How Search Engines may look at Searches that include Locations

Ever wonder how search engines might rank your local business if you’re searching for it near a competitor? The answer is not as simple as one might think. Learn more about local algorithms and how they analyze your content below from Microsoft and Google.

How Search Engines may look at Searches that include Locations

Microsoft Research

Microsoft’s patent focuses on detecting dominant locations from search queries and the search’s “location intent.” It attempts to understand a “dominant location” of the question based upon the likelihood of the answer.

The Patent:

Search query dominant location detection

Invented by Chuang Wang, Joshua Forman, Lee Wang, Xing Xie, Ying Li
Assigned to Microsoft
US Patent Application 20060271518
Published November 30, 2006
Filed: May 27, 2005

A system and method for location-specific searching. The invention correctly identifies explicit and implicit locations in a search query and provides an appropriate dominant location. Top search results are obtained and analyzed to determine which terms in the query often appear in combination, and the query is tokenized based on the analysis. An explicit location indicating a location intent is most likely treated as an individual token, and the explicit location is treated as the dominant location of the query. In the case of a false positive, wherein the explicit location in a query is not the location intent, the explicit location is likely to be present with other terms that provide context. A token will likely include these terms together. The explicit location will therefore not be used to generate location-specific results in the case of a false positive.


These dominant factors are:

Location intent – an indication in a query that the searcher is looking for something related to a geographic area

Types of Search Queries

There are at least two types of search queries that can show location intent – ones that express implicit locations and others that indicate explicit locations.

Explicit location – a geographical term is present in the query.

Implicit location – A search with an implicit location doesn’t contain a location name but is associated with a location intent.

Google Patent

Google has filed a patent that focuses on a combination of a query used and the person’s location searching. This patent appears to focus primarily upon organic web results rather than location results.

The patent:

Identification of implicitly local queries

Invented by Michelangelo Diligenti, Wenxin Li, Fabio Lopiano, and Trystan G. Upstill
Assigned to Google
US Patent 8,200,694
Granted June 12, 2012
Filed: November 8, 2010

Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer program products, for identifying implicitly local queries. A query having one or more terms is received. The query is associated with a user locale. A degree of implicit local relevance for the query is determined. One or more search results for the query are received.

Each received search result has a respective score and a respective result locale. The score of a respective search result is modified using the degree of implicit local relevance for the query, the user locale, and the respective result locale of the respective search result.

information retrieval

How Search Engines might associate Web Page Locations

Google might associate websites with specific locations through:

  • The content of the site
  • An address and other contact information
  • Business listings that include location information
  • Metadata, Citations, and Schema
  • Top-level domain being used or an IP address
  • The user traffic to a site (Click Records)

Some websites might be determined to be associated with:

  • Several locations
  • All locations
  • Or no location in particular.

Websites that are associated with all locales or none might be “globally relevant.”

How Search Engines might determine User Locations

Google searches can be associated with user locations, and they can be done so explicitly. Here are some user signals a search engine might look at when trying to determine an implicit location within a search:

Location of Search Engine – A search using Google Canada might indicate an intent to restrict a search to Canada

Implicit Local Relevance for All Terms in Query – If terms in a search have been used in the past and are relevant to a specific location

Language – Some searches might have significance in some languages but not others

Country – Brand names can signal transactional intent in some countries, whereas it means something else in other countries.

Aggregated User Behavior – If a significant amount of searchers use a particular term, they tend to select search results associated with their location

In Content terms – If the word frequently appears in content related to a particular location, this might be used to determine some implicit preference.

example of a query
example of a query

Types of Locations: Microsoft might classify

A research paper from Microsoft: Web Resource Geographic Location Classification and Detection (pdf) discuss three different types of locations for websites:

Provider Location – The geographic location of the website

Content-Location – The location included within the content

Serving Location – The geographic location of the audience that the website aims to reach.

The Takeaway

The geographic location of the business behind the website is an integral part of rankings, and a geographical location is one of the main reasons people purchase products and services.

To improve your local search results it is vital your website optimize for visitors’ user intent and that search engines can understand and distinguish your location, how your location is tied to your content, and your intended audience. This is the basics of understanding search intent for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

You want to ensure Search engines understand the differences between provider location, content location, and serving area precisely for better SEO rankings.


Published on: 2022-01-08
Updated on: 2022-06-09

Avatar for Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands is the SEO Director at SEO North, a company that provides Search Engine Optimization services. As an SEO Professional, Isaac has considerable expertise in On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and Technical SEO, which gives him a leg up against the competition.