Google confirmed yesterday that it rolled out an algorithm update to the local search results between the end of November and the beginning of December 2021.
Google is appropriately calling this update the “November 2021 local search update.” But, in spite of the “November” moniker, it’s not likely that businesses would have felt the impact of these changes until early December.
What Changed About Local Search Results?
According to Google, this update was about the “rebalancing of various factors we consider in generating local search results.”
Local Search Refresher
The factors Google uses to rank local search results are:
- Relevance refers to how well a local Business Profile matches what someone is looking for.
- Distance considers how far each potential result is from the location term used in a search. If a searcher doesn’t specify a location, Google will use what they do know about that searcher’s location to calculate distance.
- Prominence is about how well-known a business is.
Although Google’s not disclosing exactly how it’s rebalancing these ranking factors, some folks in the SEO community believe that the algorithm is prioritizing proximity in search results. This would make sense, given the recent changes to Google’s local pack and map design.
What Does Google Say About the Local Search Update?
As is often the case, Google’s recommendation to how businesses should respond to this algorithm update is to continue following local SEO best practices.
Our Take: What This Update Means for Your Business
One possible result from this update is that it might become more difficult for single-location businesses that want to target a wide swath of a region to show up in the local pack.
If this is your business, you might want to explore setting up satellite offices in the vicinity you want to show up for in search results.
I’d also recommend checking your local strategy to make sure you’re optimizing for all three ranking factors. Although it might be tempting to chase ranking factors as Google shifts its algorithm, at the end of the day, the best long-term strategy is to maintain a balanced approach — effectively future-proofing your rankings from tanking with future changes to the algorithm.
Note: This is a globally-applied algorithm update.