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Closing your office - will it kill your local SEO?

View profile for Chris Mundy
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Well one thing is for sure, it won’t help it. As the UK officially enters the greatest recession on record it is inevitable that many formerly thriving businesses will soon find themselves in desperate times and looking for ways to cut outgoing costs. The legal industry has been incredibly successful at migrating into the "working from home" world in order to continue to deliver services.

Many firms have inevitably considered whether or not they still require often expensive bricks and mortar locations in order to continue trading. The savings on rent and rates alone would surely be enough for the idea to have at least crossed the minds of most business owners. The purpose of this post is to offer advice regarding the importance of brick and mortar to ranking online in your local search area.  

Most of our readers are already aware that local search prime real estate is the 3-section box and map (sometimes called the 'map pack'); usually below the paid adverts but above the 10 organic results immediately beneath. See below:

In order to appear in the local box above, a business must have a verified Google My Business listing and make in-person contact with customers during its stated opening hours. The same is not true for the search results that appear immediately below that box, many of which may very well be local businesses or resources, depending on the nature of a user’s search query. So, what are the rules for verifying a Google My Business listing?

Google’s guidelines for representing your business on Google

Summary: Listings on Google My Business can only be created for businesses that either has a physical location that customers can visit or that travel to visit customers where they are. Creating a successful listing that won’t be suspended requires avoiding prohibited content, accurately reflecting your business, and complying with the rest of the policies below: (which cover online services delivered from a physical location).

Important: Businesses still need to have a physical operating presence and online-only businesses are not eligible to verify their business profiles on Google My Business. These attributes are to assist physical businesses that offer online services. If you indicate that your business offers an online service such as classes, appointments or estimates, that means you provide at least one service fully remotely (e.g. online video) in real-time that can meet the needs of a customer looking for that service.

So you definitely need a physical location, whether you offer additional online services or not.

Economies of scale

Google’s guidelines regarding listings for local businesses could not be clearer. You need to have a physical location, or like a plumber, travel to your customer to provide a service. Historically, the best physical location was a non-shared office. This eliminated any confusion that might arise from multiple businesses sharing the same address.

Here at Conscious, we have long seen a difference in the ability to rank for these types of locations versus listings registered to shared office addresses and even further for listings built by chancers who rent a temporary office location or 'dropbox' address. In order to rank and rank well in the local search market, you need a physical address. It is also undeniable that not all addresses are created equal.

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good news is that those who persevere and maintain their offices will undoubtedly benefit from the loss of competition in that market. The bad news is that firms that do decide to forgo a physical office space will suffer in the local search market and be forced into PPC campaigns in order to compensate.

The ugly part is there may be firms who consider trying to half-way the above by reducing their sole office space and converting to shared office spaces in order to attempt to salvage something in terms of local rankings. Some of these will be more or less successful than others and the reasons why could be extremely complicated; ranging from the domain authority of the firm or the nature and type of shared neighbours to the competitive nature of that local market.

There will be no hard and firm guidelines for those firms that downgrade the quality of their physical location. There are definitely known perils for those who do decide to completely eliminate their physical locations.

Conclusions

If you are considering saving money by eliminating your office space, please give it a long hard think. This is a course of action that will impact your 'local search' presence in a negative way (which you may or may not care about). If you are forced into the decision, consider the costs inherent in a PPC campaign and decide if that is acceptable or not. The only thing certain going forwards is that local markets are about to change in a big way. Make sure that you have considered your options well before you are forced into making a last-minute decision that will have measurable effects on your bottom line.

 

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