Service Area GMB Listings - Does It Matter Which Order You List Your Service Areas?

Defining Your GMB Service Area Listing is Important, But Does it Matter For SEO?

In this episode, our resident Client Success Specialist, Sue Ginsburg, brings us a great listener question from across the pond regarding defining your service area listing order in Google My Business. Jesse and Bob dive into best practices for defining your GMB service area listing, how your listings represent your business, and more.

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What you’ll learn

  • GMB uses standard geographic measurements (county, state, city) to allow you to define your service area.
  • How you list your service areas does not necessarily affect your SEO.
  • Be truly representational of your service area. Don’t expand your zone beyond where you serve!
  • Pick bigger cities to define your boundary to help your SEO.

Here is the Transcript for Episode 82

Caleb Baumgartner: Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I am Producer, Caleb Baumgartner, here today to deliver another great episode.

Today our resident Client Success Specialist, Sue Ginsburg, brings Bob and Jesse a question all the way from Italy. If you ever Google My Business, but aren’t sure how to best define your service area, this episode will help you better understand the service area’s purpose, and how to put it to use for your business. Thanks for checking us out 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 in this episode again with Bob Brennan and Sue Ginsburg.

Sue, it’s pretty colorful back there behind you. Where are we at virtually today?

Sue Ginsburg: Today we are virtually at Chinque Terre, Italy, someplace that’s on my bucket list. Haven’t been there, but would love to go to soon, and that is tied into the where of the location of the topic we’re going to be talking about today.

Jesse Dolan: All right, before we jump into that topic, so that’s like a legit picture? That’s not a representation or painting, whatever, because that looks fantastic. I want to just bask in the sun and drink wine looking at that background there.

Sue Ginsburg: I’ll go there with you.

Jesse Dolan: I can see why that’s a bucket list, a bucket list item right there. So, and I guess it’s a good reminder visually too. If you’re listening to this, check this out on YouTube as well, you can kind of see what we’re talking about. We’re doing all this via Zoom, so Sue’s kind of playing with the background image that she’s using virtually to tie into each episode. So we are in, or Sue is in Italy today with this one. So I guess setting that up, Sue, why don’t you go ahead and kick us off what we’re talking about.

Sue Ginsburg: Sounds great. Today what we are going to be talking about is a question that came in from a listener and a listener who wrote in from Italy and tells us that she listens to the podcast while walking her dog in Italy. So thank you Kara, for the opportunity to have this unbelievable background. I don’t know if this is the part of Italy you’re in, but it’s the part of Italy that I want to be in, so thank you for the opportunity to have Chinque Terre as my background.

Jesse Dolan: Nice.

Sue Ginsburg: So the intention of today’s episode is to help listeners understand how you can get SEO working harder for you. The issue that gets in the way for most people, is people don’t know how much it can help you, how much it can help your business. They don’t know what to do, they don’t know who to ask and they don’t really want to do it. So with all these question marks popping up, they just move on to something that they do know what to do. And the way to get around that is we plan on giving you enough information so you can decide if you want to do it yourself, do it yourself, DIY, hire someone to do it for you or a hybrid of that. And why would you want to do that? What’s the result that you get? Ranking higher in searches, getting found online, more qualified leads online and more business with your ideal customer, or more business from your clients.

So that’s the goal and the outline for today. And the question that Kara asked us and wrote in to ask us last fall is, does it make a difference, the order of the local areas serviced in your Google My Business? Does it make a difference what order you put in the local areas that you service? And I think this is a great question because anybody who services more than just one area, this is relevant for them. And I’ll mention just a brief story. We’re working with a client right now, a real estate group who buys and sells residential homes. They’re based in Peoria, Illinois, but they also service the greater area of Peoria, Illinois, if you will, and this exact question came up. So I’ll pop that to you, Jesse, does it make a difference in what order you list your local service areas on your GMB?

