I’ve put together an exciting test for you, where you’ll be shown some words or phrases. Your task will be to see if you’re as clever as Google. Try to predict which words or phrases trigger Google’s ‘local bias’. Localisation in Google is designed around human intent. You’re a human, so it should be easy to predict the keywords that trigger localised results – right? Do the test to find out.
If you’re already a whizz at Local SEO and fancy getting stuck in right away, then scroll to the bottom of this page and take the test. Otherwise read on for a more detailed explanation of the algorithm plus lots of examples.
What is localisation?
Localisation is when Google biases toward showing search results with geographical significance to a search query.
Localisation can affect both the ‘Local Pack’ (that’s the bit that shows a map) and organic results (these are the bog standard search results consisting of blue heading and black description)
In most cases, the presence of a Google Map is a strong indication that the search results have been localised.
Depending on where you are, there may not be any local businesses near you that match your search query. Or if there is, they may not have identified themselves to Google, or done so in a way that is synonymous with your search query. As such no Google Map will appear to represent these businesses.
In these situations we can identify localisation by comparing the organic search results between two or more locations. Differences here can indicate localisation. For example; a search for the word ‘directory’ reveals lots of localised results but no map or markers.
Words that trigger localisation
If you type ‘pizza’ into Google it will give you a list of places near you when you can go grab a pizza. But if you type ‘baked potato’ it gives you recipes instead of places.
The reason for this difference is because the word ‘pizza’ is commonly used in conjunction with geo modifiers such as ‘London’ or ‘near me’ e.g. ‘Pizza Express near me’.
The same goes for words like ‘Chicken’, ‘steak’ and ‘burger’. They are typically used within phrases that contain geo modifiers e.g. ‘chicken shop near me’ or ‘steak house Manchester’
‘Baked potato’ on the other hand, would not typically be searched in conjunction with geo modifiers and so it doesn’t trigger localisation by default. However, if you specifically add a geo modifier into the phrase for example ‘baked potato London’, then it does trigger localised results.
Brands and localisation
Brand searches can affects the Local Pack but not the organic search results. That is unless the brand name is typically used in conjunction with locations.
Take for example ‘Ford’. The search terms triggers a Google Map with Ford dealers. And the organic listings are localised. Tis is because there’s enough search volume for Ford + locality. A search for ‘Audi’ only triggers the the the Local Pack because there’s not enough search volume for Audi + location terms. However, f you add a non-branded trigger such as ‘dealer’ into your search, making it ‘Audi dealer’, then you also get localised organic results in addition to your Local Pack results.
The explanation for this is that the word ‘dealer’ is a location trigger. Others include; centre, shop, store, garage, office,supplier, restaurant etc. These are triggers because they are often used in conjunction with geo modifiers. They effectively signal to Google that the user definitely wants localised results. ‘Audi’ on its own doesn’t necessarily call for localisation, unless like in Ford’s case, the search volume gives Google that indication.
If a brand is searched, but there is no associated physical locations in the vicinity of the searcher, it will appear as if no localisation has not occurred. For example if we search for ‘Apple’ from Carmarthen in Wales we won’t see a map. But the same search done from within London will show the map. This is because of the proximity of Apple Stores to London versus Carmarthen.
Beware of cross contamination
Typically product words such as ‘Cereal’ do not trigger local bias, except where they are widely used in connection with a trigger word. However there is another exception. In some cases where brands use a product word as part of their name, localisation can occur for that word.
For example the word ‘cereal’ shouldn’t return local bias, and in Bristol this is true. There is no localisation. But in London it’s a different story. The London SERPs are localised because of a company local company called Cereal Killer Cafe.
Keywords are Key
For localisation to be triggered Google must be able to understand the words in the query.
For example ‘repair’ is a trigger and any related search terms will usually trigger localisation in both Local Pack and organic results. But if you Type in ‘iPhone 5c Repair’, you will not get localisation. The reason is because Google does not understand what ‘5c’ is. But, if you search ‘iPhone repair’ you do get localisation because Google understands the word ‘iPhone’ as a brand (even though it’s technically a sub-brand of Apple) and ‘repair’ as a trigger.
Ok, let’s get started!
Here’s what you’ve got to do…
- There are 30 questions
- In each case you’ll be shown a word or phrase. You’ll need to decide if it should trigger ‘localised’ search results.
- All correct answers are based on London as the location
- Each question only requires you to select either ‘Yes or ‘No’
- Find out at the end if your answers match those of Google
- Gloat or cry about your score in the comments below
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As a point of reference you can check local results in Google in different locations using Google’s Add Preview tool