Service Areas and Physical Address

BipperMedia

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Jan 13, 2019
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We rank nowhere and for nothing in Toronto. Where we do rank locally is near the address I used to verify it. That's consistently what I've seen on every service area business I've worked on in the last decade.
Of course, distance (proximity) is one of the 3 core pillars of map rankings... so that makes sense.

I also agree that local SEO is never a linear path. There's never just one single factor.

For example, you can have more location authority than every other competitor in your market, but if you don't add service areas strategically to expand your radius of influence (so to speak), then it's simply untapped authority that's laying dormant and you'll only rank in your defined service area... and if that single service area is too widely defined, then proximity takes over and you're back to square one.

Side note: I think this is also an argument for the strategic use of adding service areas... doing it in the most effective manner to maximize the channeling of your authority.

On the other hand, if you have no location authority - or relatively small levels compared to competitors in your market - then it doesn't matter how strategically you add and expand your service areas... you aren't getting found.
 

JoyHawkins

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My head is spinning trying to wrap my head around how anyone could conclude the service area setting had anything to do with this. Based on what I'm reading, I see that doing a lot of good SEO helps you gain prominence (what you're calling "location authority"). Prominence leads to more traffic. I don't see any way to accurately conclude what part the service area played in any of this.

People generally add service areas because they want to rank in areas further away from them. I've never seen that work once.
 

BenFisher

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Nov 19, 2015
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I will just chime in and say my service area has been extended from Austin to Houston to Phoenix since last November when the change was initially made by GMB (Lol I recall we were at the PE summit at Google HQ). Anyway, since then I have done zero work to help with local rank. I get links organically, but no other work implemented.

Long story short, no new local rankings outside of the address which was used for verification.
 

BipperMedia

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My head is spinning trying to wrap my head around how anyone could conclude the service area setting had anything to do with this.
In think in the context of this discussion, the role of the service areas is that by adding them (and assuming enough intrinsic authority is present), you are creating the doorways to productivity from those defined service areas.

It's sort of like the "chicken or the egg" problem...

In order for the added service areas to generate productivity from those surrounding areas, there has to be enough location authority (prominence) within the GMB to overcome the distance / proximity factor.

So the authority / prominence has be implicit within the GMB...

but if the authority is sufficient, then adding surrounding service areas (zip codes, cities, counties, etc...) will create the doorways you need to generate productivity from those defined service areas.

And of course, the radius impact of your authority will also determine how far out (proximity) you can push productivity from your main location.

Nothing happens without first having the location authority / prominence to carry your relevance at whatever distance those defined services areas are from your location.

But if your location has the authority, then I don't see how you could otherwise maximize your presence and productivity from surrounding areas and at wider radiuses without defining the service areas.

I almost hesitate to even make that statement because I feel like I'm overlooking something... but replying on the fly as I am... I'll leave it as is :)
 

BipperMedia

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I will just chime in and say my service area has been extended from Austin to Houston to Phoenix since last November when the change was initially made by GMB (Lol I recall we were at the PE summit at Google HQ). Anyway, since then I have done zero work to help with local rank. I get links organically, but no other work implemented.

Long story short, no new local rankings outside of the address which was used for verification.
Hi Ben! Those are super wide, super diverse ranges of proximity... in my day to day experiences with clients, the proximity issues we contend with are radiuses of 5, 10, 20 or more miles... not entirely different states!
 
Joined
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Ok. I think you're saying that if you have enough "location authority", then adding a service area zip code will allow you to rank in that zip, where you didn't before. I have never seen this to be the case, but could be convinced by data.

I want to see this test:
- Business has a ton of location authority.
- Business sets up rank tracking in a few zip codes and establishes a baseline of ranking data.
- Business adds the zip codes to the service area section. Do rankings go up?
- Business removes the zip codes. Do rankings go down?

If you have that data, I'll be convinced. If you need a local rank tracker to test this, I'm happy to set you up with an account!
 

BipperMedia

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@whitespark -- that sounds like an amazing experiment to undertake! We definitely have the client base and characteristics within our clients to set the ground work for a solid test like this... so let's make it happen! I don't know what you mean by a local rank tracker -- but just let me know -- and thank you for the opportunity.

