Near Me Local SEO

Local SEO Twitter was slightly a flutter yesterday after my bud John Mueller apparently mentioned you should avoid placing “Near Me” in titles if you want to rank for “Near Me” searches:

Back in the day when Google reps were a bit less vocal, we crazy SEO types had to come up with ideas based on what we were seeing on Google and test them. Sometimes, to our surprise, they worked wonders. For example, I discovered that putting phone numbers of local businesses in the title tags of their yellow page profile pages would reliably generate an extra 2-3% traffic lift as it would help that page rank for phone number queries. That one worked for years. I probably put my kids through college with it and got some of our clients nice end of year bonuses to boot.

So a few years ago when we noticed that Google was basically forcing people to search “near me” by making it a top suggested search for almost any query that had local intent, what did it expect us to do?

Near Me Local SEO Ranking Factors

So we rolled out “near me” strategies to any client that targeted local queries and it worked. A few % lift every time. And it was easy. We always used to show Trip Advisor’s very subtle Restaurants Near Me page as the canonical example:

Restaurants Near Me

I get why Google wouldn’t want to reward sites that use this tactic as a “near me” query is basically just a geographic search that should show results near the searcher v. documents that use the phrase “near me”, but Google created this by forcing users into “near me” searches and showing documents that use the phrase “near me” at the top of the results for years.

And while Google definitely seems to be tamping down on these results, I am still seeing plenty of “near me” documents showing up:

And if “near me” really is the same as a geographic search, why would Google show different results for this query?
chase atm pleasanton

The problem is Rank Brain (or whatever you choose to call the algorithm these days) still doesn’t think these are exactly the same queries. And I don’t think it’s because “near me” suggests a different radius than “pleasanton”. I think it’s because Google’s algorithm isn’t always sure if you want something near you or a document.

Of course you could take the position that these pages are ranking for “near me” queries despite their titles because they are on strong domains like Thumbtack and Angieslist, but

No offense HomeGuide, but you need to get going on the linkbuilding…you’re welcome.

And how much do you want to bet that Savior Plumbing would move up this SERP if it added “near me” to its homepage title tag?

As long as Google leaves gaps like this, SEOs are going to step in and fill them. Why wouldn’t they?

You can rant all you want about how it feels icky,  but your feelings probably aren’t a ranking factor. Oh, and here’s a search you might want to check out.




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13 Response Comments

  • Akash Srivastava  May 17, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    Thanks Andrew for the explanation on “near me” in title tags!

  • SEO Consultant near me  May 18, 2018 at 8:04 am

    So “near me” spam lives on!?
    Great point on how the search results differ with and w/o “near me”. I’ve always wondered if that really works, optimizing for the words “near me”. I guess it does. I don’t do a ton of local SEO so its not something I’ve tested. I’ve always assumed it was mostly based of of proximity to the searcher.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on in terms of how they are positioned in local search and how they operate with so much of the site password protected and all the outbound links cutoff from passing authority.

    • Andrew Shotland  May 18, 2018 at 9:20 am

      NextDoor is probably one of the biggest threats to the major local business directories in terms of SEO. They have a ton of UGC and they are allowing indexing of URLs that target key head and mid-tail local queries like–ca/. If I were Thumbtack, Yelp, AngiesList or any other site like this, they would be SEO threat #1.

      Nice user name BTW 🙂

  • Dave  May 18, 2018 at 8:15 am

    I clicked on the link to the “here’s a search you might want to check out” It took me to localseoguide dot com. Can you help me with my worries???

  • Andrew Shotland  May 18, 2018 at 9:14 am

    I am not a psychologist, but I play one on the Internet…

  • Dave Oremland  May 18, 2018 at 9:52 am

    On a more serious note: I looked at landing page activity for a near me page from google and other sources. We set up this page some time ago. It didn’t rank well in google months ago, but shows up better now. BTW: It raced to high rankings in bing, and the non local sites such as duckduckgo and others right away.

    Now it ranks higher. It is getting traffic from google and the other SE’s. Not tons. But its in that 0.5 to 1% range…and we like as many of those 0.5-2% increases that we can get (maybe some of them cannibalize–but so what).

    Content on the page includes info for people very close but also for further away as this smb services a regional market.

    Its one thing for John Mu to “warn people off of it”. Its a whole other matter for google to penalize sites for it. Might occur. If so we’ll get rid of it. Regardless, he made his comment after we found that the current algo’s have pushed its visibility up for us from months ago.

    If John Mu has any inside pull and he doesn’t like it or he and his team thinks sites shouldn’t use it…change the algo.

  • Andrew Shotland  May 18, 2018 at 10:21 am

    Hey Dave!

    I have no issue with John’s statement. His goal is to get site owners to “do the right thing” in Google’s eyes. My main issue is with those who amplify his message without critical analysis.

    As Reagan said, “Doveryai, no proveryai.”

  • Dave Oremland  May 18, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    @Andrew: I don’t have an issue with John’s statement either. Google’s current organic algo’s and the 3 pac probably or possibly cover 75-80-90 per cent of the implied meaning of near me.

    No doubt, using Near Me in a title and with other seo elements is a sort of “cheap trick” and probably like a lot of other “cheap tricks” they might nuke it or penalize it at some point.

    In our experiences (a tiny survey of a few sites) the near me pages are showing a little higher and hence more clearly than in the past….and they are getting some clicks. Once we set them up we haven’t touched them or directed links to them.

    For the time being they are “working” for us.

    who knows…Google took some “shots” at trip advisor in the past….maybe they are willing to be easier to TA and other sites for the time being. 😉

  • Andrew Shotland  May 18, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    That TA URL used to rank #1 for “restaurants near me” – not anymore

  • Ewan Kennedy  May 22, 2018 at 4:59 am

    Interesting. The top five URLs in organic for “restaurants near me” are TA, the fifth one being the one you’ve cited. None in the pack. TA’s is not even a good result with the “Best Thai” and “Best Chinese” restaurants they list apparently 5.7 miles away when both exist right on the doorstep.

    • Andrew Shotland  May 22, 2018 at 8:57 am

      Ewan, I have definitely seen a trend where Google shows TA’s location page (e.g. “The 10 Best Pleasanton Restaurants 2018”) instead of the “national” Restaurants Near Me page (which had ranked #1 for years). Sounds like TA’s idea of “best” and your’s are different, but 5 miles away doesn’t seem too crazy if TA is making a qualitative judgment.

  • Ricardo  June 1, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Great article. For me the top five organic URLs for “restaurants near me” are TA, similar to what our friend mentioned above.

  • Bruce P.  June 7, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    My local clients have been getting a lot more “near me” traffic. I’m surprised when folks say that “near me” is going away.

    I don’t optimize for near me at all. But I darn sure optimize to crush for local seo, and yes, the GMB are fully filled out.

    Seems to me that if you just focus on getting your on-page right, and crush it for local optimization, Google is going to reward you with “near me” traffic.

    I don’t have any exact proof, this is just what has been working for my client sites. I also like the near me because, at least so far, they have been very relevant searches.