Google pride’s itself on giving its users the right information at the right time. If you were in London you want a London plumber not some bloke from Newcastle. But it is not that simple.
To understand local SEO we need to know a little about the history of search and how Google has made advances in IP recognition.
In the early days of the internet, it was common to Google say “electrician” and then telephone the number on the website. Unfortunately, it was often the case that the electrician was based in Newcastle or Edinburgh and would not come all the way down to London. All the website had done was to create a page /electrician-london and suddenly they were in London!
There had to be a better way. Users started searching for “boiler replacement + London.” In this way, they could be sure of getting a plumber who actually covered London. All good.
Google then changes the rules
Google was aware that websites would often list products or services in cities where they were not based. Google made changes to its algorithm to be able to identify which company websites were in which location. It could do this by geo-targeting the IP address of a website. More.
But what if you hosted your London based company website in the US. This was clearly not going to work so Google had to go back to the drawing board.
The launch of Google Local
So Google decided to launch Google local or Google my business as it is now called. This cleverly forced companies to verify their actual address by receiving a postcard from Google with a verification code.
Not very technical for the most advanced software company in the UK. It also could not account for most businesses who have never heard of Google my business and have no intention of finding out.
Well, Google is all about advertising so if you couldn’t be bothered with Google Local then you perhaps weren’t going to pay them to advertise. No Google local, no local search results! Or so people thought.
Companies and clever SEOs spent money on forwarding addresses so they could list their companies in multiple Google local accounts. Cunning. However, they need not have bothered. Google local is separate from Google’s main index.
Simple local Optimisation
One of the simplest of solutions was to could the number of times a location was mentioned in a website and to note any URLs that may have the name in them. This is why our own Local SEO system is so successful. If business A is based in Chelsea SW3 and has 20 pages that include this key phrase, then another website with 40 pages with ‘Chelsea SW3’ must be more likely to be actually in Chelsea and is in fact twice as optimised for keyword + Chelsea SW3.
OK, So what now?
Then in 2015 Google further changes the local SEO goalposts by introducing IP geo-mapping. Put simply Google now knows where you are located by mapping the IP address to a location. This technology has been around for a while. However, Google has perfected it.
What does this mean for Local Search?
What this means for local search is that sites optimised for a location are more likely to appear in search results where a users IP is also in the same area.
This change meant that big successful websites that ranked highly for very competitive keywords but were not targeted at any particular location saw themselves beaten by any small website that just happened to be based in the same IP location as the large site.
What it means for local optimisation is that it is no longer enough to create a single page your-product-london.html and that the rules have changed on both sides of the fence, your website owner and the user.
It is however very exciting for local search experts like ourselves who revel in challenges.