Last Updated on October 3, 2022 by SERP Kingz
One of the eighty thousand or so adjustments Google has made to its search engine in recent years has been the introduction of Google My Business pages (to replace “Google Places”)—and with it, local search.
Google’s “local search” is designed to give users more relevant, localized results when they search for certain keywords—to help them find businesses that are actually located near them, rather than businesses that are simply optimizing their website for keywords.
We’ve all seen those spammy results that came up in the past when we searched for some type of service near us—businesses that have nothing to do with our location, but have just stuffed their website with keywords in order to rank higher in organic search.
But the trouble is, many businesses obviously have real, legitimate reasons to try to reach out to a larger audience than just their immediate vicinity.
Depending on what they do, they may want to rank for keywords that will bring them customers from all over the city, the county, the state, or even the country.
And Google’s “service area”-based business listings don’t really offer a great solution for businesses that want to rank in search in these other locations.
In fact, according to Google themselves, local search isn’t affected by a company’s service area at all. It’s based purely on the physical address.
So the question is, can a business rank in local search for locations other than the area immediately around their physical address?
The answer is… sort of.
But I’ll warn you now: It probably won’t be easy.
Google’s local search is all about giving users the most relevant results based on their location—at least in theory that’s how it works.
Let’s say a fisherman’s searching for a tackle shop while they’re in Steinhatchee. Google is going to try to determine their location based on their IP address or GPS location, and find tackle shops that are near them. It’s not going to show them a shop in say, Cedar Key or Crystal River—even if that’s where they’re going to fish.
You’re down in The Keys, and you want to find a good pizza place. (I know, but stick with me here. You can’t eat hogfish every night.)
So, you Google “pizza” on your phone. Once again, Google’s going to base its results on your phone’s location, and show you the pizzerias that are closest to you—like Dominos. And Papa Johns. But because of that, you actually might miss out on some great local-ish pizza places up the highway, like Enrico’s.
This is all just hypothetical of course—you can obviously eat hogfish every night. The point is that with local search, businesses need to be aware of how Google is determining location.
And as you can see, this is where things can get a little “tricky” for businesses that want to rank in local search for other locations.
But there are a few things you can do to try to get in front of people in other locations.
As it stands at the time of this article, there are a couple ways to go about this.
Method #1: Actually Establish a Presence There
The first way is to actually establish a physical office/address in the new location(s) and service area(s) you wish to target.
You can then add that location to your existing Google My Business (GMB) listing.
Now, that’s probably not what you want to hear. So, the second way is:
Method #2: Focus on Organic Search for Those Areas
You can create content for the other locations you’d like to show up for. Now this won’t help you rank in “local search,” but it will help you rank organically for the other areas you’re targeting.
To do this, you’ll need to add content to your website that is specific to each location/service area. This can be in the form of blog posts, pages, etc.
For example, let’s say you’re a boat rental company headquartered in St. Petersburg, FL. But you’d also like to reach people looking to rent a boat in Tampa, Sarasota, Clearwater, and so on.
You could create content and optimize it for Tampa. Then you could write another post and optimize it for Sarasota. And so on and so forth.
This would help your website rank organically for searches related to boating in these other areas. And while it’s not technically “local search,” it will still get you in front of your target audience.
Of course, this takes a lot more work than simply adding a new location to your GMB listing. But it’s the only way to go about it if you don’t have a physical presence in the other areas you’re targeting.
And trust us—Google will know.
Don’t even think about trying to game local search by renting a P.O. Box, a mailbox with a “street address,” or even a virtual office in one of those other locations you want to show up in. We’ve seen it all before—and Google will catch on eventually. And they come down hard on anyone they catch trying to pull a fast one on them. Your GMB listing and website might feel the effects for a very long time.
What you could do is try to find a short-term rental or lease in the other areas you’re targeting to test the waters. This could be an office in a co-working space or something similar—you might even talk to the people in your network and see if anyone would allow you to use a room or suite in their location.
This will give you an actual physical presence in the area you wish to expand without having to invest in infrastructure, staff, etc. there right away—and it will allow you to add those legitimate location addresses to your GMB listing—and thus appear in local search.
Just make sure it’s a true business address where you can not only receive mail, but actually conduct business when needed. Google’s been wise to the mailbox “office” thing for years now.
This is really the only way you can show Google that you have a physical presence in another city or town. And it’s the only way you’re going to be able to rank in “local search” in a second area away from your primary location.
Of course, if you’re a large enterprise-level company with multiple satellite offices around the state, country, or world, this process is a bit different. You can (and should) create separate GMB listings for each location.
But if you’re a small- to medium-sized business with one primary location and you’re looking to show up in local search for areas where you don’t have a physical location, this is the process you’ll need to follow. And it involves establishing a physical presence in those other areas.
For a lot of small businesses, this isn’t necessarily a feasible solution.
Which is why it’d generally be far more recommended to create content optimized for the other areas you’re targeting and show up for organic searches. You can also run PPC ads on Google or social media and target these locations that way.
Just remember—if you want to show up in Google’s “local search” for multiple locations, you need to have some kind of physical presence in those locations. Even if it’s just a room in a co-working space, or a closet suite in your buddy’s office.
Google is getting better and better at sniffing out fake locations. So don’t try to cheat the GMB/local search system. It’s not just playing with fire, it’s practically begging Google to come and torch your whole operation.
Those Google penalties can last a long time—and can potentially last indefinitely.
So, if your company doesn’t yet have the resources to establish a physical presence in another area, your best bet is to:
- Focus on local search around your existing location.
- Focus on organic and paid traffic for the other locations you’d like to reach.
Even if you don’t technically rank in “local search” for those other areas, doing these things will help you get in front of your target audience in those locations. And that’s the important thing, right?
If you need help with any of this, reach out to us at The King of Search. We can help your business with everything from local SEO, to technical SEO, to developing a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. We’re here to help you stay on Google’s good side—and get you in front of your target audience, no matter where they are.