Caveat right up front: we’re not Google specialists. That’s a role that requires dedicated skills and ongoing education as Google (and other search engines) constantly tweak, hone, and improve their search functionality so you – the searchee – get the best search returns possible.
So, while we’re not Google specialists, we do have a skill that’s pretty useful in helping you navigate the murky waters of search returns.
We are good at writing guide: distilling the glut of online information and advice on specific topics, and turning out simple, useful guides. Guides that help everyday businesses make better decisions about where to spend their precious marketing time and dollars.
This guide comes courtesy of recent queries from a selection of clients asking how they could make the most of a Google near me search.
WHAT IS A GOOGLE NEAR ME SEARCH?
Google Near Me searches are location-based search queries. Most people are familiar with this functionality. Most of us use it when, say, travelling.
You go to a new place and you’re hungry. You open Google and search –restaurants. Even with your location services off, Google will pinpoint your location (using a myriad other factors) and present the restaurants near you….well, sort of, but we’ll get to that.
You can then choose a restaurant based on the information shown in the Google business listing and/or based on proximity to your location.
That is the most basic definition of location-based search.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT NEAR ME SEARCHES?
Depending on the source it is said that near me searches account for as many as 46% of all Google searches. Even more interesting 50% of ‘near me’ searches result in a physical store visit.
Terms such as “near me today” or “open + now + near me” are showing extraordinary growth rates. As much as 200% year on year.
Not surprisingly the most popular near me searches are for simple consumables such as food (84%), entertainment (56%) and apparel (41%).
BUT IS A NEAR ME SEARCH, REALLY NEAR ME?
Umm…yes? But no... maybe so…There are so many variables that determine how Google presents results when someone does a near me search.
According to one source, this could be upwards of 600 factors and includes data such as past search history, exact location of device and whether you are searching from a work computer or a mobile device. Even then the results are likely skewed by paid ads.
So yes, the results. shown are near (ish) to the user but the real reason you’re reading this is, how do you get your business included in any capacity in the results of a near me search- right?
HOW TO BE ‘NEAR ME’ - RANKING IN LOCAL SEARCH
Here is a list of ways gathered from the four corners of the internet. The best ways we’ve found to optimise your business and give you the best shot at being presented in t the results of a Google near me search.
- Update your Google My Business profile
This free tool is essentially a profile of your business on Google. It helps Google connect your business to key search terms and locations.
A Google My Business listing will have clear description of what you do, your website address, your physical address, contact details, opening hours, reviews and images as baselines. Make sure they are all up to date!
- Check for consistency of business information
Ensure you use the same name, address, and phone number format across all touchpoints on the web (e.g., The Marketing Lab vs. The Marketing Lab Ltd.) This means on your social channels, on your website on your business listing. Everywhere. Google loves consistency and accuracy.
- Gather reviews
If you can collect Google review and ratings, do! There is myriad of tools online that can help make the job of sourcing reviews easier.
- Earn quality backlinks
A backlink means your website address or physical address showing up in a blog post other than your own. If another business or person is talking about you, Google understands it to mean that you are an active, live, credible business and ranks you more favourably.
There are heaps of ways to do this from collaborating with other local business owners, to supporting local events to listing on directories or associations pages.
- Build a mobile friendly site
Most Google searches are via a mobile device so it’s important your website is mobile friendly. Simple things you can do include making buttons large and accessible, using a bigger font so people can read content easily and compressing images to speed up your website on mobile.
We recommend investing time and money into ensuring your website is designed to optimise every opportunity that comes your way.
- Include relevant keywords in your tags and website text
Keywords are like signposts for Google. They help Google match your business to search terms used by prospective customers.
Keywords should be used judiciously (carefully) but also freely. Tag all your photos and images – add your location alongside other keywords in the filenames and tags of every image on your website.
Use your header copy or first paragraphs on your site to introduce your business category, what you do and where you do it. Repeat on your About page or services page or contact page.
Google likes patterns and repetition is a pattern. If you don’t know what your keywords are, use a keyword finder tool online or even better connect with a local expert who can do a formal keyword search for your industry and category.
Over 500,000 new websites can be created globally each day so make sure your basics like keywords are in place!
- Buy or rent some space
Google AdWords are often thought of as quite expensive and in some industries that can be true. But for most everyday businesses, AdWords are a simple, cost effective way to raise your business up the search results page.
If all else is equal - let’s say you and your next 10 competitors all have a well-designed mobile- friendly website, Google business listings aced, keywords nailed and backlinks up the wazoo – then Google will start ranking on spend. You get everything else sorted and then start spending. They rank. Simple as that.
- Send people to your website
Do stuff to get people to visit your website. If people don’t go to your website often, or if they do go, but they don’t stay very long, then Google might just think perhaps your business isn’t a good fit for the type of search terms a prospective customer is putting into their search box.
This might not seem particularly fair but there it is. Again, all things being equal, if you don’t promote or encourage people to use your website, you might struggle to get Google’s attention too.
- Post to Google My Business
Yep, Google My Business (GMB) offers the ability to create social posts that appear in local searches and on Google Maps.
A GMB post differs a wee bit from say an Instagram post. While you still need a good image and some words to explain the service or offer, a GMB post also lets you add a call-to-action button at the foot - “learn more”, “Get directions”, “Call Now.”
GMB posts are visible for seven days after posting. Continuing to post weekly tells Google that you are an active business and that you can be trusted.
Ugh, right? Patience. Some businesses have been in market for ages. They have proven track records for getting people to their site and as such they consistently rank high in Google. So naturally when someone undertakes a near me search, that business listing will likely pop up over yours.
Thinking back to 500,000 new websites a day, that’s a lot of new websites for Google to index (catalogue) and qualify (verify). Sometimes it just takes a moment (or a few weeks) for Google to recognise all the wonderful changes and improvements you’ve made to your website, your Google business listing etc.
- Get technical – Get an expert involved
Like we said at the start, we’re not experts here but many people are. People who know things like how to boost your SEO using Schema Markup (what?), who stay on top of Google’s learning algorithm, who understand how to make a Wordpress site rank better or a Squarespace site…who are ninja’s at writing code, or deciphering patterns in search.
If you’ve tried everything above, including the patience bit and you’re still stuck near the bottom of the search results – and despite everything you cannot get noticed by a Google Near Me search, hit up an expert. We can recommend a few.
WRAPPING IT UP – NEAR YOU, NEAR ME
So, Near Me is a good thing to try and rank for – and while it is highly dependent on a user’s actual location, it is equally important that your digital footprint is working as hard as it can to connect your business to that near me search.
There you have it Google Near Me – nutted down into, hopefully, a somewhat useful guide.
SOME RERENCES WE USED:
Ashley Perssico’s blog ‘How to use Google ‘Near Me’ searches to your advantage’.