Home Blog Why You May Not See Your Brand’s Location In Local Search

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We’re sometimes asked by brand marketers, “Why doesn’t our location come up on Google when searchers are trying to find our store closest to them?” This conundrum can stump even the most seasoned local marketers. Why would you not see your business location in a local search if you’re near a searcher?

You’ve put in the effort to optimize your Google Business Profile listing and the associated local landing page for each of your locations. But, when you search from your phone or computer, you don’t see your nearest location appear. Why is that?

Let’s dive into why you may not see your brand’s locations in local search, even if you’re the nearest location to a searcher.

Understanding Google’s local ranking factors

Google aims to be the best answer for any search query and is doing all it can to ensure the results displayed are the most relevant and highest quality results to match the user’s intent.

When it comes to local results in the MapPack, it’s important to note that proximity i.e. “distance” is one of the top-ranking factors in Google’s local algorithm. Google states that:

“Distance considers how far each potential search result is from the location term used in a search. If a user doesn’t specify a location in their search, we’ll calculate distance based on what we do know about their location.” 

Relevance and prominence are also heavily weighted search ranking factors. Relevance is defined as “how well a local Business Profile matches what someone is searching for”. Prominence meanwhile “refers to how well known a business is”. All three of the aforementioned factors influence how and when your business locations will surface in search.

How does Google determine your location?

According to Google’s Search help center, the search engine estimates a searcher’s current location based on several sources, depending on what information is available. Whether you’re using Search, Maps, or Google Assistant, Google may use location hints from: 

  • Your device location
  • Your labeled places
  • The home address you set in the Google Home app for your speaker, Smart Display, or Smart Clock
  • Your location history
  • Your previous activity across Google products
  • The IP address of your internet connection, which is a requirement to use the internet

As Google mentions, the location information available from each of these sources can be controlled in your device permissions, account preferences, and other settings. For example, users can change location permissions in their browser to control whether location information is sent from their laptop to a website (including a search engine). 

But, even if you turn off location permissions for Google.com, there’s a very important caveat. According to Google:

“It can sometimes take a long time for your browser to get your current device location. To give you search results quickly, google.com might use your device’s location from the last time you used Google. This location is stored in a cookie set to expire after 6 hours.”

Google Maps Update

Why checking local rankings from a personal device is problematic

It’s never a good idea to spot-check local rankings using your own device. The results delivered to you may be influenced by your location (or Google’s perception thereof), your search or browsing history, how far you are from the location, and more.

SEOs and marketers developed a number of workarounds over the years, but as Google evolved these have become less effective. For example, it was once common practice to use the postal code of the location you were trying to track a keyword search query e.g. “bakeries 92128”.

This caused issues for a few reasons. First, Google would produce results using the center of that zip code as the searcher’s location. Depending on the zip code, it could represent quite a large geographic area and, in turn, return irrelevant results. Knowing how your location ranked for [bakeries] in the center of that zip code might not accurately represent the experience searchers in other parts of that area were having. 

Also tracking results for a keyword phrase such as “bakeries 92128” is considered an explicit local search query vs. just “bakeries” which is an implied local search query.  Google will usually display different search results for explicit vs. implied search queries

why you may not see your brand's location in local search, even if you're the nearest location to a searcher

SEOs have also used proxy servers and encoding in the browser path to instruct the browser to conduct the search from a specific place. Many search engine browsers even let you change your location settings to make it appear to Google that you were physically located in an entirely different location while conducting the search.

So how can you effectively control and manage this at scale with many distinct locations? 

Enterprise brands have unique rank tracking challenges and opportunities

This is where search rank tracking tools come in. Tracking your rankings on specific keywords using a tool like Rio SEO’s Local Reporting solution enables you to accurately measure rankings and see:

  • Aggregated top performers across the brand as well as individual location performance.
  • Search rankings by proximity from the location; for example, how you rank when searchers are within a 2-mile radius of the location versus a 5-mile radius.
  • Visualized, complementary data that tells a more complete and actionable story, with competitor monitoring, engagement tracking, conversion tracking, dynamic ROI analysis, and more. 

How your locations are ranked in search for your most valuable keywords is an important insight. But lacking the context of these other important local insights, it’s just that – one insight; a factoid that doesn’t provide enough information on its own to drive meaningful business decisions or search optimizations.

Local Reporting 2021 Enhancements

Rio SEO’s Local Reporting Dashboard Screenshot

Tracking local rankings inside a more comprehensive dashboard activates the value of this data point so you can more accurately measure the efficacy of your marketing program.

Want to learn more? Request a Local Reporting demo and see what switching from point solution rank tracking to a complete local search reporting suite can do for your brand’s local performance.

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