In the world of search engine optimization, ” local search”refers to a request launched on a search engine that includes a geolocation component in its formulation. In other words, it is simply any search made on Google or other search engines and which by its nature is considered as local by them
In order to respond in a precise and ever more relevant way to the expectations of the Internet user, the results presented in the SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) are influenced by many factors.
Among these, the geographical location has become a very important element in the world of Internet search
As you may have noticed, it has been quite some time since the search engines in general and Google in particular have been offering users results adapted to their geographical context for quite some time
This is a crucial aspect of natural referencing which must now be taken into consideration by companies and organizations whose catchment area is limited to a sector
What can be done to bring visibility to one’s business according to geographical criteria?
First of all, you need to understand Local Search in its smallest details to better understand Local SEO.
So this content is for you if you are wondering:
- What is Local Search ;
- How does Local Search work?
- How are local results displayed in the local pack ?
- What are the factors that influence local visibility on search engines?
Because you need to know everything about Local Search, it would be in your interest to read the following lines carefully.
Chapter 1: Local Search – What is it all about?
In this chapter, we will mainly deal with Local Search on Google, the search giant that, let’s remember, holds 91,55 % of market share in France by June 2021.
The aim here is to highlight the way in which the geographical location of proximity conditions the search results displayed in the Google SERPs
1.1. what is local search?
The expression “local search” or its translation “local search” refers to all the maneuvers carried out by search engines in order to propose, according to the Internet user’s intentions, results corresponding to a nearby geographical sector.
In other words, the results proposed by the search engines are, depending on the case, proximity results adapted to your geographical position
To be more precise, they are results proposed according to the location to which your IP address, or rather that of your Internet service provider (ISP), refers.
1.2. understanding the full operation of local search
Local search is just a small nuance of the classic organic search
To understand local search, you need to have a fairly clear and precise idea of how classic search engines
Indeed, organic search and local search differ very little.
Identical in every way, only a certain number of elements considered by the algorithms to select, rank and display the results are different.
If you are completely unfamiliar with how search engines work, it would be wise to consult the guide to SEO :
But in the meantime, it is essential for a good understanding of the following that you have some basic notions in mind.
1.2.1. The principle of organic search in brief: The display of results
For most Internet users, the Google search is summarized by entering a few keywords in the search bar of the search engine and displaying results that are sometimes distributed over several pages
This is only the visible part of an incredible and even more complex processing procedure
The dissemination of search resultsthis is the stage that interests us for the subject we are studying.
The display of search results is a process punctuated by many elements. It is only the image of a great underlying machinery made of exploration andindexing and indexing.
When a query is entered in the search bar, the search engine robots identify the web pages in the index that correspond to the user’s intention
Then, these crawlers return a classified list of results (web pages) deemed to be the most appropriate and relevant to the user
At Google, the relevance of a page and its content is determined by an algorithm whose internal workings (still unknown to the public Blackbox) is based on hundreds of factors that are constantly being improved
Google’s algorithm is constantly improving. Rather than trying to guess the specifics in order to design a website accordingly, Google urges operators to scrupulously follow its guidelines and best practices
Among the factors shaping Google search in general, the quality of the user experience is one of Google’s main criteria
The search giant relies in part on this criterion to include or exclude a page in its SERPs and to determine its ranking
Now you know, so to speak, how Local Search is supposed to be treated in general
The only difference is that for Local Search, the results presented in the SERPs come from the index of Google websites, but especially from the extracts of the Google My Business.
1.2.2. How does Google recognize local queries?
When the user enters a query in the search bar, Google determines the “local” character of this search in two different ways.
- Either, the query clearly indicates in its formulation that it is local thanks to words and expressions like
- “near me” ;
- “close to me”;
- The name of a street, a neighborhood or a city;
For example, for the query “SEO agency” typed with Paris (left) and Marseille (right), here is the result:
- Either, the search engine considers that the primary intention of the user is to find a service locally. This functionality is only activated for certain queries, for example
- “market” ;
- garage”; “hairdresser”
- Or many other services.
In this second case, Google will use the location of the Internet user to update its position and automatically isolate the corresponding geolocalized results
Because your ISP’s server is not necessarily around the corner from you, it is sometimes better to refine your query by telling Google the exact location of the search.
In addition, precise location is also important and even mandatory for queries such as “bed and breakfast” or “hotel”. Unless you want to spend a weekend close to home, it would be wise to be a little precise about the search area
As you can probably imagine, the results the search giant will display will be different from one place to another.
It is important to remember that Google’s search results are now personalized according to the user’s position.
1.2.3. The presentation of local results
The main visible specificity of local search is the presentation of local results in the SERPs.
