Google Local Ranking Mystery - Location Settings Backwards


Linda Buquet

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Here's a puzzle for the pros...

NORMALLY if you search for Dallas + Keyword and your search location is set to Los Angeles your client may rank D. (For example) HOWEVER if you change your location to Dallas where the client is based and where most of their customers would search from, you will often be pleasantly surprised and they rank B or something.

TYPICALLY if you set search location to clients location rankings will either be the same OR sometimes a little better. This makes sense and is the norm.

I have a WEIRD example of it going the other direction.

I have a client that is WELL optimized for City Dentist and for a long time they've ranked A for City Dentist. (When location set to the city they are located in and where searchers would search from.)

Now he suddenly dropped to E when location is set to HIS city.
BUT if I change to different state or US (no location set) he jumps to B!


That's backasswards! If he's IN that city and you search FROM that city, he should be more relevant and rank higher not lower! Why would he rank HIGHER if you search from OUT of state???

Should work the opposite. They rank high with location set TO that city and then drop if location NOT in that same city.

(Sorry I can't share link or specifics. This is one of the main clients I use for example in my Local SEO training. The one that had DOUBLE #1. #1 in organic AND A in blended. Side note: Per my post yesterday about the new Google guidelines about lists of cities being considered keyword stuffing now - I suspect that's his problem and need to talk to his designer about some site changes. I didn't do his site.)

Have seen this complaint from someone else here at the forum too.
(Need to go try to find that post to see if it sheds any clues.)

Has anyone else seen this happen?
Any ideas what would cause this?
 
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You said that normally you have seen clients jump in ranking if you switch your location to their city.

Logically, if some jump, others must fall. If everyone jumped, rankings would stay the same.
 

m_j_gregory

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Hey Linda,

That is very frustrating... Just to verify, all these searches are being done without being logged into a Google account, correct?

Thanks,
Matt
 

Linda Buquet

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Hmmm, good point Matt and thanks for bringing it up.

I'm always logged into one Google account or the other. So those results are logged in. But client is actually searching from the location he's in, obviously - and he's seeing the drop too. I assume he's searching logged in but am not sure. He's not very tech savvy so who know.

Have not told him yet with location not set, he's up at B.

So I'll log out and check. AND I'll ask him to do a series of checks from there with location set and not - logged in and logged out.

Cuz bottom line does not matter what I see (except I kinda need to know for testing). What's important is the results someone in his area would see.
 

m_j_gregory

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Hey Linda,

Yes, good point. I have run across this situation before and being logged in vs. not logged in was a large influence on how the results were being served (I think moreso when a client is logged in checking their 'rank' everyday).

Let me know if this is the case in your situation as well. Hope it works!

Thanks,
Matt
 

Linda Buquet

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Just found replies to me via Twitter that kinda make sense and could indicate a new proximity filter of some kind.

@ChiroHosting Tweeted: "when you search outside the City, this most likely plays more or less in to their algorythm."

"geographical location when you search locally Google will choose rank closest to the geographical center of the city your in."

Hmmm, that's a really good theory considering this Dentist is as far from city center as you can get. In fact 1/2 of his patients come from next state over. For a long time I could not get him to rank at all due to the old "proximity lockout algo".

So ChiroHosting is suggesting that since he's well optimized for City Dentist, when location is not set the algo will take over and he'll rank higher. BUT when his city is set - then location kicks in and becomes a stronger ranking signal.

I'm doing a ton of reverse engineering the algo research this weekend, because I suspect quite a few other algo changes just recently happened. So will check the above theory against some other listings as well.

Thanks ChiroHosting!
 
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Linda - I think what you are saying is that distance to centroid becomes a greater ranking factor when searching from within the city.

Is that right???
 

Linda Buquet

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Well it was just 2 short tweets from someone but it sounds like that's what he was saying.

And it sounds possible. BUT client WAS ranking so if that's the issue then it was an algo change.

BUT I'm investigating other things that could have caused the drop too. He has 2 different spots on home that have a several cities listed in bold. (So not only city list, but duplicated so that new Geo KW stuffing guideline could be at play.) And there are a couple other things that could be going on too.

So digging in this weekend to do some more analysis on this one AND some of my other clients to try to figure out what's up.

There have been so many algo changes the past month I can't keep up and no one has documented how any of them are effecting local! Will keep everyone posted on anything I figure out, discover or even suspect could be an issue.
 

Linda Buquet

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Initial research does not support the proximity issue mentioned above.

