Why a Local Number Matters for Your Business

In this episode, Bob, Jesse and Sue discuss the value of using local numbers versus 800 numbers for ranking your GBP and website! Does a local number make you seem “too” local, making an 800 number more beneficial, or does your local number help your website’s rank so much that it makes it worth it? In this great deep-dive, the team debates the merits of choosing a local number and the value it has towards your SEO.

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What you’ll learn

  • Why a local number may build trust from potential clients right from the start.
  • How a local number affects your SEO rankings.
  • What to consider when choosing between an 800 number and a local number.

Transcript For Should You Use Local Phone Numbers of 800 Numbers on Your GMB Listing – 127;

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, Bob, Jesse, and Sue debate the value of using a local phone number for your business versus an 800 number. Are there SEO benefits to a local number over the more broad 800 number? Can a local number help build trust with clients? This episode is packed with great information to help you make an important decision for your business’s website and Google Business profile. Got a question? Let us know at 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 once again with Bob Brennan, Sue Ginsburg, answering questions from our clients, from our listeners in the audience, and trying to help you all out with some SEO related nuggets. What do we got going on today, Sue?

Sue Ginsburg: Background here is NYC.

Jesse Dolan: Looking good.

Sue Ginsburg: Good old Manhattan. And that is because the client that most recently asked the question for today is on Long Island and serves Long Island, Manhattan, and all of New York. So I thought I’d put up the big city for this one. Yeah. Okay, question for today, is it better to have a local number on my GMB and website than an 800 number for SEO purposes? Really good question, and I’m pretty sure she’s not the only one who has had this. Quote for today, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein.

Jesse Dolan: Nice.

Sue Ginsburg: Yeah, pretty smart guy.

Jesse Dolan: I saw a joke on, I don’t know, Facebook or Reddit or something in the last few days. What did it say? I just found out today that Albert Einstein was a real person. I always thought he was just a theoretical physicist.

Sue Ginsburg: That’s good.

Jesse Dolan: He was a theoretical physicist, right?

Sue Ginsburg: That’s good.

Jesse Dolan: Nerd joke. Spoiler, that’s a nerd joke.

Sue Ginsburg: Clever, clever. Love those puns. That’s great. So yeah, a client of ours with her business based on Long Island asked us this question. Her business, her geography is all of New York state and New Jersey, where she’s licensed, both those states. Obviously many different area codes for all of New York state and New Jersey, and she was asking if a local number would limit her or benefit her by showing she is quote unquote local in the New York, New Jersey area. In addition to being at the top of her game for private investigations, this client is quite advanced in her SEO knowledge and website smarts. And I figured if Lizzie’s asking this question, how many other people, business owners, are wondering the same thing?

So with that, as many of our listeners and hopefully all of our clients know, the way that we do business is we say we are the SEO experts. You, Mr. and Mrs. Business Owner, are the expert on your business. Yes, we can guide you to get more visibility, increase your rank, and attract more leads online, when working in collaboration with you, the business owner. We can’t succeed working with SEO in a vacuum. We need your input. We need your expertise. You know your products and services, you know your customers, and you know your market. We know SEO. So together, with our SEO knowledge and your knowledge of the business, that’s the best combination there is.

So this question reminds me of that, especially since this client knows a fair amount about SEO. In fact, she was doing it for herself for a while and heard the podcast, realized she wanted to focus her time on being an expert in her business and not an SEO expert. And that’s when she contacted us. It’s been a little more than a year now, I think. She’s first page, map pack for a dozen keywords, and she’s thriving and loving spending her time working on her business instead of doing the SEO.

So with that, let’s ask the SEOs experts. Jesse and business owner Bob, what are your thoughts on 800 number versus local number for SEO and for other engaging reasons? What do you think?

Jesse Dolan: I think, Bob, we’ll let you answer first on this one, just because there is some SEO to this, but I think the bigger reason for deciding what you’re doing here is going to be how that makes a difference to your local market. So what’s your thoughts on that?

Bob Brennan: Well, I’m going to throw it back at you guys, which we didn’t really, because we obviously screen a lot of these questions before we do this, but as you were saying, her market, Sue, it’s the density of that area. We’re in Minneapolis, so I mean, we’re a bunch of hayseeds out here in the no-coasts, but basically, that market is pretty dense. I mean, we’ve got New Jersey, we’ve got Manhattan, we’ve got the Bronx, and I don’t know, as far as area codes, like how, depending on her service and how personal it is in terms of are people okay with, if they live in New Jersey, are they okay calling an area code that’s Manhattan? Because they don’t want to travel perhaps, or whatever the case is.

