The Bedlam Update [November 5-10, 2019]: What You Need To Know
If you work in Local Search, you probably noticed that there has been lot going on in the last week. The thread about this update at the Local Search Forum is currently our top trending discussion. I’ve been spending hours digging into ranking reports, comparing SERP changes and looking for patterns across tons of different industries and geographic areas.
I was sick of naming algorithm updates after animals that start with the letter P so I felt the need to use something different. Google defines bedlam as “a scene of uproar and confusion” which I think is a good description of what I’ve been witnessing over the last week. Here is the timeline of what’s transpired thusfar.
November 5, 2019
We started seeing huge changes in the local results (map packs) on this date. Every client I checked had shifted and most of them were major.
November 7-8, 2019
Closer to the end of the week, we started seeing ranking shifts on the organic side. Some of these were spikes in the opposite direction of the Maps ranking.
November 10, 2019
After days of panicking, many Local SEOs were able to relax when a lot of the insane changes from the 5th were corrected. We saw tons of SERPs go back to looking a lot more like they originally had. These ranking charts from Places Scout really help illustrate how much the update on August 5 impacted some businesses.
Not all changes were reversed. Lots of businesses still have major changes when compared to how things looked on November 4th. Also, not all changes were a decrease in coverage across several zip codes. We saw lots of clients who had the opposite pattern. For example, this lawyer started ranking for a term across several zip codes that he didn’t rank for at all previously. With the continued update on November 10th, his ranking increased even more.
One-Boxes Are Broken
I was very happy to observe several cases (all attorneys) where previously there was one business occupying the only spot in the local results and this update has resulted in it changing to a 3-pack.
More Spam Has Surfaced
I notice this every time there is a major shift in local rankings. You’ll start seeing spam that wasn’t showing before. If you work in an industry that has a lot of spam, I would almost expect this to happen.
New Listings Have Been Filtered
I am hearing a lot of stories over at the Local Search Forum about listings vanishing. If this is the case, it’s a strong possibility that your listing is filtered. Listings that are near the same location of another business or share a website/phone number can have their ranking suppressed or missing altogether from the local results.
There are a lot of other patterns we have observed but I am waiting to study more cases before publishing additional findings. I’m also not sure if the patterns present currently will stick around long-term. Although local rankings appear to have stabilized, we never know what the future might hold.
This Post Has 47 Comments
Thanks for digging in and providing this synopsis Joy – I don’t know how you find the time 🙂
It’s hard to imagine how Google can think that this sort of chaos is alright, except when you consider that this unpredictability may drive businesses to increase their spending on Google PPC ads.
I suspect this is the goal. Our first thought was that we’d have to turn to google ads to expand our reach.
My physical therapy business Exchange Physical Therapy Group in was effected in two locations. My Jersey City location, which I have had since 2012 went from #1 to #25 this week and my Hoboken location went from #7 to #20 (this is a new location opened this September). We have 500 5 star reviews and post updates all the time. The most frustrating part is that there are many locations that have 0 pictures and 0 stars showing up before my business. This has happened 3 years ago after the Possium update and we disappeared for 6 months!! We ended up getting back online by toggling the location pin and we even stuffed the keyword Jersey City at the end of our name. Then google had us send pictures of the outside of the building and we immediately came back online. I have not touched the Jersey City location because I do not want to mess with it as it was performing perfectly for 2.5 years but I updated my Hoboken name (taking the Group off and adding Hoboken) and toggled the pin but still nothing. This seems so unfair. If you google “physical therapy Jersey City” or “physical therapy Hoboken” you will see us at the bottom of the 2nd page. Its odd it happened to both my locations (i have a 3rd in Weehawken NJ but there is no competition so we come up 1st always with keyword “Physical Therapy Weehawken” but come up very low with the word “physical therapy” even when I am down the street so I suspect it is actually affecting all 3 locations. My website is working fine, but this is the only thing that ties all 3 locations together. If anyone has any thoughts please let me know, 80% of my business comes from google and I work so hard on this.
I wonder if the issue is your landing page optimization. For instance, your Page Title and H1 seems less optimized for local search than your competitors. Just a guess.
I think you are right Arul. Thank you because your comment was so helpful.