Just tested my fav test market + keyword. "Seattle Chiropractor". Logged into Seattle or US or other state, the results don't change. Then checked "Chicago dentist". No change when search location changed either. So doesn't appear prox algo changed. Appears it's just something with this particular listing.
 

sergiuliano

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Hi Linda,


It is very important how have you run the search query after changing the location.

When a user is searching for a keyword which is including location ex:

"Miami dentist"

(Location + Keyword )

the results will be pretty similar regardless the location. Take a look to the following heatmap and you will see that most of the times the websites ranks on the same positions:



but if the user will change the location and will try to complete the search only on the main keyword, for example

"dentist"

( Keyword only )

the results will be extremely different between locations. see the next heatmap:



What is happening is that the normal results are pushed down by the local ones, as you can see from a certain position the rankings structure start being similar.

( * grey color represent websites which are ranking only on one city. All those URLs were marked with grey

full reports can be checked on

Ranking Report for "miami dentist" on TOP 15 cities in United States and
Ranking Report for "dentist" on TOP 15 cities in United States )


And all this because usually the keywords which doesn't contains the location have a bigger Local SEO competition level, so the answer to your question could be that the site you've mentioned has a good SEO Rank but on the targeted location are competitors with a better Local SEO Rank

Hope my answer helps,
Sergiu
 

Linda Buquet

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Thanks Sergiu, but none of that computes for me because it does not show a search FROM Miami which is where the example client would be from if we are using the example Miami Dentist. We don't really care what things look like searching for Miami Dentist from other cities across the US, so sorry, I don?t really understand the relevance at all. Just woke up and have the flu, so maybe my foggy head missed something.
 

sergiuliano

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Hi Linda, back on this topic,

I have analysed in the last days tens of results for the keyword "auto service" and tried to identify a connection between the way they rank in Google Organic results ( as places results ) and the distance to centroid, but I was not able to find a direct connection.

Has anyone build a research to show the connection between distance to centroid and the way a website ranks on Google Organic results ( as a Places result ) ?

Is it such a major factor in Local Rankings or is it only a boolean value factor ( 0/1 ) , to show on a certain location or not?

I would be very interested to read it.

Thanks
 

Linda Buquet

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Distance from centroid used to be a stronger ranking factor back in the old 7 pack days. The 7 pack hardly shows up any more. The main algo now is the blended algo and ranking order is mainly based on organic ranking factors.

So that's why you are having a hard time with correlation I think. A business on the edge of town could rank #1 due to strong organic SEO.

One example is Seattle Chiropractor. The A listing is the fartest from centroid by far.
 

sergiuliano

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Thanks for the answer, it confirms the results I got.

I would like to know also, what is the distance from centroid for a business to be connected to a certain city in the search results ?

I have seen auto services located few miles outside the city but still ranking in good position.
 

Linda Buquet

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I think it totally depends on keyword competition in that city.

Typically for competitive search terms in larger cities you can only rank in the city your address is in. Search Dallas Dentist or Atlanta Personal Injury Atty and you'll likely have to go 5 - 7 pages deep in Place search before you find a listing that's not located in that city.

But in smaller towns or ones that don't have strong SEO competitors you can sometimes rank even if in the next city over. It's not as much about distance as it is competition and SEO strength.
 

sergiuliano

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in this case, what could be the solution for an auto service located 1-2 miles near Dallas to rank in organic SERPs ?

If Google will not give them a chance to rank in a good position, probably they will try to verify on a different addresses closest to centroid and redirect the clients by phone to the actual address.
 
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Google will only deny you the chance to rank if we're talking strictly Google+ Local results. You can still get the client's website to rank for the city - and it will either be above or below the Google+ Local results.

The bulk of my clients are located in cities by major metropolitan cities. I tell them point blank they will never rank in the Google+ Local results for the major city. HOWEVER, with good on-page SEO and strong off-page SEO, they can rank for any city they want organically. As a result, most of my clients rank for any city they want. It's just that we're at the mercy of the Google+ Local results. We're either #1 or #2 (followed by the G+ local results) or we're the first organic listing after the G+ local results (usually below the fold).

If you can't get them a spot in G+ local or organic then your only option is AdWords...surprise surprise.

Travis Van Slooten

in this case, what could be the solution for an auto service located 1-2 miles near Dallas to rank in organic SERPs ?

If Google will not give them a chance to rank in a good position, probably they will try to verify on a different addresses closest to centroid and redirect the clients by phone to the actual address.
 

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