How Does Google Localize Their Search Engine Results?

February 02, 2022

People often ask, how does Google localize their search results? For example, if you start hunting for a cheese pizza on Google, and search for "pizza shops near me", how does Google find the closest and best pie shops to help you fill that pizza craving?

Simply put, Google uses its algorithms and machine learning capabilities to localize your search engine results based on various factors. And on the horizon they plan to incorporate artificial intelligence.

We compiled a pretty good list of local ranking factors, perhaps the top 11 in local search engine optimization (SEO).

IP Address

Google uses the IP address of the user's device to determine their location. In order to deliver search results that are relevant to the user's geographical location, they typcially use technologies such as IP geolocation to approximate the physical location of a searcher, WiFi access points and cell towers to triangulate location, GPS location services for mobile devices and Google account information.

Location-Based Search Queries

This is when a user performs a search query that includes location-based keywords, such as "hotels in Indianapolis". Google will present results in that location or area. This includes near me longtail keywords. For example, Google assumes the user is looking for restaurants that are relevant to their current location if the user is searching "restaurants near me".

Google My Business

Google My Business is a free tool that businesses can use to manage their online presence across Google, including in search results and on Google Maps. When a user performs a search for a local business, Google uses the information provided in the business's Google My Business listing to display relevant results. Businesses can control data that is displayed on search results such as area served, special hours (holidays), address, phone numbers and more.

Language, Country Settings and Hreflang

Google also considers the user's language and country settings when localizing search results. For example, if a user's language and country settings are set to French and France, respectively, Google will prioritize search results in French and for businesses located in France. Google uses the hreflang attribute to understand and serve the most relevant language and regional variations of web pages in search results.

Your Search History

Google tracks a user's search history to provide personalized search results. If a user frequently searches for businesses or content related to a particular location, Google may prioritize local search results for that location in future searches. If a user frequently interacts with content from a particular location on social media or on other websites, Google may prioritize search results from that location for that user. For example, if you are a business owner and constantly Googles your business name, visit your website and click on your website in search results, Google is more inclined to show you that website as a number 1 result. Try using incognito mode in Chrome.

Topical Relevance

Google tries to show results that are topically relevant to the search query. For example, if a user searches for "pizza restaurants", Google will show results that are relevant to pizza restaurants in the user's location. Topical relevance is complex, involving analysis of the content on the website, citations/directories, address proximity, backlinks/anchor text, proper schema markup/structured data and a website's domain authority.

Quality of Content

Google considers the quality of the content on a website when ranking search results. Websites with high-quality content that is relevant to the user's search query are more likely to appear in the top search results. Frequently mentioned is Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) aka Google values content created by authors or websites with demonstrated expertise, authority and trustworthiness. But Google also relies on search intent, originality, uniqueness, freshness, depth, references, consistent style, readability, spelling, grammar and even user engagement.

A Domain's Authority

Google takes into account the authority of the domain that the website is hosted on. One method to gauge a domain's authority is to use a third-party tool for a KPI such as Semrush's Authority Score and/or Moz's Domain Authority. When looking at these third-party KPIs, keep in mind Google's approach to assess the authority and quality of websites does not assign a single numerical score.

Mobile Friendly or Foe?

As more and more people use their mobile devices to perform searches, Google has started to give more weight to websites that are mobile-responsive with fluid and flexible layouts. Navigation in mobile needs to be considered along with font sizes of at least 16 pixels. Think about touch friendly elements, forms and input fields. Optimizing media with plugins or apps can be accomplished with low level of effort.

User Engagement Metrics

Google measures how users engage with the search results it displays, such as click-through rates, time on page and bounce rates. They also utilize Core Web Vitals that measure user-centric aspects of a website's performance, such as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). There are many other signals they take into account such as page speed, page size, safe browsing, ad experience, popups and accessibility.

Local Links and Citations

Google also considers local links and citations when ranking search results. A link from a local website or citation from a local business directory such as Manta,, Yellow Pages, the BBB, Superpages, Angi, Yelp, Citysearch and others can help a website rank higher in local search results.