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Google Places: February Update Dubbed “Venice” Radically Improves Search and Local Results

Published on March 15, 2012 · Filed Under Uncategorized 

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(Long Island, N.Y.) Google works hard to retain its own #1 position, forever trying to return more relevant links. Historically, the Internet was built as a source of information, and content is still king across the board. However, e-Business has made the Internet more marketing-oriented, and this can be seen in Google’s latest innovations, which can offer a great opportunity or huge peril to online marketers.

“This month we have many improvements to celebrate. With 40 changes reported, that marks a new record for our monthly series on search quality. Most of the updates rolled out earlier this month, and a handful are actually rolling out today and tomorrow. We continue to improve many of our systems, including related searches, sitelinks, autocomplete, UI elements, indexing, synonyms, SafeSearch and more. Each individual change is subtle and important, and over time they add up to a radically improved search engine. 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.”

Google Places / Google Local

Google Local offers businesses the opportunity to register their location to permit localized search. Many brick-and-mortar businesses have found that signing up with Google Local has increased their customer base. But what about online merchants–should online only merchants sign up with Google Local? A lot depends on your location as well as your niche. You could be missing the boat if your “about” or “contact” information consists solely of an anonymous email link. By optimizing one page of your site as “local” you could significantly boost your site’s search ranking in your geographic area with Google Local.

On the other hand, if your a national company you may not want a single address on your site, but all addresses with seperate Places listings. Do you have physical structures in all of those locations?  Places provides for multiple locations.  If not, Places is getting increasingly tougher for companies to maintain separate pages unless they have different physical addresses.  A physical location will not only help with Google Places, but other directories and customer review sites as well. Submitting to Google Places can do wonders for lead generation from local hits to your web site, but the customer support is still evolving and there have been many instances of listing with errors being difficult to fix, so take your time submitting and validating your listing. You’ll also  want to follow the rules to keep that listing.

The Google Places Rejection Meister

“Google Places Enforcement Plan”by Margaret Shulock is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at

Searching? Google Knows Where You Are

SEO experts have noticed that Google is showing the top 5 or 6 localized results on page one (no matter how many national/international companies are in the mix) for certain terms–with NO OPTION to opt out of the local results. Even if you’re not logged in, and have cookies turned off, Google can use your IP address to detect your location and return locally relevant results. This could be a huge boost to small business, especially if you’re outside a major metropolitan area. However, in areas where there is a lot of local competition, it may be more difficult to set yourself apart. On March 1st, 2012 Google released some interesting updates to their privacy policy regarding the information they use about searchers of their service.

Personalized Search

Another fast-changing innovation is Google’s personalized search, which garnered mixed reviews in testing. Do searchers want Google to “supplement” their keyword searches with marketing-oriented data culled from spying on email content and surfing habits? Most of the testers found the service somewhat cute, but appreciated having the option to turn it off. The success of this development from Google’s standpoint may rest on searcher behavior–perhaps they would be better off developing an option for searchers to select from “social”, “product/service”, “information” or “any” link categories. It may be helpful for you to learn more about your customer demographics–if they are “social” searchers who will most likely use Personalized Search, finding a way to boost your social media strategy could offer you significant benefits.

Google Penalties

As Google tweaks its algorithms to improve search results, it may impose penalties on sites for techniques it considers “manipulative“. What can you do if your site is penalized? The first thing you need to do is analyze the situation. While innocent webmasters sometimes incur penalties, the majority of penalized sites are in the situation for one of two reasons:

  1. they tried to deliberately manipulate the system (black hat techniques) or
  2. somebody made a mistake.

Either way, the best thing for you to do is identify the problem, correct the problem and then request a reconsideration.

What Googlebot Can’t Do

The one thing the Googlebot can’t do is click the “buy” button for you but it can sure send you the traffic you need to get it clicked. While SEO is important, (and SEO for Google may be a top priority) the bottom line is determined by the human visitor. Develop unique, quality content for human visitors and make it easy for Google to send them your way.

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