How To Leverage The Rise of "Near Me" Searches

How to Leverage "Near Me" Searches for Local SEO in 2023

In the age of smartphones and AI-powered voice assistants, people are changing the way they search for local businesses. Typing in "restaurants in Chicago" on a desktop computer is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Now, "near me" mobile searches reign supreme. Picture this – you‘re out running errands and suddenly get a hankering for a burrito. You grab your iPhone and say "Hey Siri, Mexican restaurants near me." And voila! You immediately see a list of the top local spots, complete with directions from your current location, ratings, hours, and contact info.

This is the new reality of local search today – and it‘s only going to intensify. Just look at some of these eye-opening "near me" statistics:

  • "Near me" searches increased by an astonishing 900% from 2015 to 2017 (Source: Chat Meter)
  • 82% of smartphone shoppers conduct "near me" searches (Source: Search Engine Watch)
  • "Near me" mobile searches containing "can I buy" or "to buy" grew by over 500% in the past two years (Source: Think with Google)
  • By 2021, mobile devices are projected to influence $1.4 trillion in local sales (Source: Forrester)

These numbers don‘t lie. If you operate a local business or a multi-location brand, you simply can‘t afford to ignore "near me" searches in 2023 and beyond. Mobile-first, location-based search is the new battleground for visibility, traffic, and sales.

But don‘t worry, I‘ve got you covered. Here is a step-by-step, up-to-the-minute guide for mastering your "near me" SEO strategy this year:

  1. Claim & Optimize Your Google Business Profile Listing

Your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) listing is basically your home base for local search. It‘s the information that shows up in Google Maps and the "Local Pack" – the box of top local results that appear for searches with local intent.

To rank in these premium positions, the first crucial step is claiming your Business Profile if you haven‘t already. Just log into the Google Business Profile Manager and follow the verification steps.

But simply having a barebones profile won‘t cut it anymore. You need a robust, optimized listing to beat out your competitors. Here‘s a quick optimization checklist:

  • Completely fill out all relevant business information
  • Add a detailed description of your business focusing on your unique value proposition
  • Upload plenty of high-quality photos (aim for at least 10) showing your business, products, team, etc.
  • Choose the most accurate category for your business
  • Add your hours of operation, including holiday hours
  • Encourage your happy customers to leave Google reviews – high star ratings are a major local ranking factor

And don‘t forget about Google Posts! This micro-blogging feature lets you publish events, offers, and updates directly to your Business Profile. Posts are a great way to grab attention, promote specials, and keep your profile looking fresh.

  1. Implement Local Schema Markup

Another way to give Google more context about your local business is schema markup. Schema is structured data that goes into your website code to provide search engines with explicit information like your business address, phone number, hours, geo-coordinates, and more.

There are various types of local business schema markup that you should take advantage of:

  • LocalBusiness schema for general local business info
  • PostalAddress schema for your business address
  • GeoCoordinates schema for your business location‘s latitude and longitude
  • OpeningHoursSpecification schema for your hours and days of operation
  • Review and AggregateRating schema for your business reviews and ratings

You can easily generate your schema code using Google‘s Structured Data Markup Helper tool. Just choose the "Local businesses" data type, paste in the URL of your business‘ location page, and highlight/tag the relevant info on the page.

Then copy and paste the generated HTML into your page‘s code. To double check that your schema is working, run your URL through Google‘s Rich Results Test tool.

The key with local schema is to ensure that your NAP (name, address, phone number) info is consistent across all your location pages. Conflicting NAP info not only confuses Google, but also potential customers.

  1. Build Local Links & Citations

Of course we can‘t talk SEO without mentioning backlinks. Earning links from authoritative, relevant websites is still the top ranking factor in Google‘s search algorithm – and that applies to local SEO as well.

To show up in more "near me" searches, you want to focus your link building efforts on locally-relevant linking opportunities. Some of the best sources for local links include:

  • Local newspapers and online magazines
  • Local business associations and chambers of commerce
  • Local bloggers and influencers
  • Other relevant local businesses (not direct competitors)
  • Local sponsorships and partnerships
  • Local scholarships and charities

You can use a tool like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMrush to do competitor link research and discover the best local sites to target in your area. Look for websites that are linking to other businesses like yours and consider reaching out to them.

