If you serve a local customer base, search engine rankings allow prospective clients to find your business quickly and easily.
In July 2014, Google rolled out a significant update to its search algorithm, designed to identify users’ locations. Since Google rolled out this local and hyperlocal algorithm update, local search has become a critical consideration in search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
Your business’ location dictates how best to optimize your website for local searches. Without a clear understanding of how Google determines local search rankings, however, it’s hard to succeed.
Google’s Geolocation and Local Search Engine Rankings
Google’s local search paradigm is based on geolocation. Geolocation describes Google’s GPS technology-based method of locating you — through your device — at the time you do a search.
Google uses a variety of cues to determine this information, only a portion of which relate to your search terms. Your location and search history are tracked, and based on your patterns, Google can be relatively sure of your general home area and community.
When you’re at home, work or out and about in your city, you don’t necessarily have to use a geographic qualifier when you search. For example, searching for “sporting goods store” will return similar results to “sporting goods store South Jordan,” if you are in or around South Jordan.
If your site is effectively optimized for local search rankings, Google can match your business with the locally based searches of potential customers.
Organic Search Ranking versus Local Search Ranking
In the organic search world, the goal of SEO is to position your business as high as possible among the unpaid results on the first search engine results page (SERP), when a strong prospect searches for the products or services you offer.
With local search rankings, however, the goal is to have your website listed in Google’s local stack (also known as the “snack pack” or 3-pack).
This prominent location, consisting of a graphic box and map, appears right below the Adwords pay-per-click results at the top of the page. This exclusive list offers the top three matches in the searcher’s local area.
Achieving this exclusive and in-demand positioning requires a variety of complex optimization and internet marketing strategies. However, one of the most important considerations is your business’s location and how it is addressed in your SEO.
This is especially true if your market is a highly competitive one.
Leveraging Your Location for Hyperlocal Search Engine Ranking
Google’s hyperlocal updates were designed to match the searcher’s needs most effectively.
In a large, metropolitan area, Google attempts to identify a pinpoint location closest to the user. Consequently, it has become extremely difficult to rank well using a broad geographic term such as “Salt Lake City” or “Utah.” If you serve customers in-house, you will rank higher if you target the specific area near your location.
But what if you’re a service-based business that goes to the customer?
If, for example, you are a plumbing contractor based in Murray, Utah, you probably hope to appeal to prospects beyond Murray’s limited geographic borders. This means that optimizing for local search engine rankings becomes more complex.
If your physical location is near a border between two communities, even more work is necessary to optimize your search engine rankings. This is especially true if the area is a highly competitive one. If the area is not competitive, however, proximity to community borders can be leveraged to help you rank highly for both locations.
SEO for Businesses without a Physical Address
Today, many entrepreneurs launch home-based businesses, which presents its own set of challenges for performing well in the search engine rankings. Those businesses who prefer not to list a physical address for privacy reasons are similarly challenged.
Google’s hyperlocal algorithms strongly favor those businesses with a physical address, even if your customers don’t come to your location. Google is also good at recognizing virtual business locations, a go-to technique that many small businesses use today.
Performing well in Google’s local search engine rankings without a business address requires compensating — maybe several times over — with alternative SEO strategies.
Improving Search Engine Rankings for the Address-Challenged
To sum up, the biggest challenges for ranking well in Google’s hyperlocal search are if your business has a:
- Large city location
- Location bordering two communities
- No physical location
Fortunately, all is not lost for your SEO, even if your company falls into one or more of these categories. You will, however, need extra planning, time, effort — and expertise.
If you’re struggling to place well in Google’s local or hyperlocal search, it’s time to consider professional services to effectively improve your search engine rankings. Be Locally provides professional search engine optimization — organic, local and PPC — as well as website design, optimization and content marketing services.
Contact the online marketing experts of Be Locally today to learn more, or to request a professional evaluation of your business website and internet marketing strategies. We look forward to assisting you in improving your position in the local search engine rankings.