Between 30 November and 8 December Google was busy rolling out the largest local algorithm update since the Possum update in 2016. That means the update will affect the local map pack at the top of a search result page and not the organic rankings below them. As many of you know the three biggest ranking factors in local search are proximity, relevance and authority. The Vicinity update focussed mainly on proximity, but many SEO experts are also seeing a devaluation of spam keyword GBP (formerly GMB) ranking listings. Many of you have seen listings that stuffed service area keywords into their listing title, and many SEO Agencies have devoted countless hours to firefighting spam listings by reporting them to Google.
What does the Vicinity Update mean for your business?
It is too soon to know for certain, but we may be about to see the end of spam GBP listings, while at the same time it may now be essential to actually be located near the searcher to rank high in the local pack. In the past, Google relied on users to report a spam listing and this proved extremely time-consuming and counterproductive as Google allowed the listing owners to revert their listing back to spam keywords. Fingers crossed we can all move on from that now. Proximity shifts will benefit firms who have a physical presence nearest the searcher, whereas formerly it was easier for firms on the outskirts of a city or town or with very high Authority or large amounts of positive reviews to rank higher in the local pack.
It is too soon to cheer or panic
This update and any fixes required (and they inevitably are required) will need a few weeks to settle in. It is way too early to panic or cheer at this stage. By the time we all return from the holiday break, we should have enough real-world data and experience to be able to make a practical recommendation as to how big this really was. From my own personal experience, I have seen that some queries no longer produce a local map pack but merely generate organic results. But I must stress that it is too early yet to make any moves one way or another.