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New Local SEO Update From Google 2019: What’s Changed?

Updated: February 3rd, 2020

As a business owner, you want to stay up-to-date on all trends and updates that will potentially impact your business online. When something BIG happens and you are unaware, this could dangerously damage your online visibility and could potentially lead to fewer and fewer conversions over time.

Luckily, we at Beyond Blue Media like to keep up to date on all things related to digital marketing! This article is here to help you better understand why your online visibility, calls, and conversions might have dropped in the month of November this year.

Let’s get down to it!

What is the New Google Update?

In case you’re unaware, Google recently made an update to Google My Business (GMB) this past November of 2019. The update occurred within early November.

To much surprise, a lot of business owners have not been made aware of this update as Google never released a definitive answer or public release stating that they have rolled out a new update.

So if this update was never publicly released, how is it that we know about it? I’ll tell you how in a moment…

But let me make this very clear; this update is in regards to local SEO and affects Google My Business listings ONLY. This isn’t in regards to a ranking system that affects your website (domain), just your Google My Business page(s). Your website is safe in its current keyword rankings when concerning this update.

This is one of the biggest updates to local SEO since 2016 when Google implemented “Possum” for Google My Business. Since then, only minor updates have occurred to GMB and other local SEO ranking factors.

That being said, this update is a very big deal when it comes to your GMB page(s) since it’s not related to one specific industry nor a specific country or region. At this point, it’s been found to affect ALL countries and regions for GMB local SEO.

We found out about this update thanks to the online community of SEOs and business owners communicating around the world. The update can be currently noted in the online community as Possum 2.0 or Bedlam (coined by Joy Hawkins, professional SEO).

Now, what is this crazy new update that’s causing such a ruckus amongst SEOs and local business owners? In one word: Proximity.

Google My Business was created with the intention of allowing the “little guys” to compete. By this, I mean small business owners competing against well-known companies and corporations on Google search results.

Since then, Google has been drilling down on who should rank for related keywords and why. It’s all based on algorithms that Google has in place for filtering businesses to provide searchers (customers) the best local business results. So, I hope that helps with any questions you may have like, “how can I get my business to rank faster?” Work with the algorithm by making appropriate optimizations. (I’ll explain more on this later.)

Like I said, the simplified answer to what the new Google local SEO update has to deal with businesses within close proximity. Since Google is all about creating a community, they want to provide users with the closest businesses that fit the best for what a searcher is looking for.

GMB listings, when they appear on the Map-Pack (the first 3 results on Google search and maps for local searches), are based on geographical location. A variety of businesses saw a massive drop or a climb in local search rankings when the algorithm update hit.

This, however, was seen with ranking drops in zip codes where the business’s address or service area isn’t close to the customer, compared to that of other competitors.

Simplified: If a competitor is closer to a customer in a given zip code, they will be ranking higher.

But how does this affect your GMB listing and should you be concerned?

How Does this Update Change My Local Ranking?

Even if you had a highly optimized GMB listing before the update rolled out, this update would most likely affect it. Changes that professional SEO companies and business owners have seen after the update have included a massive decrease in online visibility in searches and on Google maps, and jumps in rankings for businesses that might not be highly optimized.

Google My business listing analytics after update

This reporting is an example of October to November for a business with a physical address. Notice the nosedive effect we’re seeing? This drop isn’t just noticeable with consumer actions, but also when it comes to results on Google search and maps.

Those with physical addresses seem to be less affected for zip codes they have a storefront in, based on our research. However, our research is based on a very small group of listings, so please don’t assume that research is 100% accurate, we’re using it as speculation.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should rush into making quick or “easy” adjustments to your listings just because you want to rank!

If you didn’t have a physical address before, there isn’t a reason to add one now, unless you actually have a storefront.

Your business might have been affected similarly with a decrease in search and maps visibility, calls, clicks to the website, directions to your location, or clicks on your posts (customer actions). Or perhaps you went the opposite direction and saw a significant increase.