I do have some data to share from this particular client's test. I started testing zip codes all over this client's market with this idea back in December 2018... I know this isn't even close to what you are asking about, or wanting to see from a defined test, etc... but I thought it might be helpful to share.

here's a sample / screenshot of the zip codes I defined in the service areas back in December 2018:




And here's screenshots form our reporting tool of their productivity from then to now (last full month = August 2019)

GMB Actions:




GMB Maps / Search Productivity




And I'm not sure if this is helpful in this context, but here's this client's % change in productivity (August 2019 vs. July 2019):



The math of % increase or descrease is being calculated in the report... so for example:

  • 40.24% increase in phone calls
  • 42.81% increase in map views
  • 23.87% increase in discovery search
  • etc...


I also have feedback from this client that they are getting more calls and more jobs from new customers from a much wider radius than what they were used to.

What do you think about this?

Do you feel that by expanding the service areas to a wide array of surrounding zip codes and cities opened this client up to increased productivity?

Side note: thank you all so much for your engagement and ongoing conversation!

This is really an honor for me to be talking with you all about topic.

thank you again...
 
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I think your data speaks to the value of the SEO work, and you're making some improvements for the client, but since you're doing other great work for them, you can't say that it was the service areas that caused this. You need to test the impact of the service areas in a vacuum where no other other work is being done.

I think we could test this pretty quick and easy:

1) Send me the client website and a link to their GMB Profile (knowledge panel), plus 10 keywords they are trying to rank for. darren@whitespark.ca

2) I will set up our Local Rank Tracker to check their rankings from all of the locations you listed above. Both local rankings and organic rankings. Let's give it a few days to collect some baseline data.

3) You then go ahead and remove all those service areas.

4) We'll keep an eye on rankings and see if it had any impact.

My hypothesis is that there will be no detrimental impact on rankings at all. This will confirm my suspicion that the improvements you're seeing are related to other SEO work you've been doing, not the service areas you set in GMB.

If we do see a drop in rankings, then this will be very interesting, and will be the first direct evidence I'm aware of that setting service areas in GMB has any impact on rank.
 

BipperMedia

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Jan 13, 2019
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Hi @whitespark -- this sounds like a plan...

Perhaps another interesting twist on this whole conversation is the idea of building enough authority / prominence within the same location in order to achieve higher map rankings.

i.e. moving the needle of rankings and productivity within the same city you are verified in. I think this would be especially valuable for businesses physically located in large metro areas.

I have a client that's located 10 miles north of the center of their city... basically at the very northern border of their metro area, whereas all of their competitors are located right in the center of the city.

And they are in a hyper competitive market (personal injury lawyer / car accident lawyer).

... several different headwinds that have plagued us for quite some time.

But the city we are talking about is not, by any means, a large metro area. It is, however, heavily populated as its a suburb of a very large metro area.

There were a few fundamental changes that we made that finally started to move the needle:

1) we moved away from API platforms like Yext and Moz Local, and instead, executed citation distribution manually and at a much higher scale (volume), both at the global and niche level (category and geo specific)

2) we focused on getting a higher % of citations actually indexed

3) focused on enhancing their city page, which we set as the landing page URL in their GMB. The enhancements we focused on here were things like adding more content, integrating location signals, integrating Schema review markup, creating better site structure within their site... pretty much overall SEO type stuff.

Anyway, long story short, this client is now dominating #1 in both Google Maps and Google organic for their highest value keyword phrase while remaining 10 miles north of the center of the city -- and obviously outranking all of their competitors who are located (proximity) right at the center of the city.

I put together a screenshot to help summarize this scenario (see below).

My point in sharing all of this is because, in my view anyway, not only can you build enough prominence and authority to impact your presence, rankings, and productivity in surrounding areas... but you can also influence your radius of productivity within the same geographic market.

Perhaps more interesting research and tests can be implemented to see the impact that authority has on increasing your radius of productivity within the same city?

This could be especially valuable for businesses in large metro areas -- such as Toronto and the scenario @JoyHawkins mentioned -- where there's more competitors, higher population density, and the radius spectrum (so to speak) would be much larger within the same city.

Here's a screenshot I threw together for this client who's located 10 miles north of the center of their city.




Note: the #1 organic ranking was achieved much sooner than the #1 map ranking... which tells me the proximity factor carries much more weight in Google Maps (which seems obvious).

But I'm also of the opinion that their organically ranked URL played a definitive role, at some level and degree, in eventually influencing their map rankings.

Again, there's never one single factor that can be isolated.
 

Mindquest

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Jul 10, 2013
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@BipperMedia

Thanks for taking on this experiment to definitively determine if this one factor (service area zip code into GMB) makes a big difference to ranking. With what Darren has laid out this should be a quick way to figure this out. Please keep us posted on the progress!

