More threads by Eric Marshall

Mar 27, 2013
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Does anyone have any insight or experience with how Google tends to handle neighborhoods/suburbs in relation to zip codes?

We are in a city of around 100,000 that has 3 main zip codes and a couple of separate neighborhoods/suburbs (these fall within the 3 main zip codes). Our business is in one of the neighborhoods/zips, and we rank very well for searches within that neighborhood/zip, but generally don't rank in the 3-pack for searches in the other zip codes.

Does anyone know if Google tends to put more weight on a neighborhood/suburb vs the zip code or vice versa?
Joy might have more to add, but here's the gist:

Last September, one of the big changes we saw with Possum, was that city limits no longer had a meaningful impact on rankings. Overall, my guess is that instead of paying attention to boundaries and zones in general, Google has a much more complex algorithm taking relative distance between the searcher and the different businesses in account instead. That's definitely the case with cities, and probably the case with neighborhoods and zip codes.

If you drive around with a smart phone typing in your keywords, you'll not only find that the 3-pack spread changes from zip code to zip code and neighborhood to neighborhood, you'll even see the 3-pack shift while moving from block to block within a given zip code/neighborhood. It certainly makes rank tracking much more challenging for us. I use my monthly ranking shifts to look at trends, since it's kind of meaningless now to talk about local results in a given area. If you wanted to actually track absolute rankings, you'd need to track rankings from a dozen spots in the city and average them all together somehow.

One piece to pay attention to: some keywords are far more dominated by location than others. For me for example, 'portland wedding photographers' shows results across more of the city, and 'wedding photographers' shows only results within a mile from my house. Keyword phrases including the city tend to pull results from a wider area, so look at those as your money keywords for people on the other side of the city.

I'm hoping we'll see the tuning on some of this change in the next year or two. In some industries, potential clients care far more about quality than an extra 10~20 miles between them and the service provider, but we'll just have to see what happens I guess.
For sure, happy to help. It's certainly an interesting question, there was all kinds of conversations on the topic last September.

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