How to optimize for local “near me” searches
“Near me” searches are becoming increasingly popular. People are using them more frequently, not just for general searches but for specific ones as well. This trend makes it especially interesting for SEO specialists to optimize web content for such terms.
However, optimizing for these searches isn’t as simple as it might seem. In this article, I’ll explain how you can easily boost your rankings for “near me” searches.
What does a “near me” search mean in SEO
When “near me” is added to a search term, it indicates that the person searching is actively seeking a business nearby.
This suggests there’s an immediate need for a service or product. That’s because when someone searches for a local business, they likely want to get the service or product quickly.
Obviously, a business located closer to the searcher can typically be reached more quickly (physically) than one that’s farther away.
So, it’s in an SEOs best interest to optimize web content for those kind of local searches.
Main Local Ranking Factors
When we’re talking about improving local rankings, we need to look at the ranking factors first.
Local SEO visibility depends on 3 primary factors:
- Proximity aka Distance
- Local Search Prominence
All types of search terms can be related to all 3 factors, but “near me” searches are mainly relevant to relevance and proximity.
Proximity is clearly one of them, and so is relevance.
This is because a business located nearby is more relevant to the searcher than one that’s further away.
The Google developers who devised the ranking factors might not have fully considered this, as proximity has always been a part of relevance. You can’t truly separate proximity from relevance.
Specific Ranking Factors
There are a bunch of factors that influence local search rankings. Here is a list of factors that seem to have the biggest impact:
- Google Business Profile name
- GBP categories
- Qualitay & quantity of reviews
- GBP services
- Organic local search rankings (website)
When looking at these factors, there isn’t much we can optimize to rank better for “near me”.
In fact, there are only three things we can adjust: the name, services, and the website. However, being closer to the searcher can also be an effective local SEO strategy.
You might wonder how you’d get closer to the searcher. Well, if your business depends on local search traffic, you might want to think about relocating your business or opening a new branch.
It sounds harsh, I know. But if you do the math you may find out that it’s actually worth it.
How to optimize for near me searches
Get closer to the searcher
As previously mentioned, opening a new business location can improve rankings for location-relevant search queries like “service + near me”.
This strategy is particularly effective for boosting “near me” search rankings. When considering a new business location to improve these rankings, keep in mind the following factors:
- Choose an area with fewer competitors. Search for your main keyword and check out businesses that fall under the same category as yours
- Look for complementary businesses nearby, which can lead to increased foot traffic and opportunities for impulse purchases
- Opt for a location where your customers already reside
- Ensure easy road access to primary areas where potential customers might be (SAB/Hybrid)
- For businesses with storefronts, proximity to public transport and nearby parking is crucial
The image below illustrates an almost ideal business location for a “furniture store”. No other Google Business Profile listing in this area uses “Furniture Store” as their primary or even secondary category.
Plus, the location is conveniently linked by a railway station and easily reachable by car via a neighboring highway. And, other businesses like mattress stores are in close proximity, and the area is quiet populated – a key indicator of potential business success.
Google Business Profile name
Since Google’s local search algorithm update in 2022, including “near me” terms in Google Business names doesn’t appear to influence rankings as much as they once did.
And from a branding perspective, it might not even be wise to add “near me” to your business name. To avoid having your Google Business Profile suspended, you’d actually need to include it into your official real-world business name.
A typical example of a business that uses the “near me” phrase in their name was a Thai food restaurant called “Thai Food Near Me”.
This tactic went viral in early 2023 and Google eventually reduced the weight of “near me” keywords in business names for local search and Google Maps rankings.
The impact of keywords in the GBP service section is quite significant. However, we don’t necessarily need to add the specific keyword “near me” to this section to see an effect on local search rankings.
I’ve experimented with including very specific keywords in this section. What’s interesting is that search terms related to “near me” experienced a dramatic increase.
Check out the screenshot below: By merely adding the service keyword without the phrase “near me” as a service, the “near me” keyword saw a huge improvement, whereas the standard service keyword remained unchanged.
