How to Perfect Your Local SEO to Deal with Google’s Algorithm Updates

local SEO
local SEO

Google makes thousands of algorithm updates each year that affect how your local SEO is determined and, as a result, how your website is ranked. While a majority of these changes are small and will fly under the radar without any huge impact, some will require you to make drastic changes to your website and content.

As 2022 gets rolling, it’s becoming clearer how these changes are affecting small businesses Google rankings all across the country. To best take advantage of these updates, we at Business Warrior compiled the essential changes to advertising and SEO and outlined how you can improve your online presence to consistently rank higher on Google, despite these recent algorithm changes. 

How Did the Google Algorithm Change? 

Before we dive into the nitty gritty, it’s important to understand that Google is constantly changing and updating. What worked last year, might not be as successful this year as a result. These changes are because of their algorithm — the behind the scenes codes that rank your content and help your ads appear. 

In 2022, the algorithm saw significant changes to how Google will handle SEO. Below is a chart from First Page Sage that directly shows how the 2022 Google Algorithm factors key rankings and how each of those rankings changed in the past year: 

Let’s break all of this down. The “factor” column lists things that Google uses to rank your website, while the “weight” column shows you how much each of those factors affect your ranking. A higher weight means that factor will affect your ranking more. 

As you can see, Google decreased the importance of the following: 

  • Keywords in Meta Title Tags
  • Backlinks
  • Page Speed

And increased the following: 

  • Niche expertise
  • User engagement
  • Mobile-Friendly & Mobile-First Websites

What Do These Changes Mean? 

Simply put, while keywords and backlinks are still important, Google is placing a much stronger emphasis on user engagement, quality content and consistency as well.

How To Beat the Google Algorithm

If you want to beat the algorithm and rank higher, then you have to play Google’s game. We’ll go over all of the rules and strategies on how you can win below. 

Consistent Publications

Thankfully, the factor with the highest weight is one of the easiest to do and you can add most of the factors into it. Take our blog for example. We publish 4-6 times a month, all of them have internal links, niche expertise with high-quality information, and are keyword driven. That’s five factors down, in just a single blog post! 

However, blogging is a slow game. It can take anywhere from 3-6+ months for a single blog to rank on Google’s first or second page because organic SEO like this is slow by nature. There are things you can do to speed up the process, such as backlinking, but that is a strategy most small business owners do not have the time or budget for, which is totally fine! 

If you want to speed up the process, look at the other factors first. 

Keywords in Meta Title Tags

We’ve used the term “keyword” a few times now. A keyword or phrase is simply a common word/phrase people type into search engines. Let’s say you want your website to be on Google’s first page for the phrase “Med Spa Scottsdale.” That’s your main keyword, then! 

You likely won’t want to put such a powerful and general keyword like that in your blog, though. So instead, add it to your homepage’s meta title tags. What’s a meta title? It’s the clickable title you see when you search something on Google. 

To get the most out of this trick, you’re going to want to use one or two unique keywords in your meta title tags for every blog and webpage. Never double dip on keywords! You don’t want to create competition against yourself.

A backlink is simply when another website (not owned by you), links back to your website or your blog. They are a “vote of confidence” for whatever website you’re linking to. For example, that link we used earlier for First Page Sage is a backlink, which means we are confident enough to share that website with our readers. 

They do more than help share knowledge too. Having backlinks is also critical to proving your website’s credibility to Google’s algorithm. As part of the Link Spam Update that rolled out first in July, 2021, the weight of backlinks went down ever so slightly (16% → 15%). However, 15% is still significant, so the more backlinks you have, the more credible you are to Google, thus the higher you will rank. 

Niche Expertise

This one is simple. Google isn’t a huge fan of jack-of-all-trades websites. It likes specificity and niche expertise. So instead of trying to boost all of your services at once through local SEO, pick one or two and focus your local SEO efforts on them. You’ll find a ton of keywords around those services too, so don’t worry about limiting yourself. 

For example, say you want your local SEO efforts to focus on microblading. You can write blogs on all of the following keywords: 

  • What is microblading?
  • How long does microblading last? 
  • Can you remove microblading?
  • Who will benefit from microblading?
  • Recovery tips for microblading

And so on. 

User Engagement

User engagement more than doubled in importance this year, which is a huge jump for Google. Google judges engagements by how much the article is shared, linked back to, clicked on, clicked through, commented on, etc. Basically, any time someone engages with your website and blog, that’s a good thing for your search rank!

So how do you make an engaging website? Share your value. We don’t mean share what you do, we mean share what makes your business valuable to the customer. Are you locally-owned and family-operated? Do you offer discounts to veterans, teachers, students, or seniors? Are you partnered with local charities or do you sponsor local youth groups? Let your users know all of that! It will entice them to interact with your website more and, as an added bonus, increases their chances of buying from you. 

As part of the Link Spam Update, Google put much greater emphasis on this factor. All this means is that Google doesn’t want your website or your blog to be filled with links. Limit it to 2-3 internal links that point back to your website and blog, and 2-3 external links that point off your website. It also helps if a lot of sites link back to you, or you link to one site in particular a lot. Google’s algorithm will see that and say, “oh, that website must be important to this industry if Business A linked back to it 25 times.”

Mobile-Friendly & Mobile-First

In the age of mobile phones, this one isn’t a surprise to anyone. Basically, you want your website to load quickly and be user-friendly when on every mobile platform, including tablets. To succeed here, you should design a new mobile site that is simplified and easy to navigate. 

You can test your website speed here

Page Speed

Like with mobile sites, if your website doesn’t load quickly on Google, then it won’t rank that high. Although page speed lost some ground in 2022 because Google no longer gives extra weight to super-fast pages (<1 second load time), customers are still likely to click away from your website if it doesn’t load in under 3-5 seconds. Not only will you lose engagement, but you’ll lose page speed ranking and sales as well. 

Business Warrior also tests your page speed for free! Book a free call to see how fast your website is and how you can improve it. 

Site Security/SSL Certification 

Google now ranks websites based on how safe they are and how hackable they are. If you don’t have an SSL Certification on your site, that will affect your local SEO. An SSL certificate is usually free and can be obtained from your registrar quite easily.

Schema Markup/Structured Data

As part of the Page Experience Update, Google prefers modern sites and data. If you’ve ever seen search results that are longer and list out a site’s main pages; or highlight an important piece of data; or contain a 5-star ranking system or list of events, then you’re familiar with schema markup. It can look like this: 

Google favors pages that use schema markup because it makes those pages’ search results more useful to searchers. As a bonus, they also cause search results to stand out from the rest of the others on the page.

If you want to learn about schema markup best practices, we recommend checking out this Ahrefs blog. It walks you through exactly what to do to make the most of them!

Keywords in URLs, Headers, Meta Descriptions

Keywords don’t only belong in title tags. They should be placed in your URL, Headers, and meta descriptions in every essential webpage and every blog post. 

Including keywords in a page’s H1, H2, and H3 tags is a best practice that helps Google’s AI identify what your website and blog are about. Same with your meta description — the little snippet of text below a Google Search listing — and your URL. 

The Main Takeaways

You don’t have to stay on top of every single Google update but being aware of new features and shifting weights of factors gives essential context to what you’re seeing in your site’s performance data. Stay on top of it and ahead of the curve and you’ll beat the algorithm at its own game. 

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