Google may have rolled out a local search ranking update around 7 September.
Local SEOs in the local search forum are reporting ranking drops for Service Area Activities (SAB) on mobile, with some Google SAB business profiles suddenly not visible on the desktop. These drops in the rankings were only seen in the Local Pack results and not in the organic rankings.
These changes in the rankings appear to have started to occur around September 7, suggesting a change in the local algorithm focused on SABs, on or around that date.
Sterling Sky’s Joy Hawkins said:
“I’ve been hearing a few cases like this lately and I’m starting to wonder if it’s related to algorithm updates.”
However, it is currently unable to provide specific advice. As you will see below, the entire local SEO community is currently trying to figure this out.
Above, Joy refers to Google’s Helful Content Update (which started on August 25 and took two weeks to launch) and September’s Broad Core Algorithm update, which started two days ago.
It is possible that the fluctuations the community is seeing in the SAB rankings are related to these updates, but there is always the potential for a local-only algorithm update. The last local algorithm update that Google recognized was the Vicinity Update at the end of 2021, so we definitely have another one.
The return of the Kansas bug?
These ranking changes are also said to be the result of a reappearance of the “Kansas bug”, which “essentially removes backend information about your location and moves your business to the middle of Kansas.”
For example, local SEO expert Amy Toman spotted his Texas-based service area businesses appearing in Kansas.
Seeing it also in the United States. The following are seen in Fawn Creek Township, KS; are SAB based in Texas, Arizona and Maryland. @GoogleMyBiz please take note. https://t.co/bVleRA2Thy pic.twitter.com/Qj9rZLgqOK
– Amy Toman 🏖😎 (@BubblesUp) September 13, 2022
What do local SEOs need to know now?
At the moment, local SEO experts are studying what happened and how to fix the visibility and ranking changes.
The advice in the local search forum is to contact Google support if your business in the service area is affected by the Kansas bug.
The situation is constantly changing. For example, user Julie-b (as mentioned in the local search forum thread) is now finding a solution to the problem:
“Without doing anything today [my] the company profile has returned to 2nd place in the local package !! “
This rapid reversal of fortunes suggests that a bug may be at play.
Is it an algorithm update?
Barry Schwartz, of Search Engine Roundtable and Search Engine Land, is pointing out the changes as a possible local algorithm update, because they occurred around the same time as the Google useful content update and the Broad algorithm update. Core of September.
Meanwhile, in Tim Kahlert’s Facebook Local SEO Strategies group, Kyle Sabraw said:
“I have heard some complaints over the past week that some GBP SABs have been completely hidden [in] maps, including for brand searches. I’m 99% sure this is related to the launch of the new algorithm update, so do a quick brand search and see if your GBP is showing up in the maps. “
However, Joy Hawkins has noticed more changes with her own GBP for Sterling Sky. That company profile now shows the option for a user to find “Addresses” for the business, despite being a SAB.
Viewing directions icons on Google Maps for service area businesses (SABs) that shouldn’t have them and aren’t working. Perhaps this is related to all the crazy fluctuations we are seeing for the SABs. Something broke … pic.twitter.com/iJq66XGTV4
– Joy Hawkins (@JoyanneHawkins) September 14, 2022
Other than that, and the possible re-emergence of the Kansas bug, it’s hard to tell if there was the cause of:
a) an update of the individual local algorithm
b) the impact of the useful content update or the September Broad Core algorithm update (or both!)
c) a series of bugs
d) something else completely
Either way, someone at Google maintains local SEOs Very busy this week.
We will of course keep an eye on these changes and update you when something more concrete is established.
Are you working with a SAB that has encountered bugs or drops in GBP in the rankings? Let us know in the comments below!