Google confirms local search ranking shakeup

Many local businesses have noticed fluctuations in their local search rankings over the last few weeks, with Google now confirming an important update to the local algorithm.

Rolling out between November 30th and December 8th, this update has been named ‘Vicinity’ by Sterling Sky. This is the largest change to the local algorithm since Possum in 2016 and has caused widespread ranking disruption.

Google’s guidance regarding this update is to continue following local SEO best practices, which are linked to in the tweet embedded above.

Keep in mind the weight of each ranking factor listed in Google’s help guide has been rebalanced.

The ranking factors for Google’s local search results are:

  • Relevance: how well a local Business Profile matches what someone is searching for.
  • Distance: how far each potential search result is from the location term used in a search.
  • Prominence: how well known a business is

Google never gives exact details regarding the weight of each ranking factor. So perhaps the best way to respond to this update is to rebalance your efforts.

For example, if you were focused more on optimizing for relevance by beefing up your Google Business Profile with information, maybe now is the time to focus more on the prominence of your business

November was an eventful month in SEO, with a number of Google algorithm shakeups.

However, it should be fairly easy to determine if you were impacted by the November 2021 local search update specifically.

A local search update would only impact the ranking of your Google Business Profile in the local pack.

If the ranking of your business profile is unchanged, then chances are good you haven’t been adversely impacted by this update.

Local Search Ranking Changes

Towards the end of the Vicinity rollout, significant changes to local search volatility were picked up by our Local RankFlux tool.

Local RankFlux tracks daily keyword ranking movement to measure fluctuations and identify suspected updates to Google’s algorithm, providing a score out of ten for each day.

During the period of the rollout, search volatility rose gradually to peak at 6.2.

As you can see from the data above, search volatility slowly returned to normal levels in the wake of the November 2021 local search update.

The huge ranking fluctuations were observed across a wide range of different industries within the local sphere.