The Rise of "Near Me" SEO

In a usability study we did for a client pitch in 2009, we queried users how they looked for auto repair vendors. We didn't ask them how they 'searched' for these repair shops, so we got answers like "I ask my dad" or "my husband picked a place"  . . . a pretty typical scenario.  

We further asked them, what factors they ultimately used to make the selection.  Where location and distance from home/work a factor? The resounding answer was YES.

Now, we led the users down the path of let's pretend.  Let's pretend you couldn't rely on these sources to get help. You needed new tires and you had to find a place without a recommendation from a friend or relative.

Of course, we were prompting them to look online for options.  What we noticed is that universally, these users were input location identifiers to help with the search.  Either a city / town name or zip code.

I am sure none of this is news to you because the conversation about local search continues to be a focus for SEO practioners.  I am going to fast forward 8 years so we can look at the shift to using not only desktop, but mobile for these types of searches.  There has been a big jump in the past 5 years in the volume of "near me" as a modifier to search.

Near Me Search Trend Chart from Google Trends.

Near Me Search Trend Chart from Google Trends.

There is a lot about this chart that makes sense. In May 2015, Google Announced that there were more searches on Mobile than Desktop. Do you see it in the chart.  The slow growth trend that had been happening, and then the explosive conversion.

That trend tracks very closely with the explosion in Smart Phones.  The chart below shows the trend of smart phone shipments.

Charting of Smart Phone shipments from  AASA INDUSTRY ANALYSIS  .

Charting of Smart Phone shipments from AASA INDUSTRY ANALYSIS.

With Google's focus on the Mobile Market, there is going to be more attention and competition for this group of users.  Google just filed a patent for a technology that not only offers up localized options, but also will track the user's behavior in following through on those recommendations.  

That means, if you are winning in local right now and your customer service isn't bringing people to you or people back to you, that will probably impact your results over time.  

Yes, Google is focused on making money.  They can only do that by providing the top resources to fulfill the needs of their users.  So Google is going to make sure that the things "Near Me' are worth finding.