How To Optimize For Near Me Searches
Over the past few years, you may have noticed “near me” popping up as a suggested query for many searches with “local intent”. Google Trends data shows the rapid growth of “near me” queries worldwide over the past two years:
“Near me” queries for specific local service categories have also risen rapidly:
“Tankstelle in meiner Nähe” (“Gas Stations Near Me”) Queries in Germany
I remember stumbling on the idea of “near me” queries when I came across this results ranking #1 for “Best Restaurants” a few years ago. As usual Luc Levesque (TripAdvisor’s former head of SEO) and crew were way ahead of me:
After a bit of research, I realized there was an opportunity here and we started testing similar tactics for our clients. We quickly saw traffic growth across the board from very cheap, simple tactics such as adding “Near Me” to title tags.
These days “Near Me” SEO is much more competitive so our team decided we need to figure out how to systematically optimize for “near me” searches. In 2016, we had conducted the first ever statistical study of Google’s Local SEO Ranking Factors by looking at over 35,000 businesses and 100+ factors. So we added “near me” queries to our existing data set and ran the numbers.
We looked at popular “near me” queries including:
- Dentist near me
- Grocery store near me
- Gas station near me
- Hair salons near me
- Movie theater near me
- Restaurants near me
All totaled, we looked at ~600 searches which included ~6,000 Google My Business (GMB) pages as well as the corresponding domains/pages that the GMB pages linked to. The data showed the following factors had the strongest positive correlations with ranking well in Google’s Local Pack for “Near Me” searches:
- Google Reviews
- Total Number of Backlinks With Searched City & State in the Anchor Text
- Percent of Backlinks With Searched City & State in the Anchor Text
In our Local SEO Ranking Factors study, link metrics also were some of the strongest indicators of good rankings, so it’s not surprising that they also matter for “Near Me” queries. In fact, TripAdvisor’s aggressive use of “Near Me” in internal link anchor text may be one of the reasons those URLs rank so well for “Near Me” queries:
Internal links on https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants
Interestingly, the distance of a business from the searcher did not correlate strongly with positive search rankings. When you look at typical Local Pack results, they are rarely ordered by distance. See this query for “hamburgers near me”:
In the case above, it may be because the two top-ranked businesses have “burger” in their name – Keywords in Business Name was a strong factor in our original study – or some combination of additional factors which may trump distance.
The data did show that being in the same city as a “Near Me” search had a stronger correlation with positive performance, so we are going to have to do some more digging into this subject in our 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors study.
So what can you do to take advantage of “Near Me” today?
Based on our study and our experience working on large and small locally-targeted sites around the world:
- Add “Near Me” to the title tags of your location pages
- Add “Near Me” and popular keyword variants to the text of these pages
- Add “Near Me” to the anchor text of the internal links to these pages, particularly on your store locator pages if you are a multi-location brand
- Get backlinks to your location pages with geo-specific anchor text
Detailed study on the methodology of our “Near Me” you can go to Near Me Local SEO Ranking Factors.
Even with the growth in “Near Me’ queries, they still don’t come close to the volume you can get from ranking for a head category term (e.g. “gas station”, “gas station in Amsterdam”, etc.), but with minimal effort you can use this strategy to get near more of your customers quickly.