So there’s this a little bit of a curve ball in that I don’t know the east coast super well. So I’m just going to throw out a couple of questions, thoughts. We can bat them around here a little bit. And then I can tell you from our perspective in terms of conversion. So Jesse’s going to speak to the SEO. I’m going to speak to the conversion mindset of okay, if you’re based out of New Jersey and you want to serve the Manhattan market, is that a big deal on the east coast? Do you need to have two or three different phone numbers, signifying that you’re capable of serving New Jersey, Manhattan, even as far as Connecticut? You know what I mean? That gives people this comfort of oh, hey, they have a Connecticut office, or they can operate in Connecticut. I don’t know. Does that make sense? That’s the only curve ball that I can throw out there, why you would say 800 number versus this, right?

So as a general rule, to answer the question for other areas, I would say there’s not a need for a 1-800 number. In fact, you want a localized number when you can do it. When you can, in some cases, throw an office in a nearby suburb or even area code, so to speak, to try to garner more business. So somebody says, hey, they are in northern Detroit or whatever the case is in, and that’s going to I assume help your cost.

Now, the only other caveat is with COVID, in that a lot of businesses have changed in that they were for a long time just doing local and in-person type stuff, but let’s say a physical trainer and stuff has figured out they can do Zoom training or over the internet training. And their business is kind of blooming that way. That would be maybe one exception.

And then one last thought on that is just going back, you know, I’ve been in business 25, 26 years. 1-800 number was a big deal. It kind of showed that you had chops and everything else that goes with it, because long distance, you had to pay for long distance. Now people are fine dialing whatever number. You’re in Hawaii, great. How are you doing? Somebody’s just going to call away. So I just don’t see the 1-800 number being a huge conversion deal, in just kind of speaking off the cuff about all that.

But I’m more curious about, you know, in this situation, with her, with the population density being as dense as it is, and I have no idea how many area codes are in there, one, I would say yes, local number, important. But in her case, I’d explore acquiring a few more numbers to signify on the conversion piece. But I know that might affect the SEO. So Sue, Jess, what are your thoughts on that?

Jesse Dolan: Sue, do you have anything you want to add to it first?

Sue Ginsburg: I was just going to add a twist to that. In today’s day and age, where so many of us are using cell phones as our business line, what if you moved, and now you have a San Francisco area code, but you’re actually living in New York?

Bob Brennan: Right. Right. And that’s where you’ve definitely got to buy a local number, because it’s cheap now. I think even Google has, you can buy Google numbers that are local. But I’m really concerned about, well, not concerned, but I lean on you because you’re originally from the east coast, right?

Sue Ginsburg: Yeah.

Bob Brennan: So I mean, you kind of know this market. What are your thoughts on it? Is somebody not going to call an office that’s in New Jersey, even though it’s literally across the river, or how much prejudice are people going to have with the different area codes on the east coast?

Sue Ginsburg: I think that it’s known that the areas are so close. You may live in one and work in another, and one may be where you are all day long. In most cases, I don’t think people think, oh, it’s a New Jersey area code, I want service in New York, not going to call them. There might be people who think that way. I think for the most part, it is not that. And like you said, in many cases, it’s not far away. And I think in many cases, service businesses do have a geography that could encompass Manhattan, Queens, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County, and you could have any one of those area codes.

Bob Brennan: One last thought is would there be any prejudice in terms of, or bias, if you have … Is there a Manhattan area code, per se?

Sue Ginsburg: Many. There used to be just one. Now there’s probably three or four I can think of. I can think of three right off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many more.

Bob Brennan: Would that give the consumer bias in that, oh, they’re going to be too expensive, or the flip of that, they’re legit, man. They’re in the Manhattan column there. I mean, does that play a role?

Sue Ginsburg: I think that’s a great question. And I think to some people, there may be both those things. Sometimes they may think, oh, they’re in New York, or they might think, oh, they’re in New York.

Bob Brennan: Okay. Again, not to go down the rabbit trail, but it could help you to find what kind of customer you want.

Sue Ginsburg: Exactly.

Bob Brennan: In some ways.

Jesse Dolan: There’s a layer there that we’re, not that we’re leaving out, but that is important. And it really depends on the product or the service here, the type of business. If you’re looking for whatever, if you’re in Brooklyn and you’re looking for a grocery store, then yeah, the proximity hugely matters. If it’s something that is more of a remote thing anyways, and you’re not going to be driving there or back and forth in these areas, just like Bob, like you said, we’re up in the Minneapolis area. We know we’ve got four area codes for the Twin Cities, and all of us that live here kind of know, based on the area code, where that means, geographic relation. Depending on the product or service we’re looking for, that area code matters more or less. So I think that’s an important layer to have on top of this. It depends on what business you are and what you’re doing.

