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I am working with a client (one man operation - landscape design consultant) who works out of his home. He's not comfortable having his home address listed anywhere online - including his website. Is this going to be an uphill battle in terms of local rankings or can you still have success without using an address anywhere?

This client is also in a small town outside a bigger city. I'm assuming he'll have very little chance ranking in the 7 pack in the big city, correct? I'm telling him we're going to be better trying to get his site to rank organically in the big city and maybe consider PPC.

Travis
 
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I would assume he'll have a hard time getting in the 7-pack if he is outside the location where he wants to serve.

Phil as a post on citations sources that also allow you to hide your address that may help.

Private Local Citations: Where Can You List Your Business But


I'm not sure if this would help, since he is a service area business, could you adjust his service area according to the zip codes he'll service (in the major city) this would put his map marker in that area.
 

Linda Buquet

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This client is also in a small town outside a bigger city. I'm assuming he'll have very little chance ranking in the 7 pack in the big city, correct?

Yes but depends on competition. If small town, niche market with little competition you sometimes can. But my guess is in this one no.

A mini pre-test you can do is Big City + KW and see if any listings in the pack are from the small city he's in. Typically in big city, you'd have 3 - 7 pages of pack listings before a listing from another town shows up.

I'm not sure if this would help, since he is a service area business, could you adjust his service area according to the zip codes he'll service (in the major city) this would put his map marker in that area.

That won't affect ranking in the pack at all or help rank in maps. But possibly if the searcher is zoomed way into the area his marker shows up in, he'd show as a dot on the map.

Need to be careful adding zips too because it can drop you in an unwanted location, like middle of a lake or out in a forest. Wherever Google determines the center of those zips to be.

Travis as far as ranking in the city he's in and just getting NAP on his site, what about street and city - just no street #? Then at least street/city on site would match street/city in dash? However I assume citations would not accept street only without a number. But the citations Chris cited from Phil's would help somewhat.
 
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Hey Travis,
I've worked almost exclusively with contractors the past 13 years. This is a common dilemma. A painter client of mine who has used a UPS store street address for 10+ years (because he didn't want to put his home address out there way back then) just got his Google listing suspended in November (breaking their quality guidelines about using a PO Box).

Big loss for him traffic-wise. But he still didn't want to use his home address. So, we are now using a virtual office building address in his largest and most profitable service city. He pays $99 / month, has a business name plate in the lobby, they receive and forward his mail, and he can rent meeting space for $40/hour if he wants ... but the point is that he's got a physical location representing him. Since all of their "virtual" customers use the same suite number ... we changed it. (e.g. was Ste 200 - we are using Ste 220). We deleted his Google account, updated his website and all existing citations to the new NAP, and then created a new Google account and G+ profile. So far, so good. It was the best solution we could come up with. Hoping it works for the long term. To be ranked in the 7-pack, in your primary service city, and all the trickle-down of a strong Google listing ... seemed well worth the $99 / month for him. Thoughts?
 

Colan Nielsen

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Big loss for him traffic-wise. But he still didn't want to use his home address. So, we are now using a virtual office building address in his largest and most profitable service city. He pays $99 / month, has a business name plate in the lobby, they receive and forward his mail, and he can rent meeting space for $40/hour if he wants ... but the point is that he's got a physical location representing him. Since all of their "virtual" customers use the same suite number ... we changed it. (e.g. was Ste 200 - we are using Ste 220). We deleted his Google account, updated his website and all existing citations to the new NAP, and then created a new Google account and G+ profile. So far, so good. It was the best solution we could come up with. Hoping it works for the long term. To be ranked in the 7-pack, in your primary service city, and all the trickle-down of a strong Google listing ... seemed well worth the $99 / month for him. Thoughts?

Hi Michelle,

I hope this continues to work for you but you need to know that Google views virtual offices pretty much in the same light as a UPS address. Unless the VO is staffed during the stated hours by an employee of the company it's technically not legit for Google Places.

Here's a quote from Google on the subject:

All, to clarify: If you have a 'virtual office' that is staffed during designated hours (e.g. so a customer can drive up and receive your services there during those hours), then that's a legit use of Places. If you're just receiving mail there or only accept 'by appointment' that's not a legit use.
https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!msg/business/Az--JGbPOME/MraOcb-_0VUJ

Check this thread out as well - http://localsearchforum.catalystema...l-offices-home-address-google-plus-local.html

Hope that helps!
 
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Thanks Colan. I knew it was a gray area and made my client aware of the risks. If someone shows up at that office building, there is a receptionist in the lobby serving all the companies in the building that lease an actual suite. So if one of his clients drops by to make a payment or something, the receptionist could take a message, I suppose. How could Google determine this isn't legitimate enough for their guidelines? It sure is tough on service businesses to leverage this Google product - but oh so advantageous. Thanks for your reply. I'll think on that further. We don't want him to be suspended, ever, again!
 
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Thanks everyone for your help.

Colan - I'm glad your brought that up because I've been advising my clients that virtual addresses are a no-go. I too work almost exclusively with contractors and they always want to do virtual addresses. I've been telling them no. Good to see you confirm that with an actual quote from Google.

Linda - I never thought of just using the street address in the NAP for his website, but like you said, that won't help much on the citations. However, having street listed on the website may hep strengthen the "link" between his business website and Google. It certainly wouldn't hurt.

Travis
 

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Yes Colan is right, virtual offices are not allowed. I think it's pretty easy for Google to spot them but they don't nuke them all. Certain industries I believe are under closer scrutiny though I think.

Yes Travis, street and city to get part of NAP on the site, just made sense to me. I've never seen it done, but seems like it would help.
 

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Can you create some geo-targeted pages on the site talking about the target city(ies) to help improve the organic rankings? This will eliminate the need to use a specific address. It also falls along the lines of what Linda is suggesting to getting a close to a full NAP as possible.

Organic ranking will be a much better long term solution IMO. Maybe this could be a viable work around.
 
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