Hide Your Address By Setting Up Your GMB Listing As A Service Area Business

Even Without an Office or Storefront, a GMB Profile Can Benefit Your Business

Bob, Jesse and Sue answer listener questions about using your Google Business Profile listing as a service area business. Do you have a business that doesn’t have a storefront or office space, but instead services an area? Listing your business as a service area business has tremendous advantages, but how do you get verified with Google without publicly listing a residential address? This episode will help you understand how to set up and use a service area business Google My Business profile!

Got a question for the team? Let us know! Whether you’re a client or a first time listener, we love to help folks out. Visit us at localseotactics.com/questions to let us know!

Thanks for checking us out, and enjoy the show.

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What you’ll learn

  • The basics of what being a service area business means.
  • Why some businesses may want to set up as a service area business.
  • How to set up your GMB to hide your physical address.

Transcript For Hide Your Address by Setting Up Your GMB Listing as a Service Area Business – 123;

Caleb Baumgartner: Welcome to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I am producer Caleb Baumgartner, and in this episode, Sue, Bob, and Jesse discuss service area businesses for Google My Business. Are you a business owner who operates without an office or storefront, but still want to set up a Google My Business profile to improve the online presence of your business? This episode will help you understand how to accomplish that with a GMB profile that hides your home address while allowing you to rank locally for your profession.

Got questions for the team? Visit us at localseotactics.com/questions, and let us know. Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy the show.

Jesse Dolan: Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I’m your host, Jesse Dolan, here with Bob Brennan and Sue Ginsburg again here this week. We’re going to bring some insights to you based off some questions that have been submitted. So Sue, start us off with where you’re virtually at here today and what we’re going to be talking about.

Sue Ginsburg: Maybe you can start calling me Carmen San Diego. So then you can say, where in the world is Carmen San Diego? Today, coming to you virtually from Brisbane, Australia, someplace new. It’s really nice to be here. It’s another hemisphere, so we’re in winter now, but winter’s not so bad here because it’s Australia.

Jesse Dolan: Okay, hold on. Sue, you’re taking the virtual thing too far. You’re talking like you’re there now.

Sue Ginsburg: I am. Yes. Why am I here? I am coming in from Brisbane because we had a listener ask a really good question that has been asked us before by clients. And Jesse, yesterday on the webinar that we gave, we were hit with this question in every variety, every variation of it. So the question is, what happens when you register your business at a home address and clients don’t need to go to your home address, as you go to them or your products go to them? You don’t really need, want them to know where you live, even though your business is registered at home. What address do you use on your website and other accounts for Google’s sake? So I will say thank you from Brisbane. Great question.

The quote of the day to go along with this is, “Play by the rules, but be ferocious.” And that is Phil Knight of Nike. Know what the rules are, and know what’s right for you, which I like that.

What story I’m going to tell today actually encompasses a lot of different stories. This question comes up. It comes up from clients, comes up from many people who either were already working from home, but especially during COVID, more people were sent home and set up their home office and maybe even found they liked it and aren’t or didn’t go back into the office. So it’s a great question. Nobody wants customers knocking on their door, showing up unexpectedly, or even knowing what their address is.

So yeah, really, really good question. And trivial tidbit, Dropbox, with their experience during COVID, saw it working so well with their employees as remote workers, they’re giving up their offices and more of those people will now be staying working at home. And just to add frosting to that cake, instead of the money going towards office leases, they pay their employees’ weekly grocery bills, no questions asked. How would you like that? How’s that for employee retention?

So anyway, not an uncommon question. I think we’re going to be seeing more of this as more businesses move both online and into remote working, home officing, whatever. So for all those businesses that are working from a, I’ll say a residential address instead of a separate office address, we feel your pain. We feel your question. We feel your uncertainty. We’re not recommending that you want your customers to come know where you are and trick or treat to your house, whatever. But it’s a really good question, and one that I’m sure many people have.

