The Curious Case of Proximity to Searcher and its Effect On Local SEO
Local SEO for lack of a better phrase, makes sense.
Why compete for highly competitive terms that may take years to rank for, when you can focus on local search terms that target your region and surrounding areas for which businesses can start ranking within weeks. For many businesses, Local SEO is an open and shut case based on the products and services they offer.
Over the years Local SEO has branched out into a field of its own. Many SEO practitioners now cite local SEO as their main area of expertise. Here at Search Symmetry Labs, we have our Local SEO experts as well who are keenly observing emerging trends and analyzing Google SERP results. Many pundits predicted numerous changes in Local SEO at the beginning of the year. It turns out that that change has finally begun.
According to our Search technicians, Proximity to Searcher is now a key ranking factor for local SEO results. Some experts are even going as far as claiming it to be the number 1 ranking factor according to Google.
“Location of the user, which is basically their IP address is an important factor for Google when it comes to displaying results locally. “ says Matt Fletcher, a Senior Search Technician at Search Labs. “We are seeing more and more cases of Google prioritizing results based on the geographical location of the searcher.”
Take a look at the screenshot below of Internet Café’s in McKinney Texas.
Notice the blue circle in the picture. That’s the physical location of the searcher. All results you see in red are businesses that are closest to the searcher. We are seeing this happen for different types of search terms in all regions. Thus the claim that results are being displayed based on Proximity to Searcher.
Does This Approach Make Sense
As with many things in SEO, this approach by Google can be regarded as both good and bad.
On one hand it makes sense to display results closest to the searcher. If someone is looking for a Best Buy, they’d rather go to the one that is closest to their location. Unless of course they are looking for one in a specific region in which case the searcher should specify the region in the search term.
However some argue that displaying results based on proximity may not yield the best result because it could potentially conflict with the intent of the searcher. Let’s take another example, attorneys.
If someone is looking for a tax attorney, they’d be more inclined to look for a good one, rather than the one nearest to their location. This can lead to a potential conflict of interest between the searcher and the search engine.
Enter Google Reviews
Even though results are displayed according to Proximity, Google Reviews Rating can act as a second filter allowing searchers to further sort displayed results based on their overall rating. Check out the following screenshot below.
Users can sort internet café results according to the overall Google rating based on Google reviews that are posted for their business.
What This Means For Local and Small Businesses
- It is now even more paramount for Local SEO to be a part of your overall online marketing strategy.
- A good place to start would be the very city you are based in and then work your way outwards to surrounding cities.
- Long tail and short tail city/region specific keywords will become more important and thus more competitive, even for PPC.
- Google reviews are even more important now. Encourage your clients to leave you a comment on Google. Oftentimes searchers are sorting results based on high review rating.
- Go Beyond Google. As such establish yourself on sites like Yelp and BBB. This is explained in more detail below.
Going Beyond Google
Adapt or Die. That pretty much sums up life in the SEO arena. Luckily, the adapting part is often times extremely easy, albeit sometimes tedious. In order properly optimize your business locally, your business profiles need to be created and maintained on sites like Yelp, BBB, Trip Advisor, and Angie’s list. Make sure that your profiles on these platforms are optimized and contain as much information as possible without causing clutter. You want to make sure that you are driving reviews on these sites in addition to Google. Case in point Yelp’s makes lots of top 10 lists based on different categories/parameters. Reviews on these sites will ultimately rank your site higher in the Google Index.
Local SEO is now even more important than ever. Adding more parameters to the ranking algorithm, is Google’s way of providing businesses more opportunities to capture their target audience more efficiently. Proximity to Search should be a part of your Local SEO strategy.
Already, we are in contact with our clients, revisiting and revising our existing strategies. More updates and shake ups were promised at the start of 2017. Our Search Technicians like Matt will be keeping an eye out for such updates. Be sure to visit our blog frequently to learn what is happening in the SEO world. For more information Local SEO, be sure to check out our Local SEO page.