It’s been years since mobile queries, and specifically, voice searches have taken over, but the debate over the purpose and performance of “near me” optimization is still unsettled. Many content specialists warned website owners of the harm of incorporating the exact term in their page titles, meta descriptions or on-page text, as it affects the flow, and organic nature of any content.
Additionally, even Google stated that, in determining the best websites to rank for a specific location, seeing terms like “pizzeria near me: within title pages doesn’t count for much. There are other practices that the search engine giant claims to be looking at and taking into account when displaying results for searches with local intent. Things like structured data and schema markup for a business address, or local listings through Google My Business, are just a few of the mentions.
With all that said, the reality begs to differ. Depending of course on your location, as well as the industry you are in, and the level of competition in your market and area, optimizing for local intent searches by actually adding “near me” to your search term list can prove quite fruitful.
“Near me” search terms - theory vs. practice
So the theory tells us not to include “near me” in page titles, metadata, or even force it in on-page content. However, the practice has shown us that, as long as you’re not sacrificing more relevant keywords, incorporating such terms does, in fact, help boost your ranking for local searches.
Of course, this tactic needs to be supported by all the other standard practices, such as the ones mentioned above - utilizing Google My Business features and incorporating your address or even directions on the website. These are generally called location signals, and they carry a lot of weight when it comes to near me searches, in some instances even more weight the words “near me” themselves.
Localized content is greatly important for SEO and optimizing a website to rank higher in “near me” search results is not just about including these exact words in your content. One of the most natural ways to achieve this is to create content that’s relevant to your business area and location. Not only does that help with local intent, but it’s also a great way of promotion. Localized content can take many forms, but usually includes the city name, the area or even the business location.
Using geo-targeted keywords that specify your business location also help with ranking for local intent searches, as it enables users to find your business faster. What’s more, these keywords help better target your audience, which brings added SEO value.
Google My Business - a big factor for near me optimization
Over the years, Google has revised its algorithms several times in order to respond to the increasing demand for local results. By using machine learning and AI, the search engine is constantly trying to return better results for queries with local intent. One of the main strategies to stay atop of these changes is to leverage Google’s own tool for local optimization, Google My Business.
GMB listings allow businesses to first define, and then improve their presence across all Google applications, which includes search and maps. This has become very important recently, as map results now take priority over top ranking page results. As such, an accurate and well optimized Google My Business listing has become essential for local intent, and here are a few steps towards successfully leveraging this feature:
- Consistency: One of the first things we do when optimizing for GMB is to claim all of a business’s listings for all its locations, as well as make sure the same information is provided throughout;
- Accuracy: All listings should be updated and provide accurate information in terms of hours of operation, contact channels, and more.
- Completeness: It is important to make sure that all listings are as complete as possible, which means using the entire spectrum of features at your disposal.
- Validity: Google will constantly look at, and take into account customer reviews. It’s not just about the number of reviews available, but also how current they are, and how often they’re being submitted.
Near Me and Mobile go hand in hand
The entire “near me” search trend began with the rise of mobile searches over desktop queries. People looking for local businesses on their mobile devices are using voice searches more and more, therefore one cannot leverage ‘near me’ optimization without optimizing for mobile, and especially voice search, a trend that’s confirmed to continue its growth in 2019 and 2020.
In addition to more and more people using their phones to conduct voice searches when looking for local services or products, there’s another factor that attests the strong link between mobile and near me optimization: Google’s mobile-first indexing. Making sure your website is well optimized for a mobile experience is just common sense at this point, and the fact that it helps with near me optimization only adds to its importance. There is a lot that goes into mobile and voice search optimization, but just like in any other area of SEO, here too one can define best practices that are tried-and-true:
- Improve page speed score and loading time;
- Enhance the user experience;
- Use the same structured data and markup on mobile as on desktop;
- Keep word count between 700-1000 words;
- Use conversational search terms and keywords.
The truth is that local intent behind search queries has long been, and will continue to be an undeniable factor. 82% of mobile searches have local intent. Thus optimizing for near me searches, as well as for mobile experience is a critical stage of local SEO for businesses with physical locations. What’s most important though, is finding the perfect balance between incorporating “near me” terminology within web content, generating localized content, and following best practices in terms of GMB listings, mobile and voice search optimization.