18.104.22.168. Classic display plan for local results
The display plan for local results depends on the form of the query performed.
22.214.171.124.1. Result presentation plan for local queries without location words
For this type of query, the display of local results on cell phones usually takes the following form:
- On the first line, the keyword of the query “cinema” appears in bold.
- Then on the second line is notified “near (your area of activity on the web and applications, the city of your server)”.
- At the end of the second line, a link “choose a zone” allows you to change or update your position and your activity.
- Just below this line, an extract of the Google Maps showing the local results is proposed.
- Then, comes the list of the links concerned (it is drawn up just after the map).
- Then comes the list of organic results.
The set made up of the map data and the list of proximity results proposed by Google represents in Local SEO : the map pack.
In plain English, this results distribution plan does not vary depending on whether you type the search “cinema” while being located in Paris or Marseille
But the local results presented are certainly different from one city to another.
It is important to note that on a computer, the map pack appears directly after the Google navigation bar and is immediately followed by the organic results.
126.96.36.199.2. Results presentation plan for local queries with location words
The presentation of local results here follows a completely different pattern.
- Just after the navigation bar, Google lists 4 ads.
- Following this list, the search engine displays the map pack corresponding to the search.
- Below the map pack are then listed the organic results.
As with the previous query type, the difference between the mobile and desktop versions is the presence of:
- the bold word lines
- the activity area plus the location ;
- the server and the “choose a zone” link
These elements are present just before the map pack on mobile.
188.8.131.52. The characteristics of the Google Local Pack
The map pack represents the very heart of the presentation of local results and is constant, regardless of the type of query
The Local Pack is the boxed area that appears on the first page of Google’s SERPs. It displays the top 3 most relevant local businesses for the search
For each of these establishments, Google provides Internet users with relevant information.
Thus, Google’s local pack informs
- The company’s overall rating;
- A brief description of the company;
- The complete address of the location;
- The opening hours;
- The proposed price range;
- A featured photo of the business on the right.
Once upon a time, Google’s Local pack featured a top 7 of the most famous companies in the area and was called the “7-pack” for that.
In order to comply with the overwhelming trend of mobile, Google quickly changed the display of the results in the SERPs. For this fact, the search engine decreased the composition of its Local pack and changed from the 7-Pack to a pack of three results
That’s not all, in addition to adopting the 3-Pack, Google has also improved the way its algorithm ranks local results
From now on, when users search for local businesses, whether from a computer or a mobile device, they will only be shown the 3-Pack.
By taking our query “seo agency paris” in the search engine, Google offers us the following local pack:
The importance of local search is becoming more and more obvious. It is therefore appropriate for any company, however small, to have as much as possible, a strong presence in the Local search. The objective is to appear in the top 3 of the Local Pack.
1.2.4. Top 3 main ranking criteria applied to Local Search
The ranking of results proposed in the SERPs is a real meritocracy. This means that only web pages that are optimal according to Google have a chance to be ranked at the top.
This guiding principle of organic search applies in every way to local search. The question is: What are the factors that influence the ranking of Google’s Local search results?
Obviously, we are talking about Local Search, so spontaneously the ranking criterion that comes first is geographical location. This is certainly a criterion that counts for a lot, but it is not the only one.
In fact, the search giant bases its ranking of local results on three other main factors, namely:
- Relevance; and
184.108.40.206. First local ranking factor: Proximity
The Internet user’s intention is to find an establishment close to him
To say that proximity is considered a key ranking factor is obvious
Logically, to evaluate it, we should base ourselves on the distance separating the physical location of the store and the position of the user at the time of his Google search
This is where company citations come into play.
These are the online mentions of your business NAP:
- Address (city, region, zip code)
- Phone number.
In doing so, it is these citations that inform the search engine about your physical location
In terms of proximity, in order for Google to present your company to its users, your citations must be accurate and free of inconsistencies
220.127.116.11. Second local ranking factor: Relevance
For the Internet user, if a local result is expected, the relevance of this result is clearly expected.
For Google, it is essential to offer only the most relevant results to its users.
To do this, it ensures that your company offers the services or products that the user is looking for.
The secret to show the relevance of your company to the search engine lies here in the optimization of all your content by local keywords:
- Google My Business (GMB) listing
- Social media profiles
So, if you are for example looking for an establishment that serves sushi, Google will offer you a relevant 3-Pack like this one:
18.104.22.168. Third factor of local ranking: Authority
Yes, your establishment must be close to the user. It must meet their expectations in every respect and above all, it must have a good reputation. All these conditions are necessary to be ranked in Google’s local results.
