Understanding Proximity in Local Search

Proximity local search SEOWhile we may truly never know how Google’s algorithm works in total, one thing we know for certain is that when you are doing local SEO a major variable to keep top of mind is proximity.

Keep on reading to see what information we have gathered to gain a better understanding of how much proximity plays a factor in local search.

Location, Location, Location

The age-old phrase that location is key really is true when it comes to local search. Say, for example, you are a flower shop in the Indianapolis area, but your store is located in a nearby city outside of the Indianapolis city limits.

Now, while you do serve the area and likely do get customers from all around the city, your business may have trouble ranking for “Indianapolis flower shop” solely due to the store’s address.

Using a Google Chrome extension, GS Location Changer, I was able to set my browser’s location to Indianapolis, Indiana and did a search for “flower shop in Indianapolis.” The final results were confined to a small area of downtown:

local pack

As you can see from the blue dot on the map (my location), the businesses Google displayed were all extremely close, with one even being a few hundred feet away from the center of downtown. Now let’s take a second to look at how these businesses and sites actually perform on the local SEO side.

  • JP Parker Flowers Indianapolis
    • 62 reviews with an average rating of 4.4
    • Keyword stuffing their GMB business name
    • An optimized website that works on mobile
    • A little over 1.6k backlinks
  • Andrews Florist
    • 28 reviews with an average rating of 4.1
    • An older website that’s not mobile-friendly
    • Only around 500 backlinks
  • Urban Contessa Floral & Gift Boutique
    • No reviews
    • Small website, though it is mobile-friendly
    • 31 backlinks

In the example above, the first listing does seem to be on their SEO A-game, despite them going against GMB rules by using keywords in their titles. The other two listings’ profiles and websites have not been tended to in the same way, however.

Next, I changed my location to be Carmel, Indiana, which is about thirty minutes outside of downtown, and did the same search:

local pack

Even though my location changed, my search still showed results for businesses located in Indianapolis. You will see the results are at a much further distance than before, are different results from my first query, and are listed in order of proximity.

Let’s examine these companies’ SEO the same way we did for the first search:

  • Gilbert’s Flower Shop
    • 33 reviews and with an average rating of 4.8
    • An optimized website that is mobile-friendly
    • 311 backlinks
  • McNamara Florist
    • 26 reviews with an average rating of 4.6
    • An optimized website with mobile abilities
    • Over 3.8k backlinks
  • McNamara Florist (again!)
    • 40 reviews with an average rating of 4.4
    • Same other details as bullet above

What is super interesting here is that McNamara has two locations that are showing up in this result 3-pack. And these two businesses are pretty well optimized, despite being far from my location.

Lastly, I did a search with my location still in Carmel, but removed “Indianapolis” from my search:

local pack

And as you see this time, we actually got results that were in proximity to my location. One of the things that immediately stood out to me was that for the first time one of our results does not have the “florist” category, but rather “flower delivery.” As before, let’s do a little SEO evaluation on these listings:

  • Rusted Window
    • 26 reviews with an average rating of 4.9
    • An optimized website, however it doesn’t appear mobile-friendly
    • 402 backlinks
  • The Carmel Florist
    • 31 reviews with an average rating 4.7
    • A quite outdated website that is not secure or mobile
    • Over 5.6k backlinks
  • McNamara Florist
    • 31 reviews with an average rating of 4.6
    • Same other details as other listings

Conclusion

This little experiment goes to show how much proximity and search query work together diligently to show you business listings that Google believes are most relevant to your search. Here’s an overview of the results:

  • “Keyword” in “location” searched within city = results for city less than 1 mile away
  • “Keyword” in “location” searched outside city = results for city, all over 5 miles away
  • “Keyword” searched in neighboring city = results in neighboring city, all less than 2 miles away

Overall, it is important to understand that for local SEO, these are factors that you need to keep in mind when evaluating your GMB listings, websites, locations, and more.

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