Let’s pretend that you are in an unfamiliar area and you find yourself very hungry. You need to grab a bite to eat, but you aren’t sure of the options around you. What do you do?
You take out your phone and turn to Google, of course! Searches including the term ‘near me’ have increased 900% between 2015-2017. It’s no surprise – a recent survey by SearchEngineLand shows 82% of smartphone owners have conducted a search ‘near me’. Local search, and local visibility, is more important than ever.
From restaurants to landscaping, there are hundreds of possibilities for ‘near me’ searches that you – and your customers – are using weekly. Google is watching too as they return a map of your surrounding area with a pinpoint of your location as well as pins for the business you are looking for.
Are you taking advantage of this? If you run a local business, can your customers and prospects find you? We’ll crack the code on ‘near me’ searches in this article.
What are ‘near me’ searches?
You have just completed a “near me” search. A “near me” search is a type of search in which a user is looking to find certain products, services, or places close to them. Users generalize what they need into one (or a few) keywords, and add “near me” to the end of their query in order to minimize the distance needed to travel to their desired item/place. The search intent with this kind of query is typically for the user to travel to one of the search results and complete the purchase or activity within a short period of time after the initial search was made.
Why are “near me” searches important for SEO?
Often, the search results for “near me” searches will be brick-and-mortar stores. This form of shopping has experienced a slight decline since the rise of online shopping, however it still remains that about 90% of all retail sales are made offline. Even so, people are increasingly using the internet to find places to make their offline purchases. People do this by making “near me” searches, and this is why it is crucial for local businesses to appear in the results of these queries.
Most local businesses do not have a well-known name nationwide, so people from outside of the area are unaware of their existence and wouldn’t be able to Google a specific local business. Therefore, It is crucial for those businesses to gain the most exposure possible by appearing as a result for relevant “near me” searches. This gives access to the wide customer base in the area that uses the internet to find goods. As much as word of mouth and local advertising helps spread the word about your business, ranking for a “near me” search is certainly the most simple and streamlined way to reach your target audience.
The users that will view your business in their results are both in the geographical area and most likely interested in your business because their queries contain keywords that are relevant to what you’re offering. These are the people that are the most likely to bring cash flow to you, and so you want to do everything you can to make sure that your business appears in their “near me” searches.
But how does Google even figure out which businesses are near their users, anyway?
How does Google figure out what is “near me” ?
The three most important metrics that Google takes into account for “near me” searches are relevance, distance, and prominence. But what exactly do those metrics mean?
Relevance is determined by how similar your business’s offerings are to what the user is searching for. The greater the similarity, the more relevant your business is and the higher you will rank.
Distance is measured by how close your business is to the spot the search was made. The closer your business is to the searcher, the higher your rank.
Prominence looks at how much information is available about your business online, including customer reviews and backlinks. When your website has authority, it is also considered to have prominence, and this will increase your ranking.
With these metrics in mind, what can you do to make your business rank higher on “near me” searches?
Best practices to rank for near me searches
Get listed on directories
In order for your business to appear as a result for a “near me” search, you must create a profile on Google’s directory called Google MyBusiness. On this profile, you need to provide all of the following information: the business’s full name, address, directions on how to get there, hours of operation, list of products/services, amenities, business category, contact information, and photos.
To take your MyBusiness profile to the next level, use Google Posts to post about current deals and upcoming events, and create an FAQ page to be able to rank for specific queries. Both of these additions will be displayed directly on the search result, so the information will be easily accessible and very helpful to users.
In addition to Google MyBusiness, there are a number of other directories where your business should have a presence. These include Apple Maps, Bing, Facebook, Yelp, and Trip Advisor. You can look up additional local directories that are important to your city and to your business category, and these local citations will go a long way to boosting your rank.
Earn positive reviews
Asking people to leave reviews can really help differentiate your business from the others. Websites with the best reviews will be favored with higher rankings on Google, and users are more likely to trust a business that has the positive testimonials to back them up.
Stay accurate and consistent across the board
It is critical that all of your business’s information must remain accurate and consistent across all of the internet platforms that it appears on – especially the NAP (Name, Address, Phone number). Having conflicting information about your business on the internet will confuse search engines and make your business seem untrustworthy.
Make your website mobile-friendly
Often, users will be making “near me” searches from a mobile device. Therefore, converting your website to be mobile-friendly is a must. The ability to view your website on their device could very well be someone’s deciding factor between choosing to go to your business or the competition.
Gain local links
Gaining quality backlinks is always a goal of general SEO, and ranking for “near me” searches is no different. Your aim is to get backlinks within content and from websites that are significant to your business’s local area. These websites do not have to be the most well-known in order to build authority for your website.
Posting blog articles can help you acquire local links, as well as reaching out to influencers in the surrounding area for collaboration.
Ideally, the backlinks should have geographically rich anchor text to be the most effective. This means that the anchor text of the backlink should specifically name the area that your business serves, whether it be “Manhattan,” for example, or “Beacon Street.”
Complete on-site optimization
Like gaining backlinks, on-site optimization (similar to on-page SEO) is an important SEO practice in general, but there are certain strategies you can implement to specifically target raising your rank for “near me” searches.
The main tactic is to perform keyword research for what people are searching for in your local area that is relevant to your business and incorporating those keywords into your copy. It also helps to include “near me” in some of the title tags of location pages, alt tags, and anchor text. However, remember that you always want to avoid keyword stuffing.
Also remember, if you want to let Google know that your business is located in a specific area you need to include your address on the page! Something as simple as having the address in the footer of every page, and an ‘about page’ on your website can go a long way towards helping Google know where your business is located – and that means a rankings boost.
Creating blog content that is relevant to the local area is a good practice, and it can be beneficial to both parties to team up with other local businesses and mention each other on your websites.
“Near me” searches are made by users that are looking for a particular item/service in a designated area, and are usually used to collect information in order to make a purchase within a short period after the search is made. Ranking for “near me” searches is extremely important for any brick-and-mortar business in order to drive foot traffic and new customers into the door.
To ensure that your business ranks highly for “near me” searches, you must have a strong presence on Google MyBusiness as well as other directories with every profile containing consistent and accurate information. You should make your business’s profile as thorough and complete as possible and try to gain positive reviews from customers as well.
Other strategies include making your website mobile friendly, earning quality local backlinks, and incorporating relevant local keywords and the term “near me” into your website. If you follow these guidelines, SEO success will follow!