Dealing with service-area businesses (SAB) has been awkward for Google and Google Maps historically since these local businesses often don’t have a physical location. But Google has introduced a new sign-up flow that is more intuitive and easier for SABs.
Historical workarounds. Enterprising SEOs have used and recommended a wide range of tactics to rank in areas SAB serve without a storefront. Many of these tactics have been highly creative over the years. Fortunately Google has been focused on improving the process and options for SABs.
It recently adjusted how SABs identify service areas in Google My Business (GMB). In November last year Google eliminated address and radius-based service areas and replaced them with the ability to designate specific cities or postal codes.
Simpler sign-up. The new sign-up flow begins by asking whether the business has a store or office. If the answer is no, it sends the user down an SAB path (graphic below).
What about ranking? Current GMB accounts can also make changes to their profiles in the dashboard, where service areas and storefront locations can now be edited separately. None of this will impact rankings.
A frequent recommendation for SAB ranking has been to create local landing pages for each city, neighborhood or designated service area. Others include:
- Claim profiles in relevant directories (e.g., Yelp) that tend to outrank local business websites
- Collect reviews on an ongoing basis
- Use schema extensively
- Build local links
- Use Local Services Ads
Why you should care. With these changes, Google continues to address some of the long-standing challenges around representing SABs in search results. This is another incremental improvement to better serve this population, which represent a substantial chunk of the 28 million small businesses in the U.S.
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