Huge Change for Service Area Businesses in Google My Business

Tim Colling

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Sep 3, 2014
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I mean are they headed in the direction of allowing people to rank in their service area? Theoretically this makes more sense for quality search results, to have people who can cover the area ranking in that area.
If you think about it, the whole idea of ranking primarily or largely on proximity really doesn't make sense for a lot of industries.

For example, I have clients who provide home health, hospice and caregiving services within a fifty-mile radius around their office. (Yes, they are state-licensed for that large service area.)

They have excellent reviews and excellent quality scores from the state. Why is it logical for them to rank lower than a provider who might be closer in some other town in their service area, but who is less reliable, less qualified, less desirable from an overall standpoint?
 
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
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Just got off the phone and heard " to help you rank outside your current business location make sure and not only add the city you want to rank in but also the "areas."

I was surprised but even some neighborhoods show up, so even though they are covered in the whole city, go ahead and add and search for any area that is listed on google's map while hovering over the city.
 

TomGuard

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Nov 14, 2018
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They are ranking by the proximity of service areas along with trust, reputation and prominence. Google has been testing this for a month in limited categories and locations.

Some SAB's in my area are getting included in a Local Services search. Like the regular SERPS, there are pay per lead ads at the top, then panels below display the free business listing in the same category and service area. When you open a panel, there is no map displayed or link to website. The profiles only show NAP, all service areas, and reviews. They appear to be ranked by reviews or trust from data in GMB and other 3rd party data partners like HomeAdvisor.

A client of mine was included in the Local Services. In GMB they had a 200 mile radius. When Google imported data from GMB to Local Services, it converted the radius to cities and nearby competitors 30 miles away got buried Oct 16th. We think there may have been a data refresh last week because the clients area does not cover what the cities generated in the Local Services and 90% of the cities you see below are not even mentioned on their website.


Below is the Local Services SERP triggered by category and location.


Below is the search bar.


You might be able to see the new listings if you search for Water damage restoration services Miami. Then on the results page click below the ads or cards for more services.
 

JoshuaMackens

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Sep 12, 2012
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If you think about it, the whole idea of ranking primarily or largely on proximity really doesn't make sense for a lot of industries.

For example, I have clients who provide home health, hospice and caregiving services within a fifty-mile radius around their office. (Yes, they are state-licensed for that large service area.)

They have excellent reviews and excellent quality scores from the state. Why is it logical for them to rank lower than a provider who might be closer in some other town in their service area, but who is less reliable, less qualified, less desirable from an overall standpoint?
100% agree. Proximity for SAB's is practically irrelevant. I think Google used it as a stop gap until they could fix the spam issue or come up with a better solution. Maybe this is the solution. But it seems like it can be gamed too.

They are ranking by the proximity of service areas along with trust, reputation and prominence. Google has been testing this for a month in limited categories and locations.

Some SAB's in my area are getting included in a Local Services search. Like the regular SERPS, there are pay per lead ads at the top, then panels below display the free business listing in the same category and service area. When you open a panel, there is no map displayed or link to website. The profiles only show NAP, all service areas, and reviews. They appear to be ranked by reviews or trust from data in GMB and other 3rd party data partners like HomeAdvisor.

A client of mine was included in the Local Services. In GMB they had a 200 mile radius. When Google imported data from GMB to Local Services, it converted the radius to cities and nearby competitors 30 miles away got buried Oct 16th. We think there may have been a data refresh last week because the clients area does not cover what the cities generated in the Local Services and 90% of the cities you see below are not even mentioned on their website.


Below is the Local Services SERP triggered by category and location.


Below is the search bar.


You might be able to see the new listings if you search for Water damage restoration services Miami. Then on the results page click below the ads or cards for more services.
Interesting! I couldn't replicate this in Miami. Is anyone else having success replicating this in Miami? Or elsewhere?
 

TomGuard

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Nov 14, 2018
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Try miami plumber. Then click under the first card where it says more plumbers in miami. I was also able to trigger it with water damage restoration services Chicago
 

JoshuaMackens

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Try miami plumber. Then click under the first card where it says more plumbers in miami. I was also able to trigger it with water damage restoration services Chicago
Oh, those are LSA's. They've been around in certain markets for over a year.
 

jason2004

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Apr 21, 2014
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One of clients is a mortgage broker with offices in two states. Both of branch locations are listed in GMB.

