Near me is a search phrase that throws up accurate and relevant local listings for an establishment or service by Google. Let’s say a user types in ‘hotels near me’. Google will surface the most relevant local listings of hotels near the user’s location.
I recently traveled to Philadelphia’s Old City and wanted to find a good restaurant. I typed ‘restaurants near me’ on Google and it showed up a list of establishments around me, ranging from restaurants serving American cuisine to those specializing in fusion dishes. Such is the power of near me and for many travelers, it can be a life-saver.
‘Near me’ searches have grown exponentially. According to Google, mobile searches for ‘near me’ grew a whopping 900%+ in the last two years. The searches are becoming more specific and customers are looking for relevant answers. What does this mean for businesses? In order for yours to rank high in local search results, it’s important to understand how ‘near me’ works and how you can optimize your website for higher rankings.
How Google Decides Local Rankings For Businesses
If you have a business, you can’t control when you will show up in ‘near me’ results. However, you can make changes to increase the possibility of showing up. Entering a search for ‘near me’ reveals results based on several factors. There’s a simple reason for this – ‘near me’ searches don’t only depend on how close your business is to the search query. Google does factor in the distance first but it also combines relevance and prominence to determine the most appropriate results. For instance, if Google decides that a business located farther away than yours has what a user is looking for, it will rank it higher than yours in local results.
Distance refers to how far a potential search result is based on the location of user inputs. If a user doesn’t specify the location, Google will determine the distance based on the user’s whereabouts.
Relevance is the next factor Google’s algorithm uses to decide the most appropriate local listings. One of the ways that your business can rank higher in search is to provide complete and detailed info about its services. This helps Google understand your business so that it can match it to search queries.
Like the offline world, a business’s prominence plays a vital role in deciding how relevant it is to a search query online. For instance, if yours is well-known it will rank higher in local listings than one that isn’t prominent. This is why it’s common to see certain landmarks, hotels, restaurants and popular establishments listed in search results. However, this prominence is not based on online popularity alone; Google also takes the offline status of these establishments into account.
Positive ratings and reviews of establishments help push them higher up local listings. Google searches links, directories, articles and the like to find out which places are well-known and well-liked. Since search engine optimization (SEO) plays a part in search results, employing sound SEO optimization can make a difference in how well your business shows up in search results.
How To Make Your Business Rank Higher In ‘Near Me’
Competing with popular establishments takes some work. The good news is that it doesn’t cost a lot and can be easily achieved with some changes. Here’s how –
Use Smart Keywords But Not ‘Near Me’
While ‘near me’ is a keyword used to find local listings, it can’t be employed in web copy as it would sound awkward and forced. The next best thing is to use keywords like ‘near’ [street address], ‘nearby [landmark]’ etc. You can start employing these keywords in your About Us and location pages. You should also embed your Google Maps location and provide written driving directions to your business. Web copy should also have other information related to your business’ product or service. For example, if your business liaises or cooperates with the local community you should have content pertaining to the groups and organizations you work with. Additional information in the form of blogs enrich your content and can help increase search rankings.
Optimize Google My Business
Provide complete information on Google My Business as it will help your business show up on local listings. Mention your business’ full address, services, operating hours, photographs and anything relevant. If there’s a change in working hours or your office remains closed on certain days, mention that too. Keep in mind that users can suggest edits and upload photos of your business. Regularly monitor the information given along with that provided by users. Make changes if necessary so that your info remains accurate and updated.
Encourage Online Reviews And Ratings
We’ve mentioned that good reviews and ratings can increase search rankings. Google wants to provide the best results and best search experience for its users, so it’s unlikely that businesses with poor user ratings will rank highly. You can start by asking users for their opinions and responding to the same, whether they’re negative or positive. Emails are the best way to seek reviews. With a well-designed email campaign, you can get the results. Google My Business provides tips that business owners can use to respond to reviews and ratings. Some of them include being polite and not getting personal, keeping replies short, thanking reviewers and avoiding sales pitches. There is review management software such as Podium that you can use to simplify customer interactions and help your business get better reviews.
Consider Other Local Directory Listings
It’s important not to focus only on your website or Google My Business but to expand to other local directory listings. When I searched for studio apartments near me, I found that websites like Groupon and Yelp ranked higher in organic results. Listing management software like Moz Local can help your business rank higher across various local directories and content aggregator websites such as YP.com, Yelp, Better Business Bureau and Apple Maps. They do this by making sure your information is accurate and up-to-date. This keeps your business relevant to search queries.
Optimize Using SEO
SEO optimization is a necessary practice for any business to boost search rankings. While ‘near me’ searches are important and your website should be optimized with this in mind, your overall SEO strategy should be to provide useful, relevant and updated content. The user is focal and providing the best user experience will help your business gain trust and authority with search engines. Blogging on your website about your product/service and guest blogging on outside websites can also bring authority & trust.
In 2010, there were 62 million smartphone users in the US. It’s estimated that the figure will reach 277 million by 2021. Combine that with the number of ‘near me’ searches and you have a good idea of just how important it is for businesses to rank high in local listings. Consider the strategies given here to optimize your website and attract potential customers.
If you’d like to discuss SEO strategies for local businesses in more detail, give us a call.
Managing Director Analytics & Digital at Ayruz Datamarketing, He is the Co-Founder of Ayruz and MobME Wireless. He holds an MBA, Strategy and Entrepreneurship (University of Strathclyde) and B-Tech in Computer Science from Cochin University.