Google’s latest algorithm update, named “Hawk,” released on August 22, 2017. The update, which specifically affects local SEO, has the potential to be quite a game changer for many small businesses.

What is Google Hawk?

In short, the Hawk update affects the filtering Google does on local organic search results. Prior to this update, businesses that were within the same industry and located near each other geographically would often get filtered out of search results. Google likely filtered out these results because its algorithm assumed they were duplicates. As you can imagine, small businesses that did not show up in Google search results could not easily be found online. The pre-Hawk filter initially existed to make sure certain businesses couldn’t dominate search page results by having multiple listings. Hawk fixes this by reducing the size of the geographic area that the filters consider when un-listing similar businesses. By reducing the area, Google’s filter is more likely to list distinct businesses and can better target truly duplicative listings.

Potential Issues with Google Hawk

Though this update has generally fixed the issue where competing businesses have stopped knocking each other out of search results, there are still some potential problems that can arise. This filter is still causing issues with alike businesses that are located within the same building. However, the update should improve visibility for many small businesses.

What Google Hawk Means for Search Engine Users

Google’s Hawk update benefits search engine users by providing them with a better search experience. Now, searchers will be provided with more of the business results they are looking for rather than only seeing the ones that were lucky enough to show up when in the same proximity to each other.

What Can Businesses Do to Improve Local SEO?

While Hawk has significantly helped companies with their local SEO, SEO has been critical for small business long before the Google’s filter update, particularly businesses with brick-and-mortar locations reliant on local SEO. These tips can help your business rank well in search results.

1.  Check your Google My Business listing. If you haven’t yet set up a listing, check your company’s Google My Business listing here and fill in all fields that are relevant to your business such as the name, address, phone number, and category. If you already have a page, make sure your Google My Business listing is correct and up-to-date with all your company’s relevant information. This will ensure your business listing pings back when users perform relevant searches.

2.  Make sure your SEO practices account for your business’ location. In addition to ensuring an up-to-date Google My Business listing, make sure that the site itself prominently features your location. Think of the many different ways people refer to your neighborhood. For example, if your business is on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco, make sure that your site refers to both Haight-Ashbury and the Upper Haight. If your boutique is on 23rd Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan, be sure that you refer to both Chelsea and the Flatiron District.

3.  Target PR toward local media and organizations. What your business does in the physical world impacts what happens online. Participation in neighborhood business organizations, a community street fair, or local charity donations associate you with the community. Mentions in online news sites that focus on your community can give your page rankings a boost. Social media “mentions” provide an avenue separate from Google to get the word out about your business.

4.  Gain credibility through customer review sites. Google rankings are impacted by online customer reviews. More positive reviews have an upward impact on your search results. Make sure that you make it easy for your customers to review you by including links on your website to Google Reviews, Yelp, or your company’s Facebook page.