Jesse Dolan: I can feel that Bob, unless you want to chime in, just holler. So first I’ll start with a few bits of clarity for everybody. So like you’re saying, Sue, you mentioned that right there at the end, this is definitely a question about your Google My Business listing, and as she’s asking the order that you put them in may or may not have some significance, I’ll get into that in just a minute, but first to set the stage for everybody. What we’re talking about is selecting those geographic areas that you want to tell Google that you service your customers in. It’s different than what you want, like for your reach to be found in. We’ve done a couple episodes on this, but a service area business is a specific type of listing within your Google My Business. You can set yourself up as a storefront, meaning people come to you to do business, like a store, or you can be a service area business, which means you go to your client. They don’t come to your storefront, right?

If you’re setting yourself up as a service area business in Google My Business, it’s going to hide your address. So your clients and people searching online, customers, they won’t see your address when you show up in the map pack, they will just see kind of more of a polygon or an outline of these areas that you’re going to input. Google kind of connects them together and gives an area that you service. Third option is that you can be a hybrid, you can be both. You, can say, yeah, clients come to me, but then I also service them onsite at their location. And I think that’s an important distinction to make right on the front side, because this isn’t where I want to show up, how I want to be represented in rankings and I want to be found across town, but then make them drive to me. That’s not what service area business is.

So with that, what we’re trying to do here is define to end users as well, but specifically Google, where do you perform those services? I forget the exact number, but there is a finite number of locations that you can put in there for Google My Business to define your service area. You can use, I believe at this time, still zip codes for the US at least, right. I’m talking US zip codes. Other countries, similar concept, you know, might not call it a zip code though, of course. Also, you know, city, state, again in the US, County and things like that. So any, you know, standard geographical reference, Google My Business should allow you to plug that in and define that as one of your points that you’re going to develop this polygon, this outline.

The order that you put them in, no, it doesn’t have a significance as confirmed by anybody in SEO, at least as of the time of this recording. This is always changing, we’re always discovering new things with Google. But Bob and I have talked about this with the Google My Business categories, which is a separate topic, but kind of the same concept here, in that maybe there is or maybe there isn’t a value in that order. We still approach it like there is, just in case, because even if there isn’t now today, there could be tomorrow or the next day, Google is always changing. Their algorithm are always clarifying statements about these kinds of things. So if you have a spot in your Google My Business where you’re just allowed to input multiple sets of data or multiple fields, we always say approach it like it does matter, because if it does then good, you’re in good shape.

If it doesn’t, well, you’re still putting the list in there either way, right? So you might as well err on the side of it mattering. Now, with this kind of one more aside to kind of put on there, I’d tell you is don’t be too egregious with your service area, try to be really representational on where you really do focus. Again, this is from an SEO standpoint, that’s attractive for us to think about, well, I could just list everything within a hundred miles. If that’s not actually where you do business, you know, don’t do that, be accurate. If you only really drive out 30 miles or 30 kilometers, if you’re in Italy, be accurate to that. Kind of get your head around that zone and along the same lines of is it important to put the priority, I would throw out there kind of another bit on this is the importance of what you are choosing.

If you had, you know, again, let’s just say it’s a 30 mile or 30 kilometer circle around your business you wanted to draw and you have to pick certain cities to kind of develop that boundary, pick the biggest cities. You know, pick the important cities. Pick whatever people are commonly using to type in, because not only when you input your service area are you picking the geographic locations that define that boundary, you know, if let’s just say Peoria, Illinois, for your story there, Sue, choosing that as a city, you’re actually also inputting that as a city that you service in, right? You’re inputting that as a field to Google My Business. Again, does it matter if you want to use that zip code versus that County versus Peoria or even a suburb that’s just next to Peoria? It’s still going to draw the same map for your boundaries, but to specifically call out Peoria as a city that you service. I do think there is some value there as well.

So I know Kara didn’t exactly ask that bit of it, but it is still all related to you choosing your geographic area for your Google My Business service area business. So, dang, I hope that answers your question, Kara? I know Kara and I actually traded some emails on that right away too when she emailed that in. I offered her a free T-shirt, which everybody gets for doing this, but being that she’s in Italy, and I think she had said something about their local post is like unreliable, she’s like don’t even bother sending it, it’s probably going to get lost anyways. But definitely appreciate the question submission there.

