Understanding Google’s Local Search Algorithm

Understanding Google’s Local Search Algorithm

Ranking locally in search is getting harder and harder every day. Why? Competition. To make sure that search results are the most relevant to the purpose of a user’s query, the Google local algorithm is continually being updated.


We need to be aware of these adjustments as SEO experts and digital marketers so that we can pivot or adjust our strategies as necessary. If we don’t, we risk instantly losing our local search presence. The three main ranking pillars will be broken down in this in-depth article to help you understand the local search algorithm so that you, like me, can remain ahead of the competition and know what to watch out for.


Relevance, proximity, and prominence are the three main ranking pillars that I shall go over. You may position yourself (and your clients) for success in local search and master Google’s local algorithm by comprehending each core pillar.


Let’s now explore the components of the Google local algorithm!



The foundation of Google’s local algorithm is relevance. You should target keywords or themes that potential clients would be searching for if you want search engines like Google to consider your business relevant enough to appear. For instance, if you owned a pizzeria in New York, you would want to ensure that Google associated your company with phrases like “pizza New York.”

I’ll outline exactly how you may let Google’s local algorithm know that your company is pertinent to the appropriate search queries in the next section:


Local Listing Signals

There are a few crucial elements you need to focus on when improving your Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business), Bing Places page, or Yahoo Local profile. In addition to ensuring that your company’s NAP (name, address, phone number) is accurate and that you have just one claimed listing, check to see if the following two features have been completed correctly.


1. Local Category Selection

Selecting appropriate categories for your listing is one of the most crucial elements in achieving local prominence. In essence, these categories are tags that you identify with your company. Make careful to only choose categories that accurately describe your company; the more pertinent or precise, the better. For a complete list of categories for Google Business Profile, go here; for Bing Places, go here.


2. Create a business description.

By including a company description in your GBP, you enable users to understand exactly what you do (as well as search engines). This shouldn’t be a sales pitch or an effort to promote your company. Instead, it should include information that users (and search engines) need to assess whether your business aligns with their wants or goals.


On-Page Signals

Your chances of getting favored by the Google local algorithm will grow if you optimize your web pages for the given keywords. You can learn what a search engine prefers for a specific search query or keyword by conducting some basic competitor research and examining the results.

I’ve compiled a list of on-page factors below that you should take into account when trying to improve the relevance of a particular keyword or topic. Check out the checklist I’ve created on the page as well.


1. Content

Whether or not your content deserves to rank depends on how you write it. In 2018, Google released an upgrade to its core algorithm that put more emphasis on the relevant material. This means that it doesn’t necessarily matter how long or well-written your material is. Actually, the only thing that counts is whether your material is pertinent to a user’s search query. The rankings of websites that had high relevance for a keyword or topic were rewarded.

Search engines check to see if your material corresponds to the purpose of the user’s first search query. Does it provide the user with the information they seek? Here are two suggestions for increasing relevancy in your content writing:

LSI Keywords: You can boost relevance to your target keyword or query by using keywords that are semantically connected to one another. Because they can make connections between keywords and reward pages that do so correctly, search engines are incredibly intelligent. Use a tool like this or Google’s search predictor as a tip to assist.

Long-tail keywords offer significance while differing from LSI keywords. Despite the lengthier length of these keywords, they do have a higher conversion rate. This is due to the fact that they are typically more precise and descriptive. In order for search engines to understand whether your website matches the context of a user’s search query, long-tail keywords help you provide context to your content.

According to Hubspot, 50% of search searches are four words or more.


2. Title Tags

First impressions matter! The goal term for your website can be included in the title tag, which is also a wonderful approach to entice users to click. It’s wonderful to include your term for search engine optimization, but it also lets the user know what to expect when they click.


3. Meta Description

You can elaborate on your title tag and provide more context for what your page is about by using your meta description. Remember to include your goal term once more.


4. Body tagging (H1, H2, etc.)

You can include headlines in your material to draw readers in and entice them to continue reading. This is another excellent method for improving your relevance. Your heading tags have to be illustrative and clarify the text they are used to introduce. especially your H1, which is the most noticeable element on a webpage. These tags are recognized by search engines, and the content they contain is given more weight. Try to add your keywords (hint, hint).

According to Neil Patel, H1s are typically the most visually appealing information on the page.


5. Alt Text

Different users digest information in different ways, and some are strong visual learners. Therefore, whenever possible, try to add photos to your material. User engagement will rise as a result of these assets, which benefits ranking.

