In this week’s episode, I talk about how Google ranks local search results. The local algorithm is different from the traditional algorithm, so it’s important to understand which signals influence local search visibility.


Welcome back to another episode of Local Search Tuesdays. I just got back from speaking at Digital Summit in Portland, and while I was there, I presented a half-day masterclass on SEO. I had several people thank me for explaining how local search results are returned and ranked by Google’s algorithm, and I realized I hadn’t ever covered that in a video before, so this week, I’m explaining how it all works!

For those of you who haven’t heard elsewhere, Google typically ranks search results based on relevance and prominence. But as I’ve mentioned before, Google’s local algorithm is different and considers additional signals. Not only are signals different, results are ranked differently as well.

With local searches, Google ranks local search results based on relevance, prominence, and proximity.

Relevance is an easy one – Google basically asks “Does the website have all of the attributes the searcher is looking for?” So if you do a search for a car dealer, Google will return a list of all of the websites for car dealers.

Google then ranks that list based on prominence. Using the various factors that the algorithm considers, that list of relevant sites is ranked based on which sites stand out from others on the list. In other words, the site that has the best answer to the question the searcher is asking that is also the best optimized will be the site that ranks number one. The second best site will be number two, and so on.

Then, those results are also ranked based on proximity – how far the search results are from the person who’s doing the search. Google knows your location when you’re searching. If you’re on a desktop computer, it uses your IP address. If you’re on a mobile device, it’s even more exact, since it can use GPS location, cell phone signal triangulation, or IP address if the phone is on a wifi network.

If a search has local intent, Google knows it’s important to the searcher that search results are nearby. The proximity factor is the reason that you can search for important keyword phrases at your office and see that you’re number one in the map pack, since proximity is zero. But then if you try the same search from home, you may not be in the pack at all, since there are likely other results that are closer to that location.

Showing up in the map pack isn’t all about proximity though – you have to have solid SEO to be eligible to show up. But this is also why it’s usually pretty tough to show up in the pack if your business is out in the suburbs, but you want to show up in search results for the main city in your metro area.

So now you know how Google ranks local search results, and you’ll have a better idea of why businesses show up in the map pack.

That’s all the time we’ve got for today, so you know what that means:
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Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you again next week for another episode of Local Search Tuesdays.