Think With Google: In Searches, “Near Me” Is Now Implied
The search volume for local places continues to grow — but explicitly stated "near me" requests are on the decline. Here's why.
The growth in searches for local places without a location qualifier (“near me,” zip code) has outpaced searches that do include “near me,” according to new research from Think With Google — a trend that indicates that location relevance is now all but assumed by consumers making voice and text searches.
“Near me” searches first spiked in 2015, and this (rightly) turned marketers’ attention to the growing importance of location in search; after all, 76 percent of location searches result in a visit to a physical location within a day. But if people are still turning to their smartphones to discover goods and services in the world around them, why drop the “near me?”
“People [now] know that the results will automatically be relevant to their location — thanks to their phone,” writes Google’s Lisa Gevelber. “It’s kind of magical.”
Here’s why: As search results have evolved pursuant to customers’ real-time, “near me” desires, they’ve become increasingly mapped to the physical world: For example, Google’s mapped “three-pack” of results appears at the top of search results. Additionally, if a consumer searches for “new car,” they don’t simply see links — they see the knowledge card, with prices, configurations, features of cars for sale, and more, all seamlessly. As we wrote earlier this year, Google now assumes people are looking for something in the physical world, which wasn’t the case several years ago.
All of this appears to have rendered the “near me” search irrelevant — even as people expect more location-specific, targeted content than ever. So, what’s a local business to do?
Data Matters More
First, this shift in search behavior underscores the importance of businesses preparing their underlying data layer: Online listings that are correct, consistent, and have all location information comprehensively integrated will rank higher in search results — and appearing at the top of results based on relevant content will be more important as zip codes and/or city names are omitted from searches.
Secondly, businesses need to continue to focus on the shift to voice: In fact, over 20 percent of searches in the Google app are now made by voice — making up a significant portion of the “implied” local searches that Google is talking about. Local brick-and-mortars need able to provide the answers that people want when they make on-the-go searches via voice.
Google Maps’ new Q&A feature may have significant influence here — and once again, this also means that the data people most often search for (hours, address, et cetera) needs to be listed accurately and be ready for consumption by “traditional” search engines and intelligent assistants alike.
And given that for every online purchase resulting from a search Google sees multi-channel retailers receive an additional 400 in-store visits, expect to see this “new frontier” for SEO matter immensely for brick-and-mortars in particular.