Linda Buquet

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David Milhm, the Director of Local Search Strategy for SEOmoz just did an awesome "White Board Friday". In this video he does a brief overview of the local algo and how it's changed over time. Toward the end he talks about how more offline signals are or will start coming into play.

Evolution of the Local Algorithm - Whiteboard Friday | SEOmoz

And just to speculate a little bit, because I love to speculate, going forward I also think we're going to see Google potentially integrating some offline information into the local rankings. So what do I mean by that? As we get more and more comfortable, we as a society get more and more comfortable with things like Foursquare check-ins or Facebook check-ins, using our phones to make mobile payments, using Google Wallet, or companies like Square or LevelUp, these types of things, loyalty programs, Google has acquired a company several years ago that focused on digital loyalty cards, these types of offline signals about how we're actually engaging with businesses in the real world, I think there's no reason that they wouldn't try to incorporate those into their local rankings going forward.

So keep in mind through all of this Google's goal has been to identify what the most popular businesses are in a given category, in a given community, and what better way to gauge popularity than the number of people actually buying something at a business or actually visiting a business and checking in.

I'm impressed he could boil the history of the local search algo into such a brief video. Well done!
 

Nick.SEOSpark

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Thanks for sharing Linda. I enjoyed the video and liked the graph he used to represent the timeline - nice colour coding.

It's fairly exciting to see the things he's doing at Moz in relation to Local.
 

JoshuaMackens

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I agree with what David said at the end of the video about Google looking at popularity and trying to gauge that in the online arena and eventually (if not already) trying to understand that offline as well.

I think it's interesting to note the path that Google is taking. I think there is potentially a danger of Google starting to mirror the offline world quite a bit when it comes to Local. Why is this a problem? Because then there really exists no differentiation between the two and Google is serving up the same companies over and over, bypassing quality for volume popularity (not even true popularity which isn't a completely trustworthy metric anyway). This is a problem because many times (not all) the company that is the most popular in the offline world is the company that is advertising the most. Google would eventually just become a mirror of advertising with no differentiation and therefore, no real use.

Google ultimately is aiming to serve up quality businesses and they correlate popularity with quality which isn't always the case. One of the HVAC/Plumbing companies where I live is certainly the most popular. When you mention HVAC/Plumbing I guarantee they pop up in the majority of people's minds. However, I hear complaints about them all the time, which will happen with a large company but it still goes to show that popularity isn't always a correlation with quality.

Google needs to mirror their goal for universal search results to their goal for local search results: quality. They need to return quality businesses, not just popular businesses. Use popularity as a weighted metric, sure. But keep in mind the other factors as well, which I expect they will. They are Google after all.

In the end I'm sure Google will get it right. Using popularity as a part of the equation is necessary. But quality is what they're looking for online as well as offline. As long as reviews continue to be a prominent factor and interaction (social media) continues to rise in prominence as a factor, they should be right on track.

I had just been contemplating all of this and I thought I would share :)

It's exciting to keep getting closer and closer to where the best Local SEO strategy is simply being focused on becoming a quality business.

But then, of course, I'll be out of a job...
 
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