Do you still need to use ‘near me’ to optimize your website for local search? Contributor William Munir looks at how the use of this phrase has evolved over time and how search engines use it to surface the most accurate and useful search results.
Picture the scene: you’re new in town and it’s getting late. You want to get to the nearest hotel and book a room where you can spend the night. You also need a little bit of information about the hotel. This is just one example of situations where Google’s “near me” comes in handy.
Google’s “near me” tool helps searchers locate services and goods that are close to where they are. It is currently live on Android and Apple smartphones and is purposely designed to solve two user problems:
- It’s meant to make searches for categories of nearby places very simple
- It’s designed to make it easy for users to find out about a service that’s near them
Searches related to “Near me” peaked in 2015, and so marketers’ attention was drawn to the growing significance of a location in the search. This was reinforced by the fact that up to 76 percent of all location searches result in an actual visit to the places searched within a day.
The question that arises is, “Why can’t we drop the keywords ‘near me’ on our websites when people are using their smartphones to discover services or goods around them”? The answer to this question is simple; “near me” is now about finding a specific good/service in a specific period of time and in a specific area—it’s not just about finding a specific place.
Google knows your site verbatim, therefore stuffing “near me” won’t always work and that’s why searching by category is important. By using your location-aware cell phone, “near me” is able to search the business around you by category (banks, ATMs, bars, coffee shops, restaurants, etc.) and return any nearby facility depending on its closeness to you.
This means that if you are standing near or outside a bar you want to enter, all it takes is to tap the near me link and choose the category. You’ll probably get all the information you need about the bar. This process is much faster compared to typing everything into your mobile phone.
According to Google, many people who use mobile phones to search around them are getting more and more specific with the intention of their search. And it has been noted that searches using the phrase “near me” or searches with variants such as “to buy” or “can I buy” have grown more than five times over the last two years. Phrases like “where to buy vinyl records near me,” “places to buy scrubs near me,” or “where can I buy stamps near me,” are very common.
What do customers expect?
The reason “near me” is gaining popularity is that people expect technology to give them very fast and accurate information. The days are gone when people would search their daily newspapers. If they want particular places within their vicinity, they want the information to be fast and detailed.
A shopper, for example, doesn’t want to drive around town looking for a store to buy something. They want technology to enable them to home in on what they need without much effort. So today’s searches are not just about “petrol pumps near me” or “restaurants near me”. They have gone a notch higher to searches like “tarragon near me”, “where to get a facial near me,” and “cowboy boots near me.” By providing content that relates to neighboring cities and towns, “near me” is holding a special place in people’s lives.
Apart from saving you time by giving you the exact location of what you need, it also gives you an idea of what to expect and what type of reviews other people have given.
Are there other competitors?
There are actually a host of apps that help people to find their way around town. One such example is the “Around me” app which many people are using. We also have the AR app Layar which is a good restaurant finder, and Yelp and Foursquare which are mainly social network tools. However, these apps cannot match Google’s massive search engine that powers “near me.”
Since searchers began using the keyword “near me” in their searches, many businesses started incorporating “near me” into their articles and titles. The reasoning behind this is that when someone searches for “something near me”, their pages should have a good Google ranking and would most probably be selected by the searcher.
But is this really helpful? Some experts dispute this theory, arguing that adding the phrase “near me” in this manner doesn’t make much sense, because even if your page ranked highly, the location might not be near the searcher while we know that location is key when it comes to Google’s “Near Me.”
What’s important, therefore, is a tool that tells the searcher what service or product is actually close to where he/she is, not just one that is giving them information about some businesses that might be miles away. This is true even if you structured your data so that the user can understand and locate your business. Optimizing for Google My Business can be a better idea because this is where a lot of information about your business can be found.
Is “near me” important for your business?
The simple answer is, yes. However, business owners need to provide marketers with most accurate and detailed data that can provide the right answers sought by consumers. Many consumers want to know when you are open, what you offer, your charges, what advantages you have compared to your competitors, and more. When your business appears on “near me”, the answers to all these questions and many more should be available as quickly as possible.
Business owners to ensure their business information is updated regularly, is accurate, and above all, they should make sure that other aspects like latest offers and phone numbers are updated on their “Google My Business” dashboard.
Being proactive with NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) is something that no business should take for granted. A wrong name, address or phone number may lead your potential customers to your competitors.
Google “near me” is also very important for multi-location businesses. This is because even if your customers are not close to one of your stores that they are familiar with, they can easily locate another store of yours near them.
Does data matter?
Lately, there’s been a shift in search behaviors. Consumers are slowly shifting to voice search. In fact, voice searches made in the Google app today are more than 20% of the total searches.
This means that the underlying data that businesses put online is going to play a very vital role. Online listings that have consistent and correct location information across websites will rank higher in search results. Once again, this implies that the data people mostly look for (address, hours, etc.) needs to be incorporated into the website and listed accurately so that it is readily available for searchers. Understanding Google’s latest algorithm change is important in ensuring your page is at the top.
In conclusion, Google “near me” is still very effective and it is something that businesses should take into consideration whenever they are looking to optimize their website for local searches.
William Munir is the Chief Marketing Officer at BUFF Guy Media, a digital marketing agency specializing in smarter ways to help you stay digitally active.