More threads by JoshuaMackens


Local Search Expert
Sep 12, 2012
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Interesting search result:

Verbal ink has a toll free number outranking people with local numbers.

I wonder if Google has turned off the sensitivity to local numbers or at least turned it down? Thinking about it logically, an address is more of a local signal than a local phone as plenty of local businesses use toll free numbers. Or it may be Google understanding the industry of transcription and turning down the dial on that particular industry. I didn't think they could or would get that granular with search but we've seen evidence of them adjusting proximity sensitivity based on query ie searching for pizza and getting a bunch of results close to my location because Google knows distance plays a factor in my decision vs searching plumbing and getting less proximity based results because they know I could care less how far my plumber is away from me as long as he does the job right and is reasonably priced.

After looking at it further, it may also just be a case of LA's uniqueness. If you Google "dentists los angeles" you will see a ton of different area codes ranking. Most cities have just 1 area code and the local pack results are dominated by that 1 area code. However LA is completely different. They have a ton of area codes. So, maybe Google just lifted that signal off of LA (which would be incredibly granular) and that's why a toll free number is ranking because there's less of a restriction on the area code.

I would love to hear everyone's thoughts here.

Also, I would be interested in anyone else who has seen a toll free number outranking competitors that are located in the same city.
I have seen this for over a year on listings, the toll free there and ranking in the top 3, if not 1. I don't know if it's because of sheer volumn spam they are fighting in some verticals, but they seem lax on it.
No one said toll free won't rank. The rule is that it has to connect directly to your business. If they took that toll free number and optimized all citations for that, it's possible to work. Going that route requires continuous cleanup efforts because it will most likely be fighting with the original local number. If you're willing to put in the work to manage dupe listings and suppress the local number for local search, then you just need a solid strategy behind it.

In this case a verbal translation company isn't a traditional local business, since they can really do business with anyone in the world. Their toll free number is prominent on the site, and it's probable that transcription services aren't as competitive in local/map search.

Have you seen this happening a lot in other industries too?
This is interesting because this website recently went from ~1300 monthly organic visitors to ~13,000, overnight.

They recently redirected to their site, which brought a ton of new links, rankings, and traffic.

I have seen 800 numbers ranking for a while, often times they are big companies with a ton of links. I am curious how the recent redirect will impact the local rankings.

FireShot Screen Capture #560 - 'verbalink_com - SEMrush's main report for domain' - www_semrush_.jpg

FireShot Screen Capture #560 - 'verbalink_com - SEMrush's main report for domain' - www_semrush_.jpg
Hey Joshua,

Looks like they have a lot of solid citations, all listing the toll-free number. Transcription Services isn't an overly-competitive industry is it? I think having a local # helps but it's definitely possible to rank without one if you have enough other factors going for you. Their organic ranking is strong too.
Chris has a great point about the redirect. I see that influencing how that business ranks way more than the 800 number, since Joy also mentioned they're consistent with using it. It's possible they made a solid domain acquisition, which resulted in improving their own website authority.
It's interesting that the domain redirect would have an impact. I've never had any success with clients picking up more ranking juice/backlinks based on domains that they purchased redirecting to their site (even if the domains had tons of great backlinks)
Looks like it's just a low competition industry to me, the 2nd result in the 3-pack doesn't even have a website. Verbal Ink not only has strong organic ranking (the only two companies above it not in the 3-pack themselves are either poorly set up on GMB, or listing different NAP info on their website) but they've got strong citations too.

To re-iterate what everyone else already said... using a toll free number isn't a death sentence, it's just one factor among many. I still err on the side of getting a client to use a local number though, unless it'd involve a ton of citation cleanup to switch.
Good stuff, thanks everyone.

Anyone else who would like to weigh in, please feel free!

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