I had been noticing some odd movements / patterns in local SEO keyword positions for a number of sites that had been holding strong. It appears Google has been playing with their local algorithm filters since the end of November 2013. A number of other SEO’s I frequently network with had commented on lack of authorship images within SERPS and local (authority) business directories such as YELP, YELL, FREEINDEX and even Gumtree have been taking positions on the first page for local keywords that were previously held by local companies.
As more information has become available, the head of search spam at Google, Matt Cutts, confirmed that Google has applied a 15% reduction in the amount of rich snippets displayed in the search results. Matt Cutts announced a couple months ago that this would happen, saying that the ability to have and use rich snippets may be taken away for low quality sites in the coming months. And this appears to have indeed happened. Cutts said this would likely reduce authorship by 15% to only show more authoritative authors. A bit of a game changer but nothing that can’t be worked around. See source.
To add another level of complexity Google’s Hummingbird update has significantly impacted local search results restoring local blended results not seen since 2010. This article from Moz delves into the matter and gives a thorough breakdown of how search engine results are impacted including some sound theory on how local businesses can capitalise on these recent changes.
Previously its was possible to break into local search results using a local tail keyword strategy. Whilst this is still possible these latest changes have certainly made it more challenging if you want to rank your business for a location + keyword that difference to your physical address. Increasingly local ranking factors, Barnacle SEO, citations, reviews and shares.
Asides from making ones brain hurt this is actually a good thing for local business owners on a tight budget. If you are marketing on a thin budget this will theoretically help you get results much faster than you otherwise would and opens the door for aggressive organic local SEO.