@whitespark Thanks for offering to make this happen, this is such a great community and this is just one example of it!
 

BipperMedia

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@whitespark -- I don't think I ever claimed that adding service areas alone caused this. And if I did, that certainly wasn't my intent.

My intent is to first say that "yes" you can add service areas and influence your productivity from those defined service areas.

And second, I've been trying to articulate the correlation between relative levels of authority and adding service areas to generate productivity from those service areas.

Adding service areas to your GMB alone is not sufficient... which has been my position all along.

I stated several times that if you do not have sufficient levels of location authority, it doesn't matter what you do / how many service areas you add, etc... you are getting found.

I do believe - however - with sufficient levels of authority, you CAN add service areas and influence the increase in productivity from within those service areas.

On the other hand, if you have sufficient levels of authority but do NOT add service areas to expand your radius of influence (reasonably and respective to your level of authority), then I believe you are handicapping / limiting your relative productivity potential that could've otherwise been generated from those service areas.
 

BipperMedia

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Jan 13, 2019
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@BipperMedia

Thanks for taking on this experiment to definitively determine if this one factor (service area zip code into GMB) makes a big difference to ranking. With what Darren has laid out this should be a quick way to figure this out. Please keep us posted on the progress!

@whitespark Thanks for offering to make this happen, this is such a great community and this is just one example of it!
@Mindquest --- I'm quickly becoming more sensitive to the terminology being used in this discussion...

You said "to definitively determine if this one factor (service area zip code into GMB) makes a big difference to ranking".

Adding service area zip codes alone --- in fact, no single factor alone (except perhaps citation distribution and link building... but that's another discussion) -- makes a big difference to ranking.

The original premise, at least the way I read it, was that adding service area zip codes makes no difference and has zero influence in your rankings.

My point all along is that I disagree with this premise.

My point -- at least I'm hoping anyway and if I did it was never my intent - is not to say that adding service area zip codes as the single catalyst an factor alone makes the difference in rankings.

There's a fundamental difference in the premise of those two statements.

And I'm increasingly becoming nervous that I'm about to head to the gallows as result of my original premise being missed :)
 

BipperMedia

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Jan 13, 2019
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Bobby,

What was the location you searched from (what zip code) and the keyword you searched?
Good morning @JoyHawkins -- I'm exactly 57.3 miles away from this client's office.

The main keyword phrase being searched is "cumming car accident lawyer".

Update: sorry, you asked my zip code... I'm searching from 30606. The client's office is in 30028 (of course, at the very northern tip of that zip code!!!!).

In fact, interestingly enough... Google Maps doesn't even place his office in his main city -- there's some other tiny city called "Silver City" where Google Maps shows him within the borders of that city. I tried to get a screenshot showing his office within that Silver City border but couldn't get it -- I know I've seen it before though.

Here's a screenshot of the proximity challenge:



Cumming, Georgia is a fast growing suburb located just northeast of Atlanta, Georgia up the heavily / densely traveled GA 400 corridor in and out of metro Atlanta.

This client's main competitors are also heavily targeting the Atlanta market with huge budgets being thrown at both organic and paid.

I've conveyed to the client many times that we are severely handicapped with your office being 10 miles north of the center of your city, and with all of your toughest competitors literally located around the courthouse in the center.

But the challenge has always been presented as... "well, let's get it figured out!"

I can go into a lot more detail as to the experiments we've ran over several years trying to crack the code on this... but I don't have the time this morning to write it out and I don't want to lose focus on the core discussion on this thread.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be here and to dialogue with you and everyone else on this topic!
 
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Mindquest

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@Mindquest

The original premise, at least the way I read it, was that adding service area zip codes makes no difference and has zero influence in your rankings.

My point all along is that I disagree with this premise.
I doubt you are heading to the gallows for offering an opinion and backing it up with testing the premise of this thread. :)

This is a very basic binary test of the Service Area option playing any role in ranking. General consensus on this thread and others that I have read is that it plays absolutely no role in ranking. With your test we can all see the results with no other factors interfering. (Caveat: This is one small test, your results may differ...blah...blah...blah) 😁

Good Luck!
 

JoyHawkins

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Currently, I see no correlation between where this listing ranks in the local results & the service areas that were added in GMB. It follows the traditional patterns we see in local search:

1. You rank best closest to your location.
2. You'll rank farther away for long-tail keywords with little competition. I'd put "Cumming car accident lawyer" in this category since it's a small town and wouldn't have as much competition as the variation with Atlanta.
3. More competition makes it harder to rank. This explains why the ranking expands for a larger distance further to the north and the closer you get to Atlanta, the worse it ranks.




