In this article, we explain the ‘UULE’ parameter and how it fits within your SEO efforts.
Judging the effectiveness of SEO strategies relies on understanding where your ‘money’ keywords rank in Google search.
These keywords bring highly qualified traffic to your website – users likely to convert to a product sale or service.
Keeping close tabs on these keywords and their ranking movements often dictates the success of current SEO implementations.
This is especially true with building SEO backlinks to your website. Determining how backlinks influence your search ranking improvements across different geo-locations is crucial.
Since the Google Venice algorithm update all those years ago, local search intent contributes heavily to what search results appear organically.
With rising search queries conducted on mobile phones, Google is even better at targeting user search by their locale.
Search queries today are often impacted by user location, making it hard to ascertain true ranking positions.
This proves challenging for local business owners tracking keyword rankings across multiple service areas or physical store locations.
And it’s important to know that you rank where you offer your services or products.
Just because you rank well in one location doesn’t necessarily mean you will on the other side of town.
Differences Between Global and Local Search Results
As mentioned previously, search results for both national and local searches show widely different results at times.
Specific type of search queries, especially based on proximity-based services or products (Hotels, restaurants, hairdressers etc.) will almost always serve search results to users that are altered by locality.
Furthermore, phrase queries are more prominent than ever for users conducting a search.
Questions like ‘Burgers near me’ are likely influenced by local search, and these types of search queries are rising as voice search continues to gain popularity (particularly with mobile phones voice assistants like Siri).
What Google Uses for Local Search Signals
No one knows the exact signals Google uses to determine the most appropriate search results for a specific query, at a specific location.
However, based on case studies conducted for local search engine optimization, we know the following factors play large roles for local keyword rankings:
Google My Business Listing
Provided by Google for free to businesses, Google My Business listings allow business owners to manage their online reputation, providing important information to users.
Listings are displayed prominently in search results for users directly querying a business name or address, offering a range of functions including:
- Directions – It may seem obvious but with more people searching on mobile devices, having a way for a customer to get directions directly to your store is vital.
- Questions & Answers – See questions asked by potential customers responses by the business. Good for covering common customer queries about products or services.
- Popular Times – Helps potential customers plan their trip as they get a better idea of how busy a business is at any given time.
- Google Posts – Special posts a business can pin to their Google My Business listing will be displayed to users. These can refer to events a business is running or help promote a special offer.
- Products – Your core products can be viewed from your listing. This is perfect for improving click-through rate to products.
Certain industries also have additional options here.
For example, restaurants can link directly to their menu from their listing
While Google Reviews (within a Google My Business listing) probably hold the most weight for local Google search results, business reviews across the web have shown to be a local ranking signal.
They help verify business authority, specifically if reviews are positive. Business owners should try to acquire legitimate reviews across a range of platforms, such as Google Reviews, Yelp etc.
Importantly, reviews are not to be manipulated or ‘faked’. Unnatural reviews may impact local ranking signals, harming local SEO efforts.
Search engines like Google review website backlink profiles when determining local search intent.
Backlink relevancy to a location is still very important as a local ranking factor.
For example, websites with links from sources in particular locations show search engines a stronger signal for that given region.
Business owners can use this to their advantage when prospecting for new link opportunities.
By additionally verifying geo-relevance of backlinks, opportunities for boosting local search rankings in main business locations are found.
Photos and Video
Good selection of images and video can be an important local search signal.
Google is using photos and videos more often in local search results, so business owners would be wise to have a good selection that highlights their products and services.
Depending on the business, video also plays a more major role regarding local search intent.
Business Citations & Consistent NAP
Local search signals also are formed from business citations, especially regarding the business name, address and phone number (NAP).
Ensuring you have a consistent NAP that is accurate can greatly assist local SEO keyword rankings.
This is because leveraging NAP citation opportunities are direct local business signals.
Included in this are local business directories featuring a particular region, as well as sources relevant to your niche or industry.
Citations also benefit from business brand mentions. As search engines find more mentions of your brand across blogs, social media, news sites and other resources, your business search authority will grow.
This authority is believed to be both a local search signal and used as a measure to improve your local search ranking results.
If your business name, address or phone number (as well as any other crucial information such as website address) change, make certain to update these details in all sources containing your NAP / citation data.
Some top NAP / citation sources to list your US business include:
There also are service providers specializing in publishing and organizing business citations and NAP.
Using a service provider can free up valuable time, as they ensure the accuracy of your business information is correct across the web.
These services specifically are helpful if you are moving physical business or website addresses and in need to have all current citations updated.
Tracking Local Search Results
While it is possible to manually check keyword rankings by physically conducting a search in a chosen zip code, it is neither practical nor scalable.
Other methods often used in getting a better understanding of local keyword rankings include using:
- Keyword ranking trackers – Web-based tools that crawl location-based keyword rankings and provide data usually with daily updates at a set, specific time.
