What you need to know to understand the Google local search algorithm – WAU

Google’s local search algorithm uses some parameters to deliver effective search results for users. The intention is to indicate relevant establishments that are really close to the researcher or within the requested geographical limitation.

Positioning a business on the web is important for it to stand out from the competition. This is not new, but it is important to understand that there are two ways to do this: in adapting to organic searches and in optimizing to rank by Google’s local search algorithm.

The second option has a direct impact on the way small and medium-sized businesses, and even franchised chains, can be found in a simple search, since it’s natural for users to use Google to find out if there is a particular establishment nearby.

In this content, we will go deeper into the subject of local searches. You will read the post divided according to the following topics:

Check it out below!

What is local SEO and how important is it to local searches?

There are several motivations that lead a user to open a search engine to find something of interest. Often, the intention is to find out if there is an establishment nearby, either to have more information about it, or to go there.

A good example is when we are traveling, since it is common to use Google to find a type of store or service. In these cases, we search for terms such as:

  • “Vegan food in Vila Mariana SP”;
  • “Bar in Botafogo RJ”;
  • “Pizzeria in New York”.

There is also another type of research – this one more focused on find an establishment within a short radius. Usually the use is made when you are on the street or intend to look for a business not far from where you are:

  • “Hospitals close to me”;
  • “Pharmacies within 1 km”;
  • “Supermarkets on this street”.

In all of these cases, Google directs the search to the algorithm local search, that is, the idea is to make the user able to find a nearby establishment.

The identification of this intention is guided precisely by the search for terms such as “near me”, in addition to the use of specifications such as the name of neighborhoods and cities, in addition to other words that indicate proximity.

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The SEO site

One of the main parameters for delivering Google search results is the location of the business, since he understands that your interest is in accordance with the region where you are. It’s simple: if you’re in Rio de Janeiro and search for ATMs, it’s natural for Google to indicate those closest to where you are.

The algorithms are prepared to give relevant answers, so the natural understanding is that, if you don’t specify locations, your search is done in the region you are in. Because of this, when positioning a business on the web, it is essential to associate its information with the local search algorithm.

It is at this point that local SEO becomes really important for these businesses. The optimization for the search engines must be done looking for exactly to send the right signals to them. In other words, it is necessary to specify where your company is located and what type of solution it delivers to the public, be it a service or a product.

The results achieved

Understanding the local search algorithm and meeting its standards is a smart strategy when it comes to positioning a business on the web. It is important to start with a simple reflection: if Google prioritizes location when showing results, it is because it is understood that this is what users are looking for.

The path is natural for companies that understand the importance of local searches, as they will prepare their content so that it is easier to find them in a Google search. The tendency is for them to rise ranking of site SEO, which is different from what is designed for common searches.

How did mobile influence the increase in local searches?

The performance of the local search algorithm was directly impacted by the increasing number of searches carried out with the user’s location. Therefore, when a search is made on Google, given the keywords used, there is also data on where that person is at the moment.

This usually happens in searches made on computers, but the big difference in recent years has been with the advancement of mobile technology. After all, it is much more common for smartphones to send this location information, which makes all the difference for the local search algorithm.

Naturally, it will detect where the person is at that moment and then better rank the businesses that are close to him. According to Google, a third of searches on mobile devices are related to location.

It is simple to understand this scenario: a person is on the street and needs to find a certain establishment near him. Naturally, she will use her smartphone to search, and then, at that moment, the business that knew how to work according to local SEO stands out.

It is not for nothing that we can find, in a Google search, some numbers like:

  • 50% of people who searched for a location on their smartphone went to the establishment that same day;
  • 18% of local searches done on mobile lead to a sale in one day;
  • 50% of users who search for local businesses on smartphones look for data such as the address of an establishment.

Which businesses benefit from local searches?

As much as local searches are really useful, not every business can benefit from this possibility. It is necessary to understand initially that companies that operate online, such as e-commerces, have no interest in positioning this way.

After all, if they can be found in organic searches, there is no need to register contact or address details. In contrast, the local search algorithm can be a great ally for companies that are in physical establishments and that receive customers.

On the other hand, service providers and retailers, for example, are the categories that can benefit from good positioning using local SEO optimization. Next, better understand the most common types of business in this strategy!

Law firms

Independent offices or lawyers can greatly benefit from being able to be found through local search. The point is that there is really demand for research for this category, since these professionals provide services that may be urgent.

In emergency situations, such as an automobile accident or a detention, the lawyer needs to be called quickly. If the person does not have a fixed contact, they will certainly do a Google search for an office or a professional who can attend at that moment.

