Local and small businesses hoping to find their way onto a first page listing of the big three search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) may find their opportunities limited when trying to compete with national companies.

A July study by the SEO specialist firm, BrightLocal, examined the results of a series of searches they conducted to determine which of these three main search engines were the friendliest to local and small businesses in terms of allotted space on the coveted first page. Using a mix of generic, service, and long tail keywords, as well as geo-modified and non-geo modified queries, BrightLocal found that local businesses have quite a hill to climb in order to receive first page organic rankings from searches using generic (accountant, builder, gardener) or service (car repair, lawn maintenance, home builders) terms.

Of the three, Google was the most cooperative with first page results, but not to the point where it could be considered particularly friendly to local businesses through generic term searches. In fact, none of the search engines provided a noticeable number of local returns. Instead, the large websites of national companies dominated the organic results from generic and service searches.

However, while local businesses take a beating when it comes to searches involving generic terms, they fare quite well when searches employ geo-modified or long-tail terms, as they are more specific and minimize ambiguity. When these modifiers are included in search terms, about half of the page one organic listings consists of local businesses. What makes this significant, the study found, is that consumers using long tail searches are further along the transactional path and convert at a higher rate than those using less specific search terms.

While organic space may be hard to come by, both Google and Yahoo are local-friendly when it comes to pack results, and the study suggests that this approach (as well as long tail searches) may provide the best opportunity for local businesses looking to land on this prime real estate.

In its final analysis, the study suggests that the best opportunity for small businesses to hit page one rests in developing strategies with a strong focus on local search optimization while developing distinctive content that encompasses a wider array of applicable search terms and topics.


Anderson, Myles. “Local Businesses Squeezed Out of Organic Search by Larger Websites,” http://searchengineland.com/local-businesses-squeezed-organic-search-larger-websites-225881. July 27, 2015.

Marchant, Ross. “Google More Generous to Local Businesses than Other Engines,” https://www.brightlocal.com/2015/07/14/google-more-generous-to-local-businesses-than-other-engines/. July 14, 2015.