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How to Optimize Your Local SEO to Rank for “Near Me” Searches

 

The rise of “near me” SEO (search engine optimization) searches have risen dramatically over the past decade. People are searching locally more and more for products and services.

 

According to Google, 76 percent of consumers who conduct a local search on their phone visit a business within 24 hours — 28 percent of those searches result in a purchase.

 

What does the rise of local search mean for multi-location businesses? Multi-location businesses need to appear in relevant local search results on search engines like Google, Google Maps, or Apple Maps. 

 

In this blog post, we’ll detail the following:

  • The rise of “near me” searches in SEO over the last decade
  • What influences “near me” searches and local SEO rankings
  • How to improve your local search rankings

 

Let’s get started!

 

The 10-Year Rise of “Near Me” in SEO

 

Over the past decade searches containing “near me” have risen dramatically. For now, “near me” searches hit their peak in July 2021, with an interest over time (IOT) score of 100 — the highest possible score on Google’s interest over time scale from 0-100. Today, they remain relatively high, with an interest score of 69. 

 

If you’re not familiar, an IOT score represents “search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time.” 

 

The graph below depicts the “near me” search term in the United States over the past decade.

 

 

Smartphones Leading the Way

 

One likely driver of near me searches is the growth in popularity of smartphones and their expanding capabilities. “Open” + “now” + “near me” increased by more than 200 percent in mobile searches from 2013 to 2018. From 2015 to 2017, “near me” mobile searches that contained a variant of “to buy” or “can I buy” increased by over 500 percent.

 

 A small business icon from Google in blue with a statistic to the right

Courtesy Google

 

Top Related “Near Me” Queries

 

We know that people are searching locally for businesses, but what exactly are they wanting to find? Looking at Google Trends’ related queries to “near me” in 2022, these are the top 10 related searches and their interest over time (IOT) score.

 

Dark blue background with a green title and white bullet-pointed text

 

As you can see, food and restaurant queries dominate “near me” searches. However, people also search for stores, jobs, gas, and Walmarts near them at fairly significant rates. 

 

Now, let’s look at which geographic regions people are using “near me” searches most.

 

“Near Me” Searches by Geographic Region

 

These ten metro areas are where “near me” searches occur most often.

 

However, Google says, “A higher value means a higher proportion of all queries, not a higher absolute query count.” Translated, this means a less-populated town where 75 percent of queries are for “sushi” will get twice the score of a dense city where only 35 percent of the queries are for “sushi.”

 

Here are the top 10 metro areas that use “near me” in their Google searches and their interest by subregion (IBS) score:

 

Dark blue background with a green title and white bullet-pointed text

 

Similar to an IOT score, an IBS score looks at which location your term — in this case “near me” — was most popular during the specified time frame, which is 2022. 

 

Note, these are where people are searching most for “near me” queries. This doesn’t mean that if your local business is located out of one of these top-10 metro complexes you shouldn’t implement local search and SEO strategies — which we’ll cover in a later section.

 

What Actually Impacts “Near Me” Searches in Local SEO?

 

Before we discuss how to improve your local search and SEO rankings, we must first discuss a few “near me” SEO practices your business should avoid. 

 

Gimmicky SEO Tricks That Don’t Work

 

A few small business owners thought putting “near me” or similar queries in their name would improve their local SEO rankings. They did, for a bit, and then Google and other search engines penalized them. See an example below:

Image of Dentist Near Me in El Paso, TX in strip mall on laptop overlay

Courtesy Dentist Near Me

 

While this SEO-tactic might have worked for a bit, Google’s November 2021 “Vicinity” update to local search focused on proximity in local search and combatting spammy keyword-rich business names. Having “near me” in your business title often does more harm than good.

 

Since consumers are frequently searching  for information locally, it’s not as necessary to target geographically-related keywords like “near me” or “open now.” Google and other local search platforms are doing the work for you. 