Business owners want to make the right decision for their employees, for their business, and right now that seems to be more and more coming into, sure, I’ll work from home. You can work from home. Now, what are the ramifications of that, being, what do I do for my online presence? So we will ask you two experts on this, hear what you have to say, and help out a lot of business owners who are in this situation and maybe even some who have been thinking about it and whose lease is coming up, or has come up, and thinking about, okay, want to keep my presence online nice and strong. What does that mean if I don’t have the official office space anymore? So what can you two business owners with home offices tell us about that?

Jesse Dolan: I’ll start off, Bob. I think, Sue, there’s another layer to weave in there, too, is the people who maybe are working in a corporate job, who’ve been working remote, and if corporate is like, all right, we’re all coming back into the office now, that person has been like, hey, I like this balance I have in my life. I like skipping the commute, or just things like that. And if they were on the fence before about where their career path was going, maybe they’re saying, you know what, let me figure out something that allows me to still have this type of lifestyle, and starting a new business, right?

So I think in the different use scenarios you threw out there, it’s more of existing businesses switching to be remote or letting their lease expire and switching. But then I think there’s also a lot of startups that are going to be coming, with people getting side hustles or just completely switching career paths. And they all do boil down to the same thing, is how can you basically gain more presence online or not lose your presence, but yet hide your address? Because what you’re talking about here specifically, to kind of tee it up, is there’s people who don’t want their address shown, but are still looking for that local SEO relevancy.

So yeah, definitely something that’s going to be a topic here over the next year. Here we are in August. Of course, we’ve got the Delta variant kind of running through and everybody’s getting back to where we were before for COVID feelings and questioning things. Hopefully we’re not going to see a lot of economic shutdown like we did before, but who knows? I mean, nobody has a crystal ball nowadays to know how all these things are going. And a lot of this stuff is really shaken up.

Short answer here, or getting back to the answer, I should say. None of my answers are ever short. But you definitely can hide your address on Google My Business. And I think there’s going to be two parts to it here we’ll talk about. One is the Google My Business side and then one is your other marketing, your website. So within Google My Business, you can be what’s called a service area business. Bob, I don’t think we’ll walk through the details on maybe what that is or how to set it up. I think we’ve got plenty of other podcasts. We’ll have Caleb link to those in the show notes here for everybody, for how to set up a service area business, how to optimize service area business, things like that, on our previous episodes.

But the first things first, if you’re listening, is yeah, you can get on Google My Business and hide your address from the public. Or if you’re already on Google My Business, you can change to be a service area business and hide your address. Now, what that means is a service area business is you’re not doing a service or a product or a business where people come to you. It’s where you go to them. That’s the idea. You can have what they call a storefront in Google My Business, which your address is then shown because the intent is that clients and customers come to you.

The example we always use is an auto repair shop. The standard convention is that if you’re an auto repair shop, your customers are driving their vehicles to you for repair. Google knows that an auto repair shop is going to be a storefront. And technically, could you switch over to be a service area business? Maybe yeah, but your rankings are going to suffer because the other auto repair shops in town that do show their address, that are a storefront, that’s kind of the standard convention, and they’re going to outrank you.

If you’re not in that kind of a business and you’re, again, wanting to hide your address and that’s not going to hurt your business, then for sure, switch on over to service area business. You go into your GMB and you basically, I forget the exact phrase, but you go in there under the info tab and you hide your address or clear your address. When you do that, you then have to establish what area do you service? And you can pick states or counties or cities. You basically define your radius of service. Actually, I shouldn’t say radius. You pick the zone. A couple of years back, you literally would say, you know, 20 miles around X point on the map type of a radius. So I don’t want to mislead anybody there with a little clarification.

Now, when you do that, that doesn’t mean you’re going to show up, to be clear to everybody. You’re not going to show up in all those towns, just because you picked those for your service area. What that does mean is when Google shows you on a map, if somebody is looking at your GMB, it’ll literally overlay like a polygon of what you’ve defined for your cities and show everybody where you serve. And yeah, it’s going to hide your address on GMB. I think everybody should know that Google still knows your address. There’s no magic trick for being a service area business that you can set up a GMB without an address. You do have to have a physical address to get your GMB set up and get verified.

