You know at first glance who ranks at the top of the search because you can see the top 10 search results for “home contractors near me.” But have you ever wondered who is at the very bottom of the search? Or even right smack in the middle?
If you don’t know what elements help your website rank in the first 10 or even the first 20 results of a Google search, your site may well be one of those that ends up on the bottom end of a Google search. This spells disaster for small, local businesses. After all, if your business doesn’t appear among the top search results, then would-be customers don’t know you exist.
So, what do you need to do to maintain a high-ranking presence on Google? Here’s what you can expect to learn:
- Recent search trends
- The makeup of a Google search
- Local marketing tactics to help you rank
Understanding recent search trends
Recent information about search statistics suggests that convenience and personalization play a big role in how people search the web today and, also, the kind of information they get in their search results. The frequency of the search term “near me” has risen by 40% in the last year or so. That means that more web searchers spend their time looking for goods and services in their area than they ever have before.
The role of reviews and business listings
Local reviews on sites like Yelp and tools like Google local business listings help search engines determine if your company’s website fits someone’s “near me” criteria. The more times your site fits these criteria, the better chance you have at gaining new customers.
All Google searches have some elements in common regardless of who’s searching. However, personalization determines what you see in a search result. It also determines what a potential customer could see, and that customer’s results might be vastly different than yours, even if they live in exactly the same area that you do and use exactly the same keywords.
What personalization looks like
Google’s algorithm personalizes searches for each searcher. This isn’t to say that if you typed in “DIY home improvement near me”, you won’t get a listing of home repair stores in your general vicinity. You will. So will your neighbor and other people in your town.
The following searches will all yield different results for “DIY home improvement near me” based on their browsing history and search patterns:
- You searching on a family computer where others frequently browse Pinterest or home improvement blogs.
- Your neighbor across the street searching.
- You searching on your smartphone.
Here’s why: If someone in your family often looks up posts about saving money or visits a home improvement blog, relevant content will appear. Same goes for your neighbor. Even though you’re in the same zip code, their browser history is going to affect their search results. Lastly, your smartphone will have no outside influences and some businesses will rank higher in search based on their mobile-friendliness.
Finally, voice search is the next big thing on the search landscape. The use of voice searches has increased by 50% in the last year, and as people get more comfortable with this technology, that number is bound to rise even more.
To summarize, here are some of the most important trends you need to be aware of in the next year or so:
- ”Near me” searches have increased substantially.
- Online reviews and business listings help your site rank among “near me” searches.
- Personalization is growing in importance.
- The type of device being used for the search determines the outcome.
- Voice search has grown and will continue to do so.
The makeup of a Google search
You can use your knowledge of recent trends to help your company’s website rank better in a Google search. However, to maximize the results you get, it’s important that you understand the anatomy of a Google search and how search trends are related.
When your customers perform a search, they’re likely going to see one or more of the following in their search results:
- A snippet at the top of the page
- The title of a website/webpage
- The page’s URL
- Internal site links
- Related searches
In this list, the snippet is the greatest asset for you. Google will determine if something on your site becomes a snippet at the top of the page. While you have control over the type of content that goes on your site, you may now have that control over whether Google chooses your site to use as the snippet in the search results.
It will boil down to how relevant your content is in relation to the search inquiry. If it’s relevant, then Google may use information on your site to answer a query, such as “Where can I find a home contractor near me?” or “Which plumbers make emergency calls in [city] after 10 p.m.?”
The idea behind the snippet is to provide searchers with an at-a-glance look at the most relevant answer to the inquiry. The information on the snippet also prevents users from having to open up a website to find the answer they’re looking for. If your site is featured in the snippet, that means you’re in position zero and your site will likely gain a lot of traffic. People will probably click on your site if the information in the snippet positions you as an expert.
However, competition is tough because all businesses want their site to be in this position. You’ll have a better chance of landing there if you update your content often and remain hyper-relevant in your industry and niche.
You also have little control over related searches. However, given that related searches are long-tail keyword phrases that are associated with the original search, you do have some control over your site’s ranking. If you incorporate some of these related keyword phrases into the content on your site, then it will also appear among the search results when someone uses those keywords in their searches.
The rest of the elements are within your control. The title, the URL, and the internal links constitute the on-page components you should pay attention to when you’re creating content. Ideally, your titles, URLs, and internal site links contain relevant keyword phrases, including some that are voice search- and mobile-friendly.
Local marketing tactics to help you rank
Fortunately there are effective tools at your disposal to ensure your business’ success. The following tactics are what we recommend based on the latest trends and on the anatomy of a Google search.
Local voice searches
Voice searches done by Google Assistant, Siri, or some other similar technology have a few things in common.
- They’re typically phrases, like “Hey Google: Where can I find a plumber near me?”
- They often include a geographic element, such as “near me” or a reference to the city or state the search is being conducted in.
- They don’t follow the traditional format, which would be something like “plumbers in any city, USA.”
While it’s still okay for you to create content that includes more traditional long-tail keyword phrases, it’s important to include conversational phrases, like No. 1 in the list above. Essentially, you need to think about how people type an inquiry into a search engine versus how they would speak it into their phone or to their home’s voice assistant. You may need to expand your thinking about what search engine optimization encompasses nowadays to include voice search phrasing.
Google My Business service area
On the Google My Business platform and app, there is an option for you to update your Google business listing to include the service areas you work in. This feature allows you to add zip codes, cities or towns, and other geographical location information. By doing this, you’ll increase the likelihood that your business will show up in a search that includes phrases like “near me” or “in [insert name of city].”
Google Ads can boost your chances of having your business appear at the top of local search results. While this is always important, it can become even more important if you tend to be in a competitive local niche, like contracting or plumbing.
Here’s how to use Google Ads to optimize your search results: Utilize Google’s Local Service Ads. These ads cater to specific professional services, like plumbers, HVAC contractors, locksmiths, and more. They allow you to include information such as reviews and ratings, your business hours, phone numbers and more.
The ads also require the searcher to be very specific in their inquiry. For example, if the potential customer clicks on a local listing for a plumber, Google prompts the customer to confirm the service area and the type of service they’re looking for. If your company is a good fit, then that customer will be matched to you. It’s more likely that prospects who find your ad will be prequalified and become new customers.