Everywhere you go, there are people staring at screens. Some do it with ease and dexterity – navigating crowds, walking a dog, or shopping for groceries all the while. Others are a little less successful – dropping their devices, bumping into trash cans, stumbling over curbs. As more and more people choose to use their mobile devices on the go, we’re seeing a rise in “near me” searches, i.e., search queries that contain a location qualifier. For example, have you ever searched for “restaurants near me” or “coffee nearby”? If so, you’ve conducted a “near me” search.
The Rise of “Near Me” Searches
As people grow more and more accustomed to their phone knowing their exact location, they are less and less likely to type in a specific location when searching. Where someone may have previously typed “vet springfield mo,” they might now type “vet near me.” The hike in “near me” searches didn’t occur overnight, of course. Nearly two years ago, Google announced that “near me” searches had doubled in the past year.
Many people use these types of searches when they need results right away. Google uses the term “Micro Moment” to describe those situations when you have an immediate need for something – whether you need to know something, buy something, or find something (source). In these moments, people are much more likely to add “near me” or “nearby” to their query.
In addition, many people conduct “near me” searches because Google prompts them to do so. For example, they might begin typing “mexican food” but then stop halfway through and click Google’s suggestion: “mexican food near me.”
Suffice it to say that there is no time to lose when it comes to optimizing for “near me” searches.
Optimizing for “Near Me” Searches
Google’s ranking algorithm is complex, and unfortunately some people use this fact as an excuse to ignore certain facets of SEO. For example, some SEOs figure there’s no point trying to optimize for “near me” searches because Google and its spiders are too complicated and mystifying.
However, this simply isn’t the case. Although many factors don’t influence rankings in “near me” searches, some do – and why not take advantage of them? For example, the following techniques correlate with higher “near me” search rankings: higher raw count of backlinks with your city/state in the anchor text, percentage of backlinks with geo-optimized anchor text, and count of reviews. We encourage you to use the following techniques to optimize for “near me” searches:
- Display your NAP. NAP refers to your business name, address, and phone number. Display this contact information on your website in a format that is easy for Google’s spiders to index. If you have multiple locations, create a separate contact page for each location. In addition, make sure that your NAP data is consistent everywhere you post it (your website, Google My Business page, social media, directories, etc.).
- Mark up your NAP. Mark up your NAP information with structured data (i.e., data that is highly organized and predictable, making it easy for search engines to organize and display it). To learn more about this, check out Google’s Introduction to Structured Data guide.
- Set up a Google My Business page. Create a Google My Business page for your business, checking that it is properly set up and organized. It should include your business name, address, and phone number. If you have multiple locations, create a separate page for each one. In addition, remember to review your page regularly to ensure that it is accurate and up to date.
- Ask for reviews. When you have a chance, politely ask your customers to review your company online. Reviews on sites like Facebook and Yelp can help, but focus on asking for Google+ reviews, as they are most likely to impact your local map pack rankings.
- Add backlinks with your city/state in the anchor text. As we mentioned above, having a higher count or a higher percentage of backlinks with your city and state in the anchor text correlates with a higher ranking for “near me” searches. However, this doesn’t mean that you ought to stuff your content with these keywords. Use restraint.
- Create a mobile-friendly site. Ensuring that your site is mobile friendly will benefit your SEO in numerous ways, not just with “near me” searches. Ideally, your website will be responsive, meaning that its content will remain the same regardless of the device used to access it. This is more effective than creating a desktop-friendly version of your website and a mobile-friendly version. For more information, check out our previous blog post.
What Won’t Work
Surprisingly, a relatively short distance between the searcher and the business does not have a significant positive correlation with higher search rankings. Thus, simply being close to your searcher won’t help. Being in the same city, however, may give you a boost (source).
In addition, stuffing your domain content with city and state information won’t help you rank more highly in “near me” searches or conventional searches. You don’t need to add your city and state to title tags, URLs, headings, or body copy. Believe it or not, adding your city and state to your URL can actually have a negative impact on your search performance (source). Remember that if you have a Google My Business page, the search engine already knows your business’s location. You don’t need to beat Googlebot over the head with your city and state.
The rise of “near me” searches is not a temporary trend, so why not embrace the opportunity? By optimizing your site for Micro Moments and “near me” searches, you can improve your ranking and help users find your business quickly in their time of need.
Hoping to get a leg up with Google and other search engines? Check out 417 Marketing, an online marketing company based in Springfield, Missouri, that specializes in SEO and web design. Click here to contact us and learn more about what we can do for your company.