If you’re a local business owner that has SEO as part of your marketing strategy, you may have noticed some recent fluctuations in your business’s rankings on Google. At the end of 2021, Google confirmed that it rolled out a major update to their algorithm known as the ‘Vicinity’ update. The last Google update that made a significant change to their local algorithm was in 2016 with the ‘Possum’ algorithm update.
The local algorithm directly affects service area businesses – i.e. a local business that services a particular area versus a national business. If you have a Google Business Profile, then chances are you’ll be affected by this update.
What is the Vicinity update?
As the name implies, the Vicinity update is highly focused on proximity factor.
In your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) you’ve likely worked on targeting customers not only where your business’s physical address is located, but your broader service area as well. This allowed your service area business to rank outside of your service address, capturing leads from surrounding areas as well.
The Vicinity update now makes this harder. There are pros and cons to this. The con is obviously that it will make it harder to rank service area businesses outside of your primary business locations. The pro is that as a service area business owner, you’ll no longer be competing with companies that are located further away.
Google also appears to be clamping down on the use of stuffing business names with keywords in an attempt to rank in additional service areas. While name spam was always against Google’s guidelines, this shift will greatly help businesses that have focused on following the rules and growing their rankings through whitehat SEO processes.
A redesigned Google Local Pack
Google’s Local Pack (or map 3 pack) saw a redesign at around the same time as the rollout of Vicinity.
You’re likely used to a Local Pack design of a map, followed by 3 business listings. The redesigned Local Pack now has 3 businesses listed on the left with a square map on the right.
There haven’t been any noted changes to Google Maps, however, the Vicinity update has definitely affected which businesses are now ranking in various service areas.
The Vicinity update and local businesses
As a local business owner, you’re probably wondering how the Vicinity update will affect your local SEO rankings.
According to Google, if you’ve been following their guidelines, you may not see a negative impact and may actually see your search rankings improve. Google’s algorithm has always shown relevant search results based on distance, prominence, and relevance for the user. Follow Google’s guidelines and their advice by keeping your Google Business Profile up to date. Be sure to enter all the data for your business, verify your locations, keep your business address and business hours up to date, monitor and respond to customer reviews, and add posts with photos.
If you’ve seen a shift in your rankings let us know in the comments below. If you’re looking for help in recovering lost rankings contact us. We’d be more than happy to get your service area business back to ranking on local SERPs.