Most of the time when you search for “ice cream” you’re looking for a place nearby to purchase your favorite form of dairy. Sure, some may be searching for the history of ice cream, or how air content in ice cream affects texture, but most just want some ice cream.
The same is typically true when people search “doctors” or “primary care physicians”. Most of these searches are to find healthcare providers in the area rather than general information about doctors. People who need a doctor will typically start with searches for general information about the health problem they’re experiencing. When they get ready to make an appointment with someone, though, they’ll look for doctors, and they want to see local doctors.
Google has gotten pretty good at identifying when you’re looking for goods or services in your local area. And the factors that make you show up in local search aren’t exactly the same as the factors that determine your rankings.
What’s the difference?
When Google notices that you are looking for a local business, not just general information, you’ll see the “three pack” and a map. Google’s local 3-pack is a list of three local establishments that Google deems most relevant to your search, showing as pins on a map.
General informational search results look different Factors determining rank in local search are different from factors determining your website’s search ranking in general.
Local search optimization
If you’re a general practitioner, the owner of an ice cream parlor, or you own a business that relies on local clientele, you need to perform well in local search.
So what factors affect local search, and how do you improve local search rankings? Your competitors, your location, and the quality of your website have the largest influence on local search. But these are the factors that can make a difference:
- The searchers’ location. Since the Pigeon update, Google will always show people the services nearest to them.
- The business location. If your practice is close to the searcher, you’re more likely to show up. On the other hand, if they’re closer to your competitor, all things being equal, your competitor will be shown.
- Local stature. The reputation of your business, its reviews, and the length of time you’ve been around will affect your local search rankings.
- Local citations. Mentions of you, your practice, or your business — with or without links — affect your local rankings.
- Your website’s rank for the keywords being used.
Some local search factors aren’t within your control.
You can’t really control what your competitors do. You can’t control who uses search engines, or the geographical location of those users. And once you’ve opened your doors, you don’t really have control over your location.
You can improve your local stature, local citations, and the quality of your website, however. These are three factors that affect local search ranking which you do have control over.