Local Search

Google Now Showing Local Results for State Wide Searches

It is no news that Google is displaying local search results in the SERPS these days. If you are looking for anything from a dentist to an Italian restaurant, then you will most likely see a map with a list of local businesses in the searched for city. But what about a statewide search for something like “Colorado Used Cars”?

Google has been rolling out local results on Statewide searches for some time. It seems that it initially started with smaller states like New Jersey, but recently state wide results can be seen in the likes of much larger (in land mass) states such as Utah, Washington, and even Alaska.

A Little Experiment

To find out just how many local states results are creeping into Google’s SERPS, I took the following keywords  (Used Cars, Dentist, and Italian Restaurants) and went state by state to see if local map listings would pop up.  The findings are as follows..

State + Used Cars brought up map listings in 23 states

State + Dentist brought up map listings in 21 states

State + Italian Restaurants brought up map listings in 24 states

20 states did not show any local results

I first looked at the states that didn’t show any local results and it seemed that they fit into 2 major categories. They either were in the top 25 most populated states, or in the top 25 least populated states, which pretty much means that there was no apparent reasoning to why certain states where showing listings, and certain states weren’t…statistically speaking.

Another important observation is that the physical map that is displayed doesn’t show a picture of the entire state, but usually focuses on a region like displayed in the picture below. Each term also brings up a different region which means that it is determined by the listings more than a location.

clip image002 0051 Google Now Showing Local Results for State Wide Searches

City Vs. State Ranking Factors

When you search for a business in a given city, Google displayed results based on a centriod that has been determined. The closer you are to the centriod, the better change you have for ranking if all else is equal.  When it comes to statewide searches, the only location qualification is that your business is in the searched for state.  Let’s use a few Utah Searches as an example.

Utah Used Cars top listing is in Salt Lake City

Utah Dentist top listing is in Lehi

Utah Italian Restaurant top listing is in Park City

Utah Carpet Cleaners top listing is in West Jordan

Most other ranking factors seemed to be equally important on the city and state levels such as correct categorization, quality and quantity of citations, reviews, user generated content, and (though I disagree with the big G in this one) location and keywords in the Business title.

Potential Steps To Take

Given that it is going to become important to optimize for both city and state for some industries, I think that suitable steps to take would be as followed:

  1. Check and see if your Industry and State are showing local listings.
  2. Make sure you aren’t stuffing location keywords into categories. If your category is city + keyword then what happens when someone does a search for state + keyword.
  3. Do keyword research for city vs. state terms. Your business might benefit by trying to go after one or the other.
  4. Look at citations from businesses in other areas of the state and see if you can use them.
  5. Create coupons that are focused on citizens of your state.

State results are only the beginning of Google’s quest to display local content and can foresee the day where searches based on landmark, neighborhood, city, county, state, or even nation will display the best of the best businesses around.

Mike Ramsey is the Founder of Nifty Marketing, a local search company in Burley, Idaho. Nifty Marketing has been recognized by Topseos.com as “Best in Local Search”. Mike is married and has a wonderful baby boy that takes up all of his time outside of studying local search ranking factors. Visit Mike’s Local Search Marketing Blog for more information and updates.

 Google Now Showing Local Results for State Wide Searches

Mike Ramsey

Mike Ramsey is the owner of Nifty Marketing, a Local Search Marketing company hailing from Burley, Idaho. His twitter handle is niftymarketing and he is a proud husband and father. Mike has lost 12 pounds on his local search recipe plan because after all, it’s not edible.

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17 thoughts on “Google Now Showing Local Results for State Wide Searches

  1. Hey Mike,

    Interesting. In looking at a few of the state examples, there seems to be a preference by Google to include local results when the state searched has an obvious winner as a relevant result. In states like Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and Illinois, where one city is the major population center, it makes sense to provide local results for G as searchers are probably intending to find whatever they are looking for in Portland, Salt Lake City, Denver, or Chicago. In states where the choice is not so obvious like California, Texas, or Florida it probably makes sense for them to not show a local result because as it’s tougher to identify geo-intent. In less populated states (with one main city) it seems less the case. My guess is that there is a certain volume/CTR threshold that needs to be met over time before a local result is shown consistently. I think in the case of New Jersey or Rhode Island, it could be as simple as Google saying “Eh, the whole damn state fits in the map. Why not?” Or maybe Big G is just a fan of “Jersey Shore.”

  2. Agreed Ed, the region does tend to stick in certain places and initially I thought that I was due to someone behind a desk saying “This is the populated area, the map should focus there. But, as I looked deeper, there weren’t as strong listings outside the major ranking (or populated) area, when there was a strong listing that should make the map, it did. Check out “New Mexico Used Cars” then do a search for “New Mexico Dentist”. Sante Fe comes from nowhere based on the strength of the listing. The same was true for Utah, but strong listing where usually south of Salt Lake with weaker listings in the North.

    When it comes to CTR I noticed that on some searches, the local results where not at the top but pushed down most likely due to low CTR.
    Here is a link to a Google Spreadsheet that lists all the stats what searches produced a map.

    Originally I thought the Most Populated States weren’t as likely, but that was only true for a few, There is a actually a pretty good spread of states that show and don’t.

  3. That New Mexico dentist result is really interesting. It also really gives a real shot in the arm to smaller towns getting into the mix via statewide searches with a strong listing/citations. What other examples (like the dentist in Sante Fe) jumped out when you were digging? I’d be interested to see businesses in small towns that popped for state + category searches (or if it even matters). My gut-check is that search volume, CTR, and other factors are needed to make it pop, but it would be interesting to see a business from a really small town pop in local for the type of statewide local searches you’re mentioning by applying local search best practices. Thanks for attaching the speadsheet link.

