Local SEO for Businesses without Physical Locations

80% of all the local searches made on mobile result in sales.
Businesses are aware of the importance of local SEO. But, are they able to leverage it?
The business sector has witnessed a massive surge in local SEO within the past three years.
Hubspot SERoundtable reported some interesting stats on the same.
More and more businesses are employing local SEO strategy as a significant investment.
Businesses with physical locations leave no stone unturned in optimizing for local searches.
However, companies without a public physical location still wonder how to employ local SEO.
Airbnb is the best example of companies with no physical address.
Therefore, here we will discuss how non-brick-and-mortar businesses can improve local SEO.

Read on to learn:
  • Importance of Local SEO for Businesses
  • Types of Local Business Models
  • How to Optimize Local SEO for-
    1. Service Area Businesses (SABs)
    2. Home-based Businesses
    3. Online Trainers/Coaches
    4. Remote/Virtual Companies
    5. Hybrid E-commerce Store
  • Key Learnings

Importance of Local SEO for Businesses

1. Finding the Right Exposure for Your Business

Local SEO is essential, and local search already dominates the total queries. Almost 50% of all the relevant questions on Google are local searches. It makes up for billions of searches a year. You might not wish to miss out on this vast customer base.
Moreover, 97% of consumers did a local search in 2017. It highlights how a local SEO company can help you find massive exposure for your business.

2. Local SEO Is Cost-Effective and Evident

Local SEO is a part of organic SEO. Many local listing and citation sites allow your free business listings. Here are some of the top business listing websites for your business.
GMB (Google My Business) and Facebook are two such platforms that offer you good reach.
Moreover, paid listing platforms offer a long list of benefits at a reasonable price. And SEO experts are more confident about local SEO results than global SEO.

3. Grow Your Sales and Conversions

Local searches have high conversion potential - 72% of local inquiries from consumers within a 5-mile radius result in sales. Therefore, by optimizing your GMB and Google Maps listings, you can expect to earn good leads.
With this, 80% of the local searches on mobile devices are most likely to convert into sales.
If your business earns handsome local search rankings, it can expect good conversions. It is because your business appears to the searcher readily when he searches for a service/product.

4. Attract Qualified Search Traffic

Local search is purely location-based and filters out any irrelevant or non-potential leads.
So, it’s essential to optimize your business for the local area strictly.
For example, If I search “Austin ghost kitchen,” all Google’s results are from Austin, TX.
For example, if someone searches for a plumber from a location 50 miles away from your business, he will not see your business in search results.
It means that your business will attract qualified search traffic through local SEO.

5. Take Advantage of the Proliferating Local Search Market

The use of “near me” and “today” phrases in local searches increased by 900% from 2017 to 2019.
This shows the importance of local SEO more than ever.
And businesses have started integrating relevant local keywords extensively in their content.
Most Google searches through mobile devices are based on their intent and location.
For example:
A search like “best saloon” on your smartphone would display results for ‘best saloons near you.’ Search algorithms are gearing up to offer the best results for local queries.

Other than the factors listed above, local SEO offers other eminent benefits like –

  • Fast Conversions: 50% of consumers who did local searches on their smartphones visited that physical store within one day.
    Thinkwithgoogle accurates it to be 76% in 2021.
    And 18% of them resulted in a conversion within one day.
  • Increased Offline Purchases: 78% of local searches made through mobile devices resulted in purchases made offline.

The above list claims that local SEO is a crucial marketing strategy for each local business.
But, is it necessary to have a physical address to draw the benefits of local SEO?
Well, many other local business models operate with a hidden physical address. And there are many ways in which these businesses can optimize for local SEO.
Below, we will discuss the types of local business models. These models exclude the general brick-and-mortar brands.

Types of Business Models

Local businesses without any physical store or with a hidden physical location fall under these five business models:

  • Service Area Businesses (SABs)
  • Home-based Businesses
  • Online Trainers/Coaches
  • Remote/Virtual Companies
  • Hybrid E-commerce Store

Let us understand each of these local business models. And learn how to optimize local SEO for these models.

1. Service Area Business (SABs)

As the name suggests, this model’s business offerings restrict to a local service area. And the businesses under these models are service-based businesses.
All the home services like – plumbing, housekeeping, and home delivery, fall under SABs. It also includes other on-demand services like electricians, home décor, taxi booking, etc.
Uber platform is one of the best examples for it.
You might not need a physical store or public address in this model. But, you serve customers who fall under your local service area. This model includes in-person contact with the customers at their mentioned physical location. They may pay you offline or online, based upon your payment model.

a) Organic Marketing for Service Area Businesses (SABs)

While brick-and-mortar businesses market through their physical location, SABs sell through their local service area. A service area business can promote its business for multiple local service areas.
Now, organic marketing aims to grow relevant search traffic on your SAB website. So the various steps to competent organic marketing for your SAB include-

  • Building an engaging and mobile-friendly website
  • Adding and optimizing for location-specific keywords
  • Creating a landing page specific to the local service location like Ubereats website optimization to service in various locations.
  • Optimizing the content for the location-specific audience
  • Creating multiple landing pages if the SAB offers services at multiple service areas. These areas should be 2 hours apart. It is to promote the ‘nearby’ aspect of your services.
  • If you are making multiple landing pages for different cities, each landing page should have a unique value and area-specific information. For example, you provide local interior designing services. You can highlight city-specific interior designing projects on your landing page.
  • Gather inbound links from relevant high-traffic sites to these landing pages. Concentrate on growing their DA and ranking power.
  • Track your rankings on search engines and try to rank for qualified search queries.
  • If you have multi-location GMB listings, link the landing pages with relevant listings.