In fact, the “near me” keyword gained new 3-pack rankings, eventually placing the business on the map. “NF” indicates that no 3-pack was triggered in those areas for our keyword.
In other words, adding service terms without “near me” as Google Business Profile services seems to be enough for the “near me” keyword rankings to be affected positively.
However, my tests have showed no difference in “near me” terms’ impressions when added “[service ]near me” to the service section.
You might have already considered adding keywords to your web content. I can confirm that it does work. I’d like to show you how to leverage “near me” keywords on your website.
While many claim that adding “near me” to your website isn’t effective anymore due to Google’s algorithm changes, that’s only half the story. Check the screenshot below. Several companies are still using “near me” to improve their organic rankings for those terms.
If that doesn’t convince you, check out the following screenshot. Google itself is taking advantage of that part of the algorithm. It seems just like they cannot actually separate the “near me”-term from the rankings. Even though they were able to do it on Google Business profile names.
Include “near me” in important on-page features
If you really want to make the most out of your organic rankings, you can include “near me”, “nearby”, “closeby” or “local” in your title tags, meta descriptions, URLs, and link anchor texts.
Title tag & meta description
Including “near me” in your title tags definitely has the potential to give you an edge over many competitors who aren’t using this strategy.
However, ensure your title tag appears professional and matches the content of your website. There’s no benefit in achieving high rankings if Google gets negative user feedback.
In such a scenario, it won’t be long before your precisely matched title ends up on page 2. The meta description isn’t a direct ranking factor, so whether you include the term in this section isn’t crucial. Just make sure that the description is compelling and relevant to the search term.
Example: Best Restaurants Near Me
Adding "near me" to the title tag
Here is a small case study about 20+ page titles that I added “near me” to. Two weeks in and the impressions for “near me”-related terms started to see a change.
That wouldn’t be so impressive if the non-“near me” impressions weren’t moving at all.
As you can see on the screenshot, impressions for “near me” terms started to change for the better and the other ones remained untouched.
I personally wouldn’t choose this option but you can add “near me” to your URLs and people have done that successfully. Here are two ways to do it:
Link anchor texts
While we don’t have much influence on backlinks from other websites’ link anchor texts, you could include “near me” in internal link anchor texts.
How to naturally include “near me” in your website body copy?
A very effective method to include “near me” into your body copy is by adding it to your FAQ section. Typically, “near me” terms are meant to rank with landing pages, not blog articles.
Therefore, you can easily include FAQ sections on all your service or product-related landing pages.
Most website visitors are used to, and comfortable with, reading frequently asked questions from the I-perspective. They’re familiar with queries like “how can I contact your business?”.
While using the “you” perspective is acceptable, using the I-perspective can allow grammar to work to our advantage.
Here is an example: Instead of using a phrase like “Where can you find our [service] near you?”, you can use “Where can I find your [service] near me?”.
Great, isn’t it? And it sounds quite natural, too.
I wouldn’t add it more than once or twice to the FAQ to avoid keyword-stuffing. Though adding the phrase naturally like this is certainly a way to increase your relevance for such terms.
Add local content
To make Google view your web pages as more relevant to its local users, consider adding relevant local content.
Typical types of local content include manual driving directions, Google Map embeds, a brief paragraph about the area or specific location, and references to local landmarks and neighbouring businesses.
It’s essential to keep the content relevant and not add it just for the sake of doing so.
For example, discussing local neighbouring businesses can interest visitors by letting them know that when they visit you, they can also easily have lunch afterward, shop for complementary products, or access other services conveniently.
There are many methods to boost your search volume and traffic for “near me” searches. However, it’s crucial to consistently work on your local search marketing.
This particularly involves improving your prominence to get long-term results for various keywords, making it hard for anyone to easily overtake you.
While “near me” terms are important, they also depend on your broader local search strategies.
So, avoid focusing solely on these terms. Instead, invest time in expanding your website, keeping your GBP updated, and providing top-notch services to your customers.
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