Sue Ginsburg: Jesse, let me ask you a tangential question to that. From the client’s perspective, how do you know when you can put the surrounding areas as service areas in one location and when you need to set up two GMBs because you have two separate locations?

Jesse Dolan: Yeah, I guess the simplest answer on that is if you have two different addresses that you’re servicing out of, really, just to be black and white for Google’s terms of service, you’re only supposed to set up a GMB if you’re operating out of that address. And you shouldn’t grab an address from somebody else just for the purpose of popping up another GMB there. So interpret that however you want, if you want to be showing up in an area that’s a hundred miles or a hundred kilometers away, or somehow further across town where your current Google My Business just isn’t going to reach there, then yeah, setting up a second location is something that you need to look at. Like I said, Google’s terms of services are pretty black and white, but hey, you do a search for almost any service in any major market, you’re going to see people playing in that gray area, you know, all over the place using the cousin’s address or, you know, whatever.

Bob Brennan: That’s where I live.

Jesse Dolan: In the gray area.

Bob Brennan: I live in gray, and just to kind of stretch that a little bit, Jess, is okay if you’re a plumber and one of your guys lives in a nearby city, then technically he’s, you know, nobody goes to a plumber, right? It’s a service.

Jesse Dolan: That’s true.

Bob Brennan: And if you can get more cred by having, you know, using Bubba’s address out of a nearby city, again, I mean, to me, it’s a gray area. Now Google may say, no, you need to have a business license for this address and everything else, so you need to figure that out. But that being said, life isn’t black and white and if you can live in the gray area and thrive in the gray area, I think, you know, that’s where you need to be my.

Jesse Dolan: Yep.

Bob Brennan: That’s just my two cents.

Jesse Dolan: And like I was saying Bob, everybody. I shouldn’t be that broad, but that happens out there all the time. And just be aware if you do that, which you may have to do that to play the game, right. I mean, all’s fair in love and business, you know, to a sense, right? But just be aware if you do that, that Google My Business may be living on borrowed time. You know, if it is in violation and it gets called out, you might lose it.

Bob Brennan: Right.

Jesse Dolan: And just understand that that’s going to be part of playing in the gray, right. So it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or should, it just, you know, just to be aware.

Bob Brennan: Yeah, don’t set up your kid’s college fund on that GMB.

Jesse Dolan: Right.

All right, so hopefully that answers everything there pretty good. Again, thanks for Kara to submitting that question. Everybody else, if you’re liking this format with Sue, we’re definitely going to start getting to more of the question and answer from the audience questions and we have saved up, queued up for this. We’re always looking for more, so if you’ve got a question or a challenge you’re just looking for some advice on, we’d like to answer that for you. Go to, bottom left corner, submit a question. You can just send it in via text form, and we’ll read it on the show and answer it for you.
Even better though, we’d love for you to call into our voicemail system and just leave an audio recording of that, that we can also play on the show. If you do do that, then we are going to send you a T-shirt, unless you like Kara and refuse it because you don’t trust your local post delivery, but we got that out there for you. So, bottom left corner, submit a question, and let us know what you want us to answer, we would love to do that.
All right, Sue, any closing thoughts?

Sue Ginsburg: Today I have another thought starter for the listeners, and that is a quote from Socrates that is, ‘The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.’ And that doesn’t mean you’re not smart, I think we all know that nobody is an expert in everything and the more and quicker you realize that you have your areas of expertise and other people have theirs, the quicker you can get the knowledge you need to go forth and be profitable, productive, whatever.
So we, again, want to remind you too, we’re here for you to ask questions too. We think you’re smart and you know your business better than we do. We’re the SEO experts and may know SEO better than you, so please do ask the question. We want you to, we hope you do, and we want to be able to answer that to be able to help you get smarter and to help your business do more of what you want it to do.

Jesse Dolan: Super.

All right, any other closing thoughts, Bob? Sue, anything else, or should we put a wrap on it?

Bob Brennan: Nope, good show.

Jesse Dolan: Yeah, yeah. No, I think it was a great topic, Sue.

All right everybody, that does it for this episode. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll check you next time.

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