weeks. Since 2015, the former style, which includes three results below a map, has been the standard.

The new Local Pack design is as follows:

Local Pack Redesign

Many local SEOs reported significant increases in ranks and traffic after seeing the new Local Pack design in early December. Some ascribed it to the makeover, while others speculated about a possible algorithm upgrade. 

Google said it’s “constantly researching methods to link people with the beneficial information that they’re seeking” in a statement on the revamp. It remains to be seen whether Vicinity, which is being rolled out with the new Local Pack, will give a better search experience for local customers and more search traffic for local companies.  

What does the term “vicinity” imply for local entrepreneurs?

“General advise for companies stays the same,” Google wrote in a tweet announcing the change, along with a link to tips on how to boost local results. 

The algorithm’s results are determined by relevance, distance, and prominence, according to the criteria, thus nothing has changed here. Google also recommends that local companies, in order to improve their exposure, should:

  • Complete the form.
  • Confirm the places.
  • Keep your operating hours up to date.
  • Review management and response
  • Add images

As Google continues to improve its local search algorithm, it’s safe to assume that the user experience will always be at the forefront of any modifications. 

To achieve long-term search success, local firms will need to continue to adapt to the environment and strictly follow the standards. 

Has the Vicinity upgrade had an impact on you? Tell us everything about it in the comments section below!

Alix Coe

BrightLocal’s Content Marketing Manager is Alix. They are mostly interested in reporting on the newest industry news and offering insights into the realm of local SEO.

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Google has released a new algorithm update that is set to give the company more power than ever before. The update will be one of the biggest in five years. Reference: google algorithm update july 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the latest Google algorithm update 2021?

A: The latest Google algorithm update, as of June 5th, 2019 is the 2nd ranked position.

How many times does Google perform algorithm update in a year?

A: Google has been performing algorithm updates since the early 2000s. In 2013, they were found to update their algorithms approximately 2-3 times a week and in 2013, 8-9 million websites had already been affected. Despite this large number of sites undergoing changes by Google, most internet users dont even notice these updates happen because it is all done automatically for them on their behalf.

What is the latest algorithm update by Google?

A: The most recent algorithm update is from June 2018, which was a significant change.

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