You’ve worked hard to build your online business. In researching all the best ways to promote your business website, you’ve seen the recommendation to create a Google My Business (GMB) listing for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.
But there’s a hitch.
Your business is online only, and Google My Business requires adding an address. What should you do?
Can My Online Business Create a Google My Business Listing?
Google’s guidelines state: ”Listings on Google My Business can only be created for businesses that either have a physical location that customers can visit, or that travel to visit customers where they are.” That means if you run an eCommerce business that doesn’t have a storefront or if you provide services to clients exclusively online, you aren’t eligible to create a Google My Business listing.
Starting in January 2019, Google did begin to allow businesses that have a specific service area to create Google My Business listings without having to publish a public address.
For example, a contractor that doesn’t have an office because they travel to meet clients at their homes could still set up a listing and clarify what areas they work in. And if you run an eCommerce business that also has a physical storefront, you’re eligible to create a listing for the location you have.
For businesses that are truly online only though, Google My Business isn’t an option.
But that’s OK!
Google My Business has a specific purpose. GMB listings only show up for searches that Google perceives to have local intent.
In other words, when I search for “dog training,” Google can recognize that I need a service provider that is local to me and puts the Google My Business listings right up at the top of the organic results.
But when I search for “dog toys,” it knows that I can just as easily order those from an eCommerce store as buy them from a pet store in my city, so the top results are for eCommerce websites, with the GMB listings further down on the search engine results page (SERP).
If your business is online only, the main keyword terms you target in your SEO efforts probably won’t be the ones dominated by GMB listings anyways. And if you want to shore up the local SEO authority for your website, there are better techniques to try.
How Can I Improve my Local SEO Without Google My Business?
Even if your online business doesn’t only serve one area, it can still be valuable to improve your local SEO. Competing for local results is much less competitive than trying to compete for national ones.
For example, an online marketing consultant who can work with anyone across the country will have a harder time snagging the top spot for a keyword like “online marketing consultant” since they have to compete against the thousands of other consultants doing similar work across the country. But if they get more specific and aim for “philadelphia online marketing consultant” the pool of people they’re competing against gets much smaller.
While it’s true that fewer people search for local terms, if you can get onto page one for a relevant local keyword, more people will see it than if you’re on page 10 for a broader keyword.
To increase your chances of winning some local keyword for your online business, there are a few good local SEO strategies that don’t require GMB at all.
1. Highlight your city on your website.
Even without including the specific address of a physical location, you can tell people what city you’re in on your website. Consider including location-specific keywords in the SEO metadata of your page, such as in your title tag and headings.
A freelance writer in Chicago named John Doe could make their home page’s title tag “Chicago Freelance Writer | John Doe” and include mentions of being based in Chicago on the website’s Home and About pages. That won’t drive potential clients from other cities away, but it will make it easier for Chicago businesses looking for a writer to find him.
Google often prioritizes local websites in the results it provides, even for terms that aren’t explicitly local. Meaning that, if it’s clear from your website you’re in Chicago, you’re more likely to show up for the term “freelance writer” whenever someone in Chicago is doing the searching—not just when they search explicitly for “Chicago freelance writer.”
2. Create local content.
If you’re doing content marketing (and if you care about SEO, you should be), brainstorm topics you can add to your content strategy that relate to local issues. A clothing eCommerce store could create a Guide to the Best Sweaters to Get You Through the San Francisco Winter. A career consultant could write a blog post on the Top Professional Events For Seattle Job Seekers to Attend.
Figure out how to combine your professional expertise with your local expertise in a way that provides value to the members of your target audience that live in your city. And work those insights into your local content strategy.
3. Encourage reviews and testimonials.
Reviews are widely believed to be a key ranking factor for local results. According to a 2018 survey of SEO experts, industry professionals believe reviews account for about 6.5% of how Google determines local rankings. And that’s not just reviews on Google itself, but also includes other popular sites for reviews like Yelp and Facebook.
If you don’t already have a presence on any review sites for your brand, create profiles now, and start encouraging customers to provide reviews.
Do be careful to make sure you understand the terms of all the review sites you’re on. If you try to get more reviews by offering a discount or free products, you may run afoul of their guidelines. But a simple email saying you’d appreciate a review, or adding links to your website that make it easy for customers to find your review site profiles are OK.
4. Join local professional organizations.
Research the professional organizations in your city. You’ll likely find at least one Chamber of Commerce, along with organizations that are specific to certain industries or marginalized groups, Many of these organizations offer directories you can add your information to (including a link), which strengthens your local SEO and provides one more way for potential clients to find you.
And by participating in the local professional community, you’ll gain the kind of relationships that help you raise your business profile and indirectly increase traffic to your website.
5. Sponsor local events.
Are there conferences or other relevant professional events in your city? Events are always looking for sponsors to help cover the cost and provide attendees with a better experience. In exchange for those sponsorships, they’ll typically include a link back to your website on their site, and promote you in the program and other event materials.
Sponsoring local events can both be a strategic way to build links to your site, and a good opportunity to further strengthen your ties to the community. As you build more relationships with individuals and businesses in your town, the increased awareness of your brand will lead to more traffic to your website and links pointing back to it.
GMB Isn’t the Only Way to Achieve Local SEO for Online Businesses
Just because your online-only business can’t create a Google My Business account, it doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from local SEO.
Create a strategy that helps you build up your reputation in the local community, optimize your website to highlight your location, and start creating content that provides useful information to people in your community. By increasing your local visibility and authority, you’ll give your overall website authority a boost.
Get more online marketing strategies for your business with HostGator’s expert SEO services.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.