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Local Search: Why Google doesn’t rank you locally

Wikipedia has a page dedicated to the kind of Local Search that applies to the Internet and search engines. Though short on examples, it is generally on-point with this post and worth reading.

I particularly like their small sub-section on the Evolution of Local Search.

Also, I recently wrote two posts that touch on local searches. One showed a local real estate company that ranks their website for organic search but, in critical areas, they do not perform for Local Search.

Is this real estate company’s LOCAL SEO strategy poor or non-existent? Let’s take a deep dive into this topic. But keep in mind that it is partly set up by this post, too; “Steven Burke Talks SEO!” 

I do not know any of the companies I am about to mention, nor do I know anyone who works there, and I am not a party to insider information regarding what they are or aren’t doing. But I know SEO (on-page, off-page, local and organic), and the evidence is quite evident.

In my first example, how do you accomplish an organic rank of #1 to #3 in a big city like Toronto for various real estate searches and only be 15th in Local Search results? And, since listings outside of the top 3 for local search results do not appear in the Map Pack, this means a loss of 40% of search clicks!

The company I am referring to does not need to be in the Map Pack all over the city, as they target luxury real estate buyers and sellers. However, in the part of Toronto I am writing from, which is a desirable neighbourhood, they are 15th in local search results!

In the local search category, 15th means zero new business generated from the effort of setting up a free Google My Business listing!

This company is focused on organic search (ranking their website) and has more or less ignored Local SEO. Or they do not truly understand it, but either way, it comes to the same thing.

The Local Advantage

Make no mistake; Harvey Kalles Real Estate is a class act. Their site is terrific (this is window dressing, not SEO), and the organic SEO is well done, or they would not have a high organic rank of their site. But the individual or agency doing their organic SEO isn’t have a wise, battle-scarred entrepreneur at the helm to steer them in all things Local Search.

If that person had real insight, they would know a few things are needed to rank locally in all the neighbourhoods in Toronto. At least the ones that matter.

Look, Toronto is massive. It is not comparable in size to Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York, but it is Boston or slightly bigger in urban sprawl (size) and population. That means you can spend an hour in a car to travel from deep in the heart of Scarborough to the Toronto International Airport, on the opposite side of this big city.

The point is; that no one-office business will dominate Local SEO results for real estate in Toronto or real estate near me (and the many other similar searches). Harvey needs a few satellite offices for that!

There is a considerable advantage in having a physical presence in local areas regarding the Map Pack.

Getting into the Map Pack

I already wrote a post about the Map Pack and why it is vital (40% of all clicks for local searches). But how can a company get into the Map Pack in 6 or more neighbourhoods in a city like Toronto for a high search volume keyword?

Believe it or not, SEO Toronto is an easier Local Search to rank for than any Toronto real estate search. And that is because there are approximately 100,000 local real estate type searches a month in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), while SEO receives one-twentieth of the number of searches.

Volume is fascinating in terms of ranking for local search.

If you are in a niche that does not get searched as much, then Google may expand the area for the results of local businesses. The theory here is that less business means fewer competitors. A wider area is then needed to include enough results.

Harvey Kalles is in a highly competitive industry. Their many competitors are dotted all over the map, with real estate offices every few blocks. Though Harvey Kalles appear to focus on servicing the upper end of the real estate market (luxury), they have no Local Search presence near some of the areas that contain luxurious real estate.

The Beaches, where Keiffer Sutherland’s mom lived for years, would be one high-end, sought-after area. Did this escape whoever looks after their online marketing? 100%.

Interestingly, Keifer is here making a new TV Show. He is likely renting in The Beaches right now if he does not own his mom’s house. Shirley Douglas passed away on April 5, 2020.

Let’s compare this to dog walkers. They are all over the city, meaning Google will only show businesses that are very local for that search, as it should.

If you are a dog walker, your website will only get into the Map Pack and receive search traffic from a tight, local area. And that means less walking, so that is fine, right?

