Local Search: How Does it Work?

Google’s Local Search algorithm does not work the same way that traditional search engine optimization (SEO) does. In fact, it is a completely different set of requirements that Google is looking for before it will recommend a business there. What is especially confusing for business owners is that their website has nothing to do with it.

To show up in local search, a business must meet a number of requirements that speak to that business’s credibility. After all, Google wants to make sure it is recommending credible choices so searches will continue to use its search engine.

Local Search Requirements

Some of those factors involved are the type of device being used, the search history of the user, where the search originates geographically and the number of star ratings and reviews that a business has on its Google My Business (GMB) listing.

Google is also looking at a company’s name, address and phone number to understand some basic information about that entity.


The aim of Local Search is to provide credible options that were located close to where the search originated. It involves a map with pushpins that indicates business locations. So Google needs to know definitively where a business is located for it to recommend it after a search is made.

What It Does

When we search, very few of us use a company’s name. Instead, we all tend to search for the products or services we need. So Google needs to understand what it is a business does.

Business Identity

The last piece is the identity of a business. The name needs to be clear and consistent so Google understands which business is which.


To obtain this information, Google verifies what it finds on its GMB listings with information found in directories around the internet. These directories are essentially websites with large databases of business information. The exact number of the directories that Google uses varies since Google makes changes to what it indexes often. But it is somewhere between 70 and 80. 

Those businesses that have information in these directories that perfectly match their GMB listing have a higher likelihood of being recommended after a search.  Of course, there is a plethora of other criteria that Google uses to choose which companies to recommend. Some of that is vague and the requirements do change from time to time.

Reviews and Star Ratings

But one of the criteria that Google relies on heavily is the number of reviews and the star rating a business has on its GMB. It is reported that reviews and star ratings account for about 20% of the criteria Google considers in its algorithm.

The more reviews a business has, and the higher its star rating, the better chance it has of being recommended in Local Search.

The Wrap

Local Search has become the predominant space for businesses on a Google Results page today. Google reports that 85% of al the clicks after a search is made are happening on the Local Search map and the ads above it.  Of course, the reverse of that statement means that only 15% of searchers are scrolling below Local Search to look at the organic website rankings.

That means Local Search is the hot real estate on Google today. If you want to be in a place where the majority of people are making choices, then making sure your business appears in Local Search is key.

If you have questions about Local Search, call me at 513-237-5530.

Bob Turner is a Digital Marketing Consultant for RevLocal in Cincinnati, Ohio.


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