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  1. #1
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    Advice on National Brands

    Most of my experience is with small local companies or companies with multiple physical branches, assisting them with local search issues. I have two different companies asking me for advice that don't meet this profile and I would like some guidance. I will deal with them one at a time.

    The first is in Waste Management and it has two fully owned locations but several GMB listings around the country set up by various marketers in the past, some of which don't fully comply with Google's guidelines. They are essentially a national brand sub-contracting work to local independent operators. The website has a good spread of local landing pages but there is no 1-2-1 relationship between those pages and the GMB pages (there are far more landing pages than GMB listings). My question is whether the local landing pages have ranking value given that they don't have a physical presence or any citations in most cases. It would not be possible to embed a Google Map on the majority of the pages although they do contain an image of a map of the area to make it look local. Nor do they have other information such as NAP or business hours on the local pages which they should really have for maximum effect.

    On one extreme I could suggest that they close all but their two genuine GMB locations and at another I could suggest trying to create listings for each landing page. I can see the advantages of both. If they had only two locations should they be set up as "service area" to cover the country? Would abandoning their local landing pages have any ranking effect given that there is no location?

    Moving on to the next business it is sells insurance on domestic heating etc. out of a single location and has not even claimed its GMB listing. I plan to recommend claiming the GMB listing (if only to be able to respond to reviews) and setting up citations in the main directories and review sites for that industry. It is a service area business covering the whole country and therefore I assume that the GMB listing should be set as such.

    Both businesses will benefit from organic SEO such as content marketing but that is not something I can handle. I just want to ask what I should be recommending from a local search perspective for these essentially national brand businesses. Any advice would be gratefully received.

  2. #2
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    Re: Advice on National Brands

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas MyLocal View Post
    Moving on to the next business it is sells insurance on domestic heating etc. out of a single location and has not even claimed its GMB listing. I plan to recommend claiming the GMB listing (if only to be able to respond to reviews) and setting up citations in the main directories and review sites for that industry. It is a service area business covering the whole country and therefore I assume that the GMB listing should be set as such.
    Hi Thomas, I have time to weigh in on the 2nd one.

    Service area settings don't affect ranking area at all. So even if you set nationally they will still only have a chance of ranking in their city and close surrounding area, based on competition.

    Plus if they serve the whole country, that makes me think they must do most business online or by phone. They don't qualify for GMB unless they regularly meet with clients in their local area - in person. Plus I think it's possible there would not even be a GMB category close to their niche AND those KWs would probably not even pull a local pack.

    So unless I made a wrong assumption above, I think you'd have to go for regular SEO and could optimize different pages for different areas but without a GMB page, not sure that would be advantageous.

    Hope this helps. Have a great weekend!
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

    If you benefit from advice here... Please pay the community back by sharing on social OR helping someone else at the forum. Thank you!

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    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".

  3. #3
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    Re: Advice on National Brands

    Edit: Linda, you beat me to it! I'll leave this here though, since there's one or two other things I saw that might be useful.

    Hi Thomas,

    You'll want to see what some of the other pros here say since my experience is more like yours than cases like this, but there's a few things I see at least that stand out.

    First, from the guidelines:

    Service-area businesses—businesses that serve customers at their locations—should have one page for the central office or location and designate a service area from that point. Service-area businesses can't list a "virtual" office unless that office is staffed during business hours.
    From the sounds of it, you're only allowed those two real locations. Depending on how the independant contractor relationships are structured though, maybe they would qualify too? Rotorooter after all has all their locations. You'd need to post more information for a judgement call to be made there though, and there are other people on the forum more qualified to advise you in this specific area.

    Second, while GMB profiles have rules (that are enforced in varying degrees) local landing pages do not. If you're getting any amount of organic traffic from the various local landing pages, and if their presence in the site doesn't make the navigation a mess, then there's no reason not to keep them. You can have a dozen local landing pages on a business website for a single location business even. In fact, it's probably the best strategy for a SAB with a wide service area to capture organic traffic outside their main city.

    Last piece on that business: your set service area has no positive bearing at all on your ability to rank. If you have a hidden address and you say you serve your local metro area, centered around the city center, you'll still appear for customers closer to your hidden address. The SAB radius literally does nothing aside from set the radius on the map when someone does a brand name search. I know at one time at least, having a service radius set above maybe 40 miles could negatively impact rankings, but I don't know if that's still the case. I personally still recommend setting a lower service area just to be on the safe side. You can always make clear on the website the full scope of locations you service.