If you’re moving, like in one of your scenarios, Sue, if somebody is letting their lease go and they’re going to work out of their home now, if your GMB is set up at your location where you had the lease, at that address, you now have to move your GMB to your home address, reverify that address with a postcard, and set it up then as a service area to hide your address. If you’re in the situation where you’re starting this up for the first time, you don’t have a GMB and you’re going to set it up, you still have to input your address where that postcard is going to come for verification. The public won’t see it, but you do have to have an address and submit that to Google to get verified, just to be clear for everybody. Hopefully that makes sense.

And the last part that I would offer up is what to do on your website. In this context, we’re talking local SEO, right? This is Local SEO Tactics. So if you’re an auto repair shop in Minneapolis, actually a horrible example for a service area here. If you’re a plumber in Minneapolis, and people are not coming to your house and you’re hiding your address and you go out to them, you’re still going to be having a website, right? Not just your GMB, but also a website. And you want that website also to be found when people are looking for a plumber in Minneapolis or what have you.

So you still want to try to leverage geographic references on your website so Google knows, like this is the website for this company. They’re a plumber. Here’s the products and services that they provide. And then what geographic area are they operating in? You want to input the city and the state and the zip code on your website, on your webpage. I would still encourage you, if you’re hiding your address in your GMB, I would still encourage you to set up your website in the same kind of format and convention that you would normally if you had an address. Like, have a contact page, or maybe in your footer you have your phone number, email address, and your physical address. Display all that like you normally would, but where you have your physical address, just do city, state, and zip. Don’t do the street address. Let them know you’re in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55404 for the zip code.

That’s going to provide that context to Google. They’re going to be able to assimilate that. They’re going to understand now you’re a plumber. You’re in Minneapolis. You’re serving Minneapolis. And then definitely talking about when you set up your service area in Google, again, you’re defining certain counties or certain cities that you service, whatever. Mention those on your website, too, and tie that stuff together. If you’re inputting this information for a geographic reference to Google through the GMB, put that same information on your website so they … Google, when I say they, so Google sees it in both spots and kind of really completes that loop.

And then the last bit I would say is put a link to your GMB on your website. We recommend that to everybody anyways. Always link out to your GMB. Usually people like to do that if you’re a storefront, so people can do driving directions or find you. In this case, that’s not true. You don’t want to link to your GMB for map purposes, but we do want to do it still just for tying all that together for Google. Your GMB is going to link to your website. You want your website linking to your GMB just to kind of close that loop there. So yeah, I think you can be successful. No, I shouldn’t say that. Bob, we know you can be successful as a service area business, getting ranked. So don’t be intimidated by that. Hide your street address. What’s your city, what’s your state, what’s your zip code, and kind of those related areas? And you should be just fine if you adhere to that.

Sue Ginsburg: If you hide your address, would you still show up if somebody put in, plumber near me?

Jesse Dolan: Google still understands where you’re at. So again, if that plumber is in Minneapolis and if the searcher is in Minneapolis, I’m not saying that it’s guaranteed they’re going to rank, because who knows what the competition is, but yeah, again, Google still knows you’re in Minneapolis from where your business was registered. You’ve also identified in your service area selections that you service Minneapolis. And if you’re doing what we’ve talked about in your website, Google very much understands you’re in and/or serving Minneapolis. And yes, you should be able to show up for that near me search. Again, where you’re ranking and showing up, a lot of other factors at play there.

Bob Brennan: So yeah, let’s be clear on a couple things here real quick, just for maybe the uninitiated. Basically, let’s just take the term plumber, Minneapolis. If you do a service area, and you can correct me on this, Jess, but basically, if you’re going and competing against other plumbers that have storefronts or offices in Minneapolis, they’re more likely going to show up in the three pack, I would assume, versus a service area plumber in Minneapolis. Your GMB will be there, but it’ll be down, suppressed, you know, fourth, fifth, sixth, 20th position, for a major market like Minneapolis and a search term like Minneapolis.

