Proximity to the Searcher Is Now the #1 Local SEO Ranking Factor

Your HVAC company’s local ranking may take a hit due to Google’s new search algorithm update.

In the past 3–6 months, we’ve seen that Google now favors a company’s proximity to the searcher as the #1 factor that determines a company’s rank in Google Maps searches.

How exactly does that algorithm shift affect your HVAC company’s local ranking in Google?

Let us explain.

In this article, we’ll go over how this proximity to the searcher shift affects HVAC companies rankings, and what you can do to adapt to this change.

How does proximity to the searcher affect local SEO?

Let’s look at how proximity to the searcher affects service area businesses. Here at Rocket Media HQ in Gilbert, AZ, I typed in a Google search for “plumbers.” Below is a screenshot of my Google pack results:

A Google search for “plumbers” in Gilbert, AZ (incognito Chrome browser on a Macbook).

All of these plumbers are close to us, sure, but are they the best plumbers in town? That’s what matters most to me as a consumer. I don’t care if they’re the closest plumbing company to me, I just care if they’re honest, do good work and can get to my home quickly.

So why don’t other, possibly better plumbing contractors show up in the Google Maps search results? Their physical address is too far from my location, and they haven’t properly optimized their web content.

Notice how all of the plumbers are clustered together on the map, with the rest of the Phoenix metropolitan area totally open.

For some companies, at first glance, this is disheartening news. How can your company compete with other plumbing companies closer to your target audience?

Well, besides proximity to the user there are several other factors that affect your ranking. And you can improve many of them.

How to improve your HVAC company’s Google Maps ranking

According to a MOZ study on 2017 local search ranking factors, these are the top 10 local ranking factors for Google:

As you can see, while proximity to the searcher is the #1 factor that affects local Google pack rankings, there are still 9 more major factors (49 total on the full list) that affect a company’s ranking.

To competitively rank on Google Maps, we recommend doing the other smaller actions that make up local organic SEO efforts. Based on the MOZ study and our own experience, these are some of our recommendations.

1) Set up your HVAC company as a “service-area” business

Is your HVAC or plumbing company set up as a service-area business? This increases the chance you’ll get picked up in Google’s local pack results for customers who aren’t located next to your brick-and-mortar location.

2) Use the proper Google My Business category associations

Google My Business (GMB) allows you to choose specific categories that match your company’s products or services. Do the categories you’ve selected for your company correctly match your services?

3) Add more quality inbound links to your website

Is your website optimized to rank well with high quality, third-party links? These types of links significantly increase your chance of ranking well on Google.

4) Take your local optimization efforts beyond Google

Are you on Yelp? BBB? Angie’s List? Facebook? Optimizing your company’s profiles on these websites will increase your online visibility and ultimately drive leads.

Final thoughts

The fact that Google’s algorithm has shifted is no surprise: Google’s algorithm changes roughly 500–600 times every year. So that means every month, Google is constantly tweaking their algorithm and making changes that affect business rankings.

The proximity to the searcher shift means your service area business needs to stay up-to-date with the latest changes in order to rank competitively in Google Maps. We’ve shared a few simple tried-and-true ways you can boost your company’s online presence, but if you’d like to learn more from an expert, just give us a call!

Want to learn more about combating proximity to the searcher?

Contact Rocket Media and chat with one of our SEO specialists. We’ve helped HVAC companies all over the country improve their ranking on Google.

Take a look at some of our work.

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