When adding photos to a page, you have the option to include alt text, which gives search engines a means to quickly crawl and comprehend the media. Another excellent location to use keywords is here. If you have an image that highlights a service your company provides, you should include the service keyword in the alt text. It’s also very crucial for accessibility reasons, to make sure that as many people as possible can access your material.


6. Internal Linking

Making internal links on your website facilitates user navigation to pertinent sites. They aid in creating a hierarchy and dispersing link equity across a website. By establishing a path to related pages or pages that support your topic or keyword, you can use internal linking to boost a page’s relevance.


7. Outbound Links

An external connection leading from your website to another website is known as an outbound link. These connections, which are very similar to internal links, let readers visit external websites to find more details on a relevant subject. The Google local algorithm will identify your selected niche with the help of outbound links, so make sure to concentrate on both providing and obtaining them.


8. Schema

Schema enables you to categorize and give search engines like Google the data they require to comprehend your content. It enhances how your page is presented in search results and works to guarantee the best search results possible. You can boost a page’s relevance for a certain subject or term by adding schema to it. Search engines can quickly locate schema and understand the material that it denotes, ensuring that you appear when you should.


9. Relevant Reviews

We are all aware of the importance of reviews to businesses and rankings, but how significant are reviews that are pertinent? For instance, you should ensure that any evaluations on a product page or a location page accurately reflect the subject. Every review or endorsement on a certain page should be pertinent to that page and make reference to the goods or services that are discussed there. Showcase reviews on the relevant pages of your site if they refer to specific places.


10. URL Structure

Setting up the structure and site architecture of your website is crucial. You can essentially instruct search engine algorithms on how to crawl and prioritize your website. The topic of the page should be reflected in the URL slug; this is another simple technique to boost relevancy.

Use this collection of on-page signals as a guide. You need to be able to browse your target page and mark each of the aforementioned characteristics as applicable. Once you’ve completed this checklist, you should be able to state with confidence that your page is pertinent to your target keyword or topic, increasing the likelihood that the Google local algorithm will favor your website.


Off-Page Signals

Credibility and trust are two important ranking signals. Off-page signals are links leading from another website to yours (also known as backlinks). Your website’s or page’s authority will increase as you have more quality backlinks. This demonstrates to search engines that you are reputable and trustworthy. Before you ask, a “good” backlink is a link from a reliable website that is pertinent to the page it is connecting to (often with a good Page or Domain Authority).

For instance, you would desire links from insurance-related pages and, even better, pages that are specifically on car insurance if you have a service page on “car insurance”. Because the two topics are distinct, you wouldn’t want a link connecting to your “auto insurance” website from a page about “house insurance.” Here are two excellent off-page link-building techniques.


1. A guest post

You can uncover opportunities for guest posting by employing the appropriate set of Google search terms. You get to produce and distribute your own material, which makes these opportunities fantastic. Most of the time, these prospects will be pertinent and aid in boosting the authority and relevancy of your website.

You want to stand out from the crowd when you contact websites. Keep in mind that other people are also reaching out. Your opening statement ought to promote both you and your company, and it ought to cover more than one subject (options are always good).


2. Creating 10 times as much content

What better strategy to increase links to your website than to use the excellent content you already have? Great 10x content pieces require extensive thought and research, but the results are always well worth the effort.

Your writing must be compelling and should leave readers speechless (so to speak). Promoting your 10x content will be rather simple once you have it. Experts (owners of other sites) adore linking to excellent, pertinent material. The easy it is to get links, the better your material is!



Consider your brand’s prominence as how well it stands out from the competition (in a positive way). There are several ways that this can appear, including links, articles, directories, mentions, reviews, etc. It has to do with the credibility and trust that your brand has gained among search engines.

The Google local algorithm is more likely to believe and trust brands that have a higher online prominence. We are aware that search engines, particularly Google, collect information from various websites. In other words, if your brand is online, search engines will uncover this information and assign you a prominence score. Let’s look at some crucial methods you may strengthen your position, keep your brand prominent, and improve your financial situation.



Online reviews for a company have the ability to influence a customer’s decision in addition to increasing ranking signals. There is never enough room for reviews!

