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Does the Service Area in Your Google Business Profile Impact Ranking?

This is one of the most common questions that we get asked related to service area businesses (SABs) on Google Business Profiles (GBP).


The answer is…it depends. I’m just kidding. The answer is, not currently. Just like brick-and-mortar business listings, the ranking is based on the address that the business used to verify their listing with.  The only impact that the service area has is visual.  On Google Maps on desktop, you’ll see an overlay on the map showing the service area:

does the service area impact ranking

On mobile, it shows up where the address normally is:

We are currently tracking several listings at Sterling Sky to see if this changes over time. Sterling Sky’s GBP, which has the address hidden (known as a pure SAB), is one that we have been monitoring daily.

Sterling Sky’s physical address is in Uxbridge and the mailing address is Stouffville.  It’s very important to realize that the city you use for your mailing address is not always where your business is physically located. Inside of our GBP, we have specified Toronto, ON Canada as one of the service areas.

And where do you think we rank? Not in our specified service area in Toronto.

As you can see by the ranking gif below, this has been the case since we started tracking rankings and is still true today as we head into 2023.

animated ranking gif


What should I put in the service area section in my GBP?

Okay, so the service areas do not impact ranking. So what should I put in there, and should I even bother? Yes, you should. We recommend adding the main areas that you service to have the best representation of your service area on Google Maps, as noted at the beginning of this article. Think of it as a “Service Area Maps Visual Optimization” exercise. In other words, if you want people who discover you to know that you service all of Toronto, put that as your service area so that when someone is looking at your GBP on Google Maps they are crystal clear on whether or not you service their area.

Should non-SAB’s utilize the service area feature?

In most cases, I would say that it doesn’t make a difference and isn’t worth the effort. However, there are some cases, such as with hotels, that I would strongly advise against adding a service area. The reason is that it merely makes the map look weird and confusing for potential customers. Here’s an example from the Google Business Profile forum where a user asked “Why is there a service area field in the GMB account listing for a hotel?

What if you don’t live in the city that you service?

This is another common question that we get asked. We typically advise one of two main things to business owners.

Move to the city/area that you service

Yes, you heard that right. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If all of your business comes from a city that you aren’t physically located in, and Google bases the ranking on the physical city you are in, it seems like a no-brainer. We advised a business to do this exact thing and it transformed their business. In this case, they were physically located in a city of 222 people but the city they serviced was miles away and had a population of over 80,000. We told them to move the GBP address to the other owner’s address who just so happened to live in the target city. They now dominate rankings in the city that they service.

Target long-tail keywords

If moving isn’t an option, I would focus on optimizing the website, and the GBP landing page in particular, for long-tail search terms. Onsite optimization has a direct impact on local pack/finder rankings and long-tail keywords, which are less competitive.  This makes them easier to rank for even if you are located further away. Here’s an example of a business that followed this exact advice and saw its rankings outside of its physical location increase.

So What?

The service area does not currently impact the ranking for SAB’s. This means that you need to get creative to grow your business with GBP outside of your physical city. Ranking factors are in a constant state of change so this all may change one day. Always be testing and tracking this for your clients so that you know the minute the ranking factors do indeed change so you can be ahead of the competition.

Have you seen examples where the service area did seem to impact ranking? Are you tracking and testing this? We would love to hear from you.


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Colan Nielsen

Colan started in the local SEO world back in 2010 and is also deemed a product expert by Google as a Top Contributor on the Google My Business Forum. He is a contributor to Moz’s famous Local Search Ranking Factors survey and is a former Google MapMaker Regional Lead. Read Colan's full bio here.

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. I have heard a lot of yes/no/maybe answers to this question in the past. Thanks for proving the case with real data. Seeing rankings on the map really helps.

  2. Have you ran any tests with placing AreaServed Schema as a part of the local business schema not he client’s website and seeing if that has any impacts on rankings?