Since they are licensed and do business throughout state, should we use "Add service area" and add other cities in state?

If yes, is it better to add zip codes, cities or states?
 

JoshuaMackens

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One of clients is a mortgage broker with offices in two states. Both of branch locations are listed in GMB.

Since they are licensed and do business throughout state, should we use "Add service area" and add other cities in state?

If yes, is it better to add zip codes, cities or states?
I don't think it should be a problem to add service areas. My only concern would be adding a lot of them and getting dinged for it. Awhile back (3-4+ years ago) you could catch a penalty for using keywords in your GMB description. So I'm always wary of doing too much in GMB. Interested to hear what others think.

In your case, I might just add cities if you're going to be adding a lot of them. If you're adding a lot of cities, zip codes would be too much work and would concern me because of my point above.
 

JoshuaMackens

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Sep 12, 2012
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Yes the lsa's have been around for a year but the free local service listings are just starting to populate. Google doesn't say much about these. Free Local Services listings - Google Ads Help
Unless I'm mistaken those have always been there as well. LSA's are a misnomer. Right now the industry uses the term to mean those search results, whether paid or not. We really should come up with a better term for them.

When LSA's came out if you went through the advanced verification you would end up in the non paid portion no matter what. After you passed advanced verification you also had the option to start advertising and instead of showing up at the bottom of non paid, you would show up at the top in the LSA's.

Again, I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure I remember non paid results being around since the inception of LSA's or right after.
 

TomW

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Sep 1, 2016
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When Google started pushing Local Services ads into markets outside of California they made a change that had a big impact service-area businesses in GMB. In LSA markets, for keywords that triggered Local Services ads, GMB service-area listings were REMOVED. They were no longer in local but instead buried in the free section of the Local Services finder. There was no warning. They just made the change. Many thought this was a bug, and a lot of people that were impacted changed their listing to a storefront, which allowed them to immediately pop back into local results. It was a mess.

Many were upset, including me. It actually motivated me to write an article on the GMB forum about what happened since Google wasn't really talking about it. I don't think I had ever written any sort of article anywhere before that. Anyway, Joy wrote an article that I credit as being the reason that Google ended up reversing this change: Are Home Service Ads the death of home-based businesses on Google? - Search Engine Land

The picture in that article showing the business card taped to a front door was supplied by a friend of mine. He is the owner (and only employee) of a home-based garage door repair company. He had been devastated when he woke up to find his GMB listing was no longer present in the 3 pack. He had already given up on AdWords because scam garage door companies were double serving ads, making outragous claims in their ads and were able to pay a very high cost per click because they overcharge anyone that hires them. So he had no chance there. He was very concerned about the future of his business.

Once Google reversed the decision I was happy to email him to let him know his listing was back in the 3pack. He was thrilled. I told him service-area businesses don't realize it but they owe Joy a big thank you. His response: "She is definitely our guardian angel and we are all in her debt."

Sorry for the long story but it's something I've wanted to tell for a while and this seemed like a good time and place.

It's also relevant because I think this new SAB change is somewhat related to what they tried back then. They're not going to remove them again but the listings will likely have a similar look to Local Services listings, particularly in the way the service area is displayed. Instead of a visual of the service area on the listing it will likely be a list of regions/cities the business serves.

As TomGuard mentioned, they have been generating free Local Services listings from GMB listings (and they have been doing this for a long time). Since LSA listings do not have a visual service area, they convert the GMB based service area into a list of cities. These are then displayed, as TomGuard's screenshot shows... as a text list of cities.

Future possibility for GMB service-area businesses:
If you search [lawn care dallas tx], it's possible service-area GMB listing could eventually show "Serves Dallas" instead of the city the business is located in (assuming Dallas has been entered as a city the business serves). This is how Local Services listings behave (usually). Here's an example of a free one on a search for [lawn care dallas tx]:



Or if you search [lawn care 75236] the listings could show "Serves 75236", similar to this:

 

consultant

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Sep 29, 2015
Messages
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Well I just got a rude awakening as I hadn't looked at my listings in a while that as mentioned, the address is now blank for many (but curiously not all) of my listings. And I even updated the address of a listing I had just verified that same day to the same exact address that was verified and it put it into REVERIFY STATUS! Not good.

