At the dawn of the Internet age, […]
One of the most common goals for local companies in local search engine optimization is to rank high for all cities in their surrounding area. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to rank high in a city other than the one contained in the company’s address. Since the emergence of the Local Map section (Googles Business Directory), the directory listings have taken up a majority of the organic (natural, free) search results. Consequentially, location has played a major part in the rank order.
Tampa Bay is a big, fairly condensed metropolitan area. A large electric services company with many trucks operating out of a central location could easily provide great service to the entire Bay Area. But there are several medium-sized cities that comprise the Tampa Bay area, notably Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Unfortunately, the Tampa electrician can only realistically rank high in the city their address contains. If the business is in Tampa, the Google directory uses Tampa as their location. They would have little chance to squeeze out even a lesser quality electrician located in Clearwater for a search for “Clearwater electrician”.
Why does Google do that?
Keeping in mind the goal of Google Search, organize the world’s data giving searchers the best results so they can make money on paid clicks, it gives people what they want. If a person lives in Clearwater, they would perceive that an electrician located in Clearwater would be faster, better, and more like a neighbor. So the address is an easy way to give searchers what they want.
Another motive (or fortunate result for Google) may be to force companies to pay for clicks in cities in which they cannot rank for free. The Tampa electrician who wants to serve Tampa Bay must pay for Google pay per click ads to show up in a “st petersburg electrician” search.
Can I get P.O. Boxes or use Employees to have an address in other cities?
You can, but chances are low that particular location listing will ever rank high because it has no credibility to Google. For instance, Google would check a company’s business license address or the state registration website to check the company’s address. They also have relationships with telephone companies. Are you willing to get a telephone number registered and billed to that address which doesn’t even exist?
And if Google feels you did this to “manipulate search results” your legitimate location could even get penalized…..for a long time. I don’t think this is a good long-term strategy unless you are willing to actually run your business from remote locations.
That’s Not Fair!
Google does not force people to go to their site, they have developed a reputation for giving the best results to people searching for something. It is up to them to determine how to continue providing the best results for their customers.
Will a company ever be able to show up in another city?
I think this is very possible. Right now the location city is almost a crutch for Google. I believe that as their algorithm gets better and better at determining the actual quality of a company, great companies will show to searchers in at least other cities in the immediately surrounding area.
A good example of this would be a company located in Largo, FL, a small city in between St. Petersburg and Clearwater. There are many very strong local contractor-type companies in this area. Google is doing a disservice to visitors to their site if they don’t offer these companies that may be even closer than some “Clearwater” companies, located very close to the searchers, as a selection. Google must know this. In order to provide the best results, they, at some point, need to include all these choices.
What can we do?
The best thing companies can do to prepare for the future of search is by running a great company. Find a consultant you trust that will keep up with the incredibly dynamic ways in which you can best translate your company’s greatness to searchers on the web. Get lots of positive reviews from diverse web properties, keep your website fresh with great content and get your name out on the web with links and citations on other websites.
Another option would be to show up in other areas of a city with paid ads. Search Engine Pay Per Click marketing allows businesses to enter the search results in any city they desire. Maybe Google wants to keep it this way.