About Google Locations and Searching
Google is always trying to make searching better. It sometimes boggles my mind how it seems to know exactly what I’m looking for when I type something in. Sometimes I’ll have this feeling as if there’s no way that the site I’m looking for will come up with the terms I put in, but somehow, it’s right up at the top of the list. For instance, if I type in “tacos” Google will show me local Mexican restaurants as well as taco recipes. So how does it know where I am in order to show me local results?
- If you’re signed in to a Google account it will save your location from the last time you searched.
- If you’re on a mobile phone and have the setting to allow it, it will gather your exact location through GPS
- If you’re not signed in, it will try to determine where you are by your IP address.
- If all else fails, you can tell Google where you are by clicking on the change location box that appears on the left side of the search results. Again, if you’re signed in, it will remember this when you come back.
Now local search results are great if you’re a user looking up information. For the most part, their algorithms give you relevant results. For instance, there’s a chicken joint near my house. If I search for their brand name, which doesn’t have anything to do with chicken, without modifying my location, they’ll show up as the second result. However, if I change my location to California they show up in position 10! This is a huge difference in positioning. Now their name is uncommon enough that there still isn’t a lot of competition, but imagine a company with a common name that may have lots of other results. Positioning could throw them onto page 2, 3 or even deeper, meaning searchers may never encounter them.
What does Google location mean for SEO?
First off, it means that you can’t as an SEO site at your own computer and base your findings off your personal search results. Google has stated that you can not turn off personalization, so you’re stuck with choosing at least one location. If your website is trying to target local users, then it’s obvious that you should change your location to cities around their users. If your website is targeting an entire country or all countries, then you have a steeper road ahead of you. For countries, first start out by going to the Google specific to that country. For instance Google in the UK is www.google.co.uk. This will give you a country wide angle of the search because you’re not residing in that country for Google to narrow down your location any further. You can then use the box on the left of the search results to narrow yourself down to a specific area.
If you’re doing a nationwide United States campaign, then you can check your rankings for your website in two manners. You can always set your location to be “United States”. Another option is to pick large cities like New York or Las Vegas and see what your local results would be. Of course this would take more time to get through all the locations. If you need to rank high everywhere, this is the best approach though.
A broad search of the entire United States is a good indicator of how well you rank in Google’s eyes. However, you can’t ignore the power of local SEO. Since users can’t turn off personalization, they’re likely to just leave it on wherever Google narrows them down to be. Therefore, it would benefit you to make sure you rank high in those locations that have a high population of target searchers.