This article is part 1 of 9 from my LocalU presentation from March 2020. If you missed the event, the videos are available for purchase here.
The local filter has existed for a long time but became much more obvious after the Possum algorithm update in 2016. The local filter is kind of like the organic filter in the sense that it filters things it considers to be similar or duplicates. The local filter will filter out listings based on the following information:
- URL & business name. If you have multiple locations for the same business, Google will often show the one with the highest relevance and filter others. For example, this lawyer in Houston decided to open a new office in Katy, TX. Because his Houston office has so much prominence & relevance, it continues to rank in Katy for many terms and filter out his newer office (that has a lot less authority). In this example, you’ll see that Google is showing me his office that is 26 miles away instead of the one down the street.
- Address & Proximity. In this example, there are a bunch of personal injury lawyers using the same virtual office address. In this image, the ones in red are all filtered.
How can you Tell a Listing was Filtered?
In some cases, the filter causes listings to be completely removed from the Local Finder results unless you zoom in.
To see all the listings that got filtered, pull up the Local Finder for a given query and scroll on your mouse very slightly to zoom in on the map once. You should see a bunch of listings appear in the list that weren’t there before. It helps if you have the 2 windows side-by-side so you can compare the 2 views and see who appeared that wasn’t there before.
Part of how I was able to spot these changes in the SERPs was due to utilizing Bright Local’s ranking tracker and setting my reports to scan daily and take screenshots of the SERPs. Comparing the screenshots day-by-day allowed me to see and confirm that these listings rarely appeared together but would sometimes switch out.
In other cases, the filter causes the ranking of a listing to be suppressed but not completely removed. Essentially, if your listing is too similar (based on criteria above) to a listing that outranks you, it will cause your listing to rank much lower because Google is trying to “diversify” the search results. We see this all the time with lawyer listings. We had one case where a lawyer’s listing dropped from 1 to 6 due to being filtered by another attorney in his building (different floor) and then went back up to the first position later once his relevance got stronger. We have done testing on this and in one case saw a listing that was ranking 15+ move up to the number two position within hours after getting the listing removed that was causing it to be filtered.
How Does it Decide Who Avoids the Filter?
The listing that has the most ranking authority for that particular keyword is the one that will rank. For example, one attorney ranks for “personal injury attorney palmdale” but a different attorney ranks for “auto accident attorney palmdale” (both are using the same address). Because a listing is filtered for one keyword does not mean that it will be filtered for other keywords.
For more case studies showing the impact of the filter and tips to avoid it, please check out the extended guide on the local filter in our training.
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