Is Proximity to the Center of a Search Location a Ranking Factor?


elwalker

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I hope someone can help me with this.

For the Google Local Pack and Map results, does Google give more weight to a business at the geographical center of a search location or does it treat all businesses in that location equally?

For example, would a dentist at the dead center of Dallas get a better score than a dentist 20 blocks from the centre?

Or, would a hotel at the geographical center of a state or county get a better score than one in the north of the state or the county?

Or does it not matter what the precise location as long as the business states the location in their listing and Google can verify that the address is in fact in that location?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences.
 
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City center hasn't been the de-facto place a business should be located in for years... my understanding, is that Google pays more attention to where other businesses in the industry congregate in your city. (do a search in this forum for 'centroid' and you'll see a bunch on that topic). In my city for example, the centroid for used car dealers isn't downtown... it's way the heck out in the sketch part of town, because that's where all the other ones are too. Joy also recently did a post about another related issue:
http://www.localsearchforum.com/goo...t-not-local-joys-post-search-engine-land.html

If you appear nearby, but it's not in the area that Google highlights when you search for the city (like, in Google's eyes you're outside city limits, even if your address says you aren't) that can be an issue.

I'd be interested to hear too what people see about ranking benefits from being in the centroid. For the 3 packs I keep an eye on, it doesn't look it's a necessity (there's plenty of outliers) but it does seem like there's a statistically higher amount that are closer in than farther out than you'd except if they were all equally weighted... but my data scientist friend wouldn't approve of me making conclusions from eyeballing such a small data set. Since you can't influence the client's location though, best to make sure they're close enough to be worth trying to help, and then running in with guns blazing if they're a little farther out.
 
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Too late to make an edit, but I forgot to add an obvious point that maybe goes without saying. The user themselves is kind of the new centroid, so for someone using mobile/searching within the city, that'll also obviously affect what pops up as well, especially for bare keywords, instead of keywords + city.
 

JoshuaMackens

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Theoretically, distance to "centroid" should have been phased out long ago. The new centroid is the user, if any centroid exists at all. But then again, who knows how long it takes Google to phase out these sort of things?

With that being said, I think it's very likely it's not an issue anymore. I imagine if Google creates a centroid, it's from the user's location making the query.

If it's not a distance relevant query (like for a home service company, hvac, roofer, etc.) I would imagine there is no centroid and Google just shows you companies located in your area without any ranking effect to whether or not one is closer to you than the other, as long as they're all in the city you search from.

However, if it's a distance relevant query, like "pizza", then Google will try to approximate your location and give you pizza places closest to you. You would be the centroid.

With all of that being said, you can't control your location and even if you could, there's no reason to pack up and move just because you're not closest to the centroid. While it may be a ranking factor, it's an inconsequential one where your SEO strategy is concerned.

Hope that helps!
 

Colan Nielsen

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Fantastic insight! I think the post that Joy wrote at Search Engine Land is worth noting in this discussion too. In most cases a business needs to be physically located within what Google considers to be the city boundaries, and not necessarily what the postal address is.

When You Rank High Organically But Not Locally (Case Study)

Conclusion: Why Does That Impact One Keyword And Not The Other?
Keywords without a city name (e.g., “handyman” searched from a user in Tampa, FL) rely more heavily on traditional organic ranking factors.
Keywords that include a city name (“handyman tampa”) rely more heavily on true local ranking factors, including:
The physical location of your business (if it is in the physical city limits of the city searched).
The categories you are using in Google My Business or Map Maker.
The presence of a duplicate listing (a huge negative factor if one exists).
Inconsistency with your name, address or phone number (NAP) in the major online directories and data providers.
 

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