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Getting Found Locally in Google With Only One Company Address

April 20, 2011
Hi Jill,

I completed your SEO course on Lynda.com and thought it was great. I am a freelance website designer and also attempting to provide SEO.

I have a client who does business (process serving) in multiple states, but these states cannot also really be categorized into one regional area (I think). They plan to expand into additional states in the future; however, they have only one physical place of business -- which is their home address. I submitted to Google Places with that address, with their permission.

Since local listings seem to have displaced many other listings from the first page of results in Google, how do I get them to show up in the other states where they don't have a physical place of business or storefront? Perhaps they could put the addresses of the individuals that do work for them (in their "network"), but what if they don't want to publicize a home address (especially due to the nature of the business)?

Is there a way to tell Google which states the site is relevant for? On the other hand, if they want to expand their service area, the company would probably want their site to show up for other states as well, even though they are not national yet.

To complicate matters, I think when users (most likely attorneys) are looking for process servers, sometimes they search for the city/state combination as well. I understand from reading previous posts that having multiple URLs redirecting back to the original site would not be good -- that is, process-server-maryland.com, process-server-washington-dc.com, etc. Right? I don't think the information will really vary from state to state, but I can't say that for sure. Should I ask my client to create new content for each state, and explain how process serving is different in that state, and create state pages?

Right now, I just have the list of states (but not cities) in the body copy of the home page. There is no navigation for each of the states.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Sincerely,

RR


++Jill's Response++

Hi RR,

This is definitely a tough situation as far as the organic / natural Google search results go. It's getting even worse because Google has put added emphasis on local Google Places Pages so prominently in their search results.

Unfortunately, you can't add Google Places pages for locations where you don't have a physical office address and phone number, so that's out. (I suppose you could try to purchase dummy phone numbers and addresses strictly for this purpose, but that would be the spammy way to do things, which I don't recommend.)

You can, however, create specific city/state landing pages to be used in conjunction with Google AdWords. You'd target them locally through appropriate ads and keywords within your AdWords interface. This way, only people searching from the appropriate city/state will see the ads and resulting landing pages.

While you might be tempted to use those same landing pages as a way to bring in people from the organic search results (and they may even work fine for this purpose), I would caution against it. Those types of pages often contain mostly duplicate content and have been dubbed "madlib spam" pages by Google. You really need a way to make them unique other than just switching out the city or state name in order to not be considered to be spammy by Google. (See our old forum post on madlib spam.)

That said, most companies that do business in a number of geographical areas may have enough additional information to work with, if they get creative enough. Think about what sort of content would be helpful to your potential customers which also just happens to mention the states you do business in.

Off the top of my head, how about case studies and/or testimonials from previous clients or customers within the different states? You could create a separate page for each case study that discusses the client, where they're from and what you did for them. These would be useful to your site visitors while also making it clear to Google that you do business in each of those states. You could even make them more effective for your potential customers by having video interviews with past clients (if they were willing) and embedding those on the pages as well.

You can (and probably should) list the various states where you work somewhere on your home page, but I imagine you might be able to think of other creative ways to add this local aspect to your site which apply to your client's specific business. The main thing is to figure out ways to get the appropriate content on your site without simply creating useless, duplicate fluff, that's just there only for the search engines. Start by brainstorming the type of extra local information that the potential customers would want to see, and branch out from there.

Good luck!

Best,

Jill

 
is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO Company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalenJill Whalen

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Post Comment

 Tony Pomykala said:
Plan: From the Main Site, create featured links to the "branch sites" that target specific geographic areas. On each of those branch sites give relevant information such as court house addresses, where to file documents, local attorney, police station addresses, etc. Each branch site also returns the link to the home page for the process server's services. It wouldn't take much creativity and research to create a well informed "network" to bring back traffic to the main site. It wouldn't be spammy, and it would generate traffic via niche marketing. The more sites the better.
 Sean Daily said:
Thanks for the relevant and interesting post Jill.

As a local SEO I don't find it spammy at all for a business working in multiple markets to obtain a virtual office address in a city they're servicing. Not all businesses can afford to have multiple physical real locations but often a business in one city will grow to have a significant customer base and presence in another market.. and as a result justifiably want to rank for local Google Places results for searches in that city. Companies offering virtual office locations are abundant and so long as it's not being abused (i.e. putting virtual offices everywhere ad nauseum, even in places the company has no real intention or history of doing business in) I think it's a legitimate practice. If you've got a ton of customers in a particular market, you can and should be represented in the Google Places results within that market.
 Jill Whalen said:
@Sean, it sounds okay to me, I'm just not sure whether Google would agree.

Imagine if every company started doing the same thing. It would make their Places Results somewhat useless I think.
 Keyworded Name and Link Removed said:
I face the same problems here in the UK with clients that offer services through various counties. Another suggestion is do what I call "Localised Link Building". Say you have created those pages for each state, now you need to build links from "local websites", like the chamber of commerce' website for the given state, state association for your given trade and even local business directories can help.
 Kev said:
Could not agree more with your comments Jill.

Creating landing pages has worked very well for my clients over here in the UK. Just recently done a few for a photographer who works in various towns and counties, and now has listings for those towns on the organic results and has driven his traffic up nicely.

Adding testimonials of weddings or commercial projects for certain towns was something we enjoyed doing and works a treat. Benefit of him being a photographer was the ability to show fabulous photographic evidence too. Worked well for other websites too.

Also agree that Google should only allow the one physical location otherwise it will be a mess and I don't recommend virtual offices / postcodes or phone numbers.
 Dan said:
Have been tempted to create a virtual office to target customers in a more affluent part of london ( We are based in South London ) but have had good success with creating individual pages for each area we want to target within the main site, have seen no negative affect and the extra original content throughout the site has actually seemed to add to the sites reputation in a good way.
 Lawrence in NYC said:
Similar issue for commercial insurance brokers. Most have a single office, but are licensed in multiple states. From what I have read above, it seems like creating a page for each state is the best option, and adding state specific content is the method for differentiating the pages.

I still don't understand how they can be listed in local searches for each of the states they are licensed in.