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Local Pack Clustering – Making Sense of Google’s Ranking Patterns

How Much Do Local Pack Results Depend on Location?

It’s no secret that SEO pros spend a lot of time looking at search results and map packs. So much time, in fact, that sometimes we start to notice patterns. When Mordy Oberstein discovered this 2:1 map ranking pattern, you know we had to investigate.

“Thus, the question is, does Google show me the best local results or the best results near where it thinks I may be…” – Mordy Oberstein

Google’s 2:1 Ranking Patterns

In the map, Google consistently takes 2 businesses that are side-by-side and one that is further away, creating a triangle in close proximity to the searcher’s location. Results are consistently within several miles of each other, with two results close together and one a slightly larger distance away, in an isosceles triangle pattern.

 

This is especially interesting in locations that cover hundreds of square miles, like Los Angeles or Houston. While the distance between points is a bit larger in larger cities, Google consistently shows results in a tight radius and clusters its Local Pack results near the search location.

Google’s Local Pack Clustering Pattern

Regardless of the size or density of a location, Google consistently clusters map results in this 2:1 pattern. From small towns to large cities, sparsely populated areas to densely packed cities, this pattern remains consistent, even when the searcher is not physically near the area they’re searching for. Even when searches are performed on a state level, the 2:1 clustering pattern remains consistent, but on a larger geographic distance. Local Cluster State

Why Does This Matter?

How is Google deciding how to lay out the 2:1 ranking pattern in an area as large as a state? We know Google considers the center of a location when ranking locally for a location, whether that be on a city, zip code, or state level. It makes sense that they would utilize a point as close to the center of the location as possible when determining where to set the clustered results.

“If you search from California, Google is dropping the location somewhere near Long Beach because that’s what Google considers the center of California.” -Joy Hawkins

This proximity clustering makes more sense on a city level or for someone doing a search from the location they’re searching. It may not be incredibly helpful to someone looking for attractions in another state, however. Is it better to send someone to the center of a state, or to top-rated locations? This could really backfire somewhere like Nevada, where not much is happening in the middle of the state. Some of the best restaurants in the world are located in Las Vegas, and a search for “restaurants in Nevada” did not include any Las Vegas restaurants in the 2:1 cluster.Nevada 2:1 Cluster

Do better, Google. Local searches are not always done by people local to an area, and we know Google is able to tell the difference. Why not provide different results to those who are not located in or near the area they’re searching? In this instance, a more dynamic local pack algorithm would be far more helpful to most users.

 

 

 

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Erin Jones

Erin has been working in digital marketing since 2005 and has specialized in social media and brand reputation since 2010. Erin is passionate about community and loves assisting brands in finding their place in the social and local spaces.

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