This may be considered a living document because I will have to maintain it to keep in line with the changes that are constantly being made to the Google Places policies. Firstly, allow me to define some terms that will help us along with this explanation.
Service Area- This is the coverage area that your business can cover. A service area, in Google Places, can be defined by cities or zip codes.
Dashboard- This is your control panel for your Google Places account. The URL to get here, after logging in, is https://www.google.com/local/business.
Listing- This is your business information displayed on Google Maps.
A service area business with Google is relatively easy to set up, but maintaining it and making sure it never has an issue is much more difficult. It also doesn’t help that my primary clients are mobile locksmiths. Google tends to be rough on locksmiths due to the amount of scams in that category. Let’s start with the setting up process. If you don’t already have a business set up on your Google account, be sure to be logged in and visit this page. This should bring you to this page.
After you search for your business, if nothing comes up, you will be able to create your business. An information tab should appear on the left side of the maps, and you can now begin entering all of your business information.
The next aspect is what actually sets up your service area. You’re going to type in all cities or zip codes that you service. In my experience, Google begins to cut you off at about 200, so it’s good to keep your maximum around there. Keep in mind that another option of the service area exists. The method of using a radius, “within ‘blank’ miles of my business.” I’ve spoken with a few industry experts and they claim that this method can be more beneficial, but if you happen to have a service area near another branch of your company, the two service areas can bleed into one another, and can cause undue competition for rankings. Not a good thing. The choice is yours, but both methods will give you localized search results for the people inside your service area.
Just in case you’re the kind of business that doesn’t want its address being put on the net, i.e. home businesses, you can un-check the “I also serve customers at my business address.” Once you un-check that box, the listing will show just your city and state, instead of a full address. You will still need to have a full address listed in the account because Google has to mail you a verification card in order to make sure your business address is legitimate.
Once you get your post card in, and you verify the listing, you’re going to get access to your complete dashboard. We’re using our friends’ Pop-A-Lock of Pittsburgh’s dashboard today.
I’ve spoken with Google before and they mentioned that you should have as much information filled out as possible. This includes a website, business email, hours, and any other information that the dashboard allows. Also, be sure to never let your number or address change. If this ever happens, you will need to re-verify with Google, which requires another verification card to be mailed to your business address. If you ever do move addresses, Google is nice about these kinds of things. Once you dispatch a new card, the listing isn’t taken down. Your dashboard goes into a limited status and you won’t be able to update any basic information until it’s re-verified.
As someone from Google has explained it to me before, Google doesn’t really allow for major updates of information from users. It will obtain any updates you send and will cross-check them with their own sources to make sure that they are accurate, then push them through.
Something else to keep in mind about a service area business is that you are optimized for local search within the cities of your service area. So, if your business is in Happyville, but you also service Smileville, you will need to make sure that your service area includes Smileville. (Let’s say you are a mobile shoemaker) If someone from Smileville just searches for “shoemaker” in their area, your listing will be added to their search results. Now, whether or not you’re going to be featured higher in the rankings, is up to the SEO tactics that you’re using. If you’d like to learn about what kind of SEO tactics we use, check us out.
Keep in mind that you will need to make sure that you have content on your blog, website, or any other medium connected to your business listing that pertains to your other cities. If you are wanting to really concentrate on another area of your service area, just write more content and really try to concentrate your keywords on that area. Make sure to respond to reviews and try to make amends if their experience wasn’t up to par. Be proactive in your business listing and don’t be afraid to talk with your customers online.
If you have any other questions about service area business listings, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always happy to help.