skip to Main Content

Physical Address vs. Mailing Address – What Does Google Base Ranking On?

We recently published an article that explained why a business’s service area in Google My Business does not impact ranking. In fact, the ranking for a service area type business is based on the physical location of that business and has nothing to do with the specified service area. We also shared why it’s very important to realize that the city you use for your mailing address is not always where your business is physically located.

I wanted to share an example that does a beautiful job of illustrating both of these important points.

  1. The ranking is based on the physical location that Google thinks you are located in
  2. There is a major difference, as far as ranking goes, between what you think your address is (such as your mailing address) and what Google thinks your physical location is.

For this example, I came across a State Farm agent in Olathe, KS that really helps illustrate this.

According to the businesses website they are located in Olathe, KS. However, if you look at the physical boundary for Olathe on Google Maps you will see that they actually fall just outside of it.

As a result of this, you can see that Google actually overrides their city with Lenexa in the knowledge panel.

Example #2

Here’s another quick example to illustrate the point. This dentist in North Miami is just outside the North Miami border according to Google Maps. As a result, they do not rank well for “Dentist North Miami” even though they are less than a mile from the boundary.

You can also see that the knowledge panel doesn’t match up, just like in the original example. Google is confused because the address entered into GMB, which is the mailing address, does not match the physical location boundary.

So What?

The physical location has a dramatic impact on ranking. I’ll illustrate that with some geo grid ranking reports from Places Scout. What you will see is that this business ranks amazing for explicit queries with “Lenexa” (their physical location) but ranks horribly for explicit searches with “Olathe” (mailing address and where they consider themselves to actually be located).

Checking to see what physical city a business is actually located in and understanding how much it impacts ranking can help make you a super sharp Local SEO consultant.

How Can I Overcome This?

It’s going to be challenging but here are a few things that can help improve rankings in the city you think you are in when Google thinks you are physically somewhere else.

  1. Implement a strategy to earn backlinks with anchors that mention the city name.
  2. Optimize your website, including your internal linking to make it clear to Google that you have a presence in that city.
  3. Move your business inside the border of the desired city (most impactful).

Have you experienced similar scenarios with your business or clients? Let us know in the comments.

Want more local SEO tips?
Check out our LocalU Event in NYC in September!.

localu webinar

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 23 Comments

  1. Thanks for this information, very interesting! Have you posted anything about getting an address with a flexible office space like Regus or other, and how this can affect your local rankings?

  2. 3. Move your business inside the border of the desired city (most impactful). -HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! My client’s will LOVE it when I suggest that. Google is awesome.

  3. That’s a great post, Colan! I am trying the following “experimental” route to fix a “physical” address for one of our clients:
    1 – Google just the “mailing” address of the business how it appears on GMB.
    It will show you a map, street view and what is located at this address.
    You will see what Google thinks the physical address is (in my case it did show the client’s city and zip code different from the “mailing” address in GMB which the latter is actually the correct city/zip code per USPS).
    2. Click on the map and submit a “wrong address” edit updating the city, zip and map marker position.
    I am not sure if this will actually work as my edits are under review.
    You can also search for that “physical city” + state on maps, zoom in and see if your business is located in that city per Google which is where I think the problem originates from, but I don’t think there is a way to fix this.

    1. Hey Chad, well, Google thinks it is correct from a “physical boundary” perspective. And often, that is different than the USPS boundaries. I think that is because Google gets its data from multiple sources.

  4. In the example in the article, the mailing address of the business is in a different city than the city google thinks it’s in. However, say I have a GMB address that’s within google’s boundary of Olathe, KS but so close to the border that I’m physically closer to Lenexa, KS. Will my GMB ranking for Olathe be affected for this reason?

    In other words, if I have a GMB address that’s in Olathe, KS by google’s definition but it’s actually physically closer to Lenexa, KS, will my GMB rank better in Lenexa, KS than Olathe, KS?

    Thank you for the very informative article!

    1. Hey Josh,

      It would vary by market and city, but theoretically yes, the closer you are to a city the better chances of ranking in that city. However, the physical boundary seems to be king, so in that situation, you should rank better in Olathe if that is the city boundary you fall under.

  5. Pch doesnt recognize my street numbers, google maps doesnt show the numbers. These are the ones i aquired from my post office 22years ago. Ive called pch a couple of times now. “Thought theyed fix it by now”

    1. Hi Dave, The Google Maps help forum is a good place to get help with mapping issues.

  6. Why does GBP ask you to fill in all of the services if they don’t show and they don’t matter?
    Why does it ask if you have a storefront or not if having a storefront is THE KEY to being found?
    Why does it ask where you service if it doesn’t even factor that into the equation?
    So frustrating!!!!

    1. They do matter in the sense that they define the service area on a map. It’s just that the service areas you specify don’t seem to impact ranking at the present time.

  7. Hi Colan. Does the GBP address and the address used by us on all other sites need to be exactly the same, i.e. Google assigned address is 150 2nd Ave. N., UNIT 100 St. Petersburg, FL 33715 vs. the same address we use EXCEPT we list as “Suite” 100 vs. UNIT 100 like Google.

    1. Hi David,

      You don’t need to worry about variations in things like suite vs unit. Google will normalize them.

    2. No, you don’t. Google will understand what the address is with/without using references of “Suite, STE, suite, Unit”, etc. I’d add whatever address you prefer to use correctly into GBP. From there, Google will be able to figure it out. If you want to take it to the next level, add that same address to Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, and Apple Maps. That should take care of it all.

  8. i having troubles with my address should i follow google format or my postal mailing account. i’m in a unit in a plaza postal is 120-4919 59 St RED DEER AB T4N 6C9 but google has it written 4919 59 St #120, Red Deer, AB T4N 6C9

    1. Hi Alvin, it doesn’t really matter. Google can normalize those types of formatting differences. As long as the address is accurate you should be fine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top