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“Near Me” Local SEO Ranking Factors

If you have been paying attention to the countless pieces put out, you know that “near me” searches are climbing rapidly. Just check out how Google Trends evaluates the search term “near me”:

General Near Me Searches
Not only has “near me” risen as a whole, but specific near me searches have also skyrocketed:

Specific Near Me Searches

Near me has become a critical issue in Local SEO, and honestly if you aren’t already optimizing for these types of searches, you should really start now. Now, with that being said, the problem is: “How do you optimize for near me searches?”

I have heard all kinds of things, ranging from “Google just figures it out” to “It’s just the closest result in a category”. While there is some level of truthiness in there, we should all know by know that Google’s ranking algorithms are complicated. In that level of complication there is an opportunity for optimizations, and a need for SEO. So with that said, we added a “near me” data set to our Local SEO Ranking Factors and the numbers have been crunched.


The methodology used is the same as the main study and can be found here. However for this data we used a different keyword set. The keywords and their search volume are:

Near Me Keywords for Local SEO Ranking Factors

As for the scope, at the end of the day we looked at ~600 searches which included ~6,000 GMB pages as well as the corresponding domains/pages that the GMB pages linked to.


Up front, of the ~250 factors we looked at most didn’t correlate with higher OR lower rankings. This tells me that Google is evaluating near me queries different from the way they evaluate traditional local searches. However, there are some clear points that Google appears to be looking at when it comes to “near me” searches:

Near Me Ordinal Variables

The simplified explanation of this table is it shows the position of each of the factors we measured in terms of their positive correlation with Google Local Pack rankings.

From the looks of it, Google is getting lots of the data they use in “near me” rankings from the link graph. As you can see from the chart above, having a higher raw count of backlinks with your city/state in the anchor text correlated very highly with better rankings. On top of that, the % of backlinks with geo-optimized anchor text correlated quite highly with “near me” search success. No matter what $GOOG says, link-building is a critical tactic in dominating local SERPs.

Also, as was true in the Local SEO Ranking Factors, reviews correlated quite highly with “near me” search success. Since we only looked at reviews from a top level (count of reviews) there isn’t much more to say here, however we are going to greatly expand how we look at reviews in the 2017 study, so stay tuned!

Near Me Categorical Variables

Categorical variables shows how often a factor fit into one of two categories (primarily yes and no). For example, a Google My Business profile either had the keyword in the business name (yes) or it didn’t (no).

So one of the more interesting points of this data is that business/searcher distance didn’t correlate positively with higher search rankings in a statistically significant way. Now, that may not make any sense, but just check out these results (and their distances from me) in this search for “grocery store near me”:

Grocery Store Near Me

As you can see, being closer doesn’t necessarily mean you ranking higher. Our data showed that being in the same city as a near me search had more correlation with positive performance then being closer. I think there may be some stratification or grouping of search results in these types of searches, so stay tuned for the 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors to dive deeper into this mystery.

Also, please stop spamming your city/state info in on domain content. Our research has shown it doesn’t correlate with higher rankings on traditional or “near me” searches.


Near me searches are critical for local search, and if you aren’t optimizing for them now you need to start. Just check out all these optimized <title> tags for the search “near me”:

Near Me Search

Some of the biggest sites (and most interesting in Atlas Obscura’s case) are already moving aggressively to win these searches. Check out some other things sites are doing to “optimize for near me”:

How To Optimize for Near Me

Having nearby location widgets, creating internal links to your store locator with the anchor text of money term + near me are all being done by companies big and small right now.


1)”Near me” search volume is exploding

2) It’s something that can be optimized for, in your link building and on-site optimization efforts.

3) Companies are already moving forward deploying tactics that are optimizing them for “near me” searches.

As we start off 2017 don’t get left behind in one of the biggest game changes in local search.


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