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Local SEO: How Does Google Determine Local Ranking?

Updated: May 9, 2020

Google Local Ranking

It is a well-known fact that Google plays an important role for small businesses that want to showcase or promote their products and services to local searchers.

Additionally, most people today simply pull out their smartphones, open Google and search for a local business they want to visit. Once they get what they are searching for, they go to Google Maps to look for directions.

While it is easy to optimize a local listing, getting to rank in Google local search is a major task. Also, with changing rules, features, and enhancements, ranking in Google search become all the more difficult.

Here are five major factors Google uses for a business’s local ranking.

1. Mobile

According to a recent study, over 50% of people prefer using their smartphones to search for local businesses. Therefore, it is important that you optimize your website for mobile. It will help more people to know about your business and also locate you easily.

While having a responsive website is important for your business you must also ensure to have relevant and engaging content on your website. The content must inform and educate your audience about your products, services, and business.

2. Relevance

You need to be highly relevant if you want people to find you in search results. What is your target audience searching for? Are the key phrases matching your local listing?

You will have to add as much information as possible for Google to understand your business better and match it with the searches. If your target audience search phrases are not matching with your listings, you will have to start tweaking.

For instance, if you type Mac Donald in your Google search bar, it will not only show results that are closer to your physical location but also the ones that Google thinks match your criteria best. In short, if you want your business to show up in local search, you will first have to understand your audience and optimize your listing for relevant keywords using best SEO practices.

3. Distance

This factor shows how far is a potential location from the keyword used to perform a search. If the user does not mention the location, Google makes an estimation based on the information it has about its location.

For instance, if you type the keyword “salon” in your Google Search bar, it will give you the closest salon to your location first. However, Google can also rank a local listing higher if it thinks it is more relevant than the shop is closer to your location.

4. Prominence

Is your local business popular?

If your business is popular offline, it will reflect in search results as well. Some hotels, tourist spots, famous brands, etc., are more likely to be prominent in local search results than other businesses.

The prominence factor depends largely on the information Google gathers about your business from different resources such as directories, articles, or backlinks.

If your business has more positive reviews and feedbacks than others, it will show first in search results.

Simply put, the more reviews you get and the more backlinks you build, the greater are your chances to rank higher in the local search results.

5. Reviews

This aspect does not need much explanation.

We all know how powerful online reviews are. Google includes two filters- “Top Reviewers” and “Your Circles” to filter the local search based on the reviews from different users. The map will update and display businesses that positive ratings when one of the filters is used.

If your business does not have many reviews or has negative ratings, it will affect your rankings in a negative way. To have an edge over your competitors make sure to ask your customers to leave a review in your review and comment section.


It is nearly impossible to understand what new factors Google can use to rank a local business in local search, you must continue to refine your strategy. Make sure to update your information, add positive reviews, and optimize your site for mobile. This will help people discover your local business and help you rank higher in the local search results.

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