Now take a suburb, perhaps, like Farmington or what have you, or Rosemont, or some of these other suburbs in the Minneapolis market, for instance, now you may show up in that three pack and in that near me search, where some of these in Farmington or Rosemont, plumber near me, even though you don’t have a specific address, Google knows you’re in that, let’s say Rosemont area, based on your zip code or what have you. They’ll put you in the three pack as long as there’s not a lot of competition. So as you get into those suburbs, in those near me situations, there’s a good chance you’re going to show up in that three pack.
If you’re looking to show up as a general term for plumbers in Dallas, or Minneapolis, or Denver, ain’t going to happen. But you might show up for Aurora or Cherry Hills, some suburbs of Denver. Okay, there’s a good shot you’re going to show up in those situations. The other side of that coin is buggy whip manufacturer, Minneapolis. Well, yeah. Such a niche service or what have you, you’re going to show up in a major market pretty easily.

So those are some of the dynamics to kind of understand, that for more sought after services, let’s say you have a realtor, Minneapolis, again, you’re probably not going to show up unless you’ve got corporate offices or some kind of storefront, but the realtor, given it’s a suburb, there’s a good chance you could show up.
Jesse Dolan: Which I think the thing you’re talking there really comes back to competition, right? Like the bigger the suburb, the more competitors, and then analyzing what they’re doing. And if it’s, again, the standard convention is most of these are storefront, you’re having more competitors, more storefronts, odds are, if there’s more competitors, some competitors in that mix are going to be more dominant and have established brands. With the Google local searches, proximity plays a part, but also does the prominence and the authority. And the bigger the market, the more competitors. Yeah, like you were saying, Bob, these are reasons where it’s going to be a little harder to crack that.

You get into the suburbs effectively where there’s less competition, and you can get in there. I think you bring up a great point there, Bob. If somebody is in Minneapolis and they’re like, this is where I’m at, I have to compete here, and yeah, these people in the three pack are pretty tough to beat, maybe just look at, do some keyword research. See what they’re showing up for. Like, we’re talking general plumbing terms, to your point, right? If you find out that they’re not showing up for toilet replacement or water heater replacement, or kind of more niche-y terms, what I would do then if you’re in that competitive market, like you’re saying with Minneapolis, maybe try to position yourself as not that general plumber then and go after those, again, where the fight isn’t.

You’re still in a highly competitive market, but try to find some terms and some niches where those big time competitors don’t seem to be getting the traction, and try to dominate in that area as a consolation for you. Over time, hopefully you can gain prominence and authority and start to creep in on those more general terms, those more competitive terms. Yeah, the more competitive marketplace you are, find those underserved niches and try to wiggle in there. If it’s a bigger market, there should still be enough search terms volume to make it worth your time. And you’ve got to play the card that you’re dealt. If you’re in Minneapolis, it is what it is.

Bob Brennan: Yeah, one other quick strategy. Hopefully this doesn’t drag this out too far. But basically, I worked for a guy and there was a bunch of us that were service people out in the field. And he, this was back when yellow pages was big, and he literally touted that he was in all these various suburbs, and separate phone numbers, which all led to the same number. So it was probably eight different suburbs that he touted he was in, in the yellow pages. And lo and behold, he’d get calls from these different suburbs. It’s a bit gray hat, possibly even black hat, but basically if you’re a realtor and your sister works for you once a week and she lives in a different suburb, you might want to register a GMB in that suburb. It’s just one more way to get out there.

Jesse Dolan: And definitely, like you said, it’s definitely for sure in that gray area, probably even black, according to Google’s technical terms, which are real, but like we always say, all is fair in love and marketing. If your competitors are doing this, don’t be afraid to explore it, but know that that’s built on a foundation of sand, right? At some point, that thing may go away, make hay while the sun shines, you know, insert metaphor here. But you’re absolutely right. Try to leverage that. If you’re just not showing up in that suburb and you can find a way to get a GMB in that suburb, that’s what you’re going to try to do. But yeah, just don’t count on that being there for forever. Eventually Google’s going to catch on, and that’s just the nature of it. Your primary location will still be fine, but those ones you’re talking might get zapped.