    For the second profile, same thing goes. Does the insurance company meet with people in person ever? They may not even qualify for a listing at all. Either way, GMB is going to be for them to take more of a piece of the local market, that's it.

  4. #4
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    Re: Advice on National Brands

    James

    Thanks very much for your comments. I had an interesting phone call with a Google rep about another SAB and their recommendation was to set the area as wide as possible for maximum effect so they obviously think it helps. It didn't seem to from the metrics that I check for that business, so I tend to agree with you.

    So you seem to be recommending that the first business consolidates its GMB listings to two SABs and not have any others. I assume that they could embed a Google Map and their NAP, Hours etc. on the landing pages coinciding with those two GMB listings. I guess it would be risky for them to try to do that with their other GMB listings which don't represent an owned location. I take on board the point about having multiple Landing Pages to get organic rankings in different places and I guess the more local content they can put on those the better, backed up by some Schema Markup.

    I was somewhat surprised by Linda's suggestion that the other business may not qualify for a GMB listing and you seem to concur. It is quite possible that the business does not meet clients at its office as it sells mainly online and by phone. But I have always been under the impression that Citations are essentially a form of Backlink and that any company, whether or not a Local Business, is perfectly entitled to be listed on these directories. I have even seen GMB listings categorised as Head Office.

    Is it not the case that a (non-local) business with a strong (high authority) Citation profile will rank better than a similar business with no Citations (assuming a similar backlink profile outside of that)? If so, on what grounds would GMB not be a viable Citation for them? GMB used to be divided into Locations and Brands but seems to be only Locations these days - is that what has changed the situation?

    So far no expert opinions from anyone else, please chip in.

    Thomas

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    Re: Advice on National Brands

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas MyLocal View Post

    I was somewhat surprised by Linda's suggestion that the other business may not qualify for a GMB listing and you seem to concur. It is quite possible that the business does not meet clients at its office as it sells mainly online and by phone. But I have always been under the impression that Citations are essentially a form of Backlink and that any company, whether or not a Local Business, is perfectly entitled to be listed on these directories. I have even seen GMB listings categorised as Head Office.

    Is it not the case that a (non-local) business with a strong (high authority) Citation profile will rank better than a similar business with no Citations (assuming a similar backlink profile outside of that)? If so, on what grounds would GMB not be a viable Citation for them?
    Hi Thomas,

    I would not consider GMB a citation per se, even though it is. But if you just consider it one of many directories, then realize they each have their own rules.

    however, since GMB is so crucial for local, it tends to be abused the most, therefore has more stringent guidelines.

    In addition to the guideline Jame so wisely quoted, here are 3 more sections that apply to your 2nd business and some locations of the 1st one.

    Brands, organizations, artists, and other online-only businesses aren't eligible for Google My Business listings.

    In order to qualify for a Google My Business listing, a business must make in-person contact with customers during its stated hours.

    Make sure that your page is created at your actual, real-world location.
    James, myself and other Google TCs see suspensions all the time for the above violations. It would be a shame for the company to pay you for your advice or work only to have the listing pulled and all that effort wasted.

    Especially when the upside is so tiny for a national biz since you only have a chance of ranking in a small local area, usually just the city the listing is in. PLUS search volume for a single city or town would be tiny and not worth the effort IMO. (Saying that as a huge GMB fan - it's just the reality of how it works.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas MyLocal View Post
    GMB used to be divided into Locations and Brands but seems to be only Locations these days - is that what has changed the situation?
    No it's always been like this. Plus brand pages don't do any good for ranking anyway because they don't show up in maps or search so likely no one will see.

    You still could set up a G+ page (equivalent to what used to be called Brand pages.) But that would not help at all with ranking in local, if no GMB page.

    Does all that help explain?
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

    If you benefit from advice here... Please pay the community back by sharing on social OR helping someone else at the forum. Thank you!

    Don't Miss Important News & Tips! Subscribe to Daily Email Digest Here

    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".

  6. #6
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    Re: Advice on National Brands

    Linda

    Thank you for the more detailed explanation. One thing that I forgot to mention in the previous posts was that the second business has two reviews and would obviously be interested in getting more. The two reviews are on its unclaimed GMB page and my advice would be to claim that page so that they can respond to the reviews (neither of which seem to even be about the right business by the way).

    If we take it that they don't qualify for a GMB page which I will need to double check, then how come a GMB page already exists? Should they get Google to delete that page? What would stop one reappearing if it was removed?

    More to the point, given that they would like more reviews and that is something that I can help them with, where would you suggest those reviews should appear if they are not allowed a GMB page? Google reviews are generally pretty valuable compared with most other review sites. I guess they could go for Facebook and Yelp but it does seem odd to me that they could not go for Google if they can go for Facebook and Yelp.

