Local SEO has become crucial for businesses looking to connect with customers in their area. With the rise of mobile search, an increasing number of people are using "near me" searches to find local businesses that can serve their immediate needs.
Optimizing for these hyperlocal searches can help you attract more foot traffic, drive phone calls and boost conversion rates. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about "near me" searches and how to use them to improve your local SEO strategy.
What Are “Near Me” Searches?
"Near me" searches are local searches that include geographic intent. The searcher is looking for something nearby and uses phrases like:
- Pizza places near me
- Plumbers near me
- Hair salons near me
- Gas stations near me
By adding "near me" to their query, the user is signaling to the search engine that they want to find results located close to their current location.
Google has reported that "near me" searches have grown 34X since 2011. And half of all mobile searches are related to location these days.
So optimizing for local searches with geographic intent should be a priority if you run a business with a physical location that serves local customers.
Near me searches have grown 34X since 2011. (Source: Google)
Understanding the intent behind these searches can help you provide the right content and optimize in a way that gets you found by nearby searchers.
Why Optimize for “Near Me” Searches?
There are a few key reasons why ranking for local "near me" keywords can be beneficial:
Tap Into Intent-Rich Searches
The major benefit of ranking for "near me" terms is that these searches clearly express intent.
When someone searches for "dentists near me", they have an immediate need and are looking to find a business that can provide the solution. Your conversion rates from these high-intent searches will be higher compared to more general queries.
Compete on Relevance, Not Just Links
With local SEO, you can rank well for geographic keywords based on your relevance and proximity to the searcher. So you don’t have to rely entirely on building links to compete.
Google wants to connect searchers with the closest and most relevant businesses. If you serve the surrounding area, you have a good chance of ranking well for "near me" terms with strong on-page optimization.
Attract Foot Traffic
Many "near me" searchers have the intent to visit a business in person. If you rank well for these terms, it can drive local foot traffic into your store.
Even if customers don‘t visit right away, they will be more aware of your location for future purchases.
Increase Calls and Conversions
Not every "near me" searcher will visit in-person right away. But having your business info (like phone number and address) readily available in the search results makes it easy for them to contact you.
And if a customer is already nearby looking for a particular service, they are primed to convert. So optimizing for these searches can increase calls, sales and conversions from qualified prospects.
Recent Local Search Changes to Know
Google is continuously working to improve local search results and connect users with the best businesses to meet their need.
Here are some recent changes you should be aware of:
1. Google Maps Results in Organic
In 2020, Google started showing Maps listings directly in the main organic search results for relevant queries.
Now the top 3 local pack results will often show up alongside regular organic listings for searches like "coffee shops near me".
This change means local SEO is now even more vital for ranking both in organic search and the map pack.
2. Multi-Location Results
Google also recently updated the local search results to potentially show multiple locations from the same business.
So if you‘re a business with multiple locations near the searcher, Google may display more than one of your listings in the map pack.
3. Shorter Drive Time Radius
One more change that switched up local search results was Google reducing the drive time radius it uses to display business locations.
Previously Google showed map pack listings located within a 60-minute drive time. Now it seems to only show locations within a 30-minute drive for most searches.
This means you need to be closer to the searcher location to consistently rank.
Being aware of these updates can help you refine your strategy to adapt to Google‘s evolving local search results.
Local Ranking Factors Google Uses
Google uses a variety of factors related to relevance, proximity and prominence to determine which businesses to show for local "near me" searches.
Here are some of the key elements Google looks for:
How relevant your business is to the user‘s search query and intent. Using the keywords in your content, categories and business info helps.
Your physical distance from the searcher‘s location or geographic center of the search. Being closer gives you an edge.
Signals of your business‘s prominence and popularity, like positive reviews, citations and inbound links. A strong online presence improves your local ranking.
Your name, address and phone number (NAP) listed consistently across directories and websites. Accurate and complete business info is a must.
A responsive mobile-friendly website. This is a ranking factor since most local searches happen on mobile devices.
GMB and Citations
Having a complete and optimized Google My Business listing. Plus accurate citations on key local directories. This helps Google understand your business.
There are likely numerous other more minor factors that also come into play. But optimizing against these key elements above is a good starting point for any local SEO strategy targeting "near me" terms.
Actionable Local SEO Tips for "Near Me" Searches
Now that you understand why local SEO is critical and what factors impact ranking, here are some practical tips to start optimizing your website and Google My Business listing for "near me" searches:
1. Create a Google My Business Listing
This is the first step for any local SEO strategy. Google My Business (GMB) is Google‘s free tool that allows you to manage how your business information appears in Google Search and Maps.
Make sure your GMB listing is completely filled out with accurate business information, categories, photos, attribute info like parking options, etc. This gives Google the details about your business needed to understand relevance for local searches.
2. Optimize Your GMB Categories
The categories you select in Google My Business act like keywords that match your business to relevant searches.
For example, choosing the categories "coffee shop", "cafe", "breakfast restaurant" will help you rank when people search for those terms + "near me".
