Ever since Google rolled out its Pigeon algorithm for local search last year, local businesses have scrambled to keep up with ever-evolving search criteria to claim those coveted top spots on mobile.
Pigeon was a game changer for local search, as the update altered local results and changed the way that the search engine interpreted location tools. Pigeon also changed search results within Google Maps, which can be either a bust or boon to local businesses, since maps results show up first in Google mobile searches. With so many changes, and so little space on a mobile screen, local businesses must be more focused than ever on optimizing for local search. Here are some top tips to optimize mobile for best results with Pigeon.
Making sure websites are mobile responsive and getting that all-important “Mobile-Friendly” tag from Google is one of the most important things local businesses can do to optimize for mobile. “Mobile is really the next everything as far as it comes to local search,” says Tyler Ludwig, product manager for Rio SEO.
Google and other search engines like mobile responsive websites because they only have to crawl one page for business info versus two or three, according to Ludwig. However, businesses with dedicated mobile sites aren’t necessarily penalized as long as dedicated mobile points back to a mobile responsive page.
“What we’ve seen is that [dedicated mobile and mobile responsive] are both fine as long as there is a mobile responsive version so the canonical tags from an SEO perspective point back to the desktop version and give Google a clear path from mobile page to the main desktop page that has all the same relevant content,” Ludwig says.
Businesses need to set up 404 pages and test often to make sure links are showing up on both mobile and desktop. Otherwise they may be guiding their target audience into dead space. “Every website should have analytics on it and set up specific 404 pages,” Ludwig says. “That’s a great way to see from a Google analytics perspective how many 404s are being delivered and where the referral path from those 404s leads are coming from.”
Schema markup is a great and easy way for businesses to make sure that search engines pick up relevant information for maps and other geo-location search queries. “Schema’s one of the directions that everyone is kind of leaning right now because it makes it easier for the search engines and for you to have a little more control over what’s displayed,” says Rachel Gordon Lindteigen, senior director of SEO at PM Digital. “Schema is a great thing to add because it allows businesses to very easily mark up the information on websites to location information, hours of operation, and reviews.”
Businesses can no longer ignore their presence on online directories like Foursquare and Yelp. Absence from popular directories could be rendering them invisible to local search. “In many instances, online directories are actually outranking local websites,” Lindteigen says. “Local businesses can’t just focus on their own websites like they’re one and done or else they’re going to miss out in rankings. If local businesses ignore attention to Google Places or Yelp they’re very likely not going to show up in search or the information that shows up might be outdated.”
While no one can be certain which exact signals Pigeon picks up, businesses with reviews show up on mobile and map searches more often than businesses with no reviews. “It’s pretty obvious that reviews do factor into Google search results because reviewed businesses show up in map listings with star ratings,” Lindteigen says. “If businesses actively seek online feedback and have good reviews on Yelp and Google Places, that information is going to show up at the top of a mobile search.”
Perhaps the most important advice for staying relevant in the age of Pigeon is to pay attention and make sure websites, directory information, and social media profiles are current and accurate.
“What I see more than anything is that businesses let their online presence become inactive,” Lindteigen says. “They’re not filling in all the information or taking the time to really optimize sites. A lot of local sites have no title tags, no meta descriptions, no header tags. They’re not helping Google understand what the website’s about. If local businesses do basic optimization on sites they will see improvement in their rankings.”
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