How Google Determines Local SEO Ranking

Posted: by April 11th, 2016


If you are an Estate Agent, you’ll be all too familiar with the screenshot below. These results are shown from a product that Google calls ‘Google My Business‘ – and is separate from the traditional search results that are typically seen. As we’ve previous blogged, these results are triggered by running a ‘Service in Placename’ type query on Google, so if you are in need of a Plumber in Ballymena, or a Electrician in Belfast, then Google quickly brings back business results. You can quickly see the correlation with Estate Agency, as ‘Letting Agents in Placename’ or ‘Estate Agents in Placename’ will also generate Google My Business results where your business can be found. See below results for ‘estate agents’. Even without a location qualifier, Google can work out local results.


So how do Google determine how to rank results? As of the start of this month, they have lifted the lid on some of the secret sauce that determines ranking, the below article summarises some of that information.

Google has updated their help page named Improve your local ranking on Google. Previously, the page had about five paragraphs of text around relevance, distance and prominence for ranking in the local results. Now, Google has vastly expanded the document. The document explains that you should aim to have as much data as possible about your local business in Google My Business and that you need to verify your business, post accurate hours, respond and manage your reviews and make sure to add photos. That helps people find your business in the local results.

Local results are based primarily on relevance, distance and prominence. These factors are combined to help us to find the best match for your search. For example, Google algorithms might decide that a business that’s further away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer, and therefore rank it higher in local results.


Relevance refers to how well a local listing matches what someone is searching for. Adding complete and detailed business information can help Google to better understand your business and match your listing to relevant searches.


Just like it sounds – how far is each potential search result from the location term used in a search? If a user hasn’t specified a location in their search, Google will calculate distance based on what’s known about their location. In this Example, Google has worked out where we are searching from in North Belfast, and started to produce results relevant to that location.


Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels or well-known shop brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be more prominent in local search results.

Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (such as links, articles and directories). Google review count and score are also factored into local search ranking – more reviews and positive ratings will improve a business’s local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices apply to local search optimisation.

There’s no way to request or pay for a better local ranking on Google. If you haven’t already signed up with a Google Business account, then its absolutely worth doing as it is free- click here to find out more.


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