And then from that SEO standpoint, one of the things would be is if you have multiple locations, explicitly having an area code in that location then, because in this case, kind of the example we’re having, is you have one location, maybe you’re in Manhattan, and how can you draw relevancy or entice people and communicate that through your area code. But if you’ve got one in Manhattan, one over on Long Island, way east of there, let’s just say, quote unquote way east, then yeah. Then I would have an area code you need to reach one that’s as specific as possible.

So with that and then an 800 number, I think for me, I’m always going to default to the local for the reasons you’re talking, Bob, just because an 800 number doesn’t define anything. You think about, is this national or local? You kind of start to think it’s not local, versus if I’m seeing, even if I’m in the southeast part of the Twin Cities, which is like a 651 area code here, 763 is northwest, right? So kind of the opposite end of town. I still subconsciously almost trust the 763 number more than an 800 number, because I still know it’s local, even though it’s the other side of town, it’s still in my area here. So I feel like always default to the local where possible.

But then, Sue, you brought up something where if my cell phone is San Francisco and I’m living in New York now, get a New York cell phone number. Don’t use your San Francisco number on your New York GMB, right? Have your area code be where you’re physically at, or something very, very close by, if there’s one that’s bigger, it has more prominence for whatever reason.

But I do want to speak to a situation to where maybe you have multiple phone numbers on your website, or maybe you have an 800 number on your website, and you’re hearing this. You’re like, well, shoot, I’ve got to use local on my GMB. There is a little quirk in all this, if you’re changing or migrating or have multiple numbers here, where it’s that name, address, phone number consistency. And this is directly for SEO, not so much about the user behavior conversion or things like that. Google, one of the things that Google uses to understand you and your profiles online is your name, business name, physical address, where listed, and your phone number.

So if you have an 800 number on your website as your primary number, and on your GMB, if you’re like, I’m going to use my local, you kind of break that name, address, phone number consistency, because 800 number on the website, local number on my GMB. Now, there’s a lot of talk out there in SEO that this is becoming less relevant or some of these less relevant as Google gets more and more intelligent. But as of still right now, for sure, this is something that they’re using to match up, right? It’s your fingerprints, if you will, online. Whether you’re listed on Yelp, Google My Business, BBB, your own website, whatever, if name, address, phone number match in those things, the degree of confidence in Google that these are all you is extremely high.

So there is something that a lot of people don’t know about you can do with your Google My Business listing, where you can have multiple phone numbers on it. And Google My Business listings are a little fragile right now still. They have been during this whole COVID stretch the last couple years or so. So what I would do is, let’s just say if you have an 800 number on your website right now, and you have an 800 number on your GMB, and you’re like, screw this, we’re going to change, I’m going local, what you’re going to want to do is add your local number to your GMB as your secondary phone number. You can have a primary and a secondary phone number on your GMB. Add the new local phone number as your secondary on your GMB.

I’d give it probably two weeks, then come back and flip those. So now your 800 number is going to be your secondary. Your local is going to be your primary. The reason I would do that is because changing things like your name, address, phone number on your GMB, that’s unusual to do. So for Google, that’s kind of a flag, and literally they may flag you for review or suspend you, and you have to ask for reinstatement, which sucks, even if it’s for a couple days, especially if you’re ranking. So you want to treat it with kid gloves, as we say, Bob. Just go gentle with it. So put your new local phone number as your secondary, keep your 800 number as your primary. Two weeks later, switch them, and then keep your 800 number listed as your secondary, because Google will still recognize this phone number is on the GMB, even if it’s secondary. It’ll recognize that phone number and still tie it in and give you that name, address, phone number consistency across all your platforms.

The inverse of that is if you, well, it would just be the inverse, right? Anything here, basically, if your website has a phone number and your GMB doesn’t and you’re trying to match them up, go slow, I guess is the message I’m trying to say here. Keep your primary number primary. Don’t change it. Add whatever number it is as secondary, and flop them later. In some cases, like if you’re running a tracking phone number in your GMB, go ahead and do that. You can have a different phone number on your GMB and your website as the primaries, as long as the one in your website is still your secondary on your GMB to draw that connection. And that should not affect your ranking, should not affect Google’s ability to pull all those bits of data together and give you the credit where credit is due there.