Would you be more likely to trust a company with 10 or 100 reviews? The former is probably the case. This is so because similar to the Google local algorithm, consumers must trust a company before making a purchase or clicking. Search engines can therefore examine the sort of review, the number of reviews a business has, and how reviews interact with them, just like consumers can (respond to them or not). A brand’s online prominence may rise as a result of all these elements. You can find some advice to help you get more reliable indications from online reviews further down.


1. Create a Review Strategy

A company needs to create a plan if they want to get more reviews. This has major significance. You must first find a strategy to increase the number of reviews you receive if you want to have a strong online brand presence. There are many options at your disposal to assist you in getting more reviews.


2. Respond to Reviews

After putting a plan in place, you must discover a mechanism to manage and keep an eye on your reviews. Obtaining reviews and doing this are both crucial. When you interact with customers and respond to their remarks, search engines can tell. It demonstrates your willingness to participate and the activity.

Brightlocal’s Reputation Manager tool is a terrific resource. You can keep track of all your reviews and draw attention to the ones that require a response. This is crucial for unfavorable reviews in particular. Negative reviews aren’t ideal, but you can reply to them positively and proactively in order to change their tone.

Keep in mind that you want to stand out from the competition and that you want users to positively perceive your brand and Google’s local algorithm.



A citation is an online mention of the name, address, and phone number (NAP) of your company. Citations do not have to point back to your website, unlike external links. You receive credit for a citation even if your company is only stated along with its name, address, and phone number.

Search engine algorithms give more credibility to companies that receive a lot of online mentions. Brightlocal’s Citation Tracker is a fantastic place to get started. You may find any existing citations, inaccurate citations, and potential citations here. From there, you can decide which citations are most important and correct or add them.


Inbound Links (Backlinks)

Backlinks were stated in the relevancy portion, but it’s crucial that I bring them up once more in the prominence area. What other significant means does a company have to enhance its internet reputation? Gaining relevant backlinks is correct.

Always compare the number of backlinks that a competitor’s page has to yours when attempting to determine why they may be ranking higher than you. Your page will carry more authority and trust the more high-quality links it has pointing to it.



We now know that your company is prominent and relevant to the user’s search, so let’s examine our final ranking factor: proximity. To guarantee that search results include the most pertinent searches for a user, local algorithms are continuously updated. You’ve probably all heard that being close to the searcher is the most important ranking factor. That hasn’t changed, I suppose.

Unfortunately, even while proximity is essential to local search, it is also the element that you have the least control over. The location of your firm is where it is.

The key here is to tell Google where your company is so that it can display you for nearby search searches.

Using a tool like Local Search Results Checker, you may monitor your current local ranking position. See how your results alter depending on where the searcher is located by entering the zip code from one road over, two roads over, and three roads over.


Local Search Types

You should always take into account optimizing for the many ways consumers are searching, including non-geo-modified, geo-modified, and “near me” searches.


Let’s examine the distinction:


Non-Geotagged Searches

This type of search activity is typical of someone who is looking nearby. For instance, if I search for “pubs” locally and I’m in Toronto, the results will probably include the pubs that are nearest to me. This is a result of search engines’ increased reliance on proximity (without implying that they ignore prominence and relevance).


Geotagged Searches

Users often conduct these local searches when they are planning to go somewhere or traveling to a different city, though this isn’t always the case. For instance, if I type in “Pubs in Oakville” while physically located in Toronto, the search results will differ from those if I type in “pubs” while physically located in Oakville. If geo-modified searches determine that you are not in the city you included, they will place a greater emphasis on the other two pillars (relevance and prominence) than proximity. Listings that are near to the city centroid and have a lot of relevance and prominence will frequently appear in search results.

Location-based searches make up 30% of all mobile searches. Google (2016)

Searches for “Near Me”

“Near me” searches were highly common a few years ago. The number of searches for “pubs near me” and similar terms has decreased since 2014, according to data from 2018.

Why you inquire? It’s because when someone conducts a local search, “near me” is now assumed. Users anticipate receiving the most pertinent results “near them” when they search. Nevertheless, I thought I should add it as some users still search for this variation.


Keep in Mind the Three Fundamental Elements of Relevance, Prominence, and Proximity

These pillars will assist you in achieving the outcomes required to take your company to a new level of success. Take the initiative against your rivals right away, keep up with Google’s local search algorithm changes, and concentrate on the three key pillars!

Say it once more with me:

  • Relevance: How Can You Make Yourself More Relevant?
  • Prominence: How Recognized Is Your Brand Online?
  • Proximity: Distance between a searcher and the object they are seeking.


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