So is really the words of wisdom to leave the address blank for a service area business? I swear I'm seeing a pattern where the businesses that still have an address in the infor section show up on keyword searches in Google Maps much more so than listings where Google has removed the address.

Did I miss something or is there no warning on the address field edit to only enter an address there if you are a storefront? If not, that would sure have saved me some headache here.

So then the million dollar question becomes, is there any maps/3-pack ranking advantage of entering an address to show as a storefront business in addition to a service business (what Google calls a HYBRID) as opposed to solely a service area business?

What's even more weird is if I go clear the address while it's in reverify status, when you go to verify it says we will mail the postcard to this address:

{Business Name}
City, State

No full mailing address. I assume when they actually print the postcard they use the full address. ..update.. okay ya on the final screen it shows the street address but it's confusing they don't on the first screen in the verify process. Come on Google Engineers, pull your head out of your asses.

I'm afraid to try this as I don't want to keep putting my locations offline into reverify, but what happens when you clear the address (not the service address) of a verified listing. I would hope it doesn't send you into reverify status. What a sh*t show Google created on this one. It's funny, I chatted with support on this just now and she wanted to call me to explain. I'm sure they have a lot of GMB users going nuts on this poorly implemented change.
 
Last edited:

Yan Gilbert

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Oct 15, 2016
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Same thing happened to me as well. Had to reverify after adding an address. No warning. Finally received the PIN after 15 days. :/
 

consultant

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Sep 29, 2015
Messages
106
Yes, it's completely strange that there isn't a statement on the address screen that says "If your business is by appointment only and/or only serves customers at their location DO NOT ENTER AN ADDRESS HERE" Or better yet, why not make it like it used to be where you asked the questions and then dynamically alter the form based on the answer(s).

So people at Google definitely didn't think things through from a user perspective.
 

consultant

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Sep 29, 2015
Messages
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I can confirm that if you were previously verified and you made this mistake to put the listing to reverify mode, the listing is still active, which is good to know. However I think basically you can't make any more changes to the listing whatsoever until you verify the address again.
 

consultant

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Sep 29, 2015
Messages
106
A few things to note about this update which is rolling out to all SAB's.
5. Existing radius areas will eventually translate to places (cities, zips etc)
NY)
If you have a large service area (100 mile radius) which would encompass potentially hundreds of cities, dozens of zip codes and counties, I would assume you would just want to leave it as is and let Google eventually convert it for you? Otherwise it would be kind of a nightmare of work to do so manually.

Admitedly, I had a just a vague recollection reading something about Google eliminating radius service areas a while back and, like re-adding my address, on one location I made the mistake of thinking I was required to replace my radius setting with cities/zips/counties. Because in the service area setting, the interface DOES post an alert message "Update to service area selection: Choose specific cities, postal codes, and other areas " But like the address setting failing to clarify that you should only enter an address if you are a storefront (or want you address published), it fails to point out that the radius will be converted for you.

Gee Google, you really screwed the pooch on your failure to think through the interface updates to support your changes on the address / service area settings to make it clear to us users what we needed to do or not do to avoid unnecessary work and headache. Many of us are super busy and don't have time to read every word of every announcement you email us (and some won't even fully understand what you are explaining - aka lowest common denominator.) That's a pretty common assumption when determining necessary interface changes to maximize user friendliness when making feature changes for any service provider. You guys have a ton of resources and brain power. You should have known better.
 

Ampere

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Feb 9, 2018
Messages
111
Hey guys, has anyone found new information on this?

I have had my contracting business on GMB for 6 years, I entered my address and verified it at the beginning. I chose that I did not do business at my location and I went out to customer's houses or whatever those two options were.

Now I see that my business location is empty. I have the 15 towns that I service still listed in the Service Area.

When I search my company on Google, on the right hand side of the results page it says "Electrician in Mytown, New Jersey". So it still knows which town I am in. Also, I come up first in the 3 pack for that town. All other towns that I service and list I come up in various positions well below the top 3.

So does this mean that they do know which town I am in even though my address is blank in GMB?
 

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