Part Four: How Proximity Ranking Can Impact Your Business’ Local Presence

By Hâfi Martinsdóttir

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes | 712 words

This article part FOUR of an 8-part course titled “How to get your hospitality business found locally online”

In this article we will go over the challenges that proximity ranking can have on your business’ online presence locally and how to optimise your local business listing to mitigate some of the impact it will have.

Proximity Ranking

Google works hard to increasingly personalise the results that a user receives when searching. For example, a user might search for “coffee shop” and receive results of the closest coffee shops to their current location. But if that same user then drives to the other side of town and conducts another search for coffee shops then they will likely receive slightly or completely different results. This is called proximity ranking.

So, if you once were the highest ranked coffee shop in your town, thanks to the shift towards proximity ranking, you might now not be the closest coffee shop to where that user is that just searched for “coffee shop”. And as such, you no longer rank as the number one coffee shop for the majority of people searching.

This is why local SEO is so important, because it changes how a particular business ranks with each individual who searches for it as all of us will receive varied results depending on our location in relation to the business location. This is why we must optimise our Google My Business listing as much as possible simply because the proximity ranking has made it that much harder to be found if people are searching for your services from further away because you are competing with services that are similar to yours that are closer to the person searching.

This proximity ranking was introduced by a business called Possom back in 2016, so if you’ve noticed a considerable drop in your SEO since then, that could be why.

Geo-modified Queries

If someone uses a geo-modified query to locate a coffee shop they might type in something like “coffee shop Byron Bay”. If your coffee shop is not showing up within this map of results, you need to check exactly where the boundaries of Byron Bay are on the map. Type in “Byron Bay” and you’ll see an area displayed within a red line. If your business address is not located within that area, you likely won’t feature within the search results for “coffee shop Byron Bay”.

An example of the Byron Bay border. If your business is outside those parameters (red cross) then your business might not show up in a Byron Bay search

You might find that your business is located outside of the official Byron Bay mapped area and so optimising your website to appear in search results for “best coffee shop Byron Bay” would be futile and as such it would be best to adapt your keyword strategy accordingly.

Near Me Search Queries

As a result of the new proximity search option, the increase in people typing “…. near me” (ie. “coffee shop near me”) has escalated quickly since the launch of the Possom algorithm. Many businesses have since tried to optimise their businesses for this by using the words “near me” in their website page titles.

An example of several businesses optimising their websites for Near Me search queries

Assess Website Analytics

Assess your website data, using a tool such as Google Analytics, to see whether or not traffic is coming to your website using “…near me” or geo-modified search terms. This will give you a good indicator of what exactly people are typing in to Google and other search engines to find you and you can include these terms in your keyword strategy to drive more traffic to your business.

To do list:

  •  Search your city or town’s name, is your business located within the marked area? If not, reconsider which keywords you use.
  •  Analyse your website’s analytics to see whether geo-modified queries (such as “coffee shop Byron Bay”) or Near Me search queries (such as “coffee shop near me”) are common terms that drive traffic to your site. If so, optimise for these.

Thanks to proximity ranking there is now so much more competition when it comes to getting your business seen online by your local community. One way to mitigate some of the impact is to encourage your target market to trust you by showcasing your positive business reviews.

Positive business reviews carry a lot of weight when it comes to getting ranked locally and we will be covering that in more detail later on in this course.

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In part five...

… we will list some key ways in which you can optimise your business website to help your business be found locally online.

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