Hospitals and medical clinics

Clinics and hospitals also fall into this category because of urgency. Urgent care is essential in several situations and it is not always possible to move to a distant location.

Thus, a Google search helps to locate the nearest location to those who need assistance at that time.

The user receives basic information, such as address and telephone contact. He can automatically call to inquire about health insurance plans, for example.

This convenience can be a differential for both clinics and hospitals that make good use of local SEO.

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Maintenance and mechanics

Did your car break down? Do you need a plumber? These are other services that also need to be urgent and depend on professionals or establishments close to those doing the research.

As in the case of clinics and hospitals, a quick survey connects the establishment and who needs the service.

Restaurants and supermarkets

If you are traveling, you are certainly exploring the city and do not want to waste time looking for supermarkets or even a restaurant to rest and have lunch.

In big cities there are establishments everywhere, but the ideal is to find the one that is closest!

The search can be more specific, like “vegan restaurants near me” or broader, like “best restaurants in Brooklyn”.

In this more personalized search, the business that knew how to position its characteristics well in local SEO optimization comes out ahead.

What factors are considered by the local search algorithm?

Several factors are analyzed when Google receives a search entry. The more a website meets these parameters, the greater the chances of having a better ranking. In this case, it appears among the first results.

The same happens in local searches, but specifically, there are 3 main factors of positioning in the search result: proximity, prominence and relevance.

Next, understand better how they are considered in the sites and why they impact ranking on the site SEO


Proximity is the primary consideration for the local search algorithm. Google wants to indicate which businesses are closest, after all, many of the searches are made with the name of the type of business followed by “near me”.

For this, Google uses the information that the smartphone can transmit to it, as long as the user has enabled the location. Thus, the algorithm will show as a result the local companies that are within what the search asks for.

The keywords and geographic positioning of the mobile device are considered. As for the location, it is detected through the geolocation of the smartphone and the zip code detected from that information.


Google needs to understand which businesses are in the spotlight, and then recommend them to the user. This is a way to qualify the results of the research as much as possible and guarantee the delivery of information that will be really useful to those who use the tool.

To measure this highlight, Google uses 3 main parameters:

  • visits – if many people go to the place, it is a good sign that it is relevant;
  • comments – the more comments, the greater the company’s prominence, even if they are not so positive;
  • quotes – if the place is mentioned many times, it is also an indication that it is an establishment that stands out in its category.


The idea at this point is to list the companies that are really relevant to the search made by the user.

If you want to find a pharmacy close to where you are, for example, a supermarket would not be the best indication that Google could give.

This is a parameter that the local search algorithm inherits from the common SEO requirements. It works to basically ensure that if you search for “X”, you will find “X” instead of “Y”.

How to improve ranking in the face of local search algorithms?

Want some good tips to make your business more visible to the local search algorithm? See how to be able to position it effectively and have a prominent ranking.

Make basic optimizations

Basic optimizations are the SEO standard: headers, friendly URLs, meta description and whatever else is among those optimization parameters. Starting there is essential, since local SEO also requires these adjustments.

Register your business on Google My Business

Google also uses the Google My Business database to list relevant local businesses.

In your registration it is possible to inform a wide range of data that will also be used in other applications, such as Waze.

Register in all directories

There are other directories and applications that find local businesses. The more of them your company is, the greater the trail it will leave on the web, which impacts the ranking. So, register your business in directories like:

  • Yelp;
  • Bing Places;
  • Yahoo Local;
  • Google Maps.

Use strategic keywords

Keywords are the basis of outstanding SEO, which does not change when it comes to attracting the attention of the local search algorithm.

In this case, the ideal terms are always related to your commercial segment and also to the location (neighborhood, city, etc.).

Create specific, separate pages

If you have a business network, it is important to have separate records for each one. This ensures that the user finds the one closest to him, so segmentation is necessary.

Create content with local note

Content Marketing is fundamental in any strategy for positioning on the web.

In a blog, it is possible to create content that brings this very specific local segmentation, which will help when ranking pages. Some examples of content are:

  • “The 10 best vegan restaurants in downtown São Paulo”;
  • “Find out how to choose a supermarket in Botafogo, in Rio de Janeiro”;
  • “What a law firm needs to offer in downtown Belo Horizonte”.

A local business can stand out and attract more and more interested if you know how the local search algorithm works. Following the tips we present is fundamental to generate more sales and increase the popularity and movement in your establishment.

If you want to learn even more about local SEO, download our free ebook!