**Updated 7/25/14 at 10:00AM

Earlier yesterday I started to see results for a keyword I search regularly, “Denver SEO”. Typically this result only displays organic results and I haven’t seen a local result for this since September 2013 when Mike Blumenthal called out spammy queries after a major local update. Google was quick to tackle these spammy queries, and it’s almost been a year  now since we have seen bad results like these. However now it appears we may be seeing 2009 results all over again with the newest Google update to the local algorithm. Let me explain.

Last night there was a major Google change to the local algorithm. As I was browsing Search Engine Land I saw the article “Google Updates Local Search Algorithm With Stronger Ties To Web Search Signals” by Barry Schwartz and I knew I was about to see some major local changes. According to the article this update made local rankings “tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals” (Search Engine Land). Since I’m heavily involved in search I started to take a deeper dive. Some of the major initial intel indicated that Realtors and DUI Lawyers disappeared from the local pack altogether and more listings outside of the cities were ranking. Here is a quick preliminary analysis of what I have seen since this update went live.

I had a chance to take some time to look at a large sample size and I am happy to say that a lot of players that don’t participate in spammy activity did win big. However, the same seems to be true for people who have participated in very shady tactics as well.

Since I work a lot in the Personal Injury field I commonly search Personal Injury keywords throughout the country. One that I keep close tabs on is “Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney”. After the update today I saw a lot of changes here. Below I have outlined some of the metrics and my analysis of what I have seen since this update.

URL Page Authority Domain Authority MozRank External Links
www.fararlawgroup.com 53 43.55 5.69 1,561
www.girardikeese.com 50.35 40.46 4.85 2,420
www.avvo.com 86.75 83.77 6.55 18,028
www.lawyers.com 89.13 86.48 6.47 68,803
www.greylaw.com 45 34.08 5.1 64

Spammy Queries

A Position – Farar Law Group
Whitespark Detected Citations:
Quick Rundown: The Farar Law Group has been a strong organic player in the Southern California markets for the past six months or so. They never really had a local presence (especially in LA) until today. Their link profile historically shows a lot of manipulative link building although they appear to remove a lot of the links they have gotten (maybe for the residual organic benefit and to skate through un-noticed by Google). They don’t have a ton of detected citations, but it’s worth noting that their organic presence has been strong for many months now and still is today.

B Position – Labeled as: Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer (Actual Firm name is: Robert A Brenner or Brennerlaw.com)
Whitespark Detected Citations: 165
Quick Rundown: While doing a Google Search for their NAP, about 32 total results showed when quotes are used around the phone number
This law firm doesn’t even have their name listed although they show up in position B and E playing off of Avvo.com and Laywers.com as their website. I called there answering service and found that they are part of Brenner Law. Notice how their listings link to their Avvo and Lawyers.com pages. At first it seems like they don’t have a website but I found that they do. Then if you click on the listings you’re not even brought to their listings, but rather the landing pages for those cities on these powerhouse sites.

Is having this as their website giving them an additional organic boost? I haven’t tested it yet, but it’s interesting that two major sites would show up like this for a law firm. Also note how they are using the “service area” option and not displaying their address.

C Position: David N Bigelow
Whitespark Detected Citations: 90
Quick Rundown: This one is a bit perplexing. For years we have been talking about the importance of NAP consistency and how incorrect NAP is bad. This listing labeled as David N Bigelow (taken from the Google My Business Page) is actually part of the Giardi Keese Law Firm. In fact, if you Google their phone number the G+ page and branded pages (along with a bunch of citations) come up for Giardi | Keese. Giardi Keese is a legitimate and successful law firm that has had a lot of media mentions over the years. It’s interesting that the G+ page for one of their attorney’s is outranking their major brand. Especially considering it’s using the same phone number as their main established listing.

D Position: Grey Law
Whitespark Detected Citations: 148
Quick Rundown: Recently Grey Law is the only business showing in the local pack that has actually been around locally for some time. Although still rather new to the pack they have been competing here and fluctuating for months. I don’t have much to say about them as I haven’t had the time to look into it, but it’s interesting to me that they’re the only listing that kept in the local pack after this update for this keyword.


Now lets take a quick look at another example:

The Below Screenshot was Taken around 7/14/14

Below this search below is for “Personal Injury Attorney” that I did at a hotel in Anaheim just last week. Pay close attention to the results and city that all of the listings are from.




Below is a search for Personal Injury Attorney while in Anaheim on 7/24/14. 
Major Differences: Notice the cities. It’s not pulling listings from nearby cities as opposed to just listings within the cities of Anaheim. Additionally the local pack has changed from 7 results to 3 results.


 Major Changes Overall

  • Realtors appear to be gone from local listings
  • DUI Lawyers appear to be gone from local listings
  • Virtual Offices like Regus and PMB are still in the local pack
  • I am seeing more service area businesses that did not previously exist
  • The geographic area for some searches has greatly expanded. (Although in one case all of the ranking results were on the same street).
  • Listings linked to powerful domains seem to be gaining a benefit
  • I am seeing more listings with the modifier in their name being successful
  • Found one instance where an Individual G+ page is outranking the brand pages in the attorney space.

Initial Conclusion and Questions:

Across the board I am seeing major shifts across many industries. This is going to require a lot more analysis and some of the results I am reporting above have already changed slightly.

Based on this quick analysis there are several questions that come to mind for me.

  1. How important are citations now? Does there consistency still matter as much?
  2. Does using a domain with more authority give you a bigger jump now?
  3. How has the algorithm changed with this new update?

It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few days. What have you seen here? Please email me or comment below so we can learn more about this important update.



July 25, 2014 | Local SEO

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  • http://www.deepripples.com/bill-bean Bill Bean

    I depend on the people like you to dig in to this stuff, so thanks for sharing this Casey. I’ll be paying attention to your analysis. I have a client in the same space.

    Often Google seems to make some “corrections” after a big change like this. Will be interesting to see the landscape a week from now.

  • http://www.brandtastic1.com Frank Motola

    Heard about the Pigeon update but did not notice any problems with any of my clients local listings, then BAM one of my longest term clients that has been at the top or 2nd in local for Child Care Orlando dropped off the map. No changes to anything. We have a very deep site and good authority, the site has been around for 10 years or so. And in it’s place several Google Plus pages are showing up!!! Along with listings that had never been in the 7 pack at all. I am amazed. How and why would they ever shift things so dramatically? Some of the plus pages don’t even have any activity! I wouldn’t be surprised if they were not even claimed.

  • http://www.completewebresources.com Kyle Sanders

    Leveraging Avvo and Lawyers.com is pretty sneaky. I agree with Bill regarding upcoming corrections/recalcs to this update…there are many irrelevant domains popping up in local packs since this rolled out. Dallas custom home builders has a PO Box at A and a D Magazine–a freakin’ lifestyle publication–ranking B for that term : /