Either way, the reason for the change in analytics, search results, and consumer behavior is directly correlated to this update (unless you made some changes that would penalize your listing).

How Do I Continue Optimizing for Local SEO?

Simple.

Just continue following Google’s GMB guidelines and keep grinding!

Optimize your Google My Business listing(s) by thinking about how you impact your community and the surrounding areas. Make your business stand out by adding more images, posts, products, services you offer, and use your appropriate business name, address, and phone number (NAP).

If you have a website, continue optimizing it for the area(s) you service or deliver to.

Google isn’t going to rank you in an area that you say you service, but you actually don’t. The same goes for if you say you have a physical address somewhere but you don’t. Just because you can list up to 20 service areas, doesn’t mean you should use all 20 slots. And just because adding an address is an option, doesn’t mean you should “trick” Google into thinking you work there.

Please, think before you act!

Based on the recent updates, we’ve seen some local business owners (not associated with Beyond Blue Media), change a LOT of elements and details about their business due to this update. In short, these “optimizations” didn’t actually help them, they made it worse.

We’ve also seen a lot of SPAM businesses appear after this update that haven’t been listed before. Spam GMB listings are those that were made to help a business rank in a city or area in a zipcode or at a physical address that they really don’t work at or own. How do you spot these spam business listings?

Either find them on Google and drive to the storefront address listed and if it’s empty or housing another business, then they don’t exist. Or you can perform your own analysis by looking at the GMB listing. Most likely, the listing won’t be very optimized and will be trying to rank for the area by spamming keywords in their details section.

Here’s an example:

Aurora roofing contractors search results

Aurora Roofers” appears to be a spam business on the Google Map-Pack.

How do I know they’re spam?

They have no website, reviews, physical location, posts, images, business description… you get the idea. Be on the lookout for spam businesses that are starting to appear in your local region and report them to Google yourself or take a screenshot and have your marketing team report them.

If you do have a marketing team, ask them what they’re doing to approach this new update. Are they rushing into making changes to your listings? Are they optimizing as usual?

You don’t need to be persistent, but keep in contact with your marketing team so you aren’t left in the dark.

We hope this article was helpful to you, and we’ll continue to be making updates as we see new information on the Possum 2.0 algorithm update.

December 2nd Update From Google

On December 2nd, 2019, Google confirmed the local SEO change for the Map-Pack results on their Twitter account @searchliaison. Google calls the local SEO November update: Nov. 2019 Local Search Update.

Google updated local searches with their coined AI-based system “neural matching“, a synonym-based update. While proximity was a major focus of the Nov. 2019 Local Search Update, keywords and phrases typed into the search field is what drastically changed rankings.

Google’s neural matching takes into account business names, descriptions, and other business information associated with your GMB listing to provide like-search results. Basically, the update looks at local search queries and provides more accurate results based on any phrase you type in. Synonym-association is at the core of this update.

What does this mean?

When a searcher is typing in a local search but it doesn’t exactly match your business name, categories or description, neural matching provides accurate results even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for.

Google is all about thinking ahead of users and trying to provide the best results through suggestions, so it’s no wonder they created neural matching to guess what you’re searching for.

You can’t opt-in or out of this update.

There is no button or request form to be part of or separated from this update. It was a global update that affected every industry, niche, business listing.

This update is actually a good thing!

Even though you might have experienced some drastic changes to your GMB ranking, time settles the chaos.

If you don’t have the most optimized business info like your business name or description, that’s OK. You should be safe as long as you make it clear what your business does/sells/services. This update is supposed to help users and business owners alike.

As stated in our first update above, don’t go about making drastic updates to your GMB listing by throwing in keywords or performing other rash actions.

Google will take notice of your GMB listing.


At Beyond Blue Media, our local SEO team takes care of our clients around the world! We ensure that their listings don’t fall off of the deep end and out of search results. If you feel like your GMB listing needs help in optimizations because you aren’t receiving the conversions you’re looking for, contact us today!

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