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Google Venice Update: UK SEO and Website Advice

Published on April 13, 2012
Tags: SEO, Web Design London

Something all web designers and SEO specialists need to be aware of is the Google Venice update. This is an update that was included in a series of algorithm changes that Google announced towards the end of February 2012, but the effects of it are just starting to become clear. You can read the full list of algorithm changes that make up the update here.

Google Venice itself is actually number 26 on that list of around 40 algorithm changes and the idea behind it is to improve the rankings of local search results. This is the explanation that is offered by Google:

“Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.”

This basically means that if you search for something, the results you get off Google will be much more personalised to your location. For example, if you search for ‘web designers’, you should hopefully see results from web designers that are local to you (e.g. ‘web designers london’), because Google is now utilising IP addresses to work out where you are and provide you with results accordingly.

This has several implications for businesses that we need to be aware of. First of all, this has the potential to benefit local businesses that have previously been disadvantaged by larger firms in terms of their SEO. If local businesses are able to optimise their sites for local search terms, they could potentially do quite well out of Google Venice.

However, as well as the benefits, it also throws up a couple of challenges. For instance, businesses that are based in one location but who carry out work in lots of locations will face a dilemma as to what they should optimise and how. As an example, as a web design firm, we can often just as easily design a website for a company in Scotland as we can in London because we’re able to work virtually. Does this mean we need to optimise separate pages for every location we work in?

The full impact of Google Venice is yet to be determined, but for such a significant update it hasn’t actually yet been analysed that extensively.

One issue that does seem to have come up, though, is that if you live in a place that shares its name with somewhere else (Birmingham UK and Birmingham Alabama, for instance), there is a chance that Google will pick the wrong place because even though websites are based in different countries, they’re optimised for the same place names. This doesn’t seem to be an extensive problem, but it’s something that many businesses will need to be aware of.

What is clear from the Google Venice update is that local search is now really entering its own and every business needs to start developing a plan to deal with it to make sure they stay properly optimised and take advantages of the opportunities the algorithm change has to offer. For example, developing localised page content or local landing pages can help firms to optimise the areas they want to target. You’ll only be able to make use of the Google Places feature if you actually have a physical address in a certain place, but if you are based in one place yet work in many, there’s nothing to stop you optimising your site in other ways.

Websites might also need to rejig their site architecture to make sure it is properly optimised for local pages. For instance, take a look at your homepage. Is it currently optimised for local search? If not, then you might well need to make some updates to ensure it still continues to rank for relevant search terms, an also to micro-format your address (if you don’t know what this is, please do ask us).

Also, just because Google has a significant new update out, don’t forget about the old ones. You may think that one of the easiest ways to optimise for local search might be to simply use the same or similar content on multiple pages and just change the keywords. However, this could end with you falling foul of last year’s Google Panda/Farmer update that punishes low quality or duplicate content. Making the extra effort to properly optimise your site for Google Venice is definitely worth it. 

Local link building might also help, although it’s not yet clear how the recent updates have impacted on how links are included in determining search rankings. Some suggest that they have become less important, but you still shouldn’t ignore this area, particularly if you’re trying to cement your local profile.

And, despite what you might think, you don’t even need inbound links to your site to improve your local rankings. Google uses NAP data (Name, Address, Postcode) to identify your business and gets this information from various sources on the web. So, search Google for your postcode, then your company name, and try to make sure the information found is consistent with the NAP on your site, to your Google Places listing, to anywhere else where your NAP is listed (including where you might be listed without there even being a link to you site). Consistency, and relevancy, are key – if you can get NAP listings on sites that also service the same area you are based (so, for example, we might look to get NAP listings on London-centric sites) that will be more relevant than having a NAP listing on a global web site, or a site that’s focussed on content on the other side of the world.

Overall, Google Venice might be able to be explained in just a couple of sentences, but its potential impact could be really significant. Taking action now to ensure your site continues to rank well should definitely be on all of our ‘to do’ lists.

By Chelsey Evans

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