Dominate your local market! This is my daily SEO mantra, and one of the first and most basic ways to tackle local SEO is by claiming your Google local listing. This is nothing new. However, an issue I’ve seen a lot lately stems from Google cracking down on what it considers to be ineligible local business listings. Google has always said that you cannot claim a business listing if you don’t actually own the business. That’s obvious – I can understand that. But the line becomes little blurry for my lawyers and physicians who practice and do business out of several satellite or shared office locations. What can you actually claim in this case? The past month I’ve seen a lot of my clients’ claimed satellite office listings disappear.
Here are some guidelines that may help you figure out if you can claim a business location as yours or if Google will consider it against their guidelines and yank your listing.
- Ownership – this is key – are you the owner of the business location you are trying to claim? If not, then you cannot claim it as your own. This means no virtual offices, no executive suites that aren’t normally staffed, and no rented office spaces that you use only when you have client appointments.
- Service Area Listings – If you provide services from a shared office, or several shared office spaces, you can consider setting up a service area listing instead of a business listing with a listed address. It is my personal observance and opinion, however, that these listings do not show up as strongly in search results as business listings with a physical address that is visible. So, I tend to stay away from them unless I have a mobile-only business (landscape service, dog groomer, tow truck, locksmith, glass installer, etc…) that will drive to a location to provide their service. In the case of lawyers and doctors, 9 times out of 10, there will always be a home office and that is the location I would claim.
- Rented Space – If you do have a rented office space and you are the ONLY one who does business from that particular office, then you can ask your landlord to give you a separate and unique suite number. It is possible that you can claim your business listing this way. Every other person doing business from this location will also need their own unique suite number for this to work correctly. And, of course, there is no guarantee that Google will see this as a separate entity. So, until Google provides specific guidelines for these types of business setups, be prepared – you may see your listing disappear anyway.
So, if you DO have shared office space that you cannot legally claim in Google places, here are some things you CAN do to help beef up your local presence at your shared location:
- Add schema markup and hcard formatting to all your addresses on your website so search engines know your business information should be associated with that particular location. Be sure to have it on a Contact or Maps & Locations page.
- Be sure to list your Home Office Locations and Satellite Offices – making the distinction helps everyone.
- Create a Google+ Business page for each office and satellite office location. Add information to each page that specifies your contact information, office hours (or “by Appointment” if you don’t have regular hours), and alternate ways to reach you if you are not at that location on a daily basis.