Because Google makes it a point of honor to provide the best to its users, the online popularity of your company is crucial
To rank well in Google’s local rankings, you have to earn it. The notoriety of your company ensures a certain guarantee of satisfaction to the Internet user.
To evaluate your authority, the search engine bases itself on the online references it obtains through
- Ratings and reviews
- The backlinks
- User behavior
- And so on.
Staying with the sushi example:
To stand out from the competition and be well placed in local results, it is advisable to invest in a strategy of netlinking strategy combined with the continuous receipt of positive reviews and ratings.
Chapter 2: The undeniable SEO importance of Local search
Now that we have a fairly clear idea of how Local search translates, let’s go through its various implications in terms of natural referencing for Internet users, businesses and SEOs alike.
2.1. Local search by the numbers
Over the last few years, Internet search has evolved considerably. It appeared during the year 2019 that Local Searches have doubled on Google. For more than 6 billion daily queries on Google, 25 % have a geolocation component.
And regarding mobile, it is important to know that 30 % of the searches launched are related to a specific location.
This simply means that many consumers and users are now using the web to identify locally the services and products they need
In a study conducted in 2014 by Google, it was found that 4 out of 5 Internet users use search engines to find local information
- The address of various businesses
- The opening hours of local structures
- The availability of specific products and services;
- And many other information.
Other studies conducted here and there confirm these trends. It appears that the majority of consumers consult the opening hours of a store before visiting it for a purchase
2.2. The significant benefits of local search
As a general rule, any structure that is accessible from the Internet and has a physical sign has undeniably a great interest in being referenced for local search. And for good reason, whether you are a shopkeeper, a craftsman, a painter, a small business or the head office of a company, Local Search offers considerable visibility potential.
Local search is even more relevant for all establishments with a local catchment area such as a bakery for example. It allows to reach a local audience (customers and prospects on a given territory)
With these important commercial stakes, Local search is part of a web-to-store logic for suppliers.
Because the proposed results are adapted to the user’s intention, local Search allows companies to reach a rather qualified target audience with an explicit intention.
The local pack is likely to appear at the top of the SERPs for 93 % of the time when a Google user performs a Local Search.
This is because a business ranked in this premium SERP space is sure to get noticed.
As a competitive business with a local presence, it would be a shame to miss out on these exciting visibility opportunities.
The value of mastering Local Search and Local SEO guidelines doesn’t end there.
Being part of the local pack will stimulate increased traffic to your company’s website with better SEO performance. A benefit that will translate into more visitors, new customers and therefore more revenue
In addition, access to the local elite podium (the 3-Pack) will not cost you a single cent, unlike SEA campaigns.
All the more reason to invest in local search optimization.
2.3. The different impacts of Local Search
As you can see, Local Search allows consumers to quickly identify a nearby company and it allows companies to gain more visibility. But in concrete terms, what impact does this search engine functionality have on the various web players?
2.3.1. Impacts for cybernauts
Being able to easily find a local address that offers the services or products you need? This is definitely a good thing!
72 % of Internet users admit that their first search is for information about businesses on the web.
Indeed, globally, Local Search has become an essential tool for the vast majority of Internet users.
This is quite understandable, because it is quite practical to have access to the list of professionals near one’s home in a few clicks, especially in case of emergency…
2.3.2. Impacts for businesses
The impact of Local Search from the business perspective is quite mixed
Overall, it appears that Google’s Local Pack has some good and some bad points
22.214.171.124. The impact on small local businesses
On the side of local SMEs, the development of this aspect of Internet search is certainly beneficial
Often relegated to the background or rather to the fifth page of organic search results, these small businesses now have the chance to be front and center
The small disadvantage is that their field of action is now restricted to a certain, very delimited geographical area.
126.96.36.199. The impact on large regional companies
If we look at the big league, we can see that regional companies will certainly lose something
And for good reason, a good part of their clientele and other prospects are likely to be diverted to the smaller suppliers closest to them
It has been revealed that 88 % of Internet users who have done a local search on the web have visited a store within 8 km and most do so within 24 hours.
The major local retailers have no choice but to redouble their efforts to retain their consumers and potential customers.
They will have to optimize the organic and local referencing of their website in order to appear in the top 3 of the SERPS.
2.3.3. Impacts for SEO consultants
On the side of the sEO consultantsfor SEO consultants, it is essential to ensure that their clients are fully and correctly registered in Google’s Local Business Center in order to obtain a correct positioning in local results.
For these SEO professionals, a number of things will become a hassle
Someone will have to explain to large regional businesses why they are being passed over by small neighborhood businesses with barely optimized websites
With the explosion of Local Search, the expertise of these professionals will be increasingly in demand.
