Last Updated on 17 October 2020 by Lukasz Zelezny
Local searches are on the rise. According to HubSpot, they account for roughly half of all searches performed on Google. As more users turn to Google for local information, you can’t ignore local search engine optimization (SEO) as a marketing tactic. A successful local SEO campaign will help your business rank higher for online searches performed in and around the geographic region in which it operates.
Even if your business caters to local customers, though, it may not have a physical address. Not all local businesses have a brick-and-mortar storefront where they sell their products or services. Some local businesses operate remotely by visiting customers at their respective home or business. If your local business falls under this category, you are probably wondering if local SEO is possible.
The Role of a Physical Address in Local SEO
Search engines evaluate local businesses’ addresses to determine the geographic region or regions for which they should rank. Local searches involve a user looking for information about a business in a geographic region. To provide users with relevant results, search engines must identify where local businesses operate.
A physical address shows search engines your local business’s base of operations. If it has an Atlanta-based address, search engines may rank it higher for online searches performed in and around the Peach State’s capital. If it has a Chicago-based address, they may rank your local business higher for searches performed in and around the Windy City.
While having a physical address can certainly help with local SEO, it’s not a requirement. There are other ways to tell search engines which geographic region is most relevant to your local business’s operations.
Set Up a Service-Area Business on GMB
You can use Google My Business (GMB) to help your local business rank higher for the geographic region in which it operates. It’s a common misconception that all businesses must have a physical address to obtain a GMB listing. Google does, in fact, prohibit online businesses from creating GMB listings, but it still allows service-area businesses to create them without a physical address. Service-area businesses are local businesses that sell their services remotely and not from a brick-and-mortar storefront.
Examples of service-area businesses include:
- Office cleaning
- Window cleaning
- Home inspection
- Dog walking
- Remote car detailing
- Pest control
- Heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC)
- Garage door repairs
When creating a GMB listing at business.google.com, Google will ask if you want to add a location that customers can visit. Since your local business doesn’t have a physical address, you’ll need to choose “No” for this option. Assuming you have a service-area business, you can then enter the geographic regions, known as service areas, in which your local business operates on the next screen. Google allows for a maximum of 20 service areas per business.
You’ll still need to verify your GMB listing with a physical address. However, you can use your home address for verification. The address you specify when verifying your GMB listing will be private, so only Google will see it.
Get Listed in Bing Places for Businesses
Bing offers a similar listing service for local businesses. Known as Bing Places for Business, you can use it to increase your local business’s rankings on Bing. Bing may not generate as much traffic as Google, but it’s still a free source of exposure that can lead to more customers.
The process for creating a Bing Places listing is similar to that of a GMB listing. At bingplaces.com, you’ll need to add your local business, complete your profile and then verify your Bing Places listing.
Like GMB, Bing Places doesn’t require service-area businesses to have a physical address. You’ll have to enter an address when verifying your Bing Places, but you can use your home address. In the Bing Places dashboard, click the option labeled “Hide address from the search results.” Both GMB and Bing Places allow service-area businesses to use a home address for verification.
Create Local Citations Without an Address
Local citations are a critical element of an effective local SEO campaign. These structured online listings contain information related to a local business. Local citations are found on web-based directories, which consumers use to find local businesses. Some web-based directories allow consumers to rate and review local businesses as well. Regardless, they provide consumers with information about local businesses in the form of local citations.
Local citations often follow a structured format. You can’t add just any information when creating them. Rather, you’ll have to follow the directory’s guidelines by adding specific information about your local business. Failure to follow the rules will prevent your local citations from showing. Fortunately, many directories allow businesses to create local citations without a physical address.
Foursquare, for instance, doesn’t require businesses to have a physical address. You can create a local citation on Foursquare by entering your local business’s name and category, followed by pinning the geographic region in which it operates on a map. Other directories that don’t require a physical address include Yelp, Yellowbook, MerchantCircle, Superpages and Yellowpages.
Optimize Website With Local Content
Including local content on your business’s website will lead to greater local SEO success. Local content consists of articles, blog posts, guides and other forms of digital content that emphasize one or more geographic regions.
You don’t have to mention an address when creating local content. Instead, you can mention the cities and counties where your business serves customers. Local businesses that serve customers in multiple cities and counties often create a separate page of local content for each of these geographic regions. With local content such as this, search engines can see which geographic regions your local business should rank for.
A physical address isn’t a requirement for local SEO. You can convey which geographic regions are relevant to your local business’s operations through other means. If your local business sells services remotely, consider setting up a GMB listing and a Bing Places listing as a service-area business. Along with local citations and local content, it will drive higher rankings for your local business.