 

Now, onto what impacts search rankings.

 

Relevance and Proximity’s Influence on Local Search Rankings

 

For local search queries, Google analyzes three main factors: relevance, proximity, and prominence.

  • Relevance: How well a local Business Profile matches what someone is searching for.
  • Proximity: Distance from the searcher’s current location.
  • Prominence: How well-known a business is.

Blue circle showing zone 1 of Google’s Zone Based Rankings with a larger green circle surrounding it representing zone 2

In general, businesses can influence relevance and prominence most by optimizing your Google Business Profile (GBP), website, and local landing pages for Google. For insight into ranking factors and converting online users into customers, download our Top Ranking and Conversion Factors For Local Search report.

 

Green background with white text and a blue download button to the left of a woman holding a laptop behind a black background.

 

How to Improve Your Local Search and SEO to Rank for “Near Me”

 

You now know the importance of “near me” searches and how Google and other search engines rank your business in local search. Next, it’s time to learn how to improve your local search and SEO rankings. 

 

Trust us; we’ve helped over 600 multi-location businesses improve their local search rankings. 

 

1. Claim and Optimize Your Google Business Profiles

 

The most meaningful action you can take to appear in local search results is to claim your local listings, such as Google Profiles. When users search locally, Google often shares a Google 3-Pack, also called the Local Pack.

Local Pack or Google 3 Pack map with red arrows overlayed on laptop

Our research found that businesses ranking in the 3-Pack receive 126 percent more traffic and 93 percent more actions (calls, website clicks, and driving directions) than businesses ranked 4-10. 

 

You cannot rank in the 3-Pack without having a GBP for an individual business location. It’ll also be challenging to rank if it’s not optimized.

 

To help rank in the 3-Pack, you want to list business information people are most likely to be looking for, such as:

 

For more details, read our article on how to rank in the Google 3-Pack.

 

2. Create Local Landing Pages

 

Similar to creating local listings, you should also create local landing pages — often referred to as local pages. Local landing pages are individual web pages for a specific business location. 

 

They’re particularly useful for multi-location brands. Here’s an example of one of Nékter Juice Bar’s local landing pages.

Local Landing Page Example of Nekter juice bar

Similar to local listings, you need to optimize your local landing pages to help rank in local search. Here are a few tactics to optimize your local landing pages for search engines and consumers.

 

SEO tips:

  • Incorporate keywords into your title
  • Include high-quality photos and images
  • Add alt text and tags to images
  • Create SEO-optimized URLs with a geographic-targeted keyword in there
  • Standardize your name, address, and phone number (NAP) information
  • Craft well-written and enticing meta descriptions

 

Consumer/User-experience (UX) tips:

  • Be mobile-friendly 
  • List products, services, promos, and sales
  • Highlight positive reviews and star ratings
  • Embrace calls-to-action (CTAs)
  • Include user-generated content (UGC)

 

Read our blog post on local landing pages for a complete guide on the benefits of local landing pages and how to best optimize them. 

 

3. Acquire Reviews and Boost Your Online Reputation

 

Reviews and ratings, particularly positive reviews and high star-ratings on your local listings, help your business rank better on search engines.

 

According to WhiteSpark’s 2021 Local Search Ranking Factors report, keywords in native reviews were the ninth most-impactful factor for ranking in the 3-Pack and Local Finder

 

Note that you can’t directly control which keywords customers leave in their reviews. However, your products or services can include targeted keywords. For instance, Chipotle uses “Mexican food” and “restaurant” in their title tag and other product keywords like “burritos, quesadillas, tacos, etc.”

Screenshot of Chipotle results on the search engine results page with red annotations pointing out the title tag and keywords.

This strategy helps with ranking for those non-branded keywords and subconsciously pushes customers to use those keywords in their reviews.

 

In addition to helping with local SEO or “near me” rankings, reviews and ratings help to convert consumers. 

