Venice – more than just local extentions

by Peter Young on April 30, 2012 · 2 comments

As part of our day to day campaign management at Mediacom, myself and my colleague Ryan McKay have recently been looking into the wider effect of the recent Venice update on the search rankings – as well as other updates such as Penguin/Panda etc. To many it would seem the effects of the recent update have been lost to many, certainly some recent on the subject suggests many seem to associate this to merely the greater integration of localised results into the Google search results – in fact a presentation from SMX suggested that it was merely Google changing ‘the rules for how places-results are displayed in websearch’. For those more familar with Venice, it is certainly more pronounced than this, and effects the resultset in a much more significant way.

Now certainly, the resultset would appear to be far more impacted by local results if some recent Sistrix data is to be believed. From the study run on German result sets, the percentage of hybrid search results (the local + traditional organic results) had increased from 1.0% to 3.5% of serps sampled. This represents quite a significant number of queries overall if one considers the volume of queries run by Google during any one day.

The announcement of Venice was announced by Google back in February 2012 (27th) amongst a raft of other changes including ‘iotfreshweb’/Freshness, Link Evaluation and new variants of the Panda update. The notification itself sat around 20 or so in the list of changes

However the impact of Venice has been quite pronounced if one starts to look at individual resultsets. If we take for example a branded term such as ‘Co-Op Travel’:

In Blackpool (which is where my address relates to (actually its around 40 miles to the East but anyhow)), we see the resultset below. In particular the following are of particular interest.
- The Cooptravel.co.uk includes a fourpack sitelink result
- The second co-operative result includes a refernece to a Blackpool airport result.
- Positions 5,6,7 are all localised
- It includes a three pack local result just after result 4.

Now we perform the same query in London. A significant change is now visible:
- The sitelinks are now 6 results deep.
- The local listings have now disappeared
- The localised resultset for the airport result on result 2 is now replaced by a generic result.
- The localised results have now been replaced with many of the results we saw down at positions 6 – 8 in the Blackpool result.

The scario was often consistent through a number of other serps we analysed namely that:
- Many non-London results saw significant breakthrough of localised results particularly at page level
- Local packs were more visible and did appear on a greater number of searches
- Positions 4-8 were impacted significantly by personalisation and localisation issues. My personal perspective is that the local results were a bigger factor here on many searches.

With many updates taking place at the moment, the first assumption to jump to can often be to blame the latest Google update. This shouldn’t however be the first port of call. I was looking at a result this morning to do with eyecare and noticed the London result had disappeared for a site which had previously dominated that SERP, however localised results remained unaffected – however did highlight a number of significant local differences many of which shared traits with those above.

What these changes do suggest is a more overarching strategy is a must if the nature of your product is in anyway localised – much as it would be if you were advertising in traditional press. The days of a one size fits all strategy are limited, and as SEO’s we will need to consider the impact of our strategies at a more granular level – one where local is an increasing part of the overall strategy.

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