Bob Brennan: Well, and to that end, if that does end up being successful, to rent a legitimate office, and I mean a legitimate office, is $300 a month. Guess what? That’s what I do.

Jesse Dolan: Yeah, if all you need is a broom closet to have a real address, then find out that minimum viable office. I don’t know if that’s a new term we can coin here, but yeah, absolutely right. That’s that crawl, walk, run type deal. If it’s worth the ROI and if you’re getting the business, then you can level up. That’s a great idea. Great point.

Sue Ginsburg: What about the relation of location pages on your website for service areas? You mentioned make sure you list your service areas. You can be as broad as appropriate in that. What’s the relationship of those pages on your website to where you show up and what address you have, whether it’s hidden or not?

Jesse Dolan: Yeah. At the very least, kind of in a basic sense, you want to make sure you’re talking about these service areas, these cities, these suburbs, even the zip codes, on your website. Now without getting too deep into the weeds, it depends on the geographic areas, how big they are. On some of these, you want to have maybe individual pages, like just targeting Minneapolis. On some of these, maybe it’s more of the Minneapolis area and you’re listing some suburbs on that page.

At the end of the day, you definitely want to be communicating to Google information about these geographic areas that you serve. It’s really easy for us all to envision, you know, on my website that I have to have a page about general plumbing, a page about toilet repair, a page about leaky pipe repair. Because these are the services that I provide. But it’s usually pretty foreign as we engage with clients, that we tell them, let’s make some pages about the areas you serve, and there’s different ways to kind of phrase that up. But that’s something that people miss a lot, is talking about the geographic references, the areas that you serve, on your website.

Just like your services or your products you’re selling, the more featured it is, you’re going to want an individual page for that city. If they’re smaller, more ancillary, you can have a hodgepodge, a page that mentions multiple cities. Either way, if it’s on your website and you’re doing it properly, you’re communicating to Google that you are about or in these cities and drawing that reference and that relevance in. I would say that’s required to get traction with your website. Will that come back to your GMB and help your GMB rankings? Yes. It’s not as immediate or as guaranteed. That would be something that we’re doing for sure, directly aimed at the website, the natural rankings of the website.

And like we talked before, to really dominate an area you’re going to want to be in that three pack and in the top one or even two positions, naturally. People are going to see you in both of those positions. There’s that psychological impact where you kind of get that edification built in and you can dominate. So definitely need to do both sides of it.

Sue Ginsburg: Great. Well, one more twist on this, that in the webinar that we gave yesterday came up repeatedly. What if you don’t have a service area because you’re more of an online business? How important is it? And do you still want to make sure you have an address on your GMB and on your website?

Jesse Dolan: I think it’s a good question. Kind of reframing it in this case. Local SEO doesn’t matter to you then, right? You’re just kind of more of a national. In that case, I don’t think you need these location pages we’re talking. You don’t need to talk about all these different cities on your website. I would still leverage the GMB. If you’re setting up as a service area business, if you want to hide your address, still set up as a service area business. Pick your state or pick the whole country. Pick whatever your service area is.

Then on your website, again, ideally you’ve got to think about this from Google as a bot. It’s a program evaluating your website. What does a typical business have? What does a trusted business have? They have a location, they have an address, a mailing address or a headquarters address. They have a phone number. They have an email. If you can put those on your website, it’s not just something for local SEO to talk about the city. It’s also something to show to Google that you’re a legitimate business. Not that different than having a privacy policy page or a terms and conditions page, these standard elements on your website that show you’re a trusted business.

If you’re a business trying to do eCommerce, but you have no methods of contact, no phone number, no mailing address, I mean, that can look a little shady. So Google as a program can see those things and compare. If Bob and I have competitive businesses, if I have an address listed on mine and a contact page and he doesn’t, that’s an easy indication for Google to maybe trust me a little bit more, and thus show me in the results. So I think as a business, if the local SEO part doesn’t matter to you, then it’s more about your legitimacy and authority as a business and your trust, by showing your address. And if you can set up your GMB showing your address, great, as well. I wouldn’t do it to expect people to roll in, but just more to have your address out there, being transparent.

