What is local search?

What is local search

If your business targets local customers then you probably know that being visible in Google’s local search results is important for you. Why? Well, close to a third of all searches on Google have some kind of local intent and that represents everything from pizza to nightclubs, accountants and solicitors to plumbers and handymen. Think about the number of times you hop online every month to search for local products and services. Then think how many other people in your town are doing the same every month (recent studies suggest it’s over 50%, with only 5% of consumers never using local search).


What are local search results?

There are a couple of ways to access local search results on Google, depending on how you perform your search. Below are what the results look like:


1. Local search results in Google

Image showing local search results on Google


2. Local search results in Google Maps

Image showing local search results on Google Maps


Most folks will just type their search directly into Google if they’re on a laptop or desktop. Google Maps can come into play more when people are out and about, and they’re specifically looking for directions or contact details.


What triggers local search results?

As with many things Google related, this can be difficult to pinpoint exactly. If you bear Google’s primary goal in mind – to make it as easy as possible for you to find the information you need – then it makes a little more sense. If a search has local intent, then it’s highly likely that Google will return its local search results. What do I mean by local intent? Well, it means that the user is looking for something in a specific location. It could be anything from you searching for somewhere to grab a coffee in Brighton, looking for a dentist in Fulham or trying to find somewhere to play golf in Bolton. It’s not always necessary to type the location into the search result either, as clever Google knows where you are.


local search with explicit intent
Local search with explicit intent
local search with implicit intent
Local search with implicit intent


Both of these examples trigger the local search results as Google assumes that a search for “dentist” means you’re looking for an actual dental practice in a specific location rather than general information about dentists and dentistry. Other searches would include things like “dentist near me” or “find me a dentist”.


What information are searchers looking for?

People are primarily looking for content that was traditionally found in printed directories. The beauty of the internet is that you can make a great deal more information about your business available. Here is some of the very basic information that can be provided:

  • Phone number
  • Street address and directions, including public transport links and nearby parking
  • Opening hours
  • Methods of payment accepted
  • Email address
  • Reviews
  • List of products and services


In order to make sure searchers can find what they are looking for there are a number of things you can do to help make your business more visible.

  1. Claim and optimise your Google Places for Business listing or create one if one doesn’t already exist.
  2. Ensure that your business details are correct and consistent across all online directories and customer review sites (Yelp, Yell, Freeindex, etc.)
  3. Make sure that your website is easy to navigate and contains your contact information, directions and details about your products and services

Hopefully you now understand a little more about what local search is and what steps you can take to start taking advantage of it. If you’re struggling to put your business on the map or have any experiences with local search you’d like to share then please leave a comment below or get in touch with us directly.


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Nick Rink

Managing Director at Smart Local
Nick runs Smart Local from its base in Wimbledon and writes about local search, social media, the mobile web and other online marketing issues affecting small businesses.

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