So take the time to fill out all relevant categories in your niche to signal to Google the types of searches you want to rank for.
3. Encourage Customer Reviews
Customer reviews on your GMB listing serve as social signals and help indicate your local reputation and popularity.
Make sure to ask satisfied customers to leave you positive reviews. This will gradually build up your rating and improve visibility for local pack rankings.
4. Monitor and Respond to Reviews
It‘s also important to regularly check for new Google reviews and quickly respond to any that mention issues or problems.
Answering negative reviews publicly shows customers you value feedback and aim to address their concerns. And it prevents minor issues from spiraling into reputation-damaging reviews.
5. Get Listed on Relevant Citation Sites
Citations are directory listings that display your business name, address and phone number (NAP).
Having consistent NAP information on relevant citation websites reinforces your local business info in Google‘s eyes. Some top sites include Yelp, YellowPages, Mapquest, Foursquare and others.
6. Optimize On-Page Elements
Optimizing your website for local SEO requires paying attention to key on-page elements:
Business name, address and phone number – Display your NAP details prominently on every page of your site so visitors and search engines clearly understand where you are located.
Title tags and headings – Work local keywords like your city name and relevant "near me" search phrases into page titles and headings (h1, h2 tags).
Content – Mention serving customers in your city and surrounding areas. Include useful local information they may search for.
Schema markup – Use schema like LocalBusiness and Geo markup to identify your business location details for search engines.
7. Create Location-Specific Landing Pages
If your business serves multiple locations, create unique landing pages that target each individual area.
For example, have distinct pages optimized for "Denver", "Boulder", "Colorado Springs" etc. with locally-relevant content and keywords. This allows you to go after different geographic searches.
8. Produce Local Blog Content
Publishing blog posts with helpful local information allows you to naturally work in geographic keywords and link internally to your location pages.
Write posts aimed at questions and topics people are searching for related to your business and area (e.g. "Best Denver coffee shops for studying").
9. Build Local Links
Earning high quality local links from directory listings, other local businesses and community sites helps boost your local SEO.
Getting links with optimized anchor text like "Denver orthodontists" or "Boulder plumbing services" helps strengthen your local relevance for target keywords.
10. Leverage Google Posts
Google Posts allow you to publish quick articles and updates directly onto your GMB listing.
Take advantage of this to share local news, events/deals and helpful content that shows your expertise and familiarity with the community.
Optimizing for Voice Search
An increasing number of local searches happen via voice queries on smartphones, smart speakers and more.
Voice search requires some different optimization tactics because of the conversational nature of verbal queries.
Here are some tips for voice search local SEO:
Use natural language and full questions – Optimize pages for long-tail phrases like "Where can I find the closest coffee shop open near me now?"
Focus on intent and be conversational – Use words like "find", "locate", "nearby" which are common in voice search queries.
Answer questions clearly – Format content in a Q&A style and provide specific details in response to questions.
Improve site speed – Faster load times improve voice search user experience since users are waiting for an audible response.
Enhance accessibility – Ensure your website is mobile-friendly and uses proper HTML elements for accessibility. Voice search users often rely on screen readers.
Tracking Your Local SEO Results
It‘s important to monitor your local SEO efforts to see how they are impacting your search visibility and bottom line business metrics.
Here are some key things to track:
Your local pack rankings for target "near me" keywords
Organic keyword rankings in Google search for local terms
Traffic from organic and local pack results
Phone call volume and direction requests from location pages
In-store visits and mentions from local searchers
Conversions from local SEO traffic
Using Google Analytics and linking it to your Google Ads and Google My Business account can help you gather this data. There are also tools like Moz Local that provide tracking for local rankings and traffic.
Monitoring these metrics allows you to determine which areas of local SEO have the biggest impact so you can focus your efforts there.
Common Local SEO Mistakes to Avoid
And to wrap up, here are a few big mistakes businesses make that can negatively impact local search optimization:
Not fully completing your Google My Business profile
Inconsistent business name, address and phone number (NAP) across directories and websites
Not monitoring and responding to Google reviews
Using stock photos instead of real location photos on GMB listing
Failing to accurately categorize your business type
Not having a mobile-friendly website
Unable to confirm address during GMB address verification
Ignoring voice search queries and intent
Stuffing keywords without relevant content
Following the local SEO best practices above helps avoid issues like these that can prevent your business from ranking well.
Local SEO for "near me" searches allows you to connect your business with customers looking for solutions in your area.
By optimizing your Google My Business listing, website and content for relevant local keywords and intent, you make it easy for nearby searchers to find and connect with your business.
Focus on providing the most accurate and complete information about your business across all local directories and listings. Create useful, original local content that addresses your customers‘ needs.
Stick to Google‘s guidelines and best practices, track your local rankings and results. Then refine your strategy based on what produces the best outcomes.
Comprehensive local SEO tailored to "near me" searches sets you up for success in 2023 and beyond. Use this guide to start boosting your local visibility today.