Curiouser and Curiouser Search Results Yesterday.
Whilst scrambling to complete my final preparations for a client meeting at 10:00 am yesterday morning (what ever did happen to those days when I could get to my former company’s office in Oslo, Norway before 10:00 am?), I did a few test searches and saw some interesting results that would seem to be related to the Google Venice update. This is a follow up to my previous post Google’s Venice Update Rocks The Gondola.
Here are three examples closely connected with our own County of Surrey and our two closest neighbours – Hampshire and Berkshire.
With cookies and search history cleared, I changed my set location to Basingstoke (Hampshire). You can see where to do that in the screenshots below.
A search on the broad term “SEO” returned our “Hampshire” page in position five, only Wikipedia and three bigger agencies above us.
[By the way, I hate sites that have tonnes of “SEO landing pages”, one for every combination of service plus town and/or county. But we do have three at the moment. I can walk from our office in Surrey across the border into Hampshire and then into Berkshire and back to the office all in my lunch break so I’m not beating myself up too much for having a separate page optimised for Berkshire, Hampshire and our home town, Camberley, each of which has wholly unique content.]
Anyway, it’s our Hampshire page showing and that is a change from my previous post. I also tested the same search term with location set to Southampton (a bit further away) and found we did not rank on page one. In the previous post, it was only our Camberley page that was ranking on page 1 for “SEO” i.e. a small town with a population of about 30,000. Now it is pages optimised for County level searches that are ranking. The population of Hampshire is 2 million in very round figures and 1 million for each of Berkshire and Surrey, very roughly, so to rank on page 1 in those locations for very competitive terms is potentially very attractive because of the population numbers.
Might proximity and a clearly geo-targeted page be the dominant factors? There is little else to associate our business with Hampshire. We do have some minor associations with “Hampshire” but the most obvious factor is probably proximity.
This example is very similar to the first. Our Berkshire page ranked sixth for a search on “SEO” when the location was set to Maidenhead. However, when I set the location to Reading, also in Berkshire but a closer and bigger town, we didn’t rank on page one. Why? Other factors must be coming into play which I haven’t detected (yet).
This example is a bit more tricky.
At the date of my last post, we had a page at adjuice.co.uk/seo-camberley/ which I have since deleted. It was that page that was ranking fifth on a search for “SEO”. On deleting it, I set up a 301 redirect to the home page and submitted a URL exclusion request (which took effect) in Google Webmaster Tools.
In the comments of my last post, I stated that I expected to lose the ranking of that page. Obviously the page that was deleted could not rank but I expected no other page to rank either. That did turn out to be the case in the days shortly afterwards but, today, our home page is ranking sixth for “SEO” with location set to nearby Guildford.
So why is the home page now ranking 5th to nearby searchers when it wasn’t a few days ago? Is this due to testing by Google, fine tuning or the other changes I have made to our site in the last few days?
After I deleted our page adjuice.co.uk/seo-camberley/, I created an improved version of that page at a (similar but) new address adjuice.co.uk/camberley-seo/ .
This page has not yet appeared in Google’s search index. But could it still have been an influencing factor in our home page ranking in the “localised organic results” (a phrase coined by Nifty Marketing)? It will be interesting to see whether the new page at /camberley-seo/ will replace our home page at number five in a few days’ time in the “localised organic results” on a search for “SEO”!
What Implications Might The Venice Update Have?
In all three of the above examples, AdJuice has new page one rankings in the localised organic results for very competitive broad search terms like “SEO”.
The pages that have those rankings seem to be very relevant (closely related) to the searcher not only by virtue of the relevance between the search term and on page SEO factors but also by the physical proximity that appears to be suggested by the combination of the searcher’s location (as perceived by Google) and the locations attributed to the ranking page, whether that might be office location, on page optimisation or a mixture of both.
It does not seem necessary to have an office address or physical presence in the same Town or County as the searcher but it does seem to be necessary to be physically close. When we set our ‘searching location’ to be more than 30 or 40 miles from our office, we no longer appeared on page one.
The Venice update may therefore diminish the value of huge numbers of “service + town” landing pages where the searcher is not in close proximity to the physical presence suggested by the pages in question.
However, the use of SEO landing pages that are optimised for locations wthin close proximity of the searcher might just have become an even more effective tactic!
Is the gondola still rocking or will the waters calm this week?