I'm definitely interested to see what happens after you remove the service areas. My hypothesis is the same as Darren's.
 

BipperMedia

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@JoyHawkins -- I apologize because I clearly shifted the conversation a bit and it wasn't caught.

The example with the car accident lawyer is not specifically related to "adding zip codes as service areas."

I brought the car accident lawyer up as an example - albeit slight variation - of influencing rankings in Google Maps for locations that are further away from the center of the city... i.e. locations that are heavily weighted down due to proximity factors.

I just checked, and I have not added any additional service areas to the car accident lawyer's GMB, other than those directly targeted their main city.

Again, I mentioned this car accident lawyer for 2 reasons:

1) because I think it's an interesting variation of this discussion of increasing presence within the same city, even if the location is far away from the center of the city.

2) because perhaps, in an indirect way, this result correlates to the idea of influencing your rankings and presence in other service areas as a result of increasing your authority and prominence.

Side note: "WOW!!!" and "DANG!!!" (excuse my language)... I did not scale all of the #1 rankings held by this law firm... those #1 rankings in your first screenshot are extending well over a 70 mile radius... that's insane!

You said, " I see no correlation between where this listing ranks in the local results & the service areas that were added in GMB."

Again, there are no other service areas added to this car accident lawyer's GMB -- I was trying to draw on a slightly different variation of what I see perhaps as the same discussion (if that makes sense -- I apologize if it doesn't).

You said, "You'll rank farther away for long-tail keywords with little competition. I'd put "Cumming car accident lawyer" in this category since it's a small town and wouldn't have as much competition as the variation with Atlanta."

I feel as though this statement dilutes the reality and perspective of what was a massive undertaking and challenge. Even though the market is not as vast as something like Atlanta, it required a massive level of diligence and experimentation -- and a lot of failures and ups and downs along the way -- to cause this law firm to rise to #1... and clearly, based on your screenshot, the location authority of this location is carrying weight over 70 miles way (again, that's insane!).

You said, "More competition makes it harder to rank. This explains why the ranking expands for a larger distance further to the north and the closer you get to Atlanta, the worse it ranks.

In this case, and to make an otherwise bold and direct statement, I believe that the growth in authority and prominence alone is what's carrying the rankings and expanding it across larger distances.

But let me clarify this "alone" statement... many / perhaps hundreds of changes, tests, failures, experimentations, more failures, SEO of the city page, site structure of the website as a whole, GMB experiments, citation distribution, indexation of citations, backlinks, all of the above and more... culminate into this one statement of "authority and prominence alone is what I believe to be carrying the weight".

And I believe the vast radius of influence displayed in your screenshot shows this to be true.

Thank you again for the dialogue!

Bobby
 

JoyHawkins

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I feel as though this statement dilutes the reality and perspective of what was a massive undertaking and challenge. Even though the market is not as vast as something like Atlanta, it required a massive level of diligence and experimentation -- and a lot of failures and ups and downs along the way -- to cause this law firm to rise to #1... and clearly, based on your screenshot, the location authority of this location is carrying weight over 70 miles way (again, that's insane!).
I guess I don't share your enthusiasm. I don't see ranking for a term (cumming car accident lawyer) for a wide radius as a huge accomplishment. There is almost no competition for it. Other than all his directory listings (which are keyword stuffed with this term), there doesn't appear to be many people targeting it.
 

BipperMedia

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I guess I don't share your enthusiasm. I don't see ranking for a term (cumming car accident lawyer) for a wide radius as a huge accomplishment. There is almost no competition for it. Other than all his directory listings (which are keyword stuffed with this term), there doesn't appear to be many people targeting it.
Clearly... which is ok.

I ultimately appreciate you interacting in this discussion and sharing your views, and of course I appreciate this forum and the opportunity as a whole!

Bobby
 

BipperMedia

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I don't see ranking for a term (cumming car accident lawyer) for a wide radius as a huge accomplishment. There is almost no competition for it.
This is a suburb of Atlanta where GA 400 is running right up the middle of it...

Are you familiar at all with the metro Atlanta area?

Are you familiar with the competitive landscape of "personal injury" and "car accident" lawyers in particular?

I'm honestly not even sure how to respond to your statement "there is almost no competition for it."
 

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