And I know we’ve had questions, Sue, about, do I even need a GMB if I’m not local? Yes. Grab your GMB, own your GMB, because that can also be your knowledge panel. If somebody does a brand search for your business, not only are you going to show up in the natural results, that whole right-hand column now is going to be your business and showcasing your photos and other information. And there’s no good reason not to do it. It’s not going to be some giant magic trick that’s going to catapult you to national SEO success around the country. But it definitely is, again, even if it’s small, it’s one more thing you’re doing through a Google product within the Google database to show them who you are, what you’re doing, and be more legitimate.

And nowadays, those are the things Google is looking for. They’re not just looking for keyword stuffed pages. They’re looking at, is this a trusted company? Is this a reputable company? Is this a real company? And we have to think about how can we show the bot that that’s true. Because we can’t talk with Google. They’re not going to interview us and get confidence. You just, what information can we put out there that would be a trusted business? So I think GMB is one, and then address on your website is one. And same thing, if you can’t put your street address, if you want to hide that, same thing, put your city, state, zip, put something in there. It’s going to be better than nothing.

Sue Ginsburg: Well, and I tell clients, I strongly believe that your GMB establishes the foundation for your online presence. You have to have it.

Jesse Dolan: There’s no reason not to. It’s easy and it’s free.

Bob Brennan: Yep.

Sue Ginsburg: Great. Bob, anything else you want to add?

Bob Brennan: No, I mean, I would say anybody over the age of probably 35 doesn’t have a clue what GMB is, doesn’t even understand what reviews are, unfortunately. So I mean, if you fit that demographic, you need to dig into this stuff and get up to speed on it because GMBs are probably 50 to 70% of the sources for calls and leads in my opinion.

Sue Ginsburg: At least.

Jesse Dolan: Yep. Yeah. It’s probably, of any, what is this episode? I think this is going to be, I don’t know, somewhere in the 120s, our episode. I bet you we’ve got a good 20 episodes that are just on GMB-related things. So it’s a huge part of any online strategy.

Sue Ginsburg: That’s great. Okay, well thank you for that. And I will say if you remember one thing and one thing only, you can have your home address or your home office address on your GMB for Google to see and not for the public to see, You have to remember, I say this again and again, any business, any online business really has two audiences. One is your visitor, your prospect, your customer, your lead. The other is Google. Sometimes we do things for one more than the other, or in this case, we’re doing it for both.

You can have a presence online with local relevancy or not, and not have your address show online. And that’s what you want. So back to the quote of the day, Phil Knight. “Play by the rules, but be ferocious.” Just do it, get your address on your GMB, hide it if you want, but have it up there so Google knows where you are.

Jesse Dolan: Yep. I think it’s a good topic. Hopefully it helped somebody out there that’s listening. I know, like you said, Sue, we get asked this question a lot when we’re doing the webinars or engaging with people. So I’m pretty sure this has resonated with some of you out there.

If you’ve got a question that you’d like us to answer on the show, go on out to localseotactics.com. Scroll down to the bottom, click on the button for submit a question. And we’d love to hear from you. We’ll read it on the show, give you a shout out. And if you call in, we’re going to send you off one of our free Intrycks t-shirts and we’ll play the audio on the show. Always looking for great questions. We’ve got a lot of them that come in and we use them once a week on the episodes here with Sue and dig into them.

So if you’ve been thinking about it for a while, like you want to ask something but you’ve been shy or whatever it is, just reach out to us, localseotactics.com. We’d love to hear from you. All right, well, good topic for this week. Thanks for bringing it up, Sue. Good input, Bob. And for everybody else, we’ll catch you on the next episode. Take care.

Bob Brennan: Bye.

Sue Ginsburg: See you.

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