or How to Rank on Google When You’re Out of the Area

rank outside area

For those of you not so familiar with the League of Gentleman, the now infamous shop owners in the village of Royston Vasey were well known for turning away outsiders.

Sometimes if you’re trying to vie for business in an area you’re not actually based in yourself, Google can make you feel like an outsider and you will struggle to get noticed in the rankings.

It’s a question that I’m often asked by small businesses and consultants – how do I get my business to rank on Google for a town or city if I’m not actually based there?

There’s plenty of businesses out there who are registered to their office or home but they serve clients at their locations and want to grow their business in these areas, not at their own business address.

Why should you worry about ranking in your location of choice?

  • People tend to include towns/counties/regions when searching for businesses on the web.
  • Depending on your market, consumers are starting to trust smaller, local businesses over larger, well-known brands
  • And most importantly, Google and other search engines want to return relevant, precise local search results

So why is it a problem if you aren’t based in your service area?

One of Google’s key ranking factors is your company location data. Google appears to not want to show businesses that are not physically located in the searched city if they can avoid it. And they don’t want businesses to fudge the system as their guideline explain:

Do not create a listing or place your pin marker at a location where the business does not physically exist. P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations.”

So if you are trying to get business in Guildford but your registered office is in Haslemere, what can you do to get ranked alongside more local suppliers?

Have a specific page on your website for each region

There’s no shorting cutting the organic optimisation route – it’s virtually impossible to rank well for your target market unless you create content that is optimised specifically for that location (or locations if you are trying to rank in more than one area). According to Matt Cutts of Google, individualised pages/urls are the way to go. Each location should have an unique URL and each page and their respective URL should be included in your sitemap to help Google and other search engines index the content.

Don’t try to hide these pages by linking to them in a sitemap or footer link – put them in the main navigation under the “areas we serve” type dropdown.

Optimise the Area Page

Do as much as you can with the page content and across your site to promote the fact that you service that location.  As well as all the obvious SEO techniques of urls, titles, meta descriptions all reflecting that location, other tips are:

  • Add customer testimonials and case studies indicating the location of the work you did in the target area.
  • Add photos and videos geotagged with the target location to your site.
  • Talk about why you like working in your target area, or what you like about its residents.
  • If you have any employees based in your target area – mention them or get them to write something.  Something that shows at least a small (but real) connection to that area.
  • If appropriate, write about any local laws or regulations that your potential customers might want to know about.
  • Internal links.  For example, you could link to a blog post you wrote about a job you did in your “target” area.
  • Outbound links.  You could link to the town’s website, to the site of a charity you support in the town, or to a blog post that someone else wrote that’s relevant to the town and to your services.

Off-site Signals

Directory listings certainly aren’t as popular as they once were, but they still hold a tremendous amount of value for local businesses if done right.  Go through your citation listings and make sure you add your company into local directories.  You can even add photos and videos geotagged with the target location to your relevant citation profiles.

Try to get reviews on relevant review sites that mention the location.  Contact local business in your target area and see if you can guest blog on their website or have a mention in return for a mention on your site – of course make it relevant and real, not spammy.  Pointless backlinks are long gone.

Google My Business

Make sure you have a Google My Business page.  For businesses that have service areas, Google allows them to list it as a service area business on Google.

 “Businesses that operate in a service area, as opposed to a single location, should not create a listing for every city they service. Businesses that operate in a service area should create one listing for the central office or location and designate service areas.”

If your business serves customers at their locations, you should carry out the following steps:

  1. Log in to Google My Business and choose the page that you’d like to manage.
  2. Click Edit.
  3. Click Address.
  4. Beneath your address information, select the tick box for I deliver goods and services to my customers at their locations.

You will be able to set service areas based on the postcodes or cities that you serve, or on a given area around your location.

You additionally have the option to indicate I serve customers at my business address. You should only select this option if you want your complete address to display on Google and if your business location is staffed and able to receive customers during its stated hours.

Of course, depending on the competitiveness of your business and the area you want to rank in, there’s never a guarantee that you’ll get to the top of the search engines rankings in that area but if you make what is essentially, fairly simple changes to optimise your site for that location, you stand a good chance.  And perhaps, more importantly, when potential customers, not the search engines, visit your site, they will see you are well represented and respected in their area and are more likely to choose you over “an outsider”.

If you would like any help getting in with the locals, please call or contact me.


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