4 research-backed SEO results to guide your local strategy

A brand with multiple locations comes with its own set of SEO challenges. First, a company can use the same content for every company location pages. In turn, search engines may not favor these pages in the search engine results pages (SERPS) because they consider the content as duplicate content and do not offer the best experience to the end user.

Next, managing SEO at scale can be a timely endeavor. Managing, optimizing, and publishing business information at scale is inherently difficult. Add on Manage reviews and ensuring that business listings are consistent and accurate across all directories, with data discrepancies inevitably occurring.

To help cross-location brands overcome these challenges and identify opportunities to improve their SEO, we not only provide solutions to help brands succeed at scale, but also provide ongoing guidance in the form of content. Each month we host webinars to discuss best practices, industry events and more.

Joining us this month is Andrew Shotland, CEO and Founder of LocalSEOGuide.com to review key SEO best practices for multiple sites and how you can leverage research-backed SEO results to take your search strategy to the next level using research-backed results. In this post, we will go deeper into his insights and advice for:

  • Targeting “near me” keywords.
  • Determination of search intent
  • When to use hyperlocal content?
  • Optimizing your Google Business (GBP) profile and local strategy

Targeting “near me” keywords.

In the early days of Proposed Search, creating a “Near Me” page was enough for Google to rank you, regardless of your proximity to the searcher. While the “near me” keyword terms have evolved and aren’t that easy to rank for these days, is there an exact science to make this term “work”? Local SEO Guide wanted to see if “near me” would work in a title tag for local searches. To answer this question, they rank verified searches in 100 cities and compare 10,000 SERPs.

What they found is this:

  • Pages rank better when title tags include the city where the user is located.
  • Avoid title tags that are too long and opt to include cities and states

Here are the characteristics of title tags that affect ranking from a dataset of 100,000 title tags and ranking positions. The lower the numbers, the better the average ranking.

Keyword ranking near me
Image courtesy of Local SEO Guide

Other factors to consider

  • A state without a city has almost no positive effects.
  • If you write a title that’s too long, states and cities can still improve your ranking.
  • Words like “best” have a small positive impact on ranking for “near me” keywords, but not much.
  • The word “nearby” alone has a 1.2 spot ranking improvement, while “near me” has a 0.8 spot ranking improvement.

The best takeaways overall

  • For “near me” queries, the distance between a person and a business has a significant impact on ranking, regardless of where the person is searching (as indicated by the cities currently shown on the map).
  • If you search for “near me” but look at another city, you’ll still see results for businesses near you in the city you’re looking for (or not), as opposed to businesses near a location in that city .
  • Even if you mention the city in the search query, the person’s location is still an important ranking factor.
  • Targeting “near me” may not be effective if the target user is not currently in that city.
  • The optimal title tag for targeting “near me” is to include city, state, and “nearby”.

Determination of search intent

Searchers search for businesses with multiple locations using national and local terms. Therefore, to display information most relevant to the searcher’s intent, you must develop content and landing pages for both national and local intent. The Local SEO Guide wanted to help companies with multiple locations figure out what types of “local” pages brands need.

To do this, they analyzed how “local” the SERPs are for 16,528 “cars for sale” queries across all major car brands in 100 cities, compared to those who have store locators with linked State > City > Location pages.

Here’s what they discovered.

  • If a search query doesn’t have a local pack or a city/state in the search results, it probably doesn’t have a local intent.
  • Local intent queries require local pages. This is not the case for queries with a national intent.
  • For car brands, most “for sale” requests have a national intent

Local and national keywords tend to have different competitors. See the table below for an analysis of tIt is the top competitor for a brand with a national and local franchise site, competing in 188 markets using 24 keywords.

National vs. local competitors
Image courtesy of Local SEO Guide

National vs. local takeaways

  • Build a system flexible enough to generate city pages per brand as needed.
  • Adjust pages when Google changes keyword intent.
  • Some product requests, such as “Honda,” require local content, while others are treated as national requests.
  • Understanding the difference can help you align your content strategy.

When to use hyperlocal content?

Hyperlocal Content is aimed at a specific local audience, such as a neighborhood or community. By creating content for a specific audience, you can improve content relevance and create a better connection with the end user. For example, if you run a local restaurant in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, you could create content about events, fundraisers, attractions, and more in that particular neighborhood.

Local SEO Guide wanted to do a neighborhood analysis. The assumption was that Google knows and understands the boundaries of cities and neighborhoods and whether your site is talking about those cities and neighborhoods.

This means that even if you have a well-optimized GBP and website, your ranking in cities and neighborhoods you don’t create content about could suffer.

To complete the analysis, they rank verified keyword groups in different parts of a city (5 cities per mile) and identify ranking trends based on:

  1. city ​​limits
  2. neighborhood boundaries

Neighborhood analysis results

  • Find nearby neighborhoods that rank lower.
  • Create content for these neighborhoods (e.g. what locals call them, how long you’ve worked there, work you’ve done there, stats about your industry, relevant images and videos, etc.)
  • There is no harm in including some internal and external links.

Optimizing your GBP and local strategy

Constantly GBP optimization is an ongoing and crucial endeavor for marketers. For many searchers, the first time they discover your business is probably your GBP when searching for your product or service.

If your GBP contains outdated information, it can result in a negative customer experience where you are likely to lose a potential, motivated customer. To test this theory, Local SEO Guide wanted to test whether a well-optimized GBP had a higher CTR than a non-optimized GBP.

Local SEO Guide pulled a client’s ranking data for “Storage Unit” in 50 cities in GBP, capturing the number of images, number of reviews, review score, categories and other factors per GBP.

They then performed a correlation analysis between these factors and the CTR.

They found that the minimum threshold for ranking a city on a set of keywords is:

  • 9 photos
  • 9 posts
  • 25 reviews
  • 5 categories selected
SEO backed research results for GBP including: Average Photos, Reviews, Ratings and Categories
Image courtesy of Local SEO Guide

However, they found no correlation between these individual factors and CTR, other than ranking for the primary keywords.

Put everything together

Data-driven insights play an imperative role in marketing strategy. They serve as objective evidence that we can move forward or deviate from various initiatives and provide significant support in the decision-making process. When making decisions based on research, we deviate from personal bias, assumptions and opinions.

As part of this research, we found a number of insights that can help improve the meaning of local marketing. First, we see that proximity plays a key role in determining results for searches near me, and unfortunately, there’s little that businesses can do about it. However, it’s still important to add your city and state to the page’s title tags.

We also learned that local-intent keywords require a dedicated local landing page, while government-intent keywords don’t necessarily require one.

Research also shows that creating hyperlocal content for neighborhoods with low search competition is an easy win. For best results, create content specific to that neighborhood.

Finally, we see that optimizing a GBP helps with local search ranking. Those that occupy top positions in the SERPs have several photosPosts, reviews and categories selected.

To find even more research-backed SEO results, watch the on-demand webinar.