If you are in real estate, that causes an issue, especially if you want to cover the luxury market. Those areas or neighbourhoods are scattered, so a single office is counterintuitive to what Google does if that makes sense.

‘Handyman’ is another fascinating search. Homestars is #1 for organic searches (websites), but, again, Google My Business (GMB) listings and the Map Pack appear above websites (organic results). And, for me, where I am writing today, The Handyforce, which is about 2 miles away, is #1 in the Local Search.

Big businesses like Homestars would dominate search results if it weren’t for Google My Business and its connection to Google Maps. This gives small businesses a fighting chance if they only focus on ranking locally. So why aren’t you doing that?

Local Search; handyman near me

Focus on Local Search

While exceptions exist, you still need a solid website to rank in the Map Pack. And, if everything else were equal, the company with the better site would rank #1 in Local Search.

If your competitor creates more content on their site and does the same Local SEO optimization, they will beat you in Local Search results.

SEO is meticulous but not rocket science!

Small to medium businesses will never compete in the quantity of content with websites funded by deep pockets and focused on content creation, but we do not have to. If Homestars does not appear in Local Search results above The Handyforce, which has no blog, you can do the same in your local area and industry.

A good-looking website devoid of SEO errors is not a lot of work. The Schema that helps that site give weight to your Google My Business listing is something an SEO Expert can do for you in an hour. If you also add schema snippets for each of your services, there is not much left to do to dominate Local Search results.

You can ask your customers for reviews yourself. You do not need a professional to do that for you. And, if you outsource what follows, you will dominate your competition in Local Search results:

  • regular, professional-looking Google Posts, and;
  • the effort needed to at to the number of website citations.

Those are relatively easy to add if you outsource to someone who knows what they are doing. Once done, you will appear in the Map Pack, which means you qualify for 40% of clicks from all local searches.

Adding Schema to your site for Local Search

Let me briefly tell you about two companies ranking in Local Search results that both have sexy-looking websites. One is mentioned above, and both appear in the Map Pack (top 3) for the locale that I am composing this blog post.

The Handyforce uses Schema on their website and is #1 in the Map Pack. The following company with a website in the handyman near me search is Express Handyman (Toronto). They are not using Schema on their site.

Schema - General Contractor
This is the results from validating the Schema on The Handyforce website. You can clearly see they have a Local Business Schema for General Contractor.

If you want to rank in the Map Pack and get most of the new business, you need to add Schema to your website (unless your competition doesn’t). Since Schema is the result of collaboration between Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex, it must be formated as stipulated. Give those search engines what they can easily read, and you rank.

It works almost as if it were magic.

Below is part of the Local Business Schema on The Handyforce website. You can view this on their site too. Just bring up their website and right-click on it, then choose View Page Source from the dropdown menu and look down till you find Schema and read it.

If wasting time reading HTML is not your idea of fun, you can use the tool mentioned 3 paragraphs below that displays this:

Local Business Schema example

An SEO Expert should know how to do this. So should website designers, but whoever created that super-sexy website for Express Handyman (Toronto) didn’t. Shockingly, many SEO companies do not do this either!

What is the point of that great window dressing (website) if the Local SEO isn’t done too? What a shame.

It is easy to check who uses Schema or not with this validator at, which is where you end up from a link on Google here. Just copy and paste any website address into that validator, and you will see a designation for the website and any Schema separately. Like this:

Professional Service Schema detected - this is on the We Do Your Blogging For You website

The detection of this Local Business Schema is on our website; We Do Your Blogging For You™. The Local Business designation for an SEO and Content Creation company is a more generalized one; Professional Service.

The homepage of your website needs local business structured data and adding Schema to the site is how the search engines can read it. Among other things, it must contain Name, Address, Phone (NAP) and the daily hours your business remains Open, plus the Industry your business is in.

If you do not focus on Local Search results and your competition does, they will benefit from 40% of clicks from Google searches for which your business isn’t even on the radar. If you do and it is done right, you will rank above the competition and get the lion’s share of the new business from the Map Pack.

