Napoléon Salutes Google Local Algorithm Update

Napoleon on Saint Helena
Napoleon Crosses the Alps
Napoleon Crossing the Alps, a Jacques-Louis David painting from the Malmaison collection. Image courtesy WikiMedia.

On April 11, 1814, Napoléon Bonaparte abdicated his throne as the emperor of France and, in the Treaty of Fontainebleau, is banished to the Mediterranean island of Elba from where he eventually escaped. During his second stint in exile, he would die on the remote island of Saint Helena in the southern Atlantic Ocean (on May 5, 1821). Given that he once ruled an empire that stretched across Europe and he died as a British prisoner in no man’s land, we thought it would thrill the former general for us to give him a cheaper way to escape his perch on the small mound about halfway between the continents of South America and Africa by using the Google Local Algorithm Update.


Napoléon’s Path to Exile

Saint Helena Locale tough for Google Local Algorithm Update?
A map showing Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean.


As you can see from the above snapshot of the island on Google Maps, it’s quite a task to use a local marker to find services he will need to make his escape. Fortunately, the former emperor has plenty of time to perfect his long-tail search tactics, as history tells us he will be languishing on this piece of volcanic rock for six long years. Why choose the Corsica-born politician as one of our characters to highlight how much a consultant must know to make legendary SEO happen? Because he was unarguably one of the greatest military strategists in history, holding the reigns of France when it was at war with most of Europe; then returning home from his Egyptian campaign to reorganize the nation that was near collapse. Everything Google does when it makes algorithm tweaks is strategic to the nth degree so we’ve decided Napoléon is nothing less than a G+ poster child!


Battle of Waterloo painting
“Battle of Waterloo 1815” painted by William Sadler.


As we noted, he has already escaped his exile once—returning to France in early 1815 to raise a new Grand Army that enjoyed temporary success before his forces got their butts kicked at Waterloo by an allied force led by the Duke of Wellington. This momentous skirmish took place on June 18, 1815, a mere 202 years ago this past Sunday. It would lead to Napoléon’s second abdication on June 24th that same year—202 years ago this coming Saturday.


Duke of Wellington Battle of Waterloo painting
Jan Willem Pieneman’s The Battle of Waterloo (1824) with the Duke of Wellington in the center, flanked on his left by Lord Uxbridge in hussar uniform. The wounded Prince of Orange is carried from the field in the foreground.


After his defeat at Waterloo, Napoléon tried to escape to North America but the Royal Navy was blockading French ports to make certain he didn’t. He finally surrendered to Frederick Maitland, the captain of the ship HMS Bellerophon, on July 15, 1815. The Treaty of Paris was signed on November 20th of that year, restoring Louis XVIII to the throne of France and sending Napoléon to his final exile.


Napoléon Plots Escape from Saint Helena

Napoleon by Delaroche
The defeated paunchy man who has just abdicated his rule in his study at Fontainebleau, a 1845 painting by Paul Delaroche, is a far cry from the dashing soldier he was in the opening image as he’s crossing the Alps.


In Saint Helena, we find him working on his memoirs in a blog-to-book process with the assistance of his personal secretary of 11 years, Louis-Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne. The tome that was eventually achieved by Bourrienne was published in four volumes, the document containing the entire series we downloaded from Project Gutengerg is almost 496,169 words long! He was big on dictating his memories to trusted writers, the painting below illustrating the emperor describing his campaigns to Emmanuel Augustin Dieudonné Joseph, the comte de Las Cases.


Napoléon dictates to Count las Cases
Napoléon dictates to Count las Cases the account of his campaigns in St. Helena in 1816.


We are going to pluck him from the island before he has time to become the hopeless man in failing health depicted in Bourrienne’s memoirs, which are commandingly read in the video below. Once we do, you’ll see what a difference the Google local algorithm update has made in the world of search, just one of the factors we pay attention to when we undertake SEO for our clients.



Let’s help Napoléon strategize his way back to Château de Malmaison, which he has missed so terribly since he was run out of the country. His first task is to figure out which coast he will target to track his way home, deciding that Africa makes more sense because the continent is a tad closer and it’s an easier commute to France. Angola being the closest country, he decides that’s his choice.


Napoleon on Saint Helena
Oscar Rex painted C’est fini: Napoléon Ier à Sainte-Hélène, which resides in the collection at Malmaison.


He would like to fly so he types in “flights from saint helena island south atlantic ocean” and he finds the choices dire: there is only medivac and a few private flights coming into and out of the airport. How in the world am I going to get to the Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport in Luanda? he wonders, seeing that there is an Air France flight to Charles de Gaulle from there. Charter! he all but yells into the dreary light of his sad little room.



