Devan Hudson, Writer

What’s the biggest, most important keyword in local SEO?

It’s “your product/service, near me.”

Not even “your product/service, city, state,” but just “near me.” Right here, right now.

It’s one of the most searched keywords on the planet, optimizing for it absolutely does work, and it’s the big, lucrative one, because if someone is searching for something “near them” they’re searching for something they need right friggin’ now.  

There are some elements of this search you can’t really control. Your prospect’s physical location is going to play a big role in what Google shows to them. Two people standing in two different locations in your city are going to get two different sets of search results.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can’t take to get more traffic from this keyword. To be as absolutely visible as possible to as many customers as possible. There is, of course, a right way and a wrong way to go about scoring this traffic.


Make sure your GMB profile is fully filled out.

Google is going to give more weight to your GMB profile than it is to your own website, so take full advantage of it. Use business attributes. Add photos of your work. 

Double check important details. For example, are your business hours accurate?

GMB is not fix-it-and-forget it. If you haven’t checked in for awhile, it’s important that you do so now.

Use neighborhood names and local landmarks on your “Contact Us” page.

If you only have one location then your contact page is a great place to add a lot of little local markers. 

There’s nothing wrong with saying, “We’re located across from Big Mall on Long Road in the Boho Neighborhood Everyone Really Loves, right next to Everyone’s Favorite Sandwich Shop.”  

That kind of information is great. It helps Google. Helps your customers, too. It serves as a conversion factor. “Oh yeah, I love that sandwich shop. I can’t believe I didn’t notice Awesome Company has been sitting right there all this time. I should visit them the next time I go…”

The human mind is kind of hilarious and sometimes positive associations don’t have to make much sense to produce some manner of helpful effect. 

Create a landing page for each of your locations.

You’re not going to fill each landing page with repeat copy. Presumably every location has different team members working for them. Use that page to introduce “your Neighborhood team” or “your City team.” Post photos, post bios, and post local directions and maps.

This is good, useful information rather than the normal kind of city page or location page spam you see. It does take some work to provide your SEO professional or copywriter with that info, or to dig it up yourself if you’re doing it yourself. It’s also work that is worth it.

Create a page for each of your services. 

You want the justifications. That’s those little notes you see by the blue person icon in the screen shots.

Screen shot of GMB listings, with justifications.

Google pulls them from your reviews first, but if your website happens to mention them the justification will read, “Their website mentions alternator repair,” or whichever service your customers happen to be searching for. It’s a great conversion factor and helps push your listing a little higher if it happens to be relevant to the prospect’s search.

Get serious about putting together a review strategy.

All the normal local SEO ranking factors apply for a “near me” search. That means reviews, reviews, reviews, reviews, and more reviews. 

It is 2021 and you cannot afford to be ignoring your review generation strategy. If your GMB profile looks like the one below, you have problems.

Screen shot of GMB profile with 3 1-star reviews.

There are dozens of ways you can get more reviews for your business, but you have to make it a priority. 

Set your schema. 

Schema are a form of coded mark-up that goes on your webpage. It can also show up in your GMB profile. You can set all sorts of stuff with it, including GeoCoordinates.

Brain Harnish did a great job of breaking it all down over at The Search Engine Journal. This guide is a couple of years old but you’ll get the idea of what needs to be done if you  take a moment to skim the post. 

Use Google Posts to sell products and run promotions.

Guess what? People can buy your products directly from Google posts, if you set them up right. They can also show up in people’s Discovery feed.

Image of Google Post for Chocolate Strawberries, with Buy Button

This is powerful. It’s way powerful. It gets you lots and lots of visibility. 

Running ads doesn’t hurt anything either. I know, I know, you mostly want free solutions, but you know what sucks more than paying for ads? Not getting any business, that’s what. Guess what people are seeing for certain searches even before they get a look at the local 3-pack?

Image of chocolate strawberry ads above 3-pack results.

Sure, maybe you, as a small business, are not going to try to compete with Safeway for that ad space, because a $6.00 purchase isn’t going to be worth it. But if you’re selling a high value product or service it’s worth thinking about. 

Also, if you need leads something like yesterday, this is the quick way to make it happen while you’re waiting for SEO to kick in. It is possible to get SEO quick wins, but mostly it’s a long game, and you’ve gotta have some kind of reasonable expectations about that before you jump in or you’re going to get very frustrated very fast. 

Get serious about developing a local link profile.

There’s low-hanging fruit and tough stuff like getting yourself featured in the local news. It will take time to get some of the best links. Focusing on this task will help.

There aren’t any shortcuts, I’m afraid. You just gotta go through the process, and that means lots of outreach and lots of searching for relevant opportunities and, in general, a lot of factors outside of your control, other than playing the numbers game of doing all that outreach, and regular research to identify possible opportunities.

If skyrocketing to the top of a competitive, money-making search term were easy, well…well it would be easy, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Geocode images.

Geocoding probably isn’t the first move you should worry about, but if you’ve got all the other elements in place then providing Google with all this additional information via your photos can give you a boost. 


Spam the exact match text “near me” all over your site. 

It reads funky and it looks obnoxious.

We’ve all seen it. “When you’re looking for roofing services near me, turn to Spammy  Joe’s Roofing Company! We’re the best roofing service near me ever!”

There’s not even any evidence this works, so just…don’t. 

Remember, humans have to read the words on your site. Humans have credit cards. Robots do not have credit cards (yet). As demonstrated, Google is weighing a whole lot of other factors when they’re determining who to rank for this search term and whether or not you managed to get the words “near me” wedged awkwardly in there somewhere isn’t going to get the job done if you haven’t attended to those factors. 

And if you have attended to those factors, you’re not going to need to pull that crap.

You get ONE “Blah Blah Blah” near you per page.

As in, “If you’re looking for a high quality roofer near you, consider Joe’s Roofing.” 

It’s close enough to the exact match keyword without making you look like an idiot. 

Make a bunch of spammy city pages.

City pages are fine, as mentioned above. Three thousand versions of the same service page that say things like, “Roof Repair Waterford,” “Roof Repair Troy,” “Roof Repair Clarkston,” “Roof Repair Detroit?” 

Not so much.

You’ve seen those too. Were you impressed? Did they make the business look credible?


They also didn’t do much for rankings.

Sorry. No shortcuts.

Not exactly the most popular takeaway ever offered, but it is what it is. Ranking for those “near me” searches takes work, time, and a commitment to best practices. That’s pretty much all there is to it. 

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