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Understanding the Venice Update: Recent Changes in Google's Algorithm

As we wrote previously, Google has been busy making changes to their ranking formula – they publicly announced 17 changes in January and 40 in February.

The most significant for dentists & other local businesses is the Venice update which more aggressively localizes the organic results and further integrates local search data.

In Google’s words:

…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.

“Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.”

What that really means:  Based on the location of the searcher, they will see more localized results even if they don’t type in the town/city when doing a search.

Here are two examples of searches in Dallas, TX and Atlanta, GA: (Click to enlarge)


In the past, if a geographic modifier such as city name wasn’t included, Google would serve local results in the PPC (Ads – why these ads?) section and the Google Places/Maps section, but the organic section would result in strictly national search results. As you can see from the examples above, even the organic results are now localized.

The key to taking advantage of this change is to have your website properly optimized for local search.

This would include:

  • Having your location in the meta tags of your pages (title tag, H1 tag, image tags)
  • Using Schema to markup your address and business information
  • Building links with your location in the link titles (anchor text)
  • Submitting to local directories
  • Claim / optimize your Google Places listing and link it to your website
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