Why Google’s Geo Targeting in Local SEO is a Mess.
A research paper recently stated that search terms using a local intent keyword (the city, or zip, or major metropolitan area as examples) where decreasing by 10% over the last year. Part of this trend may have to do with the search engines doing a better job over the last few years of displaying local information based on where they assume the searcher is located. In that, a large problem exists.
Today Google thinks I am searching from Northglenn Colorado, while Bing thinks I am in Arvada Colorado. I am actually sitting in my home office in Lafayette Colorado. This can have a horrendous affect on my local searches, and I do a lot of local searches.
Here is the screen shot of my browser showing Northglenn as my location in Google. To save time I am not showing the Bing Screen shot, but trust me it says and shows Arvada as my location. Note the location on the left side of the screen half way down.
Here is a Map of the Denver Metro area. Note that Lafayette (far north) is a long way (in local terms) from either Northglenn or Arvada. So, if I am searching for a local Plumber, or Chiropractic or Italian restaurant, Google and Bing will both show me results that are pretty worthless, unless I do add the local intent keyword (Lafayette).
I haven’t been able to find any great statistics (consistent) on the number of local searches with a local intent keyword, and those that just use the keyword alone. But the experts and my experience seems to call it about 50% of keyword searches for a local service will have a city in it. What that tells you is 50% (or a large amount at any estimate) of searches for local services get poor results when it comes to the search engines local listings. Perhaps that’s why Google started using blended results so much more frequently over the last 18 months. They realized that many of the local searches where getting bad results.
Google guesses at your location by thinking you are where your ISP local router, wire box or POP (old telecom term) is. That’s why they think I am sitting in Northglenn. A city I never go to or through. A few months ago they thought I was in Thornton Colorado. So not only are they wrong, but they even change how wrong they are every now and then.
As a company that does a significant amount of Local SEO, and a piece of that being listings in Google Places (Or Google Plus for Business) Bing and Yahoo Local this can cause a real problem.
If my local client in Lafayette Colorado wants to be visible in Maps for their area, then in reality, we need to somehow get the site ranking in Maps for cities 12 miles away. But that’s just for Comcast cable customers. If you’re with another ISP they may have you in another city. Pulling your hair out yet?
So if Google is demanding accurate NPA information (as they should) for business listings don’t they then have a responsibility to provide accurate search information when someone searches for a local business? Seems simple enough to do, they can have a statement on any search with local intent saying “We show your location as ______ (city). If this is not correct click here to change your location settings.
Until then, both Local SEO companies and their clients need to be aware that a top Maps listing in their area, may only be getting served by the search engines in locations far- far away, and have very little value. And we don’t even need to go into the Pay Per Click Ramifications, or at least save that for the next blog.
So, if you would do me a favor, feel free to add a comment below, and list the city you are sitting in, and then the city Google shows you in based on your browser. This might be very interesting.
If we can help you as a business with your web visibility, or if you are an SEO as a sales consultant, please call me at 303 500 3053.