Relevant : Steps to do Local SEO for Multiple locations

b) Local SEO for Service Area Business

SAB is a popular business model and forms a significant part of the local business domain. Google has also updated its local SEO guidelines in 2020 for service area businesses.
So, let us understand Google’s updated guidelines for SABs in 2021:
Eligibility :
For your SAB listing, you need to make in-person contact with your customer. You serve the customer at his mentioned service location.
The below image shows how it is done.
No Physical Public Address :
While creating your GMB listing, you need to add your business location, but you can hide it. To hide your physical location, you simply answer “No” to the question – “Do you want to add a location customers can visit, like a store or office?”
However, a hidden physical location will also dwindle your presence on Google Maps. Here is where brick-and-mortar businesses will steal the attention.
How to Set-up your Service Area?
Unlike the businesses with public physical locations, you choose to hide your SAB address. And so, you can mark your service area via the city, postal codes, or other landmarks.
Your service area’s radius extends up to 2 hours of driving time from your business location. Everything beyond that isn’t considered under your marked service area by Google.
You can mark up to 20 service areas.
Creating Multiple Listings :
Yes, Google allows you to create multiple listings for your SAB in the case-

  • You have two separately staffed offices at locations. And these offices are more than 2 hours apart from each other.
  • The service areas of these SABs should overlap one another in any case.
  • The listings should be for the same service.
  • The contact details are recommended to be different for other listings (Email, Phone no. , etc.)

Optimization :
To optimize the local SEO for your SAB, follow these steps:

  • Update your GMB listing with the services menu, business timings, and contact details. Highlight your main service areas.
  • List your service area business on other local listing platforms. Find listings that allow you to hide your physical address and add service areas.
  • Follow the NAP (Name, Address, Phone no.) consistency.
  • Add your SAB website homepage link to your GMB listing.

c) Paid Local Advertising for Service Area Business

Now, when you promote a SAB through local SEO, you cannot expect instant results. At the same time, Google ranks business according to user-to-business proximity. Therefore, it is impossible to be visible for search queries from throughout your service area. Here is where paid advertising comes into the picture.
Your best bid can be Google’s Local Service Ads. It makes your business visible throughout your service area. Plus, it allows the viewer to get a detailed look at your business information. These ads display your business reviews, working hours, and contact numbers.
Image: Google’s Local Service Ads and Google Ads with Location Targeting
You need to choose the service you wish to run Local Service Ads. You can also choose Paid Search Ads to find your SAB website’s right exposure.

d) Social Media Marketing for Service Area Business

Social media marketing for SAB is quite similar to other location-based business models.

  • You can create business social media profiles and an official business page on Facebook. Take a look at this “Locksmith” business which has created social profiles to connect with the audience.
  • Update these profiles with your service offerings and the target service areas
  • Optimize the official social profiles, link your SAB website, and add contact details
  • Opt for paid social media ads with detailed demographics-based targeting.
  • You can attract direct conversions through social media. Or you can direct traffic to your SAB website.

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2. Home-based Businesses

This type of business model operates from your home. And your home remains the official physical location for your business.
Business like at-home coaching center or yoga classes falls under this category. Here’s how the home-based business takes orders from home.
Here your customers visit your home to leverage your services.
Or it can be a hybrid setup where you call students for tuitions at your place. And you can also offer private tuitions at their home.

a) Organic Marketing for Home-based Businesses

Now, when it comes to home-based businesses, an owner might wish to display their business address or hide it.
If the owner promotes his home address, the model becomes like brick-and-mortar businesses. A private tutor, a daycare center, and a home-clinic are a few examples.
You can market the business as a brick-and-mortar store:

  • You can highlight your physical address and even promote print banners. For example, here’s an individual private tutor who has mentioned the physical address.
  • Use this address on your local landing pages
  • Use local address-specific keywords in your content and business description
  • Try to draw do-follow backlinks from local listing and media sites

In case the owner doesn’t want to promote his home address but find customers in proximity:

  • It will help if you market the business similar to a service area business (SAB).
  • The website content should include details about your local service area. Optimize website content with hyperlocal information and neighborhood terms.
  • Utilize guest posting channels relevant to your business. You have the disadvantage of hidden addresses. But it won’t significantly affect your organic marketing. However, it will fade your local SEO presence.

b) Local SEO for Home-based Businesses

Unlike service area businesses, home-based businesses have the advantage of a physical location. However, different scenarios affect the local SEO of the home-based business model.
1st Scenario :
You serve your customers at your home and wish to promote your home address. Here, your business competes directly with other brick-and-mortar businesses.

