How to Show up on Google if You Don’t Have a Physical Address

Learn about how businesses without a brick-and-mortar location can increase their visibility in local search results.

When it comes to local search visibility on Google, home service businesses have some added challenges. In the eighth episode of our Found Bytes podcast, we sat down with Ignitor Digital co-founders Carrie Hill and Mary Bowling to talk about why this is and what you can do about it. Read on to learn what these two local search experts suggest for getting home service business (which often don’t have one physical address) to show up for local searches on Google.

Home Service Businesses are Address-less

Your Google My Business profile is the listing that appears for your business in local results for both Google Maps and Google Search. It’s how potential customers searching online for your product or service can find you. For any business, gaining visibility for Google searches in your area requires some strategic effort, but it is especially challenging for businesses that don’t have one pinpointed address.

The businesses we’re referring to here are home service businesses. Unlike brick-and-mortar businesses that serve all clients at one physical address, these businesses serve their clients on-site, and as such, have infinite locations. Google My Business does give you the option to get listed as a Service Area Business, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that you still have to compete with storefront businesses.

The Built-in Bias Against Home Service Businesses

Carrie and Mary explain that home service businesses need the most help with local search because there is a built-in bias against them. The Google My Business terms of service require that your listed location is one where customers are directly served. This automatically disqualifies businesses that go out to their client’s locations: listing a client’s home address is an obvious no, and listing the office they work out of is also a no because it’s not where they serve customers face-to-face.

The two search experts point out that Google has recognized that their model is compatible only with brick-and-mortar businesses, and has been trying to make up for that for more than a decade. So if you are a service-based business without a valid physical address, what can you do to maximize your local search visibility?

How Home Service Businesses Can Show Up for Local Searches

During this insightful podcast episode, Carrie and Mary walk us through four strategies that businesses without a Google-qualified address can use for gaining exposure in a targeted area on Google. They include:

  • Optimizing your Google My Business profile
  • Creating location-specific service pages
  • Running Google Local Services ads
  • Uploading photos…and lots of ’em

1. Optimize Your Google My Business Profile

Optimizing your Google My Business profile is, without doubt, the first and most effective step you can take for your home service business. This means filling out every section. Many home service businesses make the mistake of only providing their name and zip code, thinking that Google will automatically display their business in search results for that area. This is simply not the case.

Google is reluctant to show empty listings that aren’t useful or trustworthy. They ask for particular information because they have data showing that searchers have looked for that information. So, the more information you give Google, the more questions they can answer from searchers, and the more results they can show you in.

What is a Complete Google Listing?

Not having a physical address does not impact your ability to fill out all of the sections of your Google business listing. The sections that make up a complete Google My Business profile include:

  • Name, contact info
  • Category, description
  • Photos
  • Questions & Answers
  • Reviews
  • Posts

Depending on your category, there may be more sections to fill out such as amenities, bookings, etc. The first four sections are the ones you can and should complete right away (as long as you have claimed your Google listing). Collecting reviews and creating posts are important, but they are ongoing initiatives that you may or may not be able to get started with right now.

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2. Create Location-Specific Website Pages

The second strategy Carrie and Mary suggest for showing up in local search results applies to your website—through the creation of location-specific services pages.

What are Location-Specific Website Pages?

These pages operate the same as your “Services” page, but each one is dedicated to a specific subdivision you serve or would like to serve. Populating those pages with useful content specific to that area will help the page to show up in relevant search results for that location, despite not having a physical address there. This is local SEO at its finest.

What to Put on Location-Specific Pages

You may not think that you can populate a whole page for each neighborhood, city, or subdivision, but there’s actually plenty of content you can use here!

  • Talk about the standards, codes, or requirements for that particular subdivision. (For example, bylaws around fencing or particular shrubs that aren’t allowed). This will help potential customers to see that you’ve done your homework and your services will be up to par.
  • Describe jobs you’ve done in that subdivision—what was needed, how you provided a solution, and what the end results were.
  • Post photos of jobs in that subdivision—not just the end result but also the process at each step of the way.
  • Include testimonials from customers in that subdivision.
  • With proper consent, invite page visitors to drive by a particular address that displays your work.