In addition to links, you also want to secure local citations. A citation is any online reference of your business‘ name, address, and phone number (NAP), even if it doesn‘t include a link.

Some common examples of citation sources are:

  • Online yellow pages like Yelp, Foursquare, and YellowPages
  • Industry-specific directories like Avvo for lawyers or Healthgrades for doctors
  • Local business directories like your city‘s Chamber of Commerce site
  • Review sites like Google, Facebook, Tripadvisor, etc.
  • Social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Having an abundance of accurate, consistent citations helps validate your business‘ existence and location to search engines. Tools like Moz Local, Yext, and BrightLocal can help you manage and build your citations more efficiently.

  1. Create Localized Content

Google‘s main objective is to provide searchers with the most relevant, high-quality content for their queries. So if you want to rank for more "near me" searches, you need to create localized content tailored to your geographic market.

Think blog posts, videos, or guides related to your local area. For example:

  • "20 Best Date Night Restaurants in Seattle"
  • "The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding in Las Vegas"
  • "Fun Things to Do with Kids This Summer in San Diego"

This type of hyperlocal content can more easily rank for local searches, while also attracting natural links and shares from people in your community.

Use keyword research tools to find popular "near me" search terms related to your business and then build content around them. Sprinkle in local references like neighborhood names, landmarks, local lingo, etc. to reinforce the geographic relevance.

  1. Have a Fast, Mobile-Friendly Website

With the majority of "near me" searches occurring on smartphones, having a mobile-friendly website is non-negotiable. Your site needs to load quickly and be easy to navigate on smaller touchscreens.

Google has stated that they use mobile-first indexing for over half of the web pages in their search results globally. This means that Google predominantly uses the mobile version of your content for indexing and ranking.

To check if your site meets Google‘s mobile-friendly criteria, plug your URL into their Mobile-Friendly Test tool. It will tell you if your page has a mobile-friendly design and if it loads properly on mobile devices.

Some best practices for mobile optimization include:

  • Using a responsive design that automatically adjusts to fit any screen size
  • Placing key information and calls-to-action above the fold
  • Using large, tappable buttons
  • Avoiding Flash and pop-ups
  • Compressing images to reduce page load time
  • Leveraging browser caching
  • Minifying code and reducing redirects

You can also consider implementing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). AMP is a Google-backed open source project that provides a straightforward way to create web pages that are fast, smooth-loading and prioritize the user-experience above all else.

AMP pages often appear in premium placements in mobile search results, like the "Top stories" carousel. For local businesses, AMP can help your site load near-instantaneously for mobile users, reducing your bounce rates and facilitating more conversions.

  1. Optimize for Voice Search

Last but certainly not least, a forward-thinking "near me" SEO strategy must account for the rapid rise of voice search. With the popularity of virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, more and more people are using their voices to find local information hands-free.

In fact, 58% of consumers have used voice search to find local business information in the last 12 months. And 46% of voice search users look for a local business on a daily basis (Source: BrightLocal).

So how can you optimize your site for voice queries? Start by brainstorming the types of conversational phrases someone might use to find a business like yours while on the go:

  • "Where can I get my oil changed near me?"
  • "Car repair shop near me open now"
  • "Cheapest gas station near my location"

Then look for natural opportunities to weave these longer, question-based keywords into your site‘s content, meta data, and schema markup.

For instance, you could have an FAQ page that directly addresses common questions, or create blog content with titles like "How to Find the Best [Your Business Category] Near You."

Also, since voice searches are more likely to be hyper-local in nature (e.g. "near me" or "near my location"), doubling down on your local SEO best practices is key. The previously mentioned tactics like Google Business Profile optimization, local link building, and citation building will help you rank better for localized voice searches too.

Looking Ahead
The way consumers search for and discover local businesses is evolving at a breakneck pace. With "near me" searches exploding and innovations like voice search taking off, local brands can‘t rely on the same old playbook anymore.

But by taking a proactive, mobile-first approach and implementing these cutting-edge "near me" SEO strategies, you‘ll be well-positioned to drive more visibility, traffic, and revenue for the long haul.

The businesses that adapt the quickest to these seismic shifts in local search behavior will ultimately reap the greatest rewards. Will yours be one of them?