Search engines do many things well. They provide unprecedented amounts of information to people all over the world. Kids in Australia, England, and the United States can play real time online games together after a quick search for "online flash games." But search engines do have their limitations. One limitation search engines have struggled with historically and still do so to this day is in providing accurate information on a hyper-local level. Those same kids spread throughout the world searching for the same "online flash games," sought vastly different (and locally relevant) results when searching for "pizza delivery."
Google is well aware of this deficiency and has been working hard to address the effectiveness of hyper-local searches. The impact of this focus presents itself in the search results we see every day. Google has blended search results for years now, weaving in results from Google Maps, Images, Video and much more, all in an effort to provide the best results in the most granular degree possible. Recently the prominence of locally targeted results has been taken to a new level, but only with varying levels of success.
Google's new local algorithms do a great job of providing quality search results for hyper-local searches like "pizza delivery," "dry cleaners," or "movie theaters." They do this well by focusing on the following factors:
The top pizza results might be the ones that are closest to the searcher's exact location, have good quality signals like online reviews, and have words related to pizza on their Google Places listing.
For businesses that serve larger areas or represent bigger purchase decisions, local results tend to be less useful. Searches for "car dealership," "office furniture supplier," or "plastic surgeon" are still created based on the 3 basic criteria described above, however location probably doesn't play as large a role in these cases. You are unlikely to drive 50 miles to go to the movies when there is a perfectly good theater down the street. But you may very well drive those 50 miles or futher for the best plastic surgeon or best deal on a car.
If you own an office furniture dealership that serves a 100-mile radius with delivery trucks, onsite service, maintenance, and installation, it probably doesn't matter where your headquarters are located. You can serve any customers in that area and serve them well. Unfortunately Google will likely only show your result for people searching around your headquarters or listed address. Location is a significant part of the local search algorithm, yet there seems to be little difference between queries in which location is most important vs. those where quality is most important.
There is nothing we can do to change Google's algorithm and while they work hard to address these deficiencies, there are still some things you can do to help your local business rank well in local results.
While Google still has quite a few issues to work out prior to being able to deliver the best, most relevant local listings, you can still do your part to give your business the best chance possible to rank well. Taking the steps above will help you rank better in local search and make your business listings more appealing to new and existing customers.
- Evan Lagasse, Consultant, eBoost Consulting
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42% of search users click the top-ranking link. 8% click the second link