Of course, adding Local Business Schema to your website is only part of this. But it is a big part. And this should be done by someone who does it regularly, so it is done correctly.

Organic and Local Content

A blog is the type of content that ranks your site in organic searches. Any picture or update you add to your business listing on Google my Business, known as a Google Post, could be called Local Content.

A blog can focus on local events, also. So, don’t get confused by that.

The Handyforce has no blog. That means Express Handyman (Toronto) could rank higher if they did this;

  • asked for a few more reviews from clients (The Handyfoirce has 30% more reviews), and;
  • added a blog to their site, and;
  • get a professional service to write blog posts and include links to those blogs in a Google Post, and;
  • get citations (mentions on websites about their business), and;
  • have the same professional service (like us) to add Local Business Schema to their site.

These actions will take a while to change the rank in the Map Pack. But because The Handyforce is not creating content to rank organically, Express Handyman (Toronto) can beat them with Local and Organic SEO that Google and other search engines look for.

What I love about content is it is reusable. 

If you were Express Handyman (Toronto)  and you hired a company like ours to write short blog posts, such as “The 3 things to be careful about when replacing a toilet“, that outsourced SEO Expert would reuse that blog post. A link to it with a picture becomes a Google Post and a Facebook post. 

Posts like this rank organically on Google and help the Local Search results. You will also pick up the occasional client from Facebook, which pays for outsourcing.

As the old expression goes, you can kill two birds with one stone!

Similarly, suppose Express Handyman (Toronto) made a video showing a toilet replacement. It could be posted within a blog on their site, be the basis of a Facebook and Google post and a video on YouTube.  

If enough videos like this were made, the YouTube channel would get traffic and pay for a professional company like ours to edit the video and create all the posts. Add in the occasional new client from Facebook posts, and you can see it is a profit center even without the benefits of the Map Pack!

In a few months, Express Handyman (Toronto) could dominate local and even see a top 10 in organic search (ranking of their site). Better yet, the ‘monetization’ of their videos and business from Facebook would be enough to pay for outsourcing all video editing and SEO work. Then the new business would effectively come to them for nothing!

I need to be clear about one thing. SEO is a profit center even if you do not have time to play out that last scenario. That is how much additional new business can be generated by a competent professional.

Remember, 40% of your new business that does not come from schmoozing and word-of-mouth is local search related. If you are not in the Map Pack, that is a huge chunk of business you cannot receive. 

Recap; if all else were equal, meaning the site schema is in place on both sites, reviews and citations number the same, and the distance of both businesses to the person doing the search is similar, the company with more content would rank #1 in Local Search. That brings us to the discussion of the three main factors Google considers in local search.

Relevance, Distance & Prominence

Google explains the basics of How to improve your local ranking here. And while what follows is oversimplified, here is how their how-to information applies when we also include Schema (Technical SEO):

  • Harvey Kalles is losing out on distance in prime real estate markets in Toronto, which are the luxury markets they focus on.
  • Express Handyman (Toronto) is losing out on Technical SEO and Prominence.

I know an SEO company (not us) that approximately opens a virtual office in a new prominent Canadian city every six months. Once they have verified the address (Google My Business sends mail to do this), they optimize the local area with a locations page on their site and local posts. Then they get more market share for SEO from other regions.

That is how they solve the Distance issue. In my opinion, Harvey Kalles has a better application of the same solution to their distance issue, as a small satellite office with an Agent On-Site would pay for itself with walk-ins. Then the Local Search boost would be enormous for the company!

They could do the same with the addresses of where Agents live too.

Google looks at more than just relevance, distance and prominence. But these three are the foundation, with Technical SEO (Schema added to the site) being a factor, too.

Content is how you become relevant and establish prominence.

If you want help with Local SEO, you can contact us here

To find out how your website
can generate far more new business, call:
(613) 476-8343

Your website will produce high quality leads from increased traffic.
Start with a free, no obligation, SEO audit.

To find out how your website can generate far more new business, call:
(647) 967-7366

Your website will produce high quality leads from increased traffic. Start with a free,
no obligation, SEO audit.