Because it is indeed crucial to ensure the good positioning of your local business or establishment on search engines, it is crucial to use the services of local SEO experts such as Twaino.
Even if your establishment already occupies a prominent place in the SERPs for local queries, it is still necessary to pay attention to it.
Indeed, the ranking in the SERPs is dynamic and constantly changing. At the slightest slackening, a competitor who applies the right strategies will quickly outrank you.
Twaino helps you design a solid local SEO strategy that is tailored to your site and your company’s goals.
Chapter 3: Optimizing your company’s visibility in local search
In this new era of contextualized search and results, SEO competition is heating up for businesses with a local catchment area
3.1. Why should you focus on Local SEO?
9 out of 10 users will choose one of the companies that are on the first page of local search engine results.
This estimate shows you the great opportunity that there is if you only manage to appear on the first page of Google SERPs when its users perform Local search
This chapter is therefore justified, because it shows you the different levers to be activated in priority to carry out the Local SEO campaign of your company’s website. For more details and clarifications, please refer to the complete guide to local SEO.
The essential elements around which the classic SEO campaign is based remain valid in terms of Local SEO
In Local SEO, each of these different elements is contextualized to a specific region
Of course, it is not only these classic elements that Local SEO is made of, it also combines some tasks that are specific to it.
Remember, among these specificities are local citations and the optimization of business listings on
- Google My Business
- Bing Places;
- Apple Maps
It is again important to emphasize that the optimal management of these different aspects of local SEO deserves to be perfectly carried out by professionals such as Twaino
This is a necessary precaution to ensure that your company has a strong online presence that can keep the competition at bay
To give you an immediate idea of what is involved in optimizing a website for local SEO, here are some key local SEO practices.
3.2. Auditing your rankings in local results
There is a famous saying: To know where you are going, you have to know where you are coming from. A true expression which however is incomplete in terms of SEO and more importantly in local SEO
Indeed, as a prelude to any Local SEO campaign, it is especially important to know where you are
In other words, you should determine the position of your company in the Local Pack and also track the different rankings for each geographical position.
To do this, you have at your disposal paid tools such as
These tools provide you with an interactive map of the different places in the city where you are (well or badly) ranked. This gives you an idea of the actions you need to take to improve your ranking.
3.3. The research of keywords for the Local SEO
Fundamental to SEO, it is from the keywords that search engines determine the search intention and propose the appropriate results.
As for the rest, the principle of local keyword research is similar to that of organic search with some specificities.
For the vast majority of institutions, the main keywords to target are rather obvious to determine
There are many tips and tools for choosing keywords wisely.
- Follow Google autocomplete suggestions;
- Spy on the keywords on which the competition ranks;
For more details, consult the complete guide to keyword research.
3.4. Google My Business, Bing Places and Apple Maps listings
This is certainly the most important step in local SEO. Because the local results presented by Google to Internet users come entirely from the GMB listings of businesses, it is absolutely necessary to claim and optimize your profile on Google My Business.
This also applies to listings on Bing Places and Apple Maps, which are easy to set up following the instructions given by these search engines respectively.
3.5. Audit and creation of local citations (NAP)
If you’ve been following along since the beginning, you probably already know what local citations or NAPs are and how important they are for local search.
What you may not know is that they come in two forms:
- Structured local citations ;
- And unstructured local citations.
To learn more about their interest in Local SEO, the tools to create them and to audit them, please refer to the section dedicated to them in the complete guide to Local SEO
3.6. Managing customer and prospect reviews
Online reviews are the very testimony of the company’s reputation on the web. A reputation that search engines take into account to determine the ranking of local results.
Moreover, it has been noted that 71% of consumers make their purchasing decisions after consulting online reviews.
But how do you go about gaining brand awareness through consumer reviews? You’ve read all about it in chapter 9 of the complete guide to local SEO
Throughout this article, we will remember that Local search is a facet of Internet search that is booming
In an almost digitalized world, not having a good online presence is equivalent to being insignificant
A rule that makes sense when it comes to local search, especially since local consumers consult search engines first before making a purchase.
You have had the opportunity to understand in detail what Local Search is and its importance in SEO. And you have the tools to track and optimize your Local SEO performance
Local SEO is just an adaptation of natural referencing applied in a local context. All the actions carried out in local SEO are therefore used to :
- Clearly present the nature of your activity to the search engine;
- Inform the precise location of its business;
- Develop the notoriety of its establishment;
- And above all, satisfy the expectations of the Internet user.
Here we are at the end of this development, do not hesitate to share in the comments your opinions and experiences on the subject.
See you soon!