He types in “charter flights in angola” and comes across Richemond Helicopters Charter at the Luanda Heliport. He arranges a pick-up date for his escape and sees the only challenge ahead of him as outsmarting the soldiers ordered to keep him from leaving. Piece of cake! he thinks, salivating over the above video he found of a helicopter flight arriving in Luanda.


Benefits of the Google Local Algorithm Update

Panguila benefits from Google Local Algorithm Update
Panguila, just outside Luanda, will benefit from the Google Local Algorithm Update in our lark.


The easiest way to describe how the local algorithm update benefits someone searching is for us to create a fake helicopter charter just outside the city limits of Luanda with better prices. Let’s say the heliport is in nearby Panguila. Before Google rolled out two local updates, the services this company offered would not come up in a search for charters in Luanda. That’s not the case after the updates—one on July 24, 2014, named Pigeon by SEO pundits; and one on September 1, 2016, named the Possum update by the same experts whose sense of humor entertains those of us who watch as this serious subject unfolds. Pigeon (named for the scourges of big cities that stay pretty close to home once they are born) was geared toward providing more useful, relevant and accurate local search results tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals. If that sounds too complex, it really just means that the algorithm improves Google’s distance and location parameters.


Pigeons Tend to Stay Local
Pigeons tend to stay local so SEO’s called one piece of Google’s Local Algorithm Update by this name.


The Possum update was named such because when the algorithm tweak was rolled out business owners thought their listings under Google My Business had disappeared. Turns out, they weren’t gone; they had simply been filtered, or were playing possum. The purpose of this update was to diversify the local results and to prevent spam from ranking in a SERP as well as it has in the past. SEO specialists were happy about this update because it had been a significant challenge to them when helping clients with legitimate businesses that fell just outside the physical city limits of a particular town to rank highly under searches for that town.


Luganda in Africa
Before the Possum algorithm tweak, only companies with addresses within the Luanda city limits would have ranked in Napoléon’s search. Image courtesy WikiMedia and Fabio Vanin.


When this was the case, they had a tough time ranking for any keywords that included the city name because the business wasn’t technically inside the city limits on Google Maps. After this update, many businesses saw a massive increase in their local rankings. This is great news for businesses previously trying to divide and conquer by having listings in a number of communities in the same area, listings which Google had been deeming as duplicate content because they all linked to the same website.


Luganda during Napoleon's era
A map of Luanda in the early 1700s by Johannes Vingboons, quite a different city today than when Napoléon was stuck on the island adjacent to its strip of coastline.


If you’ve read through all of our tutorials, you know what a no-no this is when trying to convince the search engine giant you are not a spammer. As with a number of Google’s moves, SEO specialists who monitor such things believe this algorithm change will continue to become much more sophisticated at filtering out spammers and being more inclusive of businesses who legitimately have a reason for ranking highly in local results. The importance of this increases exponentially as search shifts toward users of mobile devices like the iPhone and the iPad.

Let’s use the helicopter company in Panguila as an example: if Napoléon is only searching for charters in Luanda, the company on the outskirts of town is invisible to him, even though it should be offered within the same search given its proximity. After Possum, this would no longer be the case.


Billiard room in the Château de Malmaison
Billiard room in the Château de Malmaison in Rueil-Malmaison, France.


We’ll end this quirky exploration of Google’s local update with Napoléon happily playing a game of pool with Bourrienne in the billiard room at Malmaison. Situated on the ground floor of the Château, the room was always one of his favorites. He felt Joséphine was wise in choosing Louis-Martin Berthault, who designed the room in 1812. As he leans over the pool table to make his final shot that will pummel his devoted secretary, he smiles at the thought that his next move is joining his Empress’ soiree in the gardens! If you are thinking we don’t know our history at adroyt because we have ignored the fact that Napoléon was with Marie-Louise of Austria when he was exiled, rest assured we do. We just believe an aged general would desire to return to his winning heyday rather than the morose time of his defeat.


The painting Reception at Malmaison in 1802
“Reception at Malmaison in 1802” by François Flameng.


An interesting anecdote we found while reading about Napoléon’s quashing at Waterloo is the contents in his abandoned carriage when it was captured at the end of the battle: an annotated copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince and diamonds were found inside. Project Gutenberg offers an electronic file of Machiavelli’s book without charge so you can read like a true strategist. We’re betting Napoléon’s favorite chapter was “Concerning Liberality and Meanness”; Ours is “How Flatterers Should Be Avoided”!

Text of Google Local Algorithm Update Benefits Napoléon © adroyt, all rights reserved. Unless otherwise stated, the adroyt blog is written by adroyt’s CEO Saxon Henry. Our downloadable knowledgebase can be found at adroytLABS.

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