Distance to Your Studio is now #1 Google Ranking Factor

One of the consequences of Google’s plan to change to a mobile-first search index is that the distance from your studio to the person searching is now the most important ranking factor in Google.

A couple of years ago, your ability to get to the first page of Google relied on

  • Relevance – how closely your website matched the keywords being searched for
  • Prominence – Google ratings, number of visitors, links from other websites.

But with over half of online searches coming from smartphones, Google added “proximity” to their search algorithm. Proximity is the distance between the searcher and the business. Their logic was that if a shopper was looking for a cup of coffee or a gas station on a smartphone, the distance to get to it was just as important as the quality of the coffee or the gas.

Although Google’s mobile-first search won’t be officially released to desktop PCs until later this year, it is already having an impact. In the example screenshot, I typed “family photography” on my desktop PC. Knowing only my location, Google’s top search results were 3 studios within a mile of the lab.

family photography near me

Note that while two of the studios did not have Google+ ratings, the one that did is in the #1 search position. This means that while proximity is critical, relevance and prominence are still important too.

How will this affect your studio’s online marketing?

  • Studios with a business address will have a built-in advantage. If you are a home-based photographer who has been hesitant to use your home address for your studio, you are going to find it increasingly difficult to rank on Google. This doesn’t mean you won’t rank, but only that you’ll still have to compete with websites like theknot.com for wedding photography or JCPenny for family photography.
  • If your studio is in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, ranking for “Detroit Wedding Photographer” is going to become almost impossible. You’ll have a better chance to rank on the first page of Google by focusing on local clients.
  • Having a complete and accurate Google my Business listing is just as important as ever, especially if you have a local studio address.

The good news for professional photographers is that the mobile-first search index is rearranging the first page of Google. By focusing on “proximity” in addition to relevance and prominence, even the smallest studio has a chance of now being found on the first page of Google.

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