  4. “colorado spa” is another very informative search. There are plenty of spas that could have been listed in the Denver area, but this has them spread allover and even into extreme remote, mountainous, places.

  5. Well if anyone has said that Google hates SEO, this should be the final nail in the coffin on the topic (though I know it won’t be). How the heck can any site owner (Dentist, lawyer, whatever) compete without having their site properly optimized at a State level?

    1. LOL now that I think about it – how many people search for a dentist at the State level? Whereas lawyers – sure – if you’ve got a case at the state level, that makes sense? maybe? Now I’m just more confused about where this functionality even makes sense. To anyone other than marketers trying to target niche markets across an entire state…

  6. @Alan

    Every Search is different.. I used did a quick glance using the keyword tool and heres what I found…

    Utah Dentist 22,220
    Salt Lake City Dentist 8,100

    Boise Dentist 5,400
    Idaho Dentist (not enough data)

    Everyone will have to look at their location and determine if the state or city level is more important, or if both are. Some companies will never need or be able to gain statewide customers, some will.

    I lived in Utah for a while and I would be willing to drive from Odgen to Provo for an recommended dentist. The distance does “feel” to far.

    But I currently live in Idaho and with so much dead space between cities, I am waaaay more likely to use services that are close by. Even though I could be in Boise, or even close to Salt Lake in 2+ hours.

    1. Mike, I guess my vision was limited having mostly lived and provided solutions to clients in bigger States. Someone from San Francisco for example, wouldn’t ever need or want to go to a dentist 800 miles away in southern California :-)

  7. @Alan I agree with you regarding a lot of the typical local searches (dentists, doctors, mechanics, etc.) However, I think it would be really useful for users to see more local searches for specific searches over a wider geographic area (like the one Mike mentioned about Colorado spa’s). It’s already bleeding over state lines for a lot of border towns (For example, a number of local searches of Spokane, WA + category yield a North Idaho local result). I think it would be helpful if you could look for “Northern California Spa’s” or “Eastern Washington Wineries” and get a local result. It really depends on the industry/business, though. Not sure how the engines would address who is worthy of a statewide local result and who is not (from a usability standpoint) .

    1. Good point. Here in the San Francisco bay area, it’s not uncommon for someone in Marin County to hire a company or use the services of a company across the bay – driving over a bridge is involved but it’s still ultimately only 10 – 20 miles. So there’s a lot of search for “bay area contractors” for example. And that makes more sense to me from a physical size perspective.

  8. Nice article, Mike. I appreciate the extra work, specifically the graph that shows which states are showing maps and which aren’t. Doesn’t look there is a concrete reason to which states are and which states aren’t.

    For some time the smaller eastern states, such as Maryland, Delaware, Mass, etc. have been showing maps for queries with state names.

    We operate businesses that optimize for state names and city/town names. We get a good reasonable amount of traffic for searches with state names. I’ve done some keyword research on a limited basis comparing searches with service or product and state name or major city name. The volumes of whether state or city names appear more often have tended to show state phrases more often…but it isn’t a significant difference in some cases and it varies. I can’t say with authority as to what works.

    Of the businesses that attract traffic for product or service or reversed product or services…..here is what we experience.

    1. We have strong rankings for the state name phrases so we pick up a good bit of service.
    2. Our services/products are in demand on a local or regional basis. Frankly, if we are on one side of the state and the searcher has hit our site, even contacted us….and he/she is too far away….we aren’t getting their business (most…but not all of the time).
    3. We pick up additional searches, traffic, and business for those searchers that use the state terms and are reasonably near by.

    Optimizing for state names can add traffic and business for your site.

    I’m not going to say use it all the time or don’t use it. It is a case by case example. I can say that searches with state names are definitely out there.

    4. One last observation. If you are searching for something in one of those physically larger states now showing maps, such as Utah…and you are a searcher from the Southwest corner of the state…where there are a group of towns and population….you aren’t traveling up to the Salt Lake Metro region for Utah Italian restaurants and lasagna. :)

    If you scroll around the map, and southward to that portion of the state…the map will move with you and the businesses showing up will adjust and reflect the newer geography. You’ll find maps suggestions for restaurants closer to you. Essentially it would be similar to searching for one of those town names in the Southwest corner of the State.

    Thank goodness. I love lasagna. I love eating out. I just don’t want to have to drive 3-6 hours each way for a plate of lasagna. ;)

    Dave

  9. Excellent choice of a guest post author, SEJ! Mike Ramsey is going places in Local!

    Mike, this was a very nicely put together piece, and I really enjoyed reading your basic stats. I would guess that we’ll be seeing further rollout of this, nationwide, and for certain terms, it is certainly be helpful to see statewide results. For others, it’s a bit of stretch to imagine usefulness. Why would someone need to see statewide listings, for example, of Italian restaurants? Well, maybe they are traveling and their doctor has ordered them to eat only Italian food? Well…hmm. Nevertheless, for other categories, this is an interesting and useful development. You’ve done a great job covering it.

  10. Your Too Kind Miriam! That same though is being discussed on the sphinn comments of this post with Matt, EarlPearl, Silversmith, and myself.

    Some good points have been mentioned.

  11. Curious how you came up with the Washington results for the state of Washington. I am in Portland and it I get the same set of results for Washington or DC or District of Columbia. Never are there any Washington State results.

  12. @David,

    Nice Find! In my furious typing and looking at results, I didn’t noticed the D.C.! I caught it on the new york search with displays for NYC, but Washington got me!