Local search just got updated: here’s what you need to know in 2020 about Local SEO in Google

By 2 years ago

If you thought you saw a rise or drop in your local SEO ranking, you are not just imagining things. There is yet another change to Google’s algorithm. This time impacts local search rankings.

Named the Bedlam Update by Joy Hawkins, this update started being rolled out in November 2019 and businesses have already experienced its effects.

Learn about what the update entails and how it may impact your business.

What Has Changed?

In a surprising move, Google is now implementing neural matching to its local search. With neural matching, the meaning behind queries will now be considered instead of just the keywords entered. This is significant because it changes the way results will be displayed to users.

When someone searches for your business, the user intent will now be factored in. It is no longer a matter of searching for a business name and then finding the business. Now, users can type in their query (example: my air conditioner is not working) and be matched with repair businesses near them.

What This Means For Local Search Marketing

As always, updates are always being tweaked. Therefore, rankings are not set in stone. While it is too early to tell how businesses are being impacted, the update could make local SEO easier for businesses as the focus shifts from keywords to user intent.

If your business does not contain a keyword, the Bedlam Update may make it easier for local users to find it. This is particularly useful for older businesses that were named before SEO optimization was a factor or those that valued branding more than a keyword-heavy name.

While the full impact of this update is not yet known, it is possible that practices like keyword stuffing Google My Business listings or setting up multiple keyword-heavy business names under different phone numbers will be penalized.

How Businesses Can Adapt

According to Google’s official word on the Bedlam Update, businesses do not have to change anything in response to the update. However, there are ways to take action if you are seeing a decrease in local rankings. Here are a few local SEO tips you can use to work with the algorithm change:

  • Complete your Google My Business profile beyond your NAP (name, address, phone number)
  • Upload high-quality pictures and videos (include exterior and interior shots)
  • Respond to reviews
  • Update your Yelp profile
  • Clean up your link profile (make sure only quality sites are linking back to your site)
  • Keep information accurate
  • List your products and services
  • Choose the right business categories and subcategories
  • Avoid keyword stuffing
  • Verify your location
  • Learn how to write for SEO

It is possible that efforts to properly optimize your local search will be rewarded (while blackhat techniques result in punishment) with this new update.

Although it might sound a bit menacing, the Bedlam Update is not something to worry about. Stick to tried and true SEO techniques and avoid shortcuts.

You Have an Ally

At Running SEO, we stay informed on the latest changes with Google. You can rely on us to optimize accordingly whenever a new update rolls out. Get in touch for a free SEO quote over at Key Medium (our parent company) now.


Ali Jaffar has been building dazzling websites and creating amazing online experiences for over a decade. His mastery of the latest innovations in web development results in world-class website experiences set apart by show-stopping style and seamless functionality. A highly sought-after consultant, Google Analytics qualified individual, and fifty-time award-winning web development guru, Ali lends his talents to build and bolster digital experiences for a wide array of clients, with a keen focus on web design for nonprofit organizations. When Ali’s not helping his clients grow or providing pro bono services via his Coding For Causes program, you can find him doing yoga, walking his dog, exploring beautiful open spaces, enjoying a nice bike ride, or writing pieces about technology, SEO, Web3 and the world on Huge Thinking and RunningSEO.