About nine months ago I started checking for which keywords regular search engine result page (SERP) ranking is influenced by the location of a searcher and for which it isn’t. This was initially needed because my clients reported totally different top-10 positions than I was able to see. At this moment, geo-location within the same country has become an important ranking factor and it is crucial to know what you can do to use this to your advantage.
Our tool has thus far been focused on Dutch search results, but our key learnings probably apply to many other countries as well. The tool checks how much difference Google shows when you search with an auto-detected location, another city, or when you enter the entire country as your location. After checking more than 2,500 different keyword combinations over time, we have concluded that not every keyword’s SERP is influenced by locality.
Locality Is Increasingly Important
When we started our checks, only regular organic results for a few particular keywords were influenced by this algorithm change. At our last check, 45 percent of the somewhat randomly chosen keyword combinations were affected. The amount of local results in the already affected SERPs has also grown in many examples, but that can always be attributed to chance and other factors.
Locality Not the Same as Search With City Name
There is a big difference between the results shown for "hairdresser Amsterdam" with the location set to the Netherlands and a search for "hairdresser" with the location set to Amsterdam. In both cases the words "hairdresser" and "Amsterdam" are styled in bold. While some of the same results are returned somewhere in the top 50, their sequence changes a lot. The main difference seems to be that the locality-based version in a search for "hairdresser" and "Amsterdam" is just a nice-to-have. If "Amsterdam" is found, these results gain an additional boost.
You Can Rank for Cities Outside Your Actual Location
While Google Places results require you to have local presence, the locality-specific results are just textual. If you would just integrate city names in your page, that page could rank in all those localities for its main keyword. I would even go so far as to say you should just focus the page on "hairdresser," and "Amsterdam" should just be something you mention. Even when you’re not located in that city, you can state something like, "Even if you are from Amsterdam, you should travel more than an hour to the greatest hairdresser of the Netherlands" in your text to integrate the word Amsterdam.
The Need for a New Tool
Now, we automatically check every keyword for locality influence in the SERPS. If it exists, the keyword gets marked and the copywriter is instructed to write about many important city names in the text. Maybe Moz or other tool-makers could create a ranking checker that looks for differences when you search from a different IP locality or manually entered location.