Google wants to avoid a business appearing in search results if that business does not have a physical location in the city searched. They address this in the Google Places Quality Guidelines, where they disallow PO boxes and fake addresses.
The only known exception to this guideline is a business with general service areas. In this instance, businesses are to create a listing under one physical location. They are then allowed to designate those service areas. However, listing the designated service areas may not be effective in those areas with heavy competition.
In order to begin ranking in local search, we recommend the following:
1. Focus on Organic
In competitive industries especially, you’ll want to take the path of least resistance. Other than Places and G+ Local having first page priority, organic results that are worthy and relevant are also listed.
A great example of an organic search result is through Yelp. Though national sites like Yelp and other sorts can rank for endless local queries while you can focus on specific searches (ie., oil change Lee’s Summit).
2. Avoid Using a Virtual Address
In the past, someone might have advised you to list a virtual office space. Well, unless you are using your virtual space for legitimate business purposes, we strongly discourage this.
This is a sticky situation for Google because it is difficult to tell if this is real or someone is trying to pull a fast one. While there’s a small chance of being able to get away with it and fudge a verification, the reward is certainly not worth the risk. I’d say getting delisted or suspended from Google search is marketing suicide.
3. Get a Real Address
Easier said than done, right? If it’s worth gaining local and lifetime customers, getting a real address will prove valuable. While this probably isn’t the most simple solution, it certainly is a viable one. This is best for those businesses targeting a specific city in a highly competitive industry.
4. Continually Optimize
Setting your target location and creating a page is certainly not the whole story. Once you’ve done these, you’ll want to build your credibility with customer testimonials. Add names and location for each to indicate areas you typically do work.
You’ll also want to boost your geo-signals by adding photos and videos to your site that are geotagged with your target location. Additionally, encourage ratings on relevant review sites that credit your location. Both offsite and onsite geo-signals will be helpful.
5. Zip Codes
Reiterating what was mentioned before, when it comes to ranking organically small businesses need to be looking for the road less traveled. Most businesses are going to select a radius to specify their service areas.
By listing zip codes, you are able to avoid spreading yourself too thin. For businesses that really want to focus on ranking for specific areas of their city, this works great. For businesses that don’t need or want to limit themselves, the circle radius may be the best.
For more information on gaining optimal online visibility for your small business, contact Turn the Page Online Marketing today.