Local SEO is becoming more challenging by the day. Google wants to make sure they deliver the most valuable sites to match a user request. If the user doesn’t specify a location, Google will then see if your intent was to actually look for a local business.

If you are a business that trades from a local address then you can try and get yourself featured in the local pack, but this isn’t always straightforward and can sometimes entail a period of citation building in order to pass the right signals to Google.

What do you then do if you need to be found for a location search but without a physical address? You have amazing data to share with the World, but you are consigned to the bottom half of the first page, if you’re lucky.

If you aren’t a part of the local pack (or buying ads) then chances are you will be ‘below-the-fold’ for local organic results. But how do you see just where you sit? Are you even on the first page? Google has made many changes that impact local search results, including basing results on your search location. This means that what you see in Manchester, probably isn’t going to be what someone sat in Birmingham would see.

You could try and get around this by using one of the many free proxy browsing services, but lots of companies ban access to these because they allow a way to get past blacklists. Even if you can gain access, you are unlikely to find one in the location you wish to search from.

Why do I need to go to these extremes?

For the past number of years, we have enjoyed the ability in Google Chrome, to be able to set a location of where you would like Google to assume you were based. This made seeing location based results, a whole lot easier.

As I am sure everyone has realised by now, Google removed the option to set a location while searching in Chrome. This was a major headache for SEO’s, or indeed anyone else searching for a local site, because it now meant that you could no longer be in one location, change location and see how local results fared from there. Rather annoyingly, this happened quietly some time mid to late November 2015. Google said this was because it was getting very little use. I am more inclined to believe that this was to stop people being able to change location tailor local search campaigns more easily. After all, when has Google ever actually made things easy for us?

How can I still access location based search?

However, all is not lost! There are some ways that you can trick chrome into changing location, but I much prefer the use of the Adwords Preview tool than having to set geo-coordinates in the console window. This allows you to change your location to anywhere in the World (and any town) and see if you appear on the 1st page in Google – and that is where you hit a limiter. You can’t click on the next page of results or indeed any of the other links that you see on the page – it really is just a preview, but a live and correct one all the same.

For many, it won’t matter if it doesn’t show past page 1 because let’s face it, past page 1 really isn’t that good a place to be.

The other big benefit is that you don’t need to worry about registering or logging in anywhere – just hit the link and away you go.

SEO local based searches

Now compare the results if I don’t use the Adwords Preview Tool and just specify a location as part of my search. I will still get the local pack, but the organic results will change.

SEO local

You are also able to set the device type, changing the local results as would be seen on a mobile or tablet device.

It would be nice to think that Google will bring back the location drop down, but I can’t see that happening any time soon. In the meantime, this should satisfy.