We search for local businesses using the suffix “near me” over 40 million times every month.
Some of the most popular search terms of this type include:
Here I am going to run through how you can rank your brick and mortar business for “near me” searches.
Since the Google map algorithm is pretty constant across all industries, meaning that all the principles here can be applied to any brick and mortar business that wants local footfall.
Let’s get started.
Before we go into the process of ranking for “near me” searches, it’s worth understanding what Google shows, and what the search engine ultimately wants its users to discover, when they search for nearby businesses.
Take the example search: “coffee shop near me”. You can see below that Google serves up a map (depending on where you are) and some listings of coffee shops:
If you click on one of these listings you’ll then get some more information about the business, including its contact details, opening hours and some reviews:
This tells us that Google wants to display the following information to people making these searches:
We therefore need to provide Google (and its users) with all this information in order to rank well for near-me searches. The more of this type of information we provide search engines with (and the better the quality of that information) the higher we will generally rank on these types of searches.
The map profiles that you see when making a “near me” search are based on information on a business’s Google My Business profile. So you’ll need a Google My Business (GMB) profile if you want to even be in the race to show up for “near me” searches.
Setting up a GMB is easy so long as you have a Google account (if you have a gmail account then you already have this).
Start off by going on google.com/business. You will then be asked to register:
Google will then send you a postcard with a code on it and a confirmation email where you need to enter the code to complete your registration. Your GMB account will not be visible to the public until you have verified your listing.
Remember that Google wants to give its users the most information-rich results possible. This means that the more information that you put on your Google My Business profile, the more prominent your listing will appear in “near me” searches.
The information that you can (and absolutely should) add to your Google My Business profile includes:
The key thing here is that more information is better.
I realize that taking nice photos of your products is time-consuming and might require you to learn a new skill (or hire a freelancer). Just remember that if you are doing something difficult then this raises the likelihood that your competitor is not doing this. This will in turn increase the benefit of your doing it as it creates a true competitive advantage.
Google tends to reward GMB profiles that are clearly being kept up to date with more exposure. A great way of pumping this “freshness” algorithm is by constantly adding photos to your profile.
Photos of happy staff, happy customers and new products are all great opportunities to beef out your GMB profile and make it seem as relevant to Google as possible.
Google wants to be certain that the businesses that it displays to users on its map are where they claim to be.
One of the ways that Google measures this “likelihood of correct location” is by looking at instances where your business’s name, address, and phone number are grouped together on other pages in its index.
You therefore want to make sure that there are as many instances (often referred to as “citations”) of your business’s name, address, and phone number in relevant locations online as possible.
When you’re building out these citations you need to be very careful that your business’s name, address, and phone number are consistent. Google is not yet smart enough to understand that 3rd Street and 3rd St. can refer to the same location.
Having citations that aren’t exactly the same as each other can confuse Google’s algorithm and damage your visibility in its maps.
One upshot of this is that it might be worth going through all your business’s existing citations and editing them (where possible) so they are all consistent.
You can do this by searching for your business’s address wrapped in quotation marks (“”). This will have Google display every instance of your address online and you can then check if their instances are paired with your business.
Watch out for pages that talk about this address in relation to a business that used to operate there and try to delete or change these if possible (you may have to contact the website owner to do this).
You can then repeat these quotation searches with common variations of your business’s address to check if there are any instances where the address is spelled incorrectly. Again, try to contact whoever manages that website to get it changed.
Some of the places where it’s easiest to get citations will be behind a paywall – for example, paid directories.
If you know that you’re in an industry where there are a lot of near-me searches then it’s well worth paying these fees. A good way to test this is just to Google your type of business and see if it auto-suggests “near me” – if it does then there will be lots of people searching for it.
If we remember earlier when someone searches for a business followed by “near me” the listings of businesses contain their number of reviews as well as their average review rating.
Having a lot of positive reviews will help your map visibility and (more importantly) the amount of traffic you drive from “near me” searches for two reasons:
We’ve written an entire blog post on how to get more client reviews for your business so it’s well worth reading that if you think that this is something that you would like help with.
It’s also a good idea to respond to your customer’s reviews. This will help Google to see that you are keeping your GMB profile up to date and it will encourage other customers to leave reviews as well.
If you receive a negative review then our guide to managing your business’s reputation may help you with how to respond to it.
If you have a business with multiple locations then you can add all these locations to a single GMB when you initially set it up. The GMB registration process has a specific step where you can add these multiple locations.
Just remember that although all your locations will be under one GMB profile, each location will be seen as different by Google. They all therefore require their own profile optimization, citations, and review collection process.
A review for one branch of your business will not show up for another branch.
I’d also recommend that if you have multiple locations you should create a page on your website dedicated to that location and have your GMB profile link through to that specific page.
This will help Google understand that your locations are each a separate entity and should show up for “near me” searches in different searcher locations.
Ranking well for “near me” searches is all about keeping your Google My Business profile up to date and as information-rich as possible, making sure that you have as many consistent citations as possible and then getting as many good Google reviews as possible.
The key to staying at the top of the Google map pack for these types of searches is consistency. You want to consistently be pushing to get more positive reviews, you want to be consistently looking for more citation and local media feature opportunities and you want to consistently be updating your Google My Business profile with images and review responses.
These are the things that your competitors likely are not doing, and what will benefit you the most in the long term.
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