Local Search folks don’t always agree on the factors that affect rank but there is one search relevance factor on which there is strong agreement: A local business listing must be in the city of search in order to even be considered on a given service + city query.
While there is a general idea about how Google determines the boundaries of the polygon that defines any given city used in a search, it is never easy to determine exactly where the boundaries for any given geography are. While the distance radius that Google will use to rank businesses also seems to depend on business density and industry, it would be useful to know the outside limits of the boundaries defining any city or town used in the search.
Does that new client in Scottsdale have a chance to rank in Phoenix? Is the business in the burbs just too far on the wrong side of the tracks or can they be ranked in the principal city with a strong enough local presence?
Wouldn’t it be nice to know, going into the meeting whether there is a snow balls chance in Phoenix of success? It has always been difficult to know exactly how Google Maps drew the polygon boundaries for any given geographical area but with the new service area feature available in the Google Places management area, we now have a solid guide.
To determine the likely boundaries for any given geography simply select (temporarily) the “Yes, this business services customers at their locations” in the edit listing area of your Google Places management area(LBC). Enter your primary search area target in the “List of areas served” field and Google Places then draws the polygon that defines the boundaries of that particular area. As you can see from this graphic, and as I learned the hard way (a long time ago), Deer Park South will not rank on a search for “assisted living Topeka, KS” no matter how strong the listing is. (Click to view larger)