  • You can highlight your address on your GMB listings. Google Maps also displays it as a marked pin location. And it will compete with other brick-and-mortar brands. The promoted pin feature can also deliver good visibility.
    Image: Promoted Pins feature on Google Maps
  • Now, you might want to limit the timings the customers tap on your door. For this, you can mention an ‘appointment only’ access to your business. You can also set operational hours, but Google doesn’t recommend that.
  • Update the GMB listings with the services menu, contact details, and service areas.
  • Update your business listings on Yelp and other listing sites.
  • You can also use offline local marketing channels like print catalogs.
  • List your home-based business on various local directories. In the below image, home-based teachers have listed their profiles to enhance their SEO and maximize online visibility.
  • Link your location-specific landing page to GMB and other listings.
  • Encourage positive reviews & ratings on these local business listings.
  • Respond to user-generated queries and reviews on these listings.

2nd Scenario : You either serve at your home or the customer’s location. But you wish to keep your address private. Your business gets the same opportunities as a service area business in this case.

  • You can hide your business address on GMB by choosing ‘No’ when prompted to answer whether you want the customers to visit your business location. But ensure all services you offer are present while updating.
  • You can still mark your service areas by postal code, landmark, and city.
  • Highlight your contact details and business offerings on your listings.
  • You would have to find the local directories that allow hiding your business address.

c) Paid Local Advertising for Home-based Businesses

A home-based business might get exposure similar to a brick-and-mortar brand or a SAB. It depends on the business owner’s choice to promote or hide the business address.
You can opt for Google’s Local Service Ads in both the above cases. It helps you reach out to the maximum relevant search queries in your target service area.
Take a look at how the results appear for “Locksmiths nearby” through local service ads.
Clubbing Google’s Local Service Ads with Google Ads offers maximum exposure. You can opt for both Search Ads and Display Network Targeting.
Since you are paying for these ads, make sure you improve your conversion efforts.

d) Social Media Marketing for Home-based Businesses

A home-based business is one that makes some form of in-person contact. It can be at the owner’s house or the customer’s location. And in any case, your social media marketing goal is to boost awareness and generate conversions.

  • Establish social media profiles and business pages for your home-based business. Build engagement through these profiles.
  • Use detailed targeting options for advertising on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
    Image: Facebook demographic targeting options for local businesses.
  • Do not miss out on social forums like Quora, Reddit, and Tumblr. Search for relevant queries and threads to boost engagement.
  • Grow social proof through your social media profiles and boost local awareness.

3. Remote/Virtual Companies

Remote or virtual companies operate from a virtual location.
Take a look at the example below, Automattic, which completely operates remotely. You may not recognize it, but their achievement in the web world is gigantic as they are the owners of WordPress, Woocommerce, Jetpack, and many more.
They may target a global audience or specific areas of a city or a country. Their physical address is kept hidden, and no customer visits their physical site.
All the transactions are through remote means like phone, email, the internet, shipping, etc.
Businesses like ecommerce portal, or any online consultation, come under virtual companies. There is no in-person contact, and no customer has to visit the physical location.

a) Organic Marketing for Virtual/Remote Businesses

Organic marketing remains one of the leading marketing approaches for virtual businesses. These businesses offer no in-person contact with the customer. And therefore, they are not eligible for GMB listings. Their local popularity is only a product of their organic marketing efforts.
Moreover, 46% of all searches have local intent. And Google considers business-to-user proximity as an essential factor to answer these queries. Thus, it becomes harder for virtual businesses to compete with their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
So, performing organic marketing for your virtual business is challenging. SERPs prefer to rank local businesses higher than virtual businesses for local intent searches.
Some suggestions to grow your organic marketing efforts for virtual businesses:

  • Try to localize your content smartly on your website. For instance, Stickermule is a virtual business that operates worldwide and offers content to users based on their location.
  • Build hyperlocal landing pages for some popular cities or areas.
  • The information on these landing pages should be unique. And the content should focus on the general user queries in these locations.
  • Analyze the winning search queries and optimize for high-traffic local terms.
  • Employ a data-backed strategy. Collect data from local surveys and email marketing campaigns.
  • Try to draw inbound links from some local media and listing sites to build local trust and authority.
  • Try to leverage productive guest posting channels.
  • The goal is to grow the visibility on SERPs.

b) Local SEO for Virtual Businesses

These businesses are fully virtual, like a general ecommerce or digital services business. There is no in-person contact and no public physical presence.
Both of the above parameters do not match Google’s eligibility criteria for GMB listing. Therefore, Google does not allow virtual businesses to compete for Maps or local finder rankings.
Virtual businesses can search directories that allow listings without a local physical address.
Most of the local presence for virtual businesses depend upon organic marketing efforts.

c) Paid Advertising for Virtual Businesses

It is challenging for a virtual business to find a leading position in local SERPs. It is because search engines favor brick-and-mortar businesses for local intent searches. A way to find the right exposure for your virtual business is through paid advertising.
You can promote your virtual business through Google Ads with location targeting. These ads will enable you to draw good visibility. However, it would be less significant than Google’s Local Service Ads.
But, paid Google Ads can