Every time someone types a query into Google, the search engine applies a complex equation to discover exactly what the searcher is looking for.
Various factors are included in this prediction algorithm, but one important factor is the location of the searcher. Google is very aware of the importance it places on local search.
Great if you’re a community mom and pop serving a small geographic area.
But what happens if you have multiple locations? Or if you operate on a national or even international scale? Can you still rank as high as your searcher’s local competitors?
For answers to these questions and more, read on.
Why do search results vary by location?
When you think about it, it’s pretty obvious why Google factored location into its rankings: in many cases, local means more relevant.
For example, if you’re craving a mocha latte, a Google search that directs you to a coffee shop on the other side of the country isn’t very helpful; even results from the other side of town aren’t as helpful as results around the corner.
Google’s location feature is very accurate, using multiple sources to estimate your location. According to what is available, it thinks:
- Your device location (via Wi-Fi location, cell phone triangulation, or GPS to pinpoint your location around you 20 meters).
- Places you’ve marked (that is, the name that appears next to the marker on Google Maps).
- The home address associated with your Google Account.
- Previous activity on Google products.
- your IP address.
Working together, Google can determine your location and what’s in your local search. This means that you and someone who lives a block away may get different search results for the same exact query.
Now consider that 25% of people click on the first search result and the vast majority never leave the first page, and you can begin to understand why local rankings matter.
To do this, your local SEO must be in place, especially if your business relies on physical traffic.
But how do you know if your work is working? You could hop in your car and drive around town (or the country), doing searches in different places to check your rankings, but it would take a long time.
Fortunately, Google lets you check your rankings without leaving the comfort of your desk. Here’s how:
Add local parameters to search
Google provides a convenient way to check local map packages for a specific location. Just do a Google search and add “&near=cityname” to the end of the URL in the search bar.
For example, let’s say you’re doing SEO for a coffee shop with branches all over the Pacific Northwest, but you live in Kansas City. Let’s call this fictitious business “Jitters”.
You want to see how Jitters stands out from the competition in Seattle, so you navigate to Google and type [coffee shops near me].
When the results page pops up, go to the end of the long URL and add “&near=Seattle”.
Hit enter and voila: you’ve performed a local search from 1,800 miles away.
Change your locale
If you’re looking for a higher-level view of search results for a given location, you can manually change your locale.
This will give you country-level search results rather than results from your IP address or other sources.
To do this, click set up in the bottom right corner of Google.com and select search settings. This will send you to the Search Settings page (obviously).
Scroll to the bottom and you’ll see a list of locales.
Select the area you want to use for searching and save the settings. You will now see search results from the country you selected.
Continuing with our coffee shop example, let’s say Jitters just opened a shop in Lisbon. You will select “Portugal” as your region, allowing you to see the ranking of new Portuguese breweries.
Note: If you do not add the local parameter discussed earlier to the search URL, you will continue to see results based on your current location.
Manage your work and home locations on Google Maps
One of the great things about Google Local Search is its machine learning capabilities.
It automatically recognizes the places you visit frequently, including your home and workplace. And because it understands your commute habits, it can save you a lot of time and give you more relevant searches.
Of course, it’s not perfect. Sometimes, it doesn’t realize that you left that job at the biscuit factory a few months ago.but Set up your work and home locations Simple.
Open Google Maps and click menuThen Your placeand select Place. pick work or family and enter the address.click save,Everything is ready.
You can now perform local searches from anywhere by adding modifiers [near home] or [near work] to your query.
Delete Location History in your Google Account Activity Controls
Some people think it’s a bit like Big Brother, but Google will track your location even if you’re not actively using a specific product in the search engine.
It does this because it uses your location history to help it improve accuracy.
For example, if it notices that you visit a martial arts gym multiple times, it’s more likely to respond to inquiries about boxing through a boxing website than a blog about cardboard boxes.
This is useful in many ways, but it complicates the process of checking search results from different locations.
In 2020, Google announced that it will Delete user’s location history after 18 monthsbut if you can’t wait that long, it’s easy to delete it or shut down the service.
Go to “location history” section, you can turn it on and off.
If you want to use location history on one device but not the other, you can change it from this page. You can manually delete all or some of your Location History from your browser or Google Maps.
You should be aware that if you delete this information, you will lose some personalized information, such as recommendations based on places you’ve been, traffic reports, and auto-generated Google Photos.
Override your location with Google Chrome Developer Tools
If you’re more tech-savvy, you can also check search engine results by overriding your location using the developer tools in the Chrome browser.
To do this, open development tools Then open a command prompt.choose display sensor Then press enter.
From the Location list, select one of the preset cities or select Custom Location. If you choose the latter, you can enter latitude and longitude coordinates for precise positioning.
You can also select “Location unavailable” to see how your site works when the user’s location is unknown.
Change location settings on your device
Some mobile devices allow users to change their location under the Settings tab. Others are asking you to be smarter.
The easiest way to check search results from different locations is to use GPS to change the application.
Some of them are available on the App Store and Google Play. Most work by using your network operator to change your GPS location, allowing you to perform searches from a location of your choice.
Try the Google Ads Preview and Diagnostic Tool
Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis The tool is a great way to see how paid ads appear in local searches, but did you know you can also use it to see Google searches from different locations?
Open the tool and select Place in the drop-down menu. Now enter your desired location. You can view by country, city or postal code, so you can get an advanced or precise view, depending on your needs.
You can also change the device type to check if you perform as well on mobile as on desktop.
View local search results with Valentine.app
Valentine.app is a free online tool that allows you to check search engine rankings from the exact location without any additional tools or data sources.
It’s very easy to use. Enter your keywords, select your region and language, and enter your address.
Your address input will then be converted to a geographic location and sent to Google (along with your other input).
Valentin.app then opens the localized search engine results page from Google in a new tab.
Change your location with a VPN
Another way to remove location data from the search equation is to change the location settings on your device.
One of the most common and easiest ways is to use a virtual private network (VPN).
Long used by pirates (the virtual type, not the bravado), VPNs mask your IP address by routing it to a secure server located elsewhere. (Please note: Search Engine Magazine has no tolerance for intellectual property theft or breaking the law in any way, so please don’t call us if you need bail).
Of course, VPNs have legitimate uses, including protecting you from hackers, protecting your data, and bypassing those annoying YouTube blockers that restrict certain videos in your country. They are also a great way to get search results from different locations.
The downside to this is that most VPNs only have a handful of IP locations to choose from. So if you want to see exactly where your coffee shop ranks in Vancouver searches, you’re probably out of luck.
Automate with local rank checking tools
Tracking local search results pages for businesses with two locations is easy to manage yourself. But what if our pretend coffee company is bought by a company that wants to take Jitters global?
If you tried to manage local searches across the company’s 315 global locations, you’d go nuts. Don’t worry – there are platforms out there that can solve this problem.
Called rank check tools, they automate local searches and generate reports so you can decide where is best for your SEO efforts.
Some of these you may be familiar with include:
location is everything
Google search results are different on different devices for different people in different locations. This means that it is very difficult to take a one-size-fits-all approach to search engine optimization.
Because of Google’s emphasis on local search, whether you’re managing a single location, performing SEO remotely, or running a website for a business with multiple locations, you have to show this to people nearby.
Fortunately, you don’t have to actually be in that community to see what local searchers get on search engine results pages. There are a number of ways you can see how you rank in different positions, each with its pros and cons.
No matter which one you think best suits your needs, the ability to tailor your SEO to target customers in a specific area is something you can’t ignore.
Featured image: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock