In this article I examine what proximity is (as it pertains to SEO and search results) and how it impacts the businesses you see in your Google searches.
Introduction: What is proximity?
Proximity is a measure of how close two things are to each other. In the context of local search results, it refers to the geographic distance between the searcher and the business they’re looking for.
Proximity is just one of many factors that can impact local search results. Others include things like the relevance of the business’s website, reviews, and citations. But when all else is equal, businesses that are closer to the searcher are more likely to show up higher in the results.
That’s because searchers often have a specific location in mind when they start their search. They may be looking for a “coffee shop near me” or a “SEO consultant Sydney” 😉
How does it impact local search results?
When it comes to local search results, proximity is everything. The closer you are to the user searching, the more likely you are to show up in their results. This is because Google (and other search engines) want to provide the best possible results for their users, and that means giving them results that are as close to them as possible.
This proximity can be physical, like if you’re searching for a restaurant and there’s one right down the street from you. But it can also be based on other factors, like if you’ve searched for that restaurant before or if you have it saved as a favorite.
Google confirms this in their own support documentation stating “Distance considers how far each potential search result is from the location term used in a search. If a user doesn’t specify a location in their search, we’ll calculate distance based on what we do know about their location.”
Either way, being close to the user is key to showing up in local search results.
You can simply test this yourself in an incognito browser. Compare the 1st page of these 2 search results:
- painter near me
- painter Sydney Australia
The first search uses proximity data to serve local results. The second search focuses on a specific location.
The role of Google Business Profiles
Google Business Profiles (formerly Google My Business) is a free platform that businesses can use to manage their online presence across Google. This includes appearing in search results and on Google Maps.
Google Business Profiles are particularly important for businesses that rely on local customers, as it can help them to appear higher up in search results. This is because Google takes into account the proximity of businesses to the searcher when determining its rankings.
In fact, a BritghtLocal study found “64% of consumers have used Google My Business listings to find a local business’s address or phone number”.
For businesses, having a strong presence on Google can be vital in driving foot traffic and generating leads. It is therefore important to ensure that your business’ listing is accurate and up-to-date, with relevant information such as your opening hours, address and contact details. You should also regularly monitor and respond to reviews, as this can impact your ranking.
The importance of NAP consistency
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number. It is important for businesses to have their NAP information consistent across the web. This is because search engines corroborate the NAP information across websites to have confidence in the business to show it in search results. If a business has different NAP information on different websites, it can be difficult for customers to find the right information. Therefore, Google may show it less.
There are a few ways to ensure NAP consistency. One is to list your business on directories like Yelp and Google My Business. These platforms allow you to input your NAP information and update it as needed. Another way to ensure NAP consistency is to a local SEO software which syndicates your local business data to each profile to ensure its consistentcy.
Why Proximity Matters
In short, businesses that are physically closer to the searcher will rank higher inlocal search results.
Businesses that want to improve their local search ranking should focus on making themselves more visible and accessible to potential customers in their area. If you’re unsure where to get started, consider engaging an SEO agency to do an audit on your local SEO performance.
They will be able to provide recommendations and a strategy to improve your positions in local search.