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:
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.
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.
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.