improving user experience on mobile devices

It is pretty obvious to say that businesses targeting a local audience need to appear in local searches. So why don’t they always?  In fact, it is estimated that local searches account for roughly 50% of all Google searches. More and more users are turning to Google when it comes to local information, and it is impossible to ignore local search engine optimisation (SEO) as one of your marketing tools.

If your business is targeting a regional, national or international audience from one of more locations (or even none) take a look at our Basic Guide to Basic SEO for a more relevant introduction.

A local SEO campaign that is successful will improve your business ranking for online searches within the geographical area you operate in.

Whilst your business may cater to local customers it is possible that you won’t have a physical address. In fact, not all local businesses have a bricks-and mortar location from which they sell their service or products. There are some businesses that operate remotely and visit customers at their own property. If your business falls into such a category, you may be wondering if local SEO is possible for you.

What role does a physical address play in local SEO?

Search engines evaluate any addresses of local businesses in order to work out which geographic area they should be ranked in. A local search needs a user to be looking for information pertaining to a business within that location. In order to give people the most appropriate results from a search engine, it is important to be able to identify the area a local business operates in.

Physical addresses show a search engine the operating base of a local business. You may be ranked higher for using the name of a larger city than a smaller town. Having a physical address can help with local SEO but it isn’t a necessity. There are other ways for a search engine to see which area is most relevant to your business operations. Therefore, it can be handy to have a local SEO checklist to follow.

Use Google Business Profile to set up a service-area business

Google Business Profile (GBP) can be used to help ensure your local business ranks higher in respect of the geographical area you operate in. Not all businesses need a physical address to get a GBP listing. Whilst Google does not allow online businesses to create a GBP listing, it does allow for service-area businesses to make them even if they don’t have a physical address. A service-area business (SAB) is a local business that sells services remotely but doesn’t have bricks-and-mortar premises.

Examples of this type of business include:

  • Landscape companies
  • Office cleaning businesses
  • Plumbing companies
  • Window cleaning companies
  • Dog walkers
  • Pest control companies
  • Tutors
  • Locksmiths
  • Painters and decorators
  • Garage door repair companies

When it comes to creating a GBP listing (which you can do on ), you will be asked if you want to add a physical location that can be visited by customers. Because you don’t have a physical location the answer will clearly be “no”. If you have a SAB, you will then be able to choose a service area (geographic region) where your business operates. You can choose a maximum of 20 service areas for each business you have.

A physical address is still needed to verify a GPB listing, but your home address can be used for this purpose. It is possible to make the address that you use to verify your listing private which means only Google will be able to see it.

Listing in Bing Places for Businesses

A similar listing service is offered on Bing for local businesses, this is called Bing Places for Business and can be used to improve your business local ranking on Bing. Whilst, typically, not as much traffic will be generated as from Google, it is a free source of marketing and may generated additional customers. The process for creating a business listing is similar in both Bing and Google.

There is no requirement for a service-area business to have a physical address for Bing but you do need to add an address to verify your listing and a home address is acceptable. You can then choose to hide this address through the dashboard.

Make local citations without the need for an address

In any local SEO campaign, local citations are an essential element. These are online structured listings that contain local business-related information. Local citations can be located on web-based directories like those which potential customers use to find a business local to them. Some of the web-based directories allow for customers to review and rate local businesses. They provide important information to consumers in the form of local citations about local businesses.

Often these local citations follow the same structured format to which you can’t add whatever you want. You need to follow guidelines and add specific required information. If you fail to follow the guidelines, your local citations will not appear to the public. Many of these directories, however, allow for the creation of local business citations without a physical address.

No physical address is required in Foursquare for example. All you need is your business name and a category. Once you have entered this you will need to pin the geographical location on a map.

Optimise your website with local content

If you want greater SEO success on a local scale, then you need to include local content on the website linked to your business. Local content might include blog posts, articles, guides and any other type of digital content that may place emphasis on at least one geographic region. When creating local content you do not need to mention an address, but you can mention locations that your business operates in. A local business that serves customers in several cities may like to create individual pages containing local content for each location. This will help to give a rank for each one.

For local SEO, a physical address is not required. You can indicate which geographical regions are linked to your business. If you sell services on a remote basis you may want to think about setting up a Google Business Profile or Bing Places for Business listing as a service area business. When this is combined with local content and citations it will help to boost your rankings and traffoc.

About Michelle Symonds

Established as an SEO specialist since 2009, following a career as a software engineer in the oil industry and investment banking. Michelle draws on her IT and web development experience to develop best-practice processes for implementing successful SEO strategies. Her pro-active approach to SEO enables organisations to raise their online profile and reach new audiences, both nationally and internationally. She has a wealth of cross-industry experience from startups to Fortune 500 companies .

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