Several weeks after it rolled out, the Panda Update’s effects have become known. Whenever such a change occurs, it is easy to focus on negative aspects, such as eHow’s tumble in the rankings or declines for retailers who depend on manufacturers’ product descriptions. But Panda isn’t all sharp claws and teeth: it appears that local businesses are seeing the cuter, cuddlier side of the algorithm change.
Boosting local search wasn’t a goal, at least directly stated, of the Panda Update, which was designed to target low-quality or spam-heavy websites. But unintended benefits are just as good as those that were planned. According to CNET, large and small local businesses have seen a boost in their SERP positions. Yelp, a location-based service, for instance, saw itself on the first page 45 more times for search terms including “chocolate,” “cleaning,” “food,” and “weddings."
Moms and pops have also experienced an increase in visibility. Declan McCullagh, CNET’s chief political correspondent, says, “For our US tests, we used an Internet address near Palo Alto, Calif., which promoted Google to rank nearby businesses and municipal Web sites near the top of search results. The City of Palo Alto’s Web site appears in the first page of search results for terms including ‘adventures,’ ‘art,’ ‘business,’ ‘gas,’ and ‘jobs.’” Other sites, like PaloAltoOnline.com, Stanford, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and Mike’s Bikes have seen similar hikes.
This is good news for professionals in industries ranging from real estate and service contracting to mortgage brokers and marketers. Local search has been an emphasis, especially with the development of mobile search. Businesses can make the most of it by using tools like Google Places, HotPot, Yahoo Local, and even sites like Facebook to gain maximum visibility for their sites.