So yeah, outside of that, again, use local where relevant, especially, this is Local SEO Tactics. So most people listening here, I imagine you’re out there, you’re a local business of some sort. So proximity, location, these things matter. You’re going to be using a local phone number, not an 800 number whenever possible. If you think you have a situation that’s a little bit more unique than what we’re outlining here, feel free to reach out to us and ask a more specific question. We can dive back into this. But I think there’s some layers and some nuance there, but in general, I think most people are going to fall in line with what we’re saying.

Bob Brennan: One caveat I’d throw out there, Jess, is I don’t know what … They’re still a client, but at one point they wanted us, or we split. Remember we split, there was like a Minneapolis 612 number and then a St. Paul 651? They wanted to keep it on the website. I don’t know what we advised them to do, but if you had to go through that strategy again, should you keep one website?

Jesse Dolan: That’s a good question.

Bob Brennan: Or are you better off creating two? You know, they had a location in St. Paul and a location in Minneapolis. And for those listeners and viewers, Minneapolis is probably, what do you think the population is, Sue, 900,000?

Sue Ginsburg: I think they say a little over a million.

Bob Brennan: A little over a million, and St. Paul’s probably between 300 and 400,000 or something. So it’s different size wise, and so you want to represent both. Just, I mean, if you had to do that over, how would you do that? Would you do one site with two numbers or just split it up?

Jesse Dolan: Yeah, great question. So first and foremost, I would have a Minneapolis section of the website with the 612 phone number, a St. Paul section with just the 651. In the case of what you’re saying, we had on the very top of the website both numbers on there. If we had to do that over again, probably wouldn’t do that. Maybe pick one as the winner or maybe present that in an image, not as text, which is going to break the ability for somebody to click it and call. But that is a tricky one, right? That’s a tricky one. We didn’t want to do that, if you remember, for all these same SEO reasons, but they were adamant and they wanted it. And so we did it.

I think if you, let’s just say if you had a location in St. Paul, had a location in Minneapolis, those location pages had their unique phone numbers. The GMBs had their respective phone numbers. And then if your main website up on the top header had both, I’d have to imagine Google’s still going to recognize that when they’re scraping your website, because if you have multiple locations, you’re going to have a Yelp listing for each location. You’re going to have these other citations, these other directories that are going to have name, address, phone number consistency, based on those locations.

Now, if you’re not, let’s just say you have one location and it’s St. Paul, but you want to have both phone numbers just to kind of give them more of that presence, this is just on your website now, not your GMB, then that becomes a little trickier. And I would probably pick one to be the winner in that case, just to keep it consistent, make it easier for Google at the end of the day. Again, if you put that phone number top of the fold in an image, so us human beings can look at it and kind of get that same relevancy, but from a Google standpoint, I’d probably pick the one that I wanted as my primary market.

But that’s just all off the cuff. That might be something to look into a little bit deeper, maybe even look at some testing or if someone else has done some testing, and see if there’s some better insights on that. It’s a pretty unique situation, to do that. But my off the cuff, on the fly answer would be go simple. Keep it straightforward and match things up.

Bob Brennan: Yeah, hopefully we helped this person out. I think it might have created more questions than answers, but that being said, they’re welcome to reach out to us and we can dialogue on it and maybe help them test some theories out, too, to some degree, to see if these different concepts would work. But New York is awfully dense and it’s a different animal. This isn’t Austin, Texas. It certainly isn’t Minneapolis. So I think it requires a different approach.

Jesse Dolan: Yep. And Lizzie, if she’s listening, which I know she tunes in on some of them still, Sue, stay local, right? We’ll talk about it more if you want, to Bob’s point specifically, but yeah, definitely our long-winded answer, the ideal thing is go local with your phone number, not 800.

Sue Ginsburg: Okay, so here’s a naive question. Why would a business owner in this day and age, where I think there is no such thing as a long distance charge, have an 800 number anymore?

Jesse Dolan: That kind of depends. We’re asking this question and feeling a little flummoxed. Big word for the day. Why would you do this, because we’re blinded by the SEO part of it, right? Where if you’re a business owner, if you’re not thinking SEO, if you’re just thinking one number for everybody to call, make it easy, I could see where people would be in that mindset. But from SEO, I think we understand why these things make a bigger difference and why it’s important.

Bob Brennan: 20 years ago, I think it was image, right? I mean, Sue, you and I, well, all of us, are from the generation where if you had a 1-800 number or an 888 number, you were something. Now, go ask my 18 year old, or I’m sorry, my 16 year old son, or anybody in their 20s, they’d probably look at you like…

Sue Ginsburg: Why?

