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Location-specific ranking - please help!

Ranking for wrong location

3:38 am on Mar 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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joined:Mar 25, 2014
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I moved my business to a new office about 6 months ago and am have had local ranking issues ever since. Apologies if this is a long post, but I wanted to outline what has happened since the move as this seems to be a bit of an unusual issue.

I run a web design business (example(dot)com) that was previously located in Hornchurch. The site was up for a fairly long time, I did not carry out much SEO work on it and designed it to be fairly simple, without stuffing it too full of content/keywords. As I had a stream of work coming in at the time I left it at that. Over the space of a year it gradually moved up in rank, and as Google's algorithms progressively lowered the rank of more spammy sites, mine rose to the top. Eventually late last year I gained top spot for "web design hornchurch" and was on the first page for "web design east london".

I then moved the business to an office in Brighton in October of last year. I immediately updated the address on my Google Places listing, and this is where the trouble began. The process went a bit like this:

  • Changed address to Brighton, Google Maps didn't update the marker for over a month.
  • Emailed Google through the places settings, they told me "yes there is a problem" and said submit it through Maps.
  • Submitted a problem through maps, Google replied saying "yes there is a problem, submit it through Places".
  • Frustrated, I wondered if the search radius settings might have been the issue since the settings panel had changed since I first listed it. However, it would not let me change it without turning on "I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location" since the system had changed to auto-select the right settings. As a test, I turned it on and changed my delivery radius. Immedietely the marker jumped to Brighton.
  • I thought this is probably a Places bug, so I switched the setting off again. Suddenly the marker was back in Hornchurch. Figuring it might take time to update, I waited a week. No change.
  • I turned the setting back on, and set service area to specific places. Now the marker moved to Brighton again, but used the previous service radius setting.
  • I then set it to a service radius, and the marker changed to the previous areas I had selected. It seemed to be one step behind what I was doing, no matter how long I waited for it to update.
  • I turned it all off again, and the marker was back in Hornchurch.
  • I repeated this process several times and eventually the marker "stuck" in the new location after I turned off the delivery/service radius option.

At this point I thought my issues were solved. How wrong I was.

Although the places marker had moved, Google for some reason still seems absolutely convinced (according to organic search rankings) that the business is still in Hornchurch. A search for "web design brighton" does not list the site on any page, and it has been this way for half a year.

At first I thought maybe an algorithm change was responsible, but it is now clear this is not the case. How do I know this? Because searching for "web design hornchurch" still puts me on the first page this long after the move. If I had been penalised for a poor quality site, surely I wouldn't rank for that at all? Webmaster tools shows no penalties.

There is no reference to Hornchurch left anywhere on the site or in the source code, and it has been this way for quite some time. I have also gone through all other sites/profiles that I have control over and changed the location to Brighton to make sure this is not a backlink issue. Even the website server is now in Brighton but that has made no difference.

I understand that Brighton is probably more competitive for web design that Hornchurch, and I do not mind improving the site to work my way up the rankings, but it all seems a bit pointless when I don't have a starting point in the search results. I do have a site redesign in the works, including new content, a blog, keyword-specific service subpages, responsive layout etc. but it's all a bit of a last ditch effort since I can't see how this is the problem in the first place.

The only way I have managed to rank for anything at all is PPC, I ran a campaign for "web design brighton" for a while and Google had no issue with the relevance of the landing page to the term, but this seems to me to be quite a pricey way of "fixing" the problem given the high competition. Pausing the campaign did not put me back in the organic results, the site is nowhere to be found again (except for Hornchurch results).

I can't help but feel that Google has somehow tied my domain to the Hornchurch location given the weird Places problems at the start of this process and the fact that the site still ranks highly for searches in that area, but I have no idea how to fix this since they seem to be very specific about the issues they will accept questions on.

This has all had a very large impact on my business. I am starting to feel like advertising in local newspapers would be more useful and that any SEO at this point is a waste of my time and effort.

Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.

[edited by: anallawalla at 1:29 am (utc) on Apr 1, 2014]
[edit reason] Examplified the company name in URL [/edit]

8:39 am on Mar 25, 2014 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 10, 2004
votes: 95

welcome to WebmasterWorld, hrafi!

if it's not on-page, it's off.
you probably have plenty of links with keyword-rich anchor text still helping you rank for your previous location.

as far as giving G Maps an assist make sure your address is right (or submit an edit) in Google Map Maker:
http://www.google.com/mapmaker [google.com]
10:58 am on Mar 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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joined:Mar 25, 2014
posts: 3
votes: 0

Thanks for your reply.

As mentioned, I don't have plenty of backlinks with Hornchurch as the anchor text. I've changed every one I had any sort of control over, I've even written to the one site that is left (an automated facebook crawling site) asking them to update their data.

In contrast, I have several backlinks with Brighton in the anchor text. In fact none of the backlinks showing in WMT are Hornchurch-related, only Brighton.

If this was just backlink related and my Brighton backlinks outnumber Hornchurch significantly, then why would I be on page 1 for Hornchurch and not even in the top 1000 results for Brighton?

As for mapmaker, I did point out that I have already updated the marker, it is more some sort of hidden bug that I am concerned about because of the effort it took to do so and the fact that the marker kept jumping back.

Also, when I did go through the address change process, Google never asked for verification, which I found odd.
4:34 pm on Mar 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Dec 10, 2005
votes: 87

For the Hornchurch searches where your site shows, look at Google's cached pages. Even though it's been a while, Google may still be using your older pages with Hornchurch on them (it all depends on how often Google crawls your site and integrates updated ages into its index).
4:58 pm on Mar 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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joined:Mar 25, 2014
posts: 3
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The cached pages were one of the first things I checked and they were updated months ago, Google has crawled the site since then and there has not been any reference to Hornchurch in them for about 4-5 months.

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