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Uncovering Filtering Issues: A Guide to Using Geogrid Rank Trackers Effectively

Geogrid ranking reports are almost always the first tool I pull out of my local SEO toolbelt when I am starting to troubleshoot a local SEO problem.  There are many ways to utilize them to help with your Google Business Profile (GBP). Here are a few of my favorite ways to use them.

Utilize Geogrids to Identify Filtering Issues:

The local filter was first discovered in 2016.  When two businesses with the same primary category are located within approximately 200 feet of each other, one business will typically be filtered out for certain queries.  The 200-foot rule seems to be strictly followed, but in order to truly understand how the filter is impacting your business you need to understand the filter can come into play across the business’ entire market.  In other words, the searchers’ location factors into the triggering of the local filter.

How Can You Tell if a Business is Being Filtered?

With that in mind, utilizing geogrid ranking reports is the best way to tell if a business is being filtered.  The image below shows what ranking reports look like when there isn’t filtering in play. You can see the ranking drops naturally the further you get from the office.

The image below shows what it looks like when there is filtering in play. You can see it’s really scattered, all over the place. It almost has a Swiss-cheese look to it.  When you see your client’s geogrid looking like this, there is a good chance that there is some local filtering coming into play. 

Sometimes the filter is more subtle like in the image below.

What is great about ranking grids is you can click on the individual pins and look at the actual businesses that are ranking there.  So, in the example above, you could click on that red pin labeled with an eight – you can start to reverse engineer and compare what is different with the search results with the number two pin right next to it.  You can look at the businesses that are ranking in the number eight-pin but are not ranking in the number two-pin.  You can also look at the categories, the GBP landing page, the content of that page, the internal linking structure, the title tags, reviews, etc.  This will allow you to focus on the competitors to figure out who is filtering the listing or if it is some other issue altogether.

Stack Your Geogrid Next to the Filter Suspect

This is another tip that I find incredibly helpful when trying to identify which competitor is filtering you. I use Places Scout for this one. Places Scout has a feature that allows you to stack your ranking grid next to any competitor that you choose. In the screenshot below, you can see that the pins where business A ranks in the 3-pack are the exact opposite of business B in the right grid image. When you see this swapping happening, you can be certain that they are filtering you.

geogrid filtering issues


Going Beyond the Grid:

Utilize Local Falcon Trend Report to Assess Filtering Issues

In addition to Geogrids, Local Falcon and Places Scout have additional tools that I use daily. The image above is taken from a Local Falcon trend report. It is a great way to identify filtering issues. If you see a pattern like this where your listing is ranking one day and not at all the next, you are very likely getting filtered. What this is showing us is that there is a listing that over time is swapping ranking positions with another listing. In this case, the main GBP and department GBP of the same business are taking turns filtering each other out. We were only able to identify this issue because of how clear of a picture the trend report paints.

Utilize Places Scout Before/After Comparison Report to Assess Filtering Issues

The image above is a before and after ranking comparison report from Places Scout. What you are looking at is a comparison showing GBPs that were added and removed from the search results comparing two dates. This is a very effective way to identify which listings are filtering each other. If you suddenly find your listing in the removed section and a new listing is in the added section, there is a good chance that business is what pushed you out of the search results.   You can also use it to assess which listings won and which listings lost after an algorithm update. It helps prioritize your competitor research to see what the common traits are between the winners and the losers. 

This blog post was part of my LocalU advanced presentation from November.

Want more local SEO tips?
Check out our LocalU Event in NYC in September!.

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Colan Nielsen

Colan started in the local SEO world back in 2010 and is also deemed a product expert by Google as a Top Contributor on the Google My Business Forum. He is a contributor to Moz’s famous Local Search Ranking Factors survey and is a former Google MapMaker Regional Lead. Read Colan's full bio here.

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