If you have been paying attention to the countless pieces put out, you know that “near me” searches to find a local business are climbing rapidly. Just check out how Google Trends evaluates the search trend of the term “near me” for their search engine:
Not only has “near me” risen as a whole, but specific near me searches have also skyrocketed:
These searches are being heavily driven by mobile searches and the proliferation of using mobile devices, like smartphones, as a primary method of local search. Near me searches have become a critical issue in Local SEO, and honestly, if you aren’t already optimizing for these types of searches, you should really start now. Now, with that being said, the problem is: “How do you optimize for near me searches?”
I have heard all kinds of things, ranging from “Google just figures it out” to “It’s just the closest result in a category Google’s local search”. While there is some level of truthiness in there, we should all know by know that Google’s ranking algorithms are complicated. In that level of complication, there is an opportunity for optimizations and a need for SEO. So with that said, we added a “near me” data set to our Local SEO Ranking Factors and the numbers have been crunched.
The methodology used is the same as the main study and can be found here. However, for this data we used a different keyword set. The keywords and their search volume are:
As for the scope, at the end of the day, we looked at ~600 searches which included ~6,000 Google My Business listings as well as the corresponding domains/location pages that the GMB pages linked to.
Up front, of the ~250 factors we looked at most didn’t correlate with higher OR lower rankings. This tells me that Google is evaluating near me queries differently from the way they evaluate traditional local searches. However, there are some clear points that Google appears to be looking at when it comes to near me searches:
From the looks of it, Google is getting lots of the data they use in “near me” rankings from the link graph. As you can see from the chart above, having a higher raw count of backlinks with your city/state in the anchor text correlated very highly with better rankings. On top of that, the % of backlinks with geo-optimized anchor text correlated quite highly with “near me” search success. No matter what $GOOG says, link-building is a critical tactic in dominating local SERPs.
Also, as was true in the Local SEO Ranking Factors, native Google reviews correlated quite highly with “near me” search success. Since we only looked at reviews from a top level (count of reviews) there isn’t much more to say here, however, we are going to greatly expand how we look at reviews in the 2017 study, so stay tuned! Also, the total number of customer reviews on 3rd party site like Yelp didn’t seem to matter when it comes to “near me” searches.
So one of the more interesting points of this data is that business/searcher distance didn’t correlate positively with higher search rankings in a statistically significant way. Now, that may not make any sense, but just check out these results (and their distances from me) in this search for “grocery store near me”:
As you can see, being closer doesn’t necessarily mean you ranking higher. Our data showed that being in the same city as a near me search had more correlation with positive performance than being closer. Take that proximity! I think there may be some stratification or grouping of search results in these types of searches, so stay tuned for the 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors to dive deeper into this mystery.
Also, please stop spamming your city/state info in on domain content. Our research has shown it doesn’t correlate with higher rankings on traditional or “near me” Google searches.
Near me searches are critical for local search, and if you aren’t optimizing for them now you need to start. Just check out all these optimized title tags in the organic results for the search “near me”:
Some of the biggest (and most interesting in Atlas Obscura’s case) sites are already moving aggressively to win these micro-moments. Check out some other things sites are doing to optimize for near me if they have multiple locations:
Having nearby location widgets, creating internal links to your store locator with the anchor text of money term + near me are all being done by companies big and small right now. It’s also really important for large brands to think about near me searches in terms of customer experience. If I search for a Chase ATM near me, I want the actual closest ATM, not the one with the most accurate phone number in it’s citation profile.
1)”Near me” search volume is exploding
2) It’s something that can be optimized for, in your link building and on-site optimization efforts.
3) Local businesses, in particular brands, are already moving forward deploying tactics that are optimizing them for “near me” searches.
As we start off 2017 don’t get left behind in one of the biggest game changes in local search.