April 3, 2017

How “Near Me” Searches Impact Local Businesses

According to Google, people searching using the phrase “near me” has grown exponentially since 2011. Why not do this type of search, especially when we know that Google’s Search engine is smart enough to automatically attach our current location to whatever we’re looking for, right? According to Search Engine Watch, “near me” searches have replaced the need for us to type our current location (city & state) by over 3400% since 2011. In mobile search, others estimate “near me” searches now make up over 76% of all service and product related searches since it saves us time, especially when driving.

Why do businesses, especially local, service-related businesses (restaurants, salons, etc) need to know about “near me” searches? It all comes down to reviews and Google’s Maps engine.

Near me searches tell Google you’re looking for a place on the map at or near your current location. And, since Google is accessing its Maps engine, it’s created a unique maps/reviews hybrid type of response, making it easy for you and I to choose our destination based on reading reviews integrated with the Maps display. Think about it – we get a list of options, we get to view the reviews, and can contact or get directions to our chosen destination with just a glance and a click.

Also important to note is the imagery displayed in near me searches. The image a business uses to represent itself in Google becomes extremely important, since it’s part of what helps us consumers make our buying decisions.

I recently did a search for “food near me” and took a close look at the results as if I were a visitor from out of town. I asked myself these questions:

  1. How do the avg. # of reviews and star ratings impact my desire?
  2. Does the image look appetizing? Does it influence my decision?
  3. What is most important to me while viewing this food near me search result?

In my case, the priorities looked like this:

  1. Total number of reviews. If a restaurant has a 5-star rating and less than 20 people have rated it, then I call BS. Great restaurants get lots of great reviews, not just a few. Great anything gets a lot of reviews, because people tend to take the time to review businesses that exceed their expectations, myself included.  I expect a business of any type to have at least 40-50 Google reviews. And, I expect to read some bad ones. Bad reviews are where you’ll find a little truth about any business. Bad reviews are part of the flavor, and are necessary in my opinion.
  2. Average star rating. If a business has over 40 Google reviews, then I trust the average star rating to be accurate. My experience tells me that if 40+ people give a restaurant a high rank, then the food is most likely very tasty.
  3. Imagery. This surprised me a bit. The image meant a lot more to to me than I thought it would. Maybe a food query is unique, but some photos I looked at actually made my glands water.
  4. Distance. Distance for me is last if I’m not in a huge hurry. I don’t mind driving a few extra clicks to get delicious food, vs. mediocre or unhealthy food. If in a rush, I might look at distance first, and then make my selection using the above preferences. Else, quality wins over distance.

How do you use “near me” searches? Give it a try and let us know what you think.