Google algorithm update to affect local search results

Fresh off the heels of its exact match domain update and the hugely important Panda 20 update, Google has announced yet another update to how its search engine operates. It's imperative for local SEO specialists to take note of these changes because any Google update is sure to affect a strategy.

This time, Google reached back to the page layout filter that was first announced in January and made an update to what is commonly known as "Top Heavy." Google head spam-fighter Matt Cutts said: "Minor weather report: Update of //goo.gl/OpIDL launching today. ~0.7% of English queries noticeably affected," in a Twitter post.

The URL Cutts references is the initial announcement of the page layout filter, which affects 1 percent of English queries. The update and refresh are both designed to weed out high-ranking sites that do not have solid above-the-fold content. Meaning that if the first thing a user saw when he or she clicked on a site was a hoard of ads or lacking content, neither the user nor Google would be happy - hence calling the update "Top Heavy."

Placing content so low that it forces users to scroll down to see the reason they clicked the link is exactly what the update seeks to punish. So it's important to keep content above the fold or risk getting penalized by the update, and sites can usually only recover once Google releases another update. Given the time frame Google provided, nine months is a long time in SEO. In order to comply with Google, local SEO specialists can't afford to give predominance to ads and other non-essential content. A site will have to look organic, well-kept and highlight that local quality above the fold if it wants to be ranked highly.

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