How to Determine If Proximity Is a Ranking Factor for Any Keyword


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Hey folks.

I just posted this article on Rank Tank. Essentially this article will show you how to take the organic results for a local keyword, scrape the business addresses, and plot the business locations on a Google Map.


The goal is to determine how important “proximity” is for this keyword. It’s very interesting because every time I do these reports, I learn about geographic hotspots that allow lower authority websites to rank for competitive keywords. You will also find outliers, businesses that are located hundreds of miles away yet rank in organic results for competitive keywords.


If anyone has any tips on how we can improve this type of research, I would love to talk about it here!


The article can be found here: How to Determine If Proximity Is a Ranking Factor for Any Keyword | The Rank Tank!
 
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Thanks Dusty Bones. I noticed your from Rochester. I'm from Buffalo and will be in the area next week. Would love to grab some Tim Hortons! Hit me up here or on Twitter if you're interested @csanfilippo01.
 
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Oh good your coming just after another snow. Bring some sunshine our way. I know its probably been a rough winter down there. Would love to meet up.
 
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Interesting analysis Chris, I'll have to play with this a little with a few of the clients i'm working with now. What do you think about mobile proximity? The centroid will shift depending on user device usage, so do you think there's a limit to doing this analysis (eg, limit to only desktop searches)?

Definitely a creative way to find proximity ranking factors, nice job with the post!
 
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I want to point out a observation that I think is pretty important about this post. It doesn't work if you're in Chrome. The Chrome extension is outdated, and doesn't work the same way as the FF add-on.

I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, then I realized the screenshots in the post were not the same as what I was seeing in Chrome. I checked the update date, and the version of the Chrome extension to make sure they were all up to date... it was. I double checked the link you provided in the post and it was for the Mozilla add-on. Sure enough, the FF add-on works just like you laid out in the doc.

I thought that was a good point to bring up for anyone trying to test this. It has to be done in FF. You can't use Chrome to do this test.
 

JoshuaMackens

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Admittedly, I didn't read the entire post. However, I think I have the main idea. If not, please forgive me.

I think the article broaches the subject of the idea of proximity being a ranking factor in organic search results?

It's been my experience physical location proximity relative to the location searched doesn't play a role in organic search results. Have others seen something to indicate that it does?
 
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Yes, It's definitely a ranking factor for localized SERPs. The weight of this ranking factor seems to be different for each industry. Some industries it doesn't seem to be important at all, while others it's very important. There are also many non-SEO related explanations for this as well.

For example some locations are heavily retail based, while others are industrial, or healthcare related. So it's important to keep this in mind.
 
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You're absolutely right Chris, searcher's location is a big deal, especially if a searcher is using a mobile device. You might not have noticed though that this thread was from over a year ago, all the way back when there was a 7-pack. Back when this thread took place the centroid was more of a thing vs user location.
 

JoshuaMackens

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Also, I think what was lost in this is that proximity is a ranking factors for Map/Local Finder results. Not for organic results as was alluded to in this thread I believe.

Unless I'm incredibly mistaken and that is taken into effect for the organic SERP's as well. Maybe it is for extreme proximity based results like "Pizza", etc? Anyone have any thoughts on this?
 
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Location absolutely factors into organic results, at least for searches with presumed local intent (especially if there's a 3-pack showing). Just type in wedding photography (or any other local keyword you like) and look at the organic SERPs under the map pack. They're all going to be locally oriented.

Even for non-3-pack searches that might have local intent, I've seen the SERPs change a bit. I couldn't find a good example in a few minutes of digging, but one that at least shows a little of what I mean... do a search with the map set to Portland Oregon for 'gas bbq' and then do one with it set to chicago IL. The Portland one has a local business website showing second to last on the page (nwnaturalappliences), while the Chicago one has a national business site there instead. So... yeah, location definitely can be a factor, even in pure organic, just depends on the search.
 

JoshuaMackens

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Location absolutely factors into organic results, at least for searches with presumed local intent (especially if there's a 3-pack showing). Just type in wedding photography (or any other local keyword you like) and look at the organic SERPs under the map pack. They're all going to be locally oriented.

Even for non-3-pack searches that might have local intent, I've seen the SERPs change a bit. I couldn't find a good example in a few minutes of digging, but one that at least shows a little of what I mean... do a search with the map set to Portland Oregon for 'gas bbq' and then do one with it set to chicago IL. The Portland one has a local business website showing second to last on the page (nwnaturalappliences), while the Chicago one has a national business site there instead. So... yeah, location definitely can be a factor, even in pure organic, just depends on the search.
There is a difference between "location" and "proximity".

Location refers to what you were just mentioning, where is your location set to. Results will obviously differ between locations set. This is city based and is a general basis.

Proximity refers to exact GPS coordinates, most notably on a smartphone, that can pinpoint your exact location in the city itself. This is not a general location and instead an exact location.

For proximity sensitive searches (like "pizza" etc.) your results will differ based on your exact location in the city. For proximity insensitive searches (like heating and cooling company) results typically do not differ based on your proximity as distance from your house would not play a significant factor in your purchasing decisions.

Location will definitely play a factor in organic web search results. Proximity does not from my experience. But I would like to hear what others have seen.
 
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Fair enough, time to clean up my lexicon a little it sounds like. I don't think I've seen proximity influence organic results then.
 

JoshuaMackens

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Fair enough, time to clean up my lexicon a little it sounds like. I don't think I've seen proximity influence organic results then.
I'm not sure it's a common distinction people make :) I've only seen it mentioned here and there a few times.
 

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