 

Our recent report, The State of Google Reviews, found that for every 10 new reviews earned, the conversion of Google profiles improves by 2.8 percent. Note, we defined conversion as a conversion-oriented action such as a phone call, a website click, or a request for directions.

 

Furthermore, star ratings increase on Google matter. We’ve found that increasing every tenth of a star improves conversion by 4.4 percent

 

These findings reinforce the importance of obtaining positive reviews and ratings for local search and conversion purposes. Lastly, reviews with backlinks to your website’s local landing pages, resources, or blog content also help with SEO. More on that next!

 

To boost the number of positive ratings and reviews you receive, you need to participate in online reputation management (ORM). Download our Multi-Location Marketers Guide to Online Reputation Management to fully understand what ORM is and learn its best practices.

 

CTA for the Online Reputation Management Guide for Multi-Location Marketers

 

4. Gain Backlinks

 

Backlinks are links or citations coming from one website to yours. Backlinks can both hurt or help your general and local SEO. Backlinks from spammy sites or link farms are harmful, while backlinks from reputable and high-quality sites can increase your website and brand’s authority in a space. Here’s a breakdown of positive and negative backlinks:

 

Green T-chart describing positive vs negative backlinks in white text

 

For more information on backlinks and how they affect SEO, read our blog on conducting a local SEO audit. Here are a few tactics to help you gain backlinks:

  • Elevate your PR efforts, especially with local journalists and bloggers
  • Create proprietary content such as data studies, surveys, and research reports
  • Consider guest posts or guest posting for other sites and blogs

 

Also, consider the anchor text you receive from PR or guest posting efforts. You should aim for geographically-rich anchor text. For instance, if you’re a gym in Brooklyn, New York, you want anchor texts such as “Brooklyn gym,” “gym in Brooklyn,” “fitness Brooklyn,” or “21st street gym.”

 

5. Update On-Page SEO

 

Earlier, we mentioned general and local SEO. On-page SEO falls under both general and local SEO as it involves making your website, local landing pages, and listings search engine friendly. Your business controls on-page SEO.

 

Some of these on-page SEO tactics were mentioned earlier when discussing local landing pages and listings, but they’re worth doing across all owned web pages. 

  • Keywords: When it works, add keywords to your website, landing pages, and local listings in URLs, title tags, and meta descriptions.
  • URL Structure: Try to include a primary keyword once in your URL structure, and place hyphens between words.
  • Meta Description: Meta descriptions appear below title tags. They are a 50-160 character hook that entices the reader and should include a keyword.
  • Internal Links: Internal links are links from one page on your site to another internal or owned page. Incorporate internal links across your website, particularly between your main website and local landing pages.
  • Alt Text: Add alt-text to all images you upload to your website or local listings. Alt text are descriptions of your images. They allow visually impaired internet users and search engines to better understand your images.


For more detailed information on how to rank on local SEO and for “near me” searches, download our Top 10 Things You Should Be Doing in Local SEO guide.

 

Download button with a preview of SOCi's local SEO guide

 

Using the Right Tools to Improve Local or “Near Me” SEO

 

We mentioned earlier that you need to create and optimize your local listings and landing pages to rank in local search. You must also acquire positive reviews and ratings, gain backlinks, and update your on-page SEO.

 

These tasks take some time and energy, especially if you’re a multi-location marketer with 100s or 1,000s of locations to manage. SOCi can make things easier!

image of multiple devices showing the SOCi platform

SOCi is the marketing platform for multi-location brands. SOCi Listings and Local Pages can help you claim, build, and optimize your local listings and local landing pages — ultimately boosting your local SEO rankings. 

 

SOCi Reviews can help you monitor ratings, reviews and brand mentions across the web. SOCi Reviews also has sentiment analysis capabilities, helping you better understand historical data and trends and make necessary adjustments.

 

To learn more about how SOCi can help you rank in local SEO or for “near me” searches, request a demo today!

 

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