Marketing Insights

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The New #1 Local Search Ranking Factor

Recently, Google’s local results have left business owners wondering why their competitors are ranking higher than them in local results. We're now seeing businesses with weak online presences ranking in the top three spots in local search more than ever before.

For example, below are the returned results Darren Shaw, founder of Whitespark, received when he searched “plumbers” at his home in Edmonton.

(Search was performed in an incognito Chrome browser on a PC in Edmonton.)

Here is a summary of basic local ranking factors for the business in his local pack:

You will notice that:

  1. None of the businesses have claimed or verified their Google listing
  2. None of the businesses have any Google reviews
  3. Only one of the businesses has a website

You must be thinking, “Surely, there are more prominent businesses in Edmonton that should be ranking for this term?” So, how are these businesses ranking in the top three? This time, Shaw added one additional point to the basic local ranking factors: proximity to the searcher.

Based on the analysis of dozens of queries, Shaw stated, “Proximity to searcher is the new #1 ranking factor in local search results today.”

As of late February 2017, it appears that Google is valuing proximity over links, website content, citations, and reviews for local search results. The traditional local search ranking factors are now outweighed by businesses that are closer to the searcher.

Evidence of Proximity-Based Local Rankings

Shaw, along with three of his team members at Whitespark, ran a series of searches from their homes to see how the results varied across the city. All participants searched the same 9 local queries in an incognito browser and saved screenshots of their results.

You will notice that each participant got completely different results that were mostly based on the searcher’s location.

The results showed that proximity impacted non-geo-modified terms (“plumbers”) more than the results for geo-modified terms (“edmonton plumbers”). The differences are likely due to the relevance of the geo-modified term. The websites may have more text or references targeting the term “Edmonton plumbers.”

How does this affect local SEO?

Local SEO is now more competitive than ever. Google has reduced the radius that your business will be shown in local search, meaning you could see less traffic and leads from local search results. Because your business’s reach in local results is now smaller, you must boost your local optimization efforts to be as competitive as possible.

How to Get Started

Jump on board with local search results. Since Google is changing its algorithms to promote proximity in local search, the best approach is to embrace, adapt, and adjust. If you want to stay competitive, you will need to step up your local optimization efforts. Consider the following:

  • Don’t neglect your organic opportunities (content and links)

  • Keep an eye on outliers; examine best practices of businesses that are being pulled into the local results that are farther away from searcher

  • Broaden your local optimization efforts beyond Google; make sure that your listings across the internet are claimed, optimized, and consistent

  • Drive reviews on sites like Yelp, BBB, and Angie’s List, rather than just Google

Your Local SEO Experts

Want to reap the benefits of the new local search algorithm without the headache or heavy lifting? Teamwork Solutions is a proven expert in generating leads from local and organic SEO best practices. Let’s schedule a call to discuss how we can optimize your local SEO efforts today.




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