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How Will Google's Hawk Update Affect Your Business’ Local SEO?

By Valerie DiCarlo on Sep 16, 2017

If you’re a business targeting a local area, then local SEO is often your bread and butter. That’s why it’s important for you to know about the implications of Google's Hawk update, an August 2017 development that was shared by Search Engine Land in early September.

This article will break down why the update happened, let you know how it could affect your website, and what to do from here.

Before the Hawk Update: The problem in a nutshell

This all started because Google doesn’t like duplicate content. Why?

Because it suggests that someone could be copying, or even plagiarizing content. A major problem with that is that the site (and its author) is probably not an authority on a topic that they copied from somewhere else. And Google wants to connect people with the authority so that the user gets the best knowledge and experience. This means that they don’t give bonus points to duplicate content. Makes sense.

With local SEO, there are even more implications. People would try to game the system by putting multiple listings for their business at the same address in order to get a higher ranking. That seems sneaky and unfair, so Google cracked down with the September 2016 Possum update, which eliminated multiple listings for a business. Also seems reasonable.

The problem? It backfired a little.

The Possum update didn’t just eliminate multiple listings of the same business, it actually filtered out similar types of businesses within a close geographical proximity. This led to one competitor bumping out another.

To make this real, think of it as the main street of a college town. You know what there are usually a lot of in close proximity? Bars. When the Possum update came out, search results for “bar” would only show that a few of those bars exist, because it was presuming that the other 10 must be duplicates. Not good for the bars who were automatically filtered out. Or for students planning bar crawls.

But on a more serious note, this had a real affect on a lot of businesses that rely on local SEO. 

What the Hawk Update did

The Hawk Update narrowed the search scope for similar businesses, so that competitors in close proximity don’t filter each other out. (Get it, the hawk zeroes in on its prey? Not bad.)

Now, from what we can tell so far it doesn’t seem like this entirely eliminates the problem. For similar businesses who have space in the same building (think the medical industry, investment companies, lawyers) or even next door to each other, the over zealous filtering might still happen.

But it does seem like the Hawk update was a helpful improvement. If your business was being filtered out due to the Possum update, you may no longer be filtered out of local search results. So if this did affect your website, it was probably good news.

What you should do now

Armed with the knowledge of the Hawk update, do some industry-based searching in your area. If you’re a realtor, google “realtors in [YOUR AREA].” Make sure that you are on the map. Literally.

If you’re not, take some time to troubleshoot and make sure you have the local SEO basics down. Because thanks to the Hawk update, you’re less likely to filtered out just because of your neighbors.