The Single Biggest Mistake in Local Search

Google’s main mission is to provide the highest quality search results for its users; this may seem like a simple concept, but it is often forgotten by those who are setting up their Google My Business page. Simply put, “high-quality search results” means that when you do a search for pet food, you aren’t getting inundated with links for car insurance and other unwanted spam.

While spammers certainly still exist and are constantly trying to game the system, Google is also looking for and changing their systems to catch and remove these sites. It is a virtual game of cat and mouse, where spammers are constantly changing their strategies in an attempt to stay one step ahead of Google—which can be very difficult.

All of these things should be at the forefront of your mind when you are setting up a new website or Google My Business page.

The Wrong Way

For a long time, a popular SEO strategy was to buy and use P.O. Boxes in an area that you wanted to rank for. Another strategy includes using virtual office locations. Many businesses used this to rank in neighboring cities, or towns far away from where the real location was located. For example, one local business that I know used a P.O. Box as their local address on both Google My Business and on their website. For a while, this location was listed in Google but recently it has been taken down.

Here is how they are using the address on their website:

This address looks like a real address but is actually a PO Box.

Looking at the address, it doesn’t seem like it is a P.O. Box at all—rather, it appears to be an actual physical address. While this may seem like a good thing if you are marketing your site, it is actually very deceiving to your potential clients as well as Google.

At the same time, this business had a Google My Business page at this same location. While their trick seemed to work for a while, Google finally caught on, and now this is what it looks like when you do a Google search:

You will be removed from Google My Business if You Use a PO BOX

As you can see, the Google My Business listing no longer exists. Any work that they did to optimize the Google My Business page was lost after they were caught.

The Right Way

Believe it or not, Google performs random checks to make sure you are truly at the location where you claim to be. If they find out that you are not actually there, then your listing will be pulled. The right way to use your address is to follow Google’s guidelines. While you might find that you can trick the system, you will eventually be caught and all of the hard work that you did will be gone. Instead, we recommend that you start correctly from the beginning as you are going to have to do if when Google catches you.

Location is one of the single biggest ranking factors for local search. If your location is fake, inaccurate, or missing altogether, then you might want to think twice about how that will affect your overall marketing strategy.

Local SEO ranking factors from Moz


What to Do

Instead of trying to play games with Google, we recommend that you use a real business address for your business listing. If you do not have one, then we recommend using wherever you run your business out of – your home, etc. Starting with the proper address will save you tons of time and headaches later!

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