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How to rank #1 in Google local search when located outside the center of a city?

Centroid center of a city on Google Maps

Center (or Centroid) of metro Atlanta

Rank #1 in Google local in surrounding cities

One the biggest challenges in local SEO is how your business can compete in a large city if you are located outside the center of that major metro area?  We believe the best solution is strategically published city pages, which we’ll dive into more detail below.

For example, if a law firm wants to compete for the keyword phrase “car accident lawyer Atlanta”, but the law firm is located north in Sandy Springs, how can the law firm compete in the Atlanta market?

In some cases, the answer is you can’t if you don’t have a verifiable address in Atlanta proper.  In large metro areas with a lot of competing businesses, you’ll need to have a verified address in your target city.  If you operate in a smaller metro area, you can sometimes get away with not having a verified address in your target city.  But with large, dense metro areas, this is typically the starting point.

But in large cities, you can easily have a location within the target city but still be well outside the center of that city.

The center of a city, as it relates to local SEO and Google Maps optimization, is what’s called the centroid of the city, or the geographic center , which is the exact longitude and latitude of the city.

How do you find the exact center of a city on Google Maps?

You be wondering how to find the geographic center of a city, as this is a question I used to ask quite frequently.  Google Maps actually makes it easy for you to locate the center of the city by identifying where the city name is placed on the page.  Wherever you see the city name on Google Maps, that will always be centered directly over the centroid of that city.

According to some, the centroid of the city isn’t as relevant as it used to be in determining the local rankings, or Google Maps search results.  I only partially agree with this statement, as one look at any prominent search in a large metro area will typically show the majority of the top 3 (3 pack) search results located at or near the centroid.

However, the other part of me agrees with the statement that the centroid isn’t as relevant because we have clients located far outside the centroid of their market, yet outrank heavy hitting competitors who are located smack dab in the centroid.

Here’s a great example of a business ranked #1 in Google local search results, yet located far north of the center of the city:

Business ranked #1 in Google Maps located north of centroid

This is a also a great example because the keyword phrase “car accident lawyer milwaukee” is one of the most competitive keyword phrases in the Wisconsin legal market.  So even though the cluster of law firms are located in the center of Milwaukee, probably near the court house, our client is located quite a bit north of the center yet still ranks #1 in Google local search.

How to rank #1 in Google local search when located outside the center of the city?

Let’s get back to the original question of how a business can achieve top rankings in Google local search, even though they are located outside of the center of a city?

This is where I partially agree with the statement that the centroid is not as relevant as it used to be in determining rankings in local search.

Today, some of the biggest factors in determining where a business ranks in the local search results, or Google Maps search results, is driven by onsite local SEO factors and more traditional organic SEO factors such as organic SEO techniques on your business website.  Also, you can greatly influence your rankings in local search by focusing on external factors which are elements outside of website and your Google My Business (GMB) listing.

Factors within your website include elements such as:

  • embedding your Google My Business listing from Google Maps
  • adding your NAP (business name, address, phone #) to your website wrapped in Schema, and preferably JSON – LD Schema
  • adding photos to your website using location relation meta data
  • adding outbound links from your website to local business resources using the Google Maps “Nearby” recommended businesses, which typically consists of restaurants, bars, and hotels
  • adding outbound links to local and state government websites that are related to your specific industry
  • include an instance of your exact business address, the one that matches your GMB listing, in the sidebar of your website so that it’s published across all pages of your websites (i.e. site wide)

Factors within your Google My Business Listing can include:

  • using a lot of keyword rich content in the “About Me” description section of your business Google Plus profile
  • adding your primary targeted keyword phrase in the Tagline of the Story section, which is basically the description of your G+ profile
  • if required, add your business category to the title of your GMB listing title
  • properly categorizing your GMB listing by picking the right primary category, and then including all relevant secondary categories (make sure you do not go overboard with this by including irrelevant business categories)
  • filling out your GMB listing to 100%

Factors outside of your website and GMB listing:

Silo SEO Strategy for Law Firm Websites

  • building highly authoritative and relevant links back to your website, location pages, and your GMB / Google Maps listing
  • distributing NAP citations throughout the web, focusing on major local business data hubs such as Acxiom, Localeze, Neustar, Factual, Infogroup, and Foursquare.
  • highly organized and concerted internal linking structures within your website, also known as Silos

These factors combine to give you a highly authoritative strategy for local SEO, and will help you rank your business in the local search results in Google even if you are located far outside the centroid of the city.

Want a free local SEO consultation for your business?  Contact us today


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