What is Google’s Vicinity Update? And Why Is It Important for Your Local Business?

Google has spoken.

With an overwhelming 92.47% market share as of June 2021, Google is by far the world’s largest search engine. In SEO terms, it rules the planet.

So much so, in fact, that “Google” has now become a verb. Thus, with its global dominance, when it comes to those prized first-page search engine results pages (or SERPS), we keep Google happy.

Or, we try to.

If you have a Google Business Profile, there’s a new update: Vicinity. It’s closely linked to search engine optimisation as a whole, so this blog is in two parts:

·      An overview of SEO

·      An introduction to Vicinity  

Quick Summary of SEO – You Need to Know This, and We’ll Explain Why

If your site ranks on page one of Google without the support of AdWords, it does so because it deserves to be there. Ranking naturally is referred to as organic search engine marketing, and it’s by no means easy.

To condense a complex subject, to rank well, you’ll need a large, user-friendly website with lots of useful, outstandingly well written content, easy navigation, and legitimate on-page SEO that tells Google what the site’s about. Plus, super-importantly - backlinks from other high domain websites.

For a healthy organic ranking, your website must be a trusted source of information, and one that meets Google’s numerous high quality-focused search criteria.

Whilst this isn’t a “how does SEO work” post, it’s important to understand these basics, as everything is about adding value and doing the right thing.

But, the point is: Google never actually tells us explicitly what the right thing is.

Online marketing specialists work our way through everything, then try to get the message out there.  Working together, we move towards knowledge.

Which takes us back to our point, “Google has spoken” –which they rarely ever do.

 

The Vicinity Update

16th December 2021 caused comment and excitement, when Google released a statement:

“Our November 2021 local search update has concluded. It began Nov 30 and ran through Dec 8. It involved a rebalancing of various factors we consider in generating local search results. General guidance for businesses remains the same as covered here (https://support.google.com/business/answer/7091)"

If you want your business to rank locally, the above outbound link is highly significant, and we’ll explain why.

 

Let’s Start By Unpacking What “Rebalancing” Means

It appears that Google is referring here to proximity as a ranking factor.

It goes without saying that local SEO has been an essential factor for some time, but now Google is tightening the screws for those trying to cheat the system. That is, those operating outside the local area, yet claiming to be on your doorstep. Previously, canny businesses with Google Business Profiles (GBP) could add keywords into their GBP name with impunity.

And now? Don’t go there, as the Vicinity update will recognise this practice as keyword stuffing, now a heavy stone likely to sink your website to the bottom of the search engine results ocean.  

You cannot fool Google for long, and we definitely welcome this update.

 

Let’s Explain More

In a nutshell, the authentic vicinity of your business will become ultra-relevant. Broadly speaking, the closer your operation is to the searcher, the more likely your business will be to rank in the Google 3-pack – the way that Google displays the top three results for a local business search.  The results will include the three Google Business Profile listings, and a map of the three results.

Here, we’re back to deserving first page rankings.

The map results have shrunk in size, too, as the area of the displayed map is now smaller.

So, you really want to be there.

 

Your Google Business Profile

While Vicinity is most certainly a new algorithm update, Google still sees user experience as one of the most important ranking factors. The guidelines which we’ve referred and linked to above are gold dust. Follow this advice to boost your visibility.

Although you should work on your GBP in tandem with other on and off-page SEO, taking the time and effort literally to improve the experience of those who use your Google Business Profile can help to give your operation the edge when it comes to rankings.

The same principle applies to your website, hence our high-level SEO analysis. Setting the bar high, and keeping it there will enable your online marketing to work as hard as you do.

Therefore, here at Sprint Online, we have some valuable recommendations for you.

 

Your GBP Checklist

Namely, that you must ensure that your Google Business Profile has complete, accurate data, and that it matches fully the details on your website. Yes, even down to “Street” as opposed to “St”. For example:

·      Business name

·      Address – precisely where you are

·      Correct phone number

·      Opening hours

·      Photographs

·      Clear descriptions of your services or products

·      Accurate category

Refer to the link above for the full list. Then act on it.

Then it Goes Further - There’s More

You will also need to manage and respond to reviews. As you may expect, given that Google owns Google Business Profile (of course), these are critical to your SEO efforts. The more positive reviews the better. Do take the time to ask your customers for Google reviews, as these are powerful online marketing boosters.

There are also ways to show multiple ways to shop, for example delivery or pickup. Plus, adding events, local content and generally keeping your profile updated are all positive signals for Google. Websites and profiles should never be created and left to their own devices. Like tyres, they will slowly deflate and won’t work as well.

In brief, although there’s no silver bullet, the world's biggest search engine favours relevance, distance and prominence.

If you’re aiming for that Google 3-pack, here at Sprint Online we’d be happy to help you. Your services are high quality; your customer service – equally so. Let your marketing reflect you, and how you work.

If now is the time for Google to shine more light on your business, feel free to get in touch.

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