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SEO Test: How We Forced Google to Show Localized Organic Results

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Matt Green

Previously on this blog we published the results of a study which found that Google returns localized search results for non-local informational keywords 81% of the time.

Based on that study, we recently ran a test on one of our client’s sites to see if we could force Google to show a localized search result for a keyword that was previously not triggering localized results.

The Test: Can you force Google to show localized results for a keyword that doesn’t currently trigger localized results?

On May 17 2021, we conducted a search for “do I need a personal injury lawyer” from Evansville Indiana. At that time, none of the traditional organic results on page 1 of Google were localized. However, when we searched the same keyword from Chicago, we saw that 3 of the page 1 results were localized to Chicago law firms. This told us that Google wants to show localized results for this keyword, but likely wasn’t due to a lack of suitable content that was specific to Evansville Indiana.

We wanted to see if we could force Google to show a localized search result from searches conducted in Evansville by optimizing (localizing) an existing piece of content.

We have a client who is located in Evansville, Indiana – Gerling Law – for whom we had previously published a post optimized for our target keyword: https://www.gerlinglaw.com/do-i-need-a-personal-injury-lawyer/.

As of May 17th, this post did not rank on page 1 of Google for the keyword “do I need a personal injury lawyer” when searched from Evansville.

So, we made the following changes to the post:

  • We added “Indiana” to the page title, H1, first paragraph, image alt text, and two sub-headings
  • We added a Google map embed at bottom of page for the client’s Evansville office
  • We added internal links from 4 relevant pages
  • We updated the publish date
  • We submitted the post for indexing via Google Search Console

Over the following days we checked the search results page for our keyword when searched from Evansville, and noticed the following changes:

  • Within a couple of days, the client’s homepage ranked on page 1 for this query (not what we expected or wanted, but not a bad thing)
  • Within 10 days the target post jumped up to #4 for our target keyword, but the changes we made were not yet being displayed in Google (eg. the title tag was still showing the old, un-localized title)
  • Finally, when I checked the SERP today, I saw the post ranking #6 organic for our target keyword when searched from Evansville:

The Takeaways:

  • Just because Google isn’t currently showing localized results for a keyword you want to target, doesn’t mean it won’t ever.
  • Keep this in mind when doing keyword research. You may look at a keyword and be tempted to say “well, there aren’t any localized results and we can’t compete nationally, so let’s not do content on that topic”, but this test shows that that would be a mistake.
  • Make localization of informational content a part of your re-optimization strategy.
  • Make sure you are tracking your informational keyword rankings from your target geo-markets. Ie. If your firm is in Evansville Indiana, tracking your keywords from Los Angeles won’t show you an accurate picture of your visibility.

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Matt Green

Hi, I’m Matt. I am the Chief Strategy Officer here at Juris Digital. I love SEO, content marketing, and brand development, and I am so grateful that my job is to help exceptional lawyers deploy these marketing tools to help more people. If you have specific topics you’d like to discuss with me, please feel free to email me or tweet me.

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