The Infamous Algorithm Change!
As with any update, I decided to do the hard work for you and add a dramatic song playing in the background:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swMzRlFvKMc Just have that playing, whilst you learn about the “great” new update that’s going to wreak havoc on your local searches!
Now, I did a post on how to optimize for Google+ Places earlier this year, it offered a few tips, not just on the Places side of things but on local search in general, it’s still highly (and in fact, even more so) relevant now.
So, what is Zebra?
Well, it’s been deemed the “Merchant Quality Update” – It basically affects searches with your companies reviews and “citations” (Citations are the way google see’s your virtual side to your physical side. e.g. an Address).
In effect, the better your reviews are and the better your location to the recipient searchers location, the more likely you are to be #1!
Search engine journal did an excellent piece on claiming and setting up your local citation profiles, I suggest if you haven’t – You go check it out - http://www.searchenginejournal.com/how-to-claim-set-up-local-profiles-from-google-to-yelp/
Google’s Matt Cutts even commented on the fiasco (which is where all hell broke loose) at SXSW in Austin earlier this year:
“We have a potential launch later this year, maybe a little bit sooner, looking at the quality of merchants and whether we can do a better job on that, because we don’t want low quality experience merchants to be ranking in the search results.”
As per usual, Google gives you nothing to really go on accept occasional updates to their webmaster guidelines, and even those tend to be rather sketchy! Recently, however we did see a local company that we work with hit 1st page after being stuck on Page 3 for almost 4 months – We’d been building a couple local citations each month and asking clients to leave reviews about their experience. The MozCast also had a HUGE spike yesterday, could Zebra off already happened? Who knows (except Google) – Especially after Google announced that they weren’t going to be actually telling you about any more rollouts. It seems we’re on our own instincts once again!
Back to trial and error we shall go.