A recent feature on The Verge highlighted businesses that try to get an edge in local search rankings with clever names like Thai Food Near Me.
So, I set out to discover if this strategy could impact local rankings and, more importantly, if other local businesses could replicate it.
Before I get started, I should preface this with some good and bad news.
Bad News: Distance Is An Important Ranking Factor
Most restaurants will not rank as the best restaurants near me unless they are physically located near the search user’s location.
The reason? One of the three critical ranking factors for Google local search results is distance.
Suppose a restaurant owner wants people in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York to discover their dining establishment with the term best restaurant near me.
For that, they must optimize for the best restaurant AND have a physical location in those cities. And not just in those cities but in the precise location of the searcher.
The real question: does a restaurant need to be ranked number one in search results as the best near someone in Philadelphia if its only physical location is in San Diego?
Maybe – if the restaurant has something to offer outside of a sit-down dining experience, such as a physical product to ship.
Or if it is the best restaurant in the region, diners would be willing to travel over half an hour or even plan a getaway to try it.
With hundreds of thousands of monthly searches for terms like best restaurants, best breakfast, best food, etc., near me, it’s hard not to want to optimize for those phrases.
Screenshot from Semrush, October 2023
But as noted by the orange to red shaded Keyword Difficulty (KD%) indicators next to each phrase, it could be challenging to rank for many of the best ____ near me terms.
Good News: Relevance And Prominence Also Matter
The good news is many local businesses don’t need to rank for the best anything outside of the area in which they are located.
Most restaurant owners only need the attention of customers physically near them in search to generate profit.
The better news is there are ways to help local businesses boost relevancy and prominence using popular keyword phrases.
Focus On Review Sites With Keyword-Optimized Lists
Encourage customers to review the restaurant on sites like Tripadvisor, Yelp, or similar networks that already rank for terms like best restaurant near me with pages like the Top 10 Best Restaurants in your city.
Screenshot from Google, October 2023
Promote Keyword-Optimized Reviews
Spot keyword phrases in customer reviews that you would like to optimize for and share those on the restaurant website and social media pages.
Screenshot from TripAdvisor, October 2023
If the restaurant reviewed above has a blog, for example, it could create a post that includes the phrase best restaurant in India in the title and feature this review.
Connect With Local Media
Connect with local journalists, reporters, and reviewers to get featured in articles or features about the best restaurants in your city.
Screenshot from Google, October 2023
Specifically, find the people who have created similar content – and their editors – and start engaging with them on the social networks that they use most. Not the social networks they post to the most, but the ones they engage with others or the ones where they have the most reach.
Connect With Social Media Influencers
Don’t forget that Google isn’t the only name in search. 40% of Gen Z have turned to TikTok and Instagram as an alternative search engine. As such, some of the same search terms are also popular on social platforms.
Screenshot from TikTok, October 2023
Use the search bar on each respective network to find the influencers that create content matching keyword phrases like best restaurants near me or best restaurant in Phoenix.
Screenshot from Instagram, October 2023
Begin engaging with those influencers and seek out chances for a content partnership.
Create A New Brand To Target More Keywords
What if you want to target more keyword phrases than the restaurant ranks for?
Denny’s, a restaurant that often ranks for best breakfast near me, did not also rank for best burger near me.
While it wasn’t to rank for a keyword phrase, the company did create two new virtual brands.
One – The Burger Den – appears in a search for the best burger near me via Yelp’s list of Best 10 Burgers in my area list.
Screenshot from Yelp, October 2023
This could allow a brand traditionally known for one product to become equally famous for another.
It Takes More Than A Clever Business Name
In summary, the landscape of local search rankings is more dynamic and multifaceted than ever.
While distance remains an immutable factor, there are other creative strategies that local businesses can employ to optimize for near me and other local search terms.
Featured image: The Image Party/Shutterstock