Recently, I’ve had a handful of people approach me regarding concerns about their keyword rankings. Some were concerned that Google was hitting them with penalties, while others were upset with SEO companies blaming Google algorithm changes. In my consulting with these individuals/companies, I’ve found that often part of the breakdown is that people don’t always understand how Google handles location.
There are a few different ways that Google handles locations. First Google changes search results depending on country. Make sure you are using the right Google extension depending on the country you want to check rankings for, especially if it’s a different country than you are located in. For example, use www.google.fr for France, or www.google.ru for Russia.
Secondly, you’ll need understand that there will be different search results for any location that you are in, and that results will change from town to town. This is done in two ways.
- Google Places results are the local business listings that you’ll find in the search results listed with addresses and phone numbers, as well as an icon on a map. These are most significantly relevant to the town you are in.
- The standard organic results will also change, though to a lesser degree, depending on where you are located. This seems to be most significantly altered by state (in the U.S.), but other location data will affect this. Unlike map listings, you won’t always know that these are different because there’s not a clear visual indicator.
The easiest way to change your location settings is to do a Google search, then click on “search tools.” You’ll see your location (city, state) underneath, which can be changed to any location you wish. Now you can more clearly see how a local business (but not local to you) shows up in the search engine results.(click for larger image)
Sure, it’s a little cumbersome and not automated, but it’s one of the most effective solutions for location dependent searches, which are especially important to local businesses. It also helps in understanding why people simple aren’t seeing the same results as you.