Bob Brennan: Why, right? So those of us that are our generation, we’re like yeah, maybe you should. Well, the more you think it through, the younger generation will look at you like you’re goofy, you know?

Jesse Dolan: And I think, so again, this is Local SEO Tactics. Not only are we blinded by SEO, this is local. If you’re Best Buy or Target or Walmart, yeah, 800 number. I mean, I think the inverse is true, where when we are looking at something that’s large and a chain and a regional and national brand, we almost do expect an 800 number or 866, or 888, or whatever variations. But when it is local, then that turns us off. So I think there is a place for it, but not in a space that we operate in.

Bob Brennan: Yeah, and one last caveat. I’ve got a buddy of mine that rides motorcycles. And I guess a big thing is custom seats. They’ll build a custom seat for your butt is the deal, right? So 1200, $2,000 for these seats.

Jesse Dolan: Wow.

Bob Brennan: I mean, it’s nuts. So maybe you’ve got this presence, or this deal all across the country. And the only other thing, the caveat I’d throw out there, is there are vanity 1-800 numbers that are 1-800-Call-Geico or something. I don’t know. But that would be the only other conversion or caveat that I would throw out there, that 1-800 would be the ticket. So if that’s you, then you’re going to want to consider that. But if you’re surely just focused on a pretty local 50 to 100 mile area, I wouldn’t mess with a 1-800 number.

Jesse Dolan: I think that’s a great thing, Bob, like your buddy with those bike seats, motorcycle bike seats. Motorcycle bike? Okay, don’t send me any hate mail. That’s probably a total non-biker way to say that, motorcycle bike seat. But that is something where I think you’d want, if you’re having to travel all around the country, you wouldn’t want a local phone number. Like, oh, I’m not from Cincinnati. So I can’t use … That person’s 800 number projects that nationwide, non-localized type service, just like a Walmart or a Geico or a Target, again. So yeah.

And those places, that does make sense, but from a local SEO services type deal, like I said, 50 miles, whatever, local number wins right there. That’s a great point, though. Great example. All right, Sue, does that answer the question for Lizzie, do you think?

Sue Ginsburg: I think it does. I think, I wonder, Bob, to your point, in the New York area, or New York, New Jersey area, where, I don’t know, maybe there are six or more area codes, is that a reason to have an 800 number? I don’t know. We’ll have to … Lizzie, let us know what you think, or if you’re out there and you have a business in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut area, are there other factors that go into that, that would lead you down the path of an 800 number?

Jesse Dolan: Yeah, that’s a great question, though. Great question.

Sue Ginsburg: All right, if you remember one thing and one thing only, what was optimal years ago for purposes of showing how expansive you were may or may not be optimal now. 800 numbers used to be a big deal. It showed you were saving the customer money because you could call in and not pay long distance charges. Now, are there even long distance charges anymore? I haven’t had a landline in so long. I don’t think so. And mobile phones are certainly used more and more in business. It may not be perceived the same way.

And if you are a local business or a business with a local geography, absolutely a local number is the way to go. Use local numbers, people will … Plus, we didn’t even talk about the whole thing about shop local, which especially got big during COVID, like support your local businesses.

Bob Brennan: You bet. You bet. That’s a good point. Sorry, we didn’t sneak that in.

Jesse Dolan: Well that’s, again, I think it’s the psychology of it. You see that local phone number, layering in the product or service you’re looking for, you just have that immediate psychological connection about knowing where it is. It’s already impacting your buying decision or your contact decision, if you will. So yeah, definitely one of these SEO it depends type answers. I think 80, 90% is applicable, like we’re saying for local, but there’s some nuance to where maybe it wouldn’t be, but yeah, again, great question by Lizzie.

Sue Ginsburg: Yes it is.

Jesse Dolan: So all right, hopefully that helps you all out there. That was kind of a meandering answer. Maybe it does cause more questions than the answer we gave, but if you’ve got something you want to know, or even diving deeper into this topic, let us know. You can reach us at, scroll down to the bottom, click the button for submit a question, and text, type it in with text, I should say, or call it in. Either way, we’d love to hear it and use it on the show. So cool. All right, either one of you two have anything else to add as I wrap it up?

Bob Brennan: That should wrap it up for me.

Sue Ginsburg: That’s it for me.

Jesse Dolan: Thanks for the question, Sue, and setting the stage for that. Bob, thanks for the insight. Sue, good insight, as well, as always. Everybody else, thanks for tuning in and we’ll catch you on the next episode. Take care.

Sue Ginsburg: See you.

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