    Regards

    Thomas

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    Re: Advice on National Brands

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas MyLocal View Post
    Linda

    Thank you for the more detailed explanation. One thing that I forgot to mention in the previous posts was that the second business has two reviews and would obviously be interested in getting more. The two reviews are on its unclaimed GMB page and my advice would be to claim that page so that they can respond to the reviews (neither of which seem to even be about the right business by the way).

    If we take it that they don't qualify for a GMB page which I will need to double check, then how come a GMB page already exists? Should they get Google to delete that page? What would stop one reappearing if it was removed?
    Everything I said previously is "letter of the law" but there are so many areas of gray with GMB.

    If Google finds there is a business at a location she'll scrape and create a listing. She does not know they don't see clients there - she simply found a business. So you could just take that listing as a gift from Google.

    If you claim it that's when it becomes a violation, but of course to add images and respond to reviews, you have to claim it. The main risk is if a competitor reports or edits the listing. That often happens in super competitive markets like Locksmiths and Plumbers. But since that market is not very competitive (at least here in US) and if you hide address as you should since it's a service area biz, then you could probably fly under the radar. I would CYA tho and be sure to explain to the client and let claiming be their choice.

    Have you checked to be sure there is even a category in GMB for domestic heating insurance AND whether those keywords even pull a local pack? If answer to both Qs is no then potential customers won't see it for a KW search. Would only show if someone knows the name of the business and does a brand search, or the biz gives them a link to leave a review.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas MyLocal View Post
    More to the point, given that they would like more reviews and that is something that I can help them with, where would you suggest those reviews should appear if they are not allowed a GMB page? Google reviews are generally pretty valuable compared with most other review sites. I guess they could go for Facebook and Yelp but it does seem odd to me that they could not go for Google if they can go for Facebook and Yelp.
    Yes, for SMBs Facebook and Yelp would be the best bet typically, unless there is a popular industry specific directory potential customers would search, like there are in medical, legal & travel.

    Weekends are slow here. Everyone is out playing. But hopefully some others will weigh in with their thoughts too.
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

    If you benefit from advice here... Please pay the community back by sharing on social OR helping someone else at the forum. Thank you!

    Don't Miss Important News & Tips! Subscribe to Daily Email Digest Here

    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".

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    Re: Advice on National Brands

    Linda, many thanks for the clarifications and I will certainly discuss all of this with the client. Thomas

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    Re: Advice on National Brands

    Linda - I just checked and some of their main competitors are listed on GMB as either "Insurance Agency" or "Insurance Company". With a Service Area business there is a box to tick "I serve customers at this address" (or something similar) so I guess there must be legitimate businesses that do not serve customers at their address. However, that may be reserved for businesses that go to their customers in person which this company almost certainly will not. Thomas

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    Re: Advice on National Brands

    Hi Thomas,

    Linda asked some great strategic questions. What keywords are valuable to your client? Is there a 3-pack there at all? For me, heating insurance pulled up nothing but HVAC contractors. If you look into it and there aren't relevant keywords to your client that pull a 3-pack, the only real value you'd have from a GMB listing with reviews would be the knowledge panel that would appear for a brand name search. Depending on how big the company is, you can get a different kind of knowledge panel instead anyway. Look up Geico for example, if there are no local branches near you, you'll see their brand knowledge panel instead, with links to social profiles, a snippet from wikipedia, and so on (no reviews on the brand knowledge panel though). Usually, to my knowledge, the biggest decider of whether you get a brand knowledge panel or not, is whether you have a page on wikipedia, but this isn't an area I know a ton about.

    The most valuable place to build reviews should be pretty obvious. Think of it like this, what are people seeing? Look on your analytics, where are people finding you? Yelp? Facebook? Take a peak at some competitors, do a brand name search for them. Or better yet, search 'competitor name + reviews'. Do that for your client's company too. What shows up? Are there 3rd party directory sites that look valuable for competitors that your client isn't using? Are there 3rd party directly listings that are showing really high for your client, that you could get review stars on with a little extra work? Reviews do factor in as a local ranking signal, but for your client, the vast bulk of any benefit for review building will be as a conversion tool. You can increase CTR for any organic rankings (review stars are shown to have an impact) you can build trust for people making a final buying decision (many consumers will specifically look for reviews on 3rd party sites before purchasing) and you can increasing conversion on the site itself, by including reviews you've gathered elsewhere in the right parts of the sales copy.

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