Is your store locator a crazed bastard stepchild?
We just discovered that the store locator page on one of our clients’ sites was deindexed by Google about two weeks ago. There was nothing “technical” that would have caused Google to do this (i.e. no noindex tag or canonicals, etc.). It had previously ranked #1 for many “[KEYWORD] near me” queries, but Google swapped it out with the home page and they dropped from #1 to around #7 which makes sense as the home page was less relevant for those queries.
But why had Google deindexed this page?
The short answer is the store locator sucked. Multi-location retailer sites tend to treat their store locators as their crazed bastard stepchild. They are often outsourced, over java-scripted, crappy UI, etc. But everyone is focused on the ecommerce part of the site and they forget that their locations are the main reason why their brands mean anything – and they are often the source of the biggest SEO upsides when the store locator is properly optimized.
In this case, the client was looking for a quick to make the store location pages more accessible so they linked from their main store locator to their XML sitemap which contained all of the URLs of the location pages. A far easier task then actually populating the page with links to those pages. The problem is that as Google has been tweaking the dials on these recent updates, it likely algorithmically determined that sending users to an XML sitemap is the definition of “no value” so it deindexed the page.
There have been a lot of posts going around about how this
Possum update has been the biggest GMB update since Pigeon, but the data we are seeing suggests this may not have been a GMB-specific update. This thing is starting to feel a lot more like an update that targets the part of the organic algorithm that deals with Local, which would naturally have an affect on GMB rankings given how tightly connected the two are – see our Local SEO Ranking Factors study.
When dealing with crazed bastard stepchildren, it’s always good to keep an eye on your entire package.