How Does Google Determine Local Search Rankings?

You may have noticed that Google has recently launched a new ad campaign highlighting searches for queries including the phrase “near me”. 

These queries use the information you provide to Google through your Google My Business profile to provide the user with local options based on their search. Learn more about Google My Business and the local search ranking factors below and how it impacts your SEO strategy below. 

Why Is Google My Business (GMB) Important for SEO?

A Google My Business profile is essential to any local search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Your profile enables your business to show up for relevant search results for specific products or services. Google uses these profiles to populate the “map pack” or “three-pack” results that are visible above the organic results for many queries, including the most popular “near me” queries. Meaning optimizing your Google My Business profile should be a top priority for any business owner! 

Watch the video we did to learn more about the process of creating a GMB profile, claiming your business and the verification process. 

Google Map Pack

How To Optimize Your Google My Business Profile

Business Name and Categories

A key phrase that you’ll hear frequently in this section is going to be consistency. Google uses Name, Address, and Phone Number, or NAP, as a ranking factor when it comes to organic rankings. Therefore, making sure the name of your business is consistent across all directories and citations is a key factor in page ranking. 

The categories section is probably the most important of your GMB profile. This section directly correlates with the keywords that your business will be associated with when it come to Google searches . 

Learn more about the business name and categories section of your Google My Business profile by watching this video.

Address, Service Area & Hours

Looking at the address portion, this section is not necessarily a question of if you have a physical location and where is that physical location located, it’s more of where and do I service my customers? This question plays into whether you should include your business address on your profile and how you should set up your service area.

Watch this video to learn more about how to set up your address, service area and hours sections of your Google My Business profile.

Business Description

The business description section is more than just an elevator pitch. In this section you are looking to utilize some of the keywords that you are looking to rank for and call out specific services and service areas. Ultimately, you’re not looking to include any sales or promotional copy in this section. 

Watch this video to learn more about adding a description to your profile. 

Products & Services

Inputting product and service information into your Google My Business profile can help  showcase your products and services directly on the knowledge panel when somebody searches for your business and might not know what you do. 

Watch this video to learn more about the products and services sections of Google My Business. 


Similar to posting on your social media profiles, the posts section of Google My Business is an area that is meant to help your customers stay engaged with your business and provide them with up to date information about your business. 

Watch this video to learn about all the different types of posts and how they can impact your businesses visibility in local search results. 


Pinpoint how people are finding your business, what searches you’re showing up for and where people are finding you on the results pages and much more in this section. 

Learn more about Google My Business Insight by watching this video. 


Photos of your business can help potential customers identify your physical location and give them a sense to quickly understand the services your business provides. 

Watch this video for a quick run down of how photos can positively impact your GMB profile. 


The reviews section is why nearly all business have a GMB profile currently or are looking to create one. In general, reviews can help potential customers form purchasing decisions leading to an organic increase in sales. 

Find out what Google wants to see from this section by watching this video (hint: it’s not an overwhelming number of 5 star reviews). 

Schedule Your Free GMB Analysis

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Local Search Ranking Factors

Now that we have a better understanding of why it’s important, let’s dive into the main factors for how Google determines your local search rankings.

Google uses three main factors when determining a companies local search rankings. These factors include: 

  • Relevance 
  • Distance 
  • Prominence


A key factor for Google to a users search results is relevance. How well does your business, its products or services, match what each user is looking for. This is where the categories section comes in. The categories selected assist Google with associating your business with the most relevant keywords. The content on your site, can also help associate your site from a topical standpoint.


Secondly, distance plays a major role in whether your business shows up in the map pack. Depending on what the user is searching for, the distance for each search could be a couple of miles or a couple hundred. A good example is doing a search for “Pizza Appleton WI”. The results that I see will likely be different then yours based on our current location. Another example is “Roofing Appleton WI”. Some roofing contractors have office locations outside of Appleton but service the Appleton area. Unfortunately, these contractors are at a disadvantage because of the physical office address. Unless you are standing in their office doing the search, you may never know these businesses even exist. 


Lastly, is prominence or how well your business is known. This is where the overall number of links your site has and your aggregate number of review and review score are factored in. Google does it’s best to tie your offline prominence with your online prominence by reviewing the number of links your site has, your reviews and organic search rankings. It’s important to point out that each factor is equally important to not weigh one more heavily than another. Yes, more positive reviews can help boost your rankings, but search engine optimization (SEO) best practices are also included and should be applied.

What's Next?

It’s one thing to have a website, and another to properly optimize and maintain it. An SEO strategy should be a multifaceted approach as the information above has outlined. There’s no turn key option, it’s a bunch of small factors that add up to the end result. Stellar Blue offers several approaches to assist it’s clients with increasing search rankings and overall website maintenance. Our full popularity package places your business and 4 of the top online directories to establish your business and increase visibility. Similarly, we can craft a custom integrated SEO strategy to implement SEO best practices and solidify the foundation of your most powerful marketing tool, your website. Fill out the form at the top of this page to get a FREE Google My Business Analysis and schedule a conversation with one of our Strategists regarding your business and it’s goals. 


Lead Creative Designer at Stellar Blue

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