Local SEO without a Local Address
By: Daniel Jeffers
Once upon a time there was something suspicious about a business that had no real address. But now, if you look for a graphic designer or programmer to do some freelance work, you expect to meet in a coffee shop. People with their own businesses often work out of public spaces, or maybe at home. But you don’t want to invite a string of clients into your house, or publish your address everywhere.
Of course everyone can still find you online, right? Maybe, but now more and more people looking for certain kinds of businesses, services, or products are looking for something nearby, and Google is giving them results based on location. Getting into this results requires some good local SEO. But, if you search for articles on how to do local SEO, you are going to find that the first three most important things to do, in varying order, are:
- Make sure that your Google My Place (GMP) listing has accurate information and is verified.
- Get plenty of citations from local directories using consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP) information.
- Provide plenty of contact information on your website, including NAP on every page.
All three steps require you to have, and use, an address. Some people have tried to get around this with a virtual address or a P.O. Box, but Google has stated that it does not consider either solution valid.
Another approach was to use Regus type shared office spaces, often little more than a mailbox and occasional conference room. But in 2016, a Google update apparently penalized businesses using this method by only showing one business for any particular location in the higher positions.
So what can you do?
Well, you can at least address the Google My Place issue by listing your business as a Service Area Business. https://support.google.com/business/answer/3038163
This allows you to establish a local presence without publishing your home address. You will need to go through more verification steps, however.
You can also stock up on some of the ranking factors that don’t include NAP information. One of the most prominent is to get a lot of reviews that mention the area. Another is to include a lot of local oriented content on your website.
But it still is unclear if service area businesses can compete against those with published NAP information for the coveted top three positions, the ones that appear under the map. So local businesses without addresses may need to spend more on paid search and social advertising as well as focusing more on organic search.