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Google’s Local Algorithm: How it Works, and How You Can Leverage It for Your Business

Online search has become a part of our everyday lives. Millions of people around the world use search engines like Google to discover the businesses and places near their geographic location each day. To ensure that these businesses can be found in search, the concepts of search engine optimization (SEO) are used to improve search visibility. In SEO for insurance agents, Google’s local algorithm holds the keys to success, helping your agency connect with new audiences near you. In this guide, we’ll explore the Google local algorithm, including how it works and how you can take advantage of its power in driving local business. 

The Google Local Algorithm

When a person types in a word or phrase in Google’s search box and hits enter, Google’s complex algorithm goes to work. The algorithm is a set of instructions that attempts to understand the user’s query, then delivers what Google believes are relevant search results. One part of this algorithm is the “local algorithm”, or that which is responsible for producing results based on the user’s specific or general physical location. The algorithm’s three major decision-making factors are:

  • Proximity – the location where a user is, determined by processing the user’s ZIP code and/or geo-coordinates from mobile devices. 
  • Prominence – how big or important a given business is based on aspects like links pointing to the business’s website, customer reviews, and citations of the business in online directories. 
  • Relevance – how related your business is to the search query, using factors like website content, SEO, location, and more. 

To achieve visibility in search results, it is imperative that these factors go into your website development process and online “footprint”. While it is possible to rank in local search without one or more of these factors, including them has the potential to greatly improve your business, not only in website traffic but also in customer interactions. 

Harnessing the Power of Google’s Local Algorithm

When searching online for your insurance agency or insurance business, you may find that your business doesn’t appear in relevant searches for your geographic area. This is a cause for concern, as poor local search visibility can hamper your business’s ability to bring in locally-based customers. Google has created a toolset that can help improve local search visibility; called Google My Business, this free service is a game-changer.

The first step in local SEO for insurance agents is to claim your business on Google My Business (GMB) by creating a profile. Google indicates that there are four critical aspects of the GMB profile:

  • Complete data – Google analyzes hundreds of performance metrics to produce search results. For businesses that want to stand out in local search, providing complete information about the business, what it does, what it offers, and the three key components: Name of Business, Address of Business, and Telephone/Contact Number. SEO professionals refer to these three keys as NAP.
  • Location verification – Google Maps is an important part of the local search puzzle. It is important that business owners verify the location of the business using the tools provided by GMB.
  • Accuracy in posted business details – the operating hours of a business can be listed in GMB. It is vital that these hours are listed accurately; thankfully, Google makes it easy to edit/update these details as needed.
  • Management of customer reviews – online reviews can greatly influence search rankings as well as influence other customers. How you approach the management of these reviews on GMB can also create positive or negative influences. Reviews can also give business owners the ability to create interactive relationships with customers.

With GMB and the on- and off-page factors of SEO for insurance agents, achieving visibility in local search results is easier than ever before. Local search visibility is the cornerstone of building brand awareness, reaching new customers, and providing a catalyst for organic business growth. 

Tracking Changes in the Core Search Algorithm

If there is one certainty in the world of SEO for insurance agents, it is that nothing remains the same for long. Google continually makes updates to its algorithms, which can positively or negatively impact search rankings. In August 2018 and again in August 2019, Google launched substantial updates to its core algorithm, and many businesses saw their search rankings rise or fall as a result. 

How can SEO professionals stay apprised of changes in the algorithm? Google is notoriously vague when it comes to what is changed, when it is changed, or what the changes may affect, but one tool has become available that can shed light on local search. A company called BrightLocal has launched a free SEO tool called Local RankFlux, which is designed specifically to alert digital marketers and SEO professionals of any changes in rankings. The tool compares industry benchmarks by tracking keywords across multiple industry verticals, then plots rankings that show daily changes. This tool doesn’t entirely unravel the mysteries behind local search algorithms, but it does help to provide clues to any changes that may affect rankings. 

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