More threads by Marie Haynes

Marie Haynes

LocalU Faculty
Aug 7, 2012
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I have always maintained that the local ranking algorithm was not affected by organic algorithms like Panda and Penguin. I recall John Mueller saying in a hangout once that local and organic are two separate things and ranked independent of each other.

However, I had an interesting thing happen recently. A small business client came to me a couple of years ago with a manual action for unnatural links. His site ranked nowhere either local or organic. We cleaned up the link problem and waited for Penguin to refresh. In the meantime we worked on getting new links but nothing moved the needle.

He had a Google employee visit his workplace last year as part of an initiative that Google put on that offered these visits. The Google employee (whom you would all know) told him that his site was still suppressed by Penguin and that he should expect to see improvements when Penguin updated.

So we waited...and waited...and waited...and finally Penguin updated. And we saw underwhelming results at first. His main keywords jumped from page 3 to top of page 2 and a few jumped to the bottom of page 1. And he was still nowhere locally.

Then, suddenly this week he is top 3 organic for most of his keywords and he reappeared at #2 local.

I'm positive that this site saw a Penguin recovery but I'm trying to decide whether the release from Penguin allowed him to surface in the local results or whether something else happened.

I have had clients in the past that I felt were Penguin suppressed but were still able to rank locally.

Would love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for sharing that Marie!

My gut says (with no data to back it up) that both can be true.

1) A super strong business, with a long standing GMB page, lots of other signals could still rank even though organic penalized. So in this case they are separate.

2) For a long time organic ranking has HELPED boost pack rankings. For quite sometime the top organic typically ranking top of pack. That's been changing some, but I still think good organic is a large part of the local algo. (In this case they are related to some degree.)

So if your client didn't necessarily have a strong GMB listing he would not rank in local if penalized in organic. BUT once his site was no longer penalized and popped up on the organic radar, that boosted his pack ranking too.

Like I said, just gut feeling, based on the limited info without investigating.
Thanks Linda. I think it makes sense that if a strong organic presence helps support local, then suddenly jumping back to the first page organic could have a positive effect on local rankings as well.

So it's less likely that Penguin was keeping the client out of local and more likely that he got an added boost by being healthy organically again.
Thanks for sharing Marie!

Dan's recent data study had backlinks (and organic ranking in general) as the set of factors most correlated with good local ranking. There's many pieces of the puzzle, and Possum seems to have at least in some ways loosened the connection between organic and local (point 5 in this article for example) but it seems to me that organic is still a big deal, so your story doesn't surprise me at all.

It's really interesting too to hear the time frame of your client's recovery. After seeing small amounts of movement since September 23rd, I thought this new penguin was pretty underwhelming, but it looks like it's just taking it's time to do it's business, good to know.
A few days in to Penguin I was unimpressed, but I've seen a lot of beautiful recoveries in the last few weeks. My caseload is quite biased towards sites with strong Penguin problems though so I'm likely to see more than most.
In the past, people penalized by Penguin would still rank well in the map pack. It sounds like this was either a special case or the game has changed. It may have changed with Pigeon.

Did Pigeon come out before or after the last Penguin update (excluding the most recent Penguin update)?
Pigeon was July of 2014 and Penguin 3.0 was October 2014 so Pigeon came first.
I have seen increases since penguin on my local business. It was only from penguin since nothing else changed.
Pigeon was July of 2014 and Penguin 3.0 was October 2014 so Pigeon came first.

Pigeon may have changed the game then to where Penguin penalized sites are now penalized in local finder too. Not sure.

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