There are many on the market with varying degrees of features and pricing. Some are stand-alone applications, while others are a part of a greater SEO suite toolset that business owners do not necessarily require.
- Virtual Private Networks (VPN) – Creates connections to other networks over the internet to specific regions.
This emulates location-based search results as a user connected to the VPN is counted if they are searching in that region.
There are a lot of companies offering VPN. Check this guide to choose between the best VPN software.
Both allow users to see location-based ranking results, methods often requiring an ongoing subscription-based fee.
This is particularly true for keyword ranking trackers, their fees often rising with the number of locations you track (and for some businesses, that can be many!)
Virtual Private Networks have their own limitations. Network connections usually are only available at city or country level.
With search engines using zip codes to facilitate local search results, this means a VPN may not provide the most accurate results.
Finally, using a VPN can be time-consuming as you need to reconnect to a network when changing from region to region.
If you need to check keyword rankings in multiple locations this can be a cause for frustration.
The ‘uule’ Parameter – An interesting alternative
Thankfully, there is another method that you can use for free – using ‘uule’ parameters in Google search.
The ‘uule’ parameter encodes geographic locations into your search. These parameters are base64 encoded forms of locations, formed from “Canonical Names” provided by Google.
Appending specific ‘uule’ parameter to search result URL strings replicate organic listings in designated locations.
Each parameter allows checking of search results whenever you want at zip code level. All you need is to crack the code by following these instructions.
Identifying ‘uule’ parameters your locations
The following steps show how to uncover a parameter for your chosen location.
2 – Search for your location and obtain the ‘Canonical Name’ string.
For example, West New York string looks like this:
West New York,New Jersey,United States
3 – Determine the length of the ‘Canonical Name’ string. This can be done easily by using an online tool. Simply copy the string and paste it into the field.
Using the previous example, we can see West New York,New Jersey,United States has a string length of 38.
4 – Use the following graph to determine an additional required character key, based on the ‘Canonical Name’ string length:
Continuing with the current example, the required character key for the string length of 39 is ‘m’.
5 – Use Base64encode to convert your selected ‘Canonical Name’.
The Base64 format for West New York,New Jersey,United States encodes as: ‘V2VzdCBOZXcgWW9yayxOZXcgSmVyc2V5LFVuaXRlZCBTdGF0ZXM=’
6 – Confirm your country ISO code that is represented by two characters by searching countrycode.org. Our West New York example is in the United States, so our ISO code is ‘US’.
7 – Combine the following to finalize your completed location ‘uule’ parameter string:
&uule=w+CAIQICI + <string key> + ‘Canonical Name’ Base64 format + &cr=country<country ISO code>
Using our ongoing West New York example:
|Base64 Canonical Name:||V2VzdCBOZXcgWW9yayxOZXcgSmVyc2V5LFVuaXRlZCBTdGF0ZXM=|
Combined, the final output is as follows:
Save it somewhere safe so you can always refer to it later!
Important Note – When obtaining the string length and Base64 encode format for your ‘Canonical Name’, be extra careful about accidental spaces in your copy and pasted field text.
Using your ‘uule’ parameters in Google Search
With the above process complete, apply it to modify organic search results with the following steps.
1 – Open your chosen web browser in private mode and proceed to Google Search.
Conduct a search for the required keyword – we will use ‘buy bicycle’ as an example.
2 – Inspect the address bar and find where your given keyword is mentioned for the FIRST time within the search parameters.
3 – Delete after the keyword mention in the current search parameter URL after the keyword mention, before copying and pasting your completed ‘uule’ parameter in its place.
4 – Press enter to refresh the page and you will now be presented with localized search ranking results!
Scroll to the bottom of the page to confirm the results in your desired location:
If your business relies on local rankings for a few key terms this solution is a fairly accurate, practical way of getting a better idea of where you stand in local SEO.
Don’t forget to also use these parameters to gather competitor information on who is ranking where for certain keywords.
Likewise, use ‘uule’ parameters to uncover new opportunities to push into regions with weak search competition.
If you find a geo-location where search results don’t offer any value, you may want to consider creating content targeting it specifically.
Local search is extremely important if you serve local products or services. Understanding the relationship between local search signals and local keyword rankings is just as important.
As Google uses a range of local search signals to better satisfy user search intent, measuring your local keyword rankings and their movement better helps you understand your optimization initiatives.
While rank tracker software provides automatic updates, the ongoing pricing requirements may not be feasible for smaller, local businesses.
By noting down ‘uule’ parameters for your key business locations relevant to your market, you can spot check any time just how well you are ranking locally for your converting keywords.
Matt Bassos is the Head of SEO for Vuly Trampolines Australia. Matt has been working in organic search for over half a decade, helping business of all sizes increase their search visibility within their respective industries.