    1. Hi Alex,

      We tested this a while back and it did not have a ranking impact. We are in the process of re-testing to see if anything has changed. Let us know if you discover anything as well. Thanks!

      1. Regarding changing an existing GMB listing from a visible address to an SAB by clearing the address (business now works from home), are these accurate statements?

        1. If the existing address is no longer in use at all, the listing would basically be “stuck” with ranking according to the address that was originally in the listing.
        2. If the existing address was in violation of guidelines (eg, virtual), there is an ongoing risk of suspension caused by this variable because that address is still lurking somewhere in the underbelly of the GMB cluster. I realize the virtual office topic is more addressed in one of Joy’s posts on SAB’s (, but including it here because it’s a riff off of the first scenario.

        If those are true, then for a business transitioning to be an SAB that has an existing GMB listing with a visible address, do you recommend just creating the SAB listing from scratch and marking the other as closed and trying to get reviews moved over to the SAB listing (if they aren’t heavily tied to the original physical location)?

        1. (Oops! Didn’t mean to nest this as a reply to Alex’s question above. This was supposed to be a standalone comment.)

        2. Hi Kerry, yes those are accurate statements. There are some ongoing bugs with SAB addresses currently so keep that in mind if you plan on switching from visible address to SAB. I wouldn’t suggest creating a new SAB from scratch. but instead, I would update the address to the new one and once that is published I would clear the address.

          1. That makes sense from a standpoint of retaining the authority of the listing and having the correct address somewhere in Google’s database. But if the new address is a business owner’s home address, they may not be OK with it being publicly visible even for a short amount of time. So curious how you’ve handled that if you’ve been in that scenario.

  3. Great article, thank you. I’ve always looked for better info relating a website’s GMB landing page optimization and GMB/local pack rankings. You touch on it in the target long-tail keywords section at the end but I’d love to see an article/data/examples on this topic, specifically.

  4. Question: So when Sterling Sky entered their address in GMB, did they enter the Uxbridge address or the Stouffville address? Which address did the GMB PIN postcard go to? Just curious. Thanks!

  5. Hi Colan,

    First of all, thank you for this very useful article.

    I have a question regarding the maps you included, which show the rankings (coloured pins with numbers). How did you create them? Is there a certain tool to get to this results?

    Thank you in advance.


  6. Great article! Love the way you presented the results.

    The reality being that a physical address still really helps with improving ranking and service area does almost nothing resonates with my experience also.

    One problem with physical addresses is that Google will automatically include a street view pin in the business’s photos section. This is all well and good, unless the street view is extremely unrelated to the business – bad branding etc.

    Have you ever experimented with using a physical address and trying to get rid of a street view photo?

  7. Is this article still current? Is it still that the physical address and not the service area impacts ranking?

  8. Hello! Interesting article. Any idea on whether a service area listing would be a good idea for physicians who practice at multiple locations across a major city? Currently, we’re concerned that we’re invisible in certain parts of the city for the physician and their specialty. However, multiple listings for each practice location that the doctor works out of is also a challenge as the bulk verification process has become unreliable. We’re also concerned that multiple listings with the same physician name are confusing to the public, but then when we look to add a geographic identifier tied to the area of the city for example to the physician/listing name, then the question is will we torpedo NAP and local SEO? Any insight would be welcomed! Thank you, Gabor

    1. Hi Gabor, I would not suggest creating SAB’s for doctor’s. Google wants them to have GBP’s for each of the physical locations they work out of.

  9. How would you tailor your advice on this issue for a law firm with multiple offices in a metro area spanning two states (one on each side of the state line)? Our offices are 16 miles apart—one downtown, in the heart of the main city, and the other in a suburb in the adjoining state.

    Would you advise removing service areas from the two GBP listings or just ensuring they don’t overlap?

    I’m also curious if you’ve seen any changes on this issue in the five months since your original post.

    1. Hi Matt,

      Services areas still don’t impact ranking. For a brick-and-mortar law firm, I wouldn’t bother adding service areas.

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