Let’s talk about the “Near Me” search – probably the most common type of search when looking for a local business. A near me search is when you enter a business category followed by the phrase near me – like “restaurant near me” or “hair salon near me”. Chances are you’ve done this a hundred times.

I wanted to talk about this because in a meeting with a client last week we did some Google searching and came up with some surprising results. This client owns a coffee shop, so we tried the search term coffee shop near me.

Now before I continue let me explain that local search results are based on a trimodal concept – a fancy word that simply means local search is based on three criteria:

Proximity – how close is the business you’re looking for to the physical location of the searcher?

Relevance – in addition to physical location, how relevant is the business to what the searcher is looking for

Prominence – in addition to physical location and relevance, how prominent is the business within its business category, i.e. does it have a substantial amount of online reviews? Does the business have a strong online presence on social media? Is the website content meaningful and does it reflect the business’ expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness?

Is proximity the most important criteria?

Logic would suggest that it is – after all if you’re searching for a business “near me,” then shouldn’t Google’s top result be the business closest to the physical location you’re searching from? That’s what my client thought. His reasoning was since a) he owned a coffee shop and b) we were searching from within his location that his business would be the number one result. But he didn’t come up in the top slot. In fact, there were two coffee shops that ranked above him. So, what’s going on behind the scenes at Google’s secret lab?

It’s About All Three Criteria, Not Just One

After digging a little deeper here is what we discovered:

  • The term coffee shop was not part of the official name of his business. The two businesses that ranked above him were called (I’m making up names to illustrate a point) 5 Star Coffee Shop and Main Street Coffee Shop. My client’s business was officially listed as a restaurant, NOT a coffee shop. The bottom line is he didn’t satisfy the relevance criteria.
  • Although the business that ranked number one for our search was a mile away from our location, it scored very high on the prominence scale. It had a ton of positive Yelp and Google reviews, it was listed on all the major directory sites, including and especially Google My Business. All the directory listings were filled out with accurate and current information.

What’s the Takeaway?

As with all things Google, there is no one thing so important that it outweighs everything else. To rank well for a near me search you can’t just rely on proximity. Your business is located where it’s located – you can’t change that. Control what you can control. Make sure your site gives your visitors what they are looking for – good relevant content. Remember, Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first.

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