How the Google Venice Algorithm changes your local search strategy

Google recently announced around 40 algorithm changes that have taken place during February 2012, or are about to be rolled out. Whilst most SEOs attention was drawn to the “link evaluation” point, and the fact that Google may soon make big changes to how they evaluate the characteristics of links to judge the content of a destination URL, it’s the roll out of an algorithm called “Google Venice” which has caught our attention today.

The “Google Venice” algorithm update focuses on local results. Historically, a generic keyword search e.g. for “fitted kitchens”, would most likely return a Google Places map result with some local listings, alongside some generic non-local standard organic results. However, we are now seeing many generic searches that generate a Places map result and generic results, as well as featuring some local results in the main organic listings.

Google uses a number of methods to detect where a user is based – most notably, the user can set their default location in their search preferences, and Google will also look at IP address and to some degree past search history.

This is big news on two fronts. First of all, there’s a clear advantage for businesses with a local physical presence to gain visibility for generic phrases amongst searchers in their area.

Secondly, bigger nationwide companies who have strong visibility for generic phrases despite not having a physical presence in the searcher’s area will most likely lose visibility, at the expense of local businesses.

Any business with physical and online presence must consider this as part of their search strategy if they weren’t before, at a local SME level as well as national multi-store retailers. Our recommendation would be to first identify searches relevant to your product and service which may trigger the Venice algorithm, and to ensure that on-page optimisation elements target those products/service combined with location. For businesses in one location this will most likely be your homepage, whilst multi-store businesses should scale this across individual location pages. The big challenge for multi-store businesses will then be tracking results for multiple phrases across multiple geographic areas, and it remains to be seen how effective standard off-site SEO practises will be in improving Venice results.