The only page that was even optimized at all was the home page and it wasn’t great. When google made the update it must have seen my page as less relevant. I noticed the other pages within the website besides the home page were not optimized at all, the locations, the team or even the contact page. My website company did a horrible job, I noticed even the slug was wrong in each location but somehow it still directed to the correct page. We just updated this now so fingers crossed.
It’d be great to hear back from you if that helps.
I’m looking forward to some further analysis here – still seeing some results that just don’t make any sense. Appreciate the insights Joy.
This post brought to you by Local Falcon 😉
Haha actually the screenshots were all from Places Scout.
? Sorry Places Scout!
This is Bedlam indeed. Everytime you work hard to get your site ranked for various keywords, in various areas, Google kicks us in the teeth again with massive overhauls that make all your hard work go down the drain in minutes. It’s sad.
Yeah, but just think…Job security.
You have just focused on Google Maps results. What about the other search results?
I am running a local website with the guides, procedures for the people in Saudi Arabia. Still, my website traffic is 50% down. I would appreciate it if you could put more light on this/.
If you are still seeing that much of a drop in 2 weeks from now, I’d suggest conducting a thorough audit to see what’s going on. All the cases I’ve been studying are looking at the local ranking drops. Marie Haynes normally covers organic algo updates more in her newsletter.
Thanks for keeping us informed. I saw drops in the maps rankings for some clients whereas their rankings for the same search terms stayed the same or improved marginally.
Thanks for this article..I saw huge flactuation in my ranking..
Not sure why you guys call it an update when it acts like a virus what is the logic in showing places with weaker seo in the maps and punishing places that worked years to get rankings how can you explain a drop from 2 to 30 makes zero sense
We are seeing the worst ranking declines are on the websites with the slowest mobile page loads. There’s a new report in Search Console that tracks page load times, so we suspect the slow page load penalties are about to get worse, if this recent fluctuation isn’t related.
My physical therapy business Exchange Physical Therapy Group in was effected in two locations. My Jersey City location, which I have had since 2012 went from #1 to #25 this week and my Hoboken location went from #7 to #20 (this is a new location opened this September). We have 500 5 star reviews and post updates all the time. The most frustrating part is that there are many locations that have 0 pictures and 0 stars showing up before my business. This has happened 3 years ago after the Possium update and we disappeared for 6 months!! We ended up getting back online by toggling the location pin and we even stuffed the keyword Jersey City at the end of our name. Then google had us send pictures of the outside of the building and we immediatly came back online. I have not touched the Jersey City location because I do not want to mess with it as it was performing perfectly for 2.5 years but I updated my Hoboken name (taking the Group off and adding Hoboken) and toggled the pin but still nothing. This seems so unfair. If you google “physical therapy Jersey City” or “physical therapy Hoboken” you will see us at the bottom of the 2nd page. Please someone help!
I wouldn’t suggest doing anything yet. We’re still seeing a lot of changes even as of today. Your situation *might* correct itself. If everything still looks the same in 1-2 weeks, I’d suggest posting over at the Local Search Forum to get some advice.
Ok thanks Joy! You helped me out with this 3 years ago. I am so frustrated because its all 3 of my locations. I am praying it corrects itself because I am having major anxiety, the phone hasn’t really been ringing this week and 80% of my business comes from Google. I am responsible for the lives 30 people and their families and last time this happened we fell off for 6 months and business decreased 50%.
I am very to read your article. I was worried why traffic is down. I think many people do not know it and i will tell to people. As always your article is great and I hope your coming articles will be very informative.
Bedlam sounds a new update to me. I used to read search engine journal updates on Google Algorithm. Your article struck me to reach here. Interesting update and thanks for sharing unique information. 🙂
I have seen that keywords were gone because of Google my business bug. Due to GMB bug, most of the local business rankings are gone but some came back. Even, I raised this issue to JohnMu on Twitter here https://twitter.com/mukabanna/status/1194869822481412096 and then got confirmation from several industry experts. So, I believe that because of this you were seeing big fluctuation in map ranking.
Those 2 things were unrelated. Although listings did disappear for a few hours from the Google My Business dashboard, they didn’t disappear from the search results.
They disappear from the search engine as well. We did check at the same time and we didn’t find the map ranking on that day.
I have stated this thing in my twitter comment as well.
I have noticed many GMB’s possessing positions in pack 3 which are long-tail Business names (no matter if they are keywords or brand name). They are dominating well established which have tons of reviews.
Question about the filtering. Throughout this update, we have seen our listing drop significantly, and, a few times, disappear. Right now, we are about 11 spots lower than we were before. I have never heard of filtering causing a ranking *drop* instead of disappearing altogether. Do you think, after ranking well for several years, we would suddenly be filtered, and that would cause a rank drop, rather than disappearing altogether from search?
The most recent filter case I worked on did this. Once we got the duplicate removed, the listing shot up about 10 positions. It wasn’t actually missing originally, it just was ranking really low.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts – this is the first Google update where I disagree strongly with the way things seem to be filtering.
Great insight. It helps to explain quite a lot. Thanks for the help. This was nice.
I commented earlier when my listing dropped form #2 (which has been in local pack for 3 years) to #30 with the update. I took someones advice on this blog and changed the meta which worked. It placed me right back at #2. I have 2 other locations which rank horribly, one being around for 3 years. My Jersey City location is Exchange Physical Therapy Group, my Hoboken location was Exchange Physical Therapy Hoboken and my Weehawken location is Exchange Physical Therapy Weehawken. I was unsure why these pages were so horrible and realized it was because of the way my website was built(which I am dealing w now separately). I decided last week to change the 2 satellites offices to Exchange Physical Therapy Group and drop the city names in both (not touching the Jersey City location as it always had this name). Within 5 hours my Jersey City location fell off the map again from #2 to #31. Are the GMB interconnected, why would I be punished for this location when it was a change to the other location names? Was this even the problem? The only other thing I did was remove my Facebook map for my Jersey City location (to try open a Facebook business so I could have multiple locations) but realized I couldn’t so put the map right back on within 20 min. Now all 3 locations are nonexistent and bottom of page 2. Does anyone have any ideas?
There was a lot of fluctuation in the search results last week. We saw several businesses drop a lot on Thursday and Friday only to rebound on Saturday. If you’re still experiencing issues that don’t bounce back after a few days, you may want to hire someone to do an audit so they can take a deeper look at all the details. If you want us to quote you on one, please feel free to reach out to us using the contact form.
Additionally, you can post on the Local Search Forum to get advice if you haven’t already done that.
Thank you for your inspiring post.
it’s a very frustrating with the bedlam update.
Good post Joy! The same time this update rolled out, I saw a client of mine’s competitor completely disappear. Its a well known roofing company in town and they had over 100 five star reviews on their GMB. Their listing was completely removed, and a couple of weeks later they started to show up again but with zero reviews and they used the same address but claimed a suite B to differentiate themselves from the original that was removed. I thought it was possibly a penalty that happen to be in the same time frame as the update, but another group of SEOs I communicate with mentioned seeing GMB listings with tons of reviews disappearing completely. The odd thing is that this particular roofing website also took their website down for a couple of weeks. They are a big company, its just odd to me. If there were fake reviews on the website and on the GMB, I suppose the FTC could have been involved but I am unsure.
As for clients of mine, I saw slight fluctuations but things seem to have leveled out back to normal. I had many that had a big increase in Map views for some reason.
Sounds like they had a duplicate listing that was filtering out the main one. This is something I saw a ton with this update.
We noticed with this many of our clients as well. Fortunately, most of the rankings have gone back to pre-bedlam status but it was nerve wracking nonetheless. Thanks for sharing the post!
So it is ending the month of December and still having issues with our GMB listing dropping off 3 pack and coming back up after 3-5 days consistently. Should this still be happening? I am seeing post that say things should be sorted out within a week or two of the update in November.
The only dates I’ve seen so far in December that were like this was December 5-6 and the 24th.
So, this has pretty much corrected itself by now. Is that right?
Yes, it has. However, I think the choppy and unstable nature of local search results is the new normal these days.
Appreciate the information share. I never heard about this before and thanks for the detailed information. As per my understanding, Bedlam isn’t a core update, right?
No, it’s an update to the local algorithm that powers the 3-pack.
Clearly, this update really disturbed me a lot and me truly unaware few days, what happened to the keywords and now it’s all fine. I really thank the things which are important to bedlam update to share with us in detail. Thank you.
Google has gone to more phone verification. In some cases, you may have the option for phone verification rather than the postcard. This is not every time, but I am seeing it more than ever.
Yes! there are many keywords fluctuate at this time.