With so much useful and pertinent information about one particular area, this one page can rank for a lot of searches your potential customers in that area are performing, helping your business to gain greater online visibility.

3. Run Local Service Ads

According to Mary and Carrie, Local Services ads are Google’s current solution for helping home service businesses get a leg up on local search.

What are Local Service Ads?

Local Services ads on Google operate similarly to regular Google ads, but instead of bidding on keywords, you bid on services, such as AC repair or AC replacement, within a zip code.

What Do Local Services Ads Look Like?

Local Services ads show up at the very top of Google search results. On mobile, they are typically tap-to-call while on desktop, the searcher is brought to a page where they can request quotes from the listed businesses.

Google Local Services ads on desktop:

google local services ad desktop

Google Local Services ads on mobile:

google local services ads mobile

Why Use Local Service Ads?

Your business may have to go through one or more forms of background check depending on your category, and they cost more than traditional Google ads, but their benefits are worth it. First, your business will show up at the very top of search results, even above Google Ads. Your listing will also be labeled with “Google Guarantee” which searchers are more inclined to trust (and click on). If the service doesn’t work out, Google guarantees the work up to a certain dollar amount. Another great feature with Local Services ads is that if a call ends up being unqualified or spam, you can defer to Google and they will not charge you for it.

When to Use Local Service Ads

If you have the budget and need good quality leads, you should start running a campaign now! If not, Carrie and Mary suggest setting up your Local Services ads account regardless, so that you can turn it on and off as needed. These ads are also a great way to become more prominent in a specific neighborhood without having to expand your entire radius in every direction.

Use Real and Specific Photos

The last local search strategy Mary and Carrie cover for home service businesses involves both your website and Google listing. When it comes to photos, many business owners upload a picture of their logo to their listing and maybe some pictures of the outside of their building or office. For their website, they’ll use stock images. Mary and Carrie strongly discourage this! Here’s how to get on Google’s good side with your photos.

Add photos of your staff

Adding photos of your actual staff to your website adds authenticity and familiarity. When potential customers can see the friendly, smiling faces of exactly who will be going into their homes, they are more likely to trust your business and engage with your site. Engagement leads to more customers and positively impacts Google rank.

Add photos of the exact services being done

Mary and Carrie say ditch stock photos! Google is starting to incorporate images into local search results (see Carrie and Mike Blumenthal’s Local U Deep Dive about this). Stay ahead of the curve and include images of every service you provide—specific photos labeled with what is being done and where.

 

Carrie emphasized that when Google wants something from us, they reward us for giving it to them. We saw this with reviews and now they want photos, so let’s give them more photos! For more information on adding photos to your Google listing, check out this post: Tips for Adding Photos to Your Google My Business Listing.

Bonus Tip: Use Google Search to Stand Out on Search

One final tip, not just for home service businesses but any business, is to use Google to get noticed on Google. At the end of the podcast, when asked what their favorite SMB-oriented tool was for digital presence, Mary and Carrie said Google search itself. They recommend using it to search out your competitors, sponsorship opportunities, groups you can join, spam to be aware of, and more. Also, get familiar with what shows up for searches related to your business and local area. Get a feel for who’s showing up, who you can beat, who you may have to join, and what gaps you can fill.

Not having a brick-and-mortar location with a qualified address makes local search visibility tricky, but not impossible. By completing your Google My Business listing, creating location-specific website pages, using real images, and monitoring Google itself, you can take care of things on your end while Google evolves its algorithm for address-less businesses.

Thank you to Mary Bowling and Carrie Hill from Ignitor Digital for sharing this valuable information with us and our podcast listeners!
You can catch the full episode here: Found Bytes Episode 8: Google Tips for Service Area Businesses.

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