So How Does Geography Factor In?
Google says it takes 3 things into account in choosing which local businesses to display:
For distance, Google says “how far is each potential search result from the location term used in a search? If a user doesn’t specify a location in their search, Google will calculate distance based on what’s known about their location.”
Say you’re currently in Los Angeles, but you actually need a doctor in San Diego, where you live. Or maybe you’re looking for a restaurant in San Diego. How are search results going to vary as you search for a restaurant while in either city.
Let’s look for Mexican Restaurants In San Diego and Los Angeles. We’ll use this great tool from Bright Local to check local search results.
Searching From San Diego:
Searching From Los Angeles (same searches):
Notice that both the organic and map listings are very different for every search, depending on location.
The big point: you can do the same exact search, and depending on where you are currently located, the Google results will change. Even if your search includes a geographic target.
Businesses In the Outskirts
Google results are often proximity-based. In fact, proximity is just about the most important factor Google considers for local search queries. That makes sense, right? If you’re searching for a dentist, you don’t want to see dentists 20 miles away. This, however, is a problem for a lot of businesses.
Say you live in the suburbs of a major city, and want to rank for searches related to the big city. This is actually a very common request we get. You’ll likely find this difficult to do organically, meaning just through SEO efforts. This is, in fact, a big trigger for businesses turning to Google Ads; they need to penetrate other geographic markets.
Another strategy is to create city pages, or landing pages that focus on the city you want to rank for. The hope is that Google associates your business with the city you’re talking about on your site. You can make your url end in the city name, and make your title tag mention the name of the city as well.
This isn’t a ploy to trick Google (at least, it shouldn’t be). Many businesses in the suburbs actually do service mostly people from a larger nearby city. Furthermore, people are often looking for the “best” of something, not just the closest.
Here is the wrong way to get ranked in a different city
Many businesses are tempted to create additional Google Business listings in the cities they want to target, even if they don’t have a location there. Creating GMB listings at an ineligible address is a no-no in Google’s eyes. Remember, they are trying to create an amazing tool for the end user. Misleading listings can get your business flagged.