(If there's one thing you can say about Google, it's that this tech giant isn't afraid to fight back against spam and other "black hat" tactics by constantly reshaping the search engine optimization [SEO] landscape. Of course, if you're not a dealership that's up to date with all of these algorithm-oriented shifts, it's way too easy to feel like you're in over your head when trying to make sense of this constant deluge of updates and changes. With this in mind, join us as we roll the clock back and bring you up to speed on some of the most influential and revolutionary moments in SEO history.)

Ever wonder how Google always seems to know exactly where you are when you're browsing the web? What about this tech titan's uncanny ability to dig up relevant local search results, even when you don't bother putting your city, zip code, or other identifying information in the search box?

The answer to these questions all trace their roots back to 2012 and the Venice update. Rolled out by the webmaster team in February of that year, Venice sought to revolutionize how you - and your dealership customers - find local content on the web. Of course, even Google had no idea just how impactful this update would be - in addition to how it would set the stage for even greater changes later on down the road.

With this in mind, let's take a moment to talk about the history of the Venice update, the intended goals of this local-centric algorithm adjustment, and how it altered the SEO industry from the time it went live to the rollout of even more expansive changes and updates. Once we've done this, your dealership can move forward with even more confidence as the next big change makes its way out of the corridors of the Googleplex over in Mountain View and into your digital strategy.

Making the Most out of Local Traffic

The best way to really understand the Venice update is by delving into what Google hoped to accomplish with this bold new take on local search. The below video breakdown from Helen Laird of Britain's Hallam Internet marketing firm does a great job of getting right down to the underlying point of the Venice update.

As Laird explains in this breakdown, Venice was all about optimizing the user experience by providing the most relevant and useful responses to localized queries. Instead of flooding the search result page (SRP) with national or even international hits, Venice ensured that the "local first" approach that now serves as a foundation of Google's operations took center stage in the world of SEO.

Outside of these stated goals, the Venice update also provided local businesses (such as your dealership) with a completely new avenue to promote and develop their brands. Separate, unique, and localized pages, leveraging citation sites, and Google+ local listings are just a few of the digital presence attributes that rose to prominence in the wake of the Venice era.

How Does Venice Work?

In terms of how Venice augmented Google's search algorithm and shifted the spotlight onto local SEO and location-relevant content, the official Google Search blog points to two key factors that served as the foundation of this movement:

  • Improved ranking for local-centric search results

and

  • Improved local results that detect a user's city more reliably

While each of these points might seem intuitive or expected from the perspective of today's SEO landscape, the implementation of each tenant sent shockwaves through the industry - and drastically altered how consumers ended up on sites with useful and informative local content and offerings.

"Improvement to Ranking for Local Search Results"

The first piece of the Venice puzzle is all about making the most out of Local Universal results.

The first bullet point on the official Google Search blog regarding the Venice update.The official Google Search blog's expanded explanation of improved rankings for relevant local content.

If you're not quite familiar with the concept of Local Universal results, HubSpot's Josh Burrell explains that this term encompasses localized organic results, and not just Places pages (the precursor to Google+ business profiles), that are triggered by location setting. Essentially, with the advent of Venice, a viewer could enter a term like "Ford dealership" and not need to include state, city, zip code, or other location-based inputs within the chosen search query to return localized organic results.

"Improved Local Results"

As for the person on the other screen, the goal of Venice was also to create a new set of algorithm parameters that enhanced the quality of search results.

The second bullet point on the official Google Search blog regarding the Venice algorithm update.The official Google Search blog's expanded explanation on making user location and publication relevancy more thorough and accurate.

Unfortunately, the inner workings of how this portion of Venice operated is not something that is privy to those of us that don't have an office over at the Googleplex. Even so, there's no denying that the efforts put forth by this team ended up being a strong success in regard to building better bonds between content and web documents that are local to the end user.

Venice in Action

Now that we understand what Google hoped to accomplish and how they sought to enact this change, it's time to tackle the next logical portion of this conversation: What did Venice do to the contextual makeup of actual SRPs when it went live? To answer this question, we'll need to lean on a series of real-world examples compiled by Mike Ramsey in a post for the Moz blog regarding how to make the most of the Venice update.

Example of national-centric results in the pre-Venice era. Figure 1. Example of national-centric results in the pre-Venice era. (Click to expand.)

In this first example, Ramsey shows how a normal SRP (in this case, one that carries a heavy amount of local importance) served results in the pre-Venice era. Notice that a broad, national spread of results doesn't really do the viewer much good when he or she is most likely looking for results based within a specific city or region.

Example of localized organic results in Venice era. Figure 2. Example of localized organic results post-Venice that don't require more specific search terms. (Click to expand.)

After Venice took effect, that same search query now returns responses based on the user's location - all without this person having to amend the query to a more localized term ("Las Vegas divorce attorney", "divorce attorney in Las Vegas", etc.).

Example of localized search results occurring on broad search terms. Figure 1. Example of local results displaying on even traditionally broad or non-localized terms. (Click to expand.)

The best part about living in a post-Venice world? Even if the user searches up a broad term ("seo" for example), localized results still claim priority over broader, non-region specific offerings.

Paving the Way for Pigeon

[Google's Venice update] is easily as important as Big Daddy from 2006, itself the most significant update made by Google up to that point.
- Chris Liversidge, Search Engine Land

As this quote from Chris Liversidge of Search Engine Land illustrates, even if Venice wasn't a move designed to crackdown on shady black hat practices, like 2003's Florida update, the far-reaching impact of this change forced countless digital players to completely rethink their approach to SEO.

However, as impressive as the Venice update was in terms of showcasing just how important local search is to Google, the truth of the matter is that it's legacy realistically boils down to being the first step down this path for the webmasters in Mountain View. In fact, the digital world would come to find out that the push toward "local first" search results would take on an even greater amount of importance and influence as this tech giant's search algorithm continued to grow and evolve into today's iteration of the system.

Now that you're an expert on the history of the Venice update, the team here at Remora would like to thank you for joining us in this SEO retrospective - and we hope to see you next time when we turn back the clock again and dig into the lasting ramifications of Venice's spiritual successor, 2014's Pigeon update.