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“Hawk” Swoops Down: How Googles New Local Search Algorithm Changed and So Shall We


Talk the Hawk
Columnist Joy Hawkins (2017) recently posted an article introducing the most recent Google algorithm update, which she dubbed ‘Hawk’. The coinage illustrates how the shift swooped down and caught many unprepared—particularly the community of local business website owners. Articles describe Hawk as a game changer for local business industry. So what is the real mechanics behind the term?

The latest Google search algorithm modification only concerns the local searches, definitely leaving the organic non-local search untouched. Hawk characterizes “a change to the way filter works,” says Hawkins.

Hawk appears to be the third-gen of the filtration process Google algorithm birthed. Through Hawk, the size of the geographic area to be filtered is minimized to a great extent. Google only now targets stripping off businesses located in the same building, sparing those who are just close by (unlike Pigeon and Possum did). This way, the competition among businesses becomes fair by having equal chances of attracting potential customers, as opposed to a few businesses being displayed. The main determining criteria now for your website to appear prominent are higher organic ranking and greater relevance to the keyword.

For a long time, Google has been enforcing filters in their algorithm to make sure a singular business website does not dominate and monopolize search results through multiple listings. That is the theoretical and rather benevolent side of the objective. But it turned out that business competitors geographically close to each other knocked one another off the search results, privileging those in the fringes and leaving those in the cities a few slots to vie for. The intention to give customers a great user experience therefore, compromised the equal chance for local businesses to be bannered online. To understand more fully the transitions and changes, let us back track a bit.

From Pigeon to Possum to Hawk
Before Possum, it was Pigeon. This update released on 2014 granted searchers to put neighborhood addresses, which highly favored businesses that used specific neighborhood identifiers. It proved local landing pages very useful. Furthermore, Pigeon made local search even more socially engaging by favoring results from review sites such as Yelp.

Before Hawk, it was Possum. On September 2016, Google unleashed Possum Algorithm Updates to filter out business listings that shared identical phone number and websites, and those that have close geographic locations. It was the first attempt to counter duplicate listings and content. As a result, businesses within the same industry located in a particular vicinity were filtered out of local search results because Google virtually count them as duplicates. Hotels and restaurants and other businesses offering similar services suffered most.

Hawk the Talk
“That is the paradox of the epidemic: that in order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.”

― Malcolm Gladwell

If you own a local business, Local SEO should be most relevant to you. Unlike the traditional mediums of advertisements, Local SEO proves to be more efficient and cost-effective when it comes to getting through potential customers. People are more online today than the previous years. In light of these changes in the Google local search algorithm, i.e., the advent of Hawk, small movements have to be created to improve or even peak your local rank:

  1. Google Business Listing Check – Make sure all your business information indicated in there are updated and accurate. Google bases on the listing to figure out a good deal of what it knows about your business. When you search for your business name, this is one of the first things that show up. So you better check it now.
  2. Get Positive Reviews – A staggering 88% of local consumers trust online business reviews, says researches. Google puts a high premium on websites that get good reviews so they can precisely meet the needs of the searchers. The power of word-of-mouth can never be underestimated. Personal testimonies are no less than a potent evidence other people can use as a basis for reality and reliability. Encourage your clients to review your site on Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, and anywhere else possible.
  3. Go for Technical SEO – Ensure all the pages have appropriate length of SEO titles and meta descriptions. Consider creating geo-specific keywords if possible and make sure they load quickly without any broken links or images. There are other strategies too known to SEO specialists that will work for local websites.
  4. Gain fresh knowledge – Time and again, Google keeps doing algorithm updates. No one knows when and how exactly they do it. They have always been loath to issue official statements and information about this. Nevertheless, what we can do is to remain vigilant and alert. We need to keep learning even when the lessons seem unobvious.

These local SEO tips are perpetually relevant no matter what future updates may bring (except the world of SEO undergoes a paradigm shift!). But above all, we have to remember this: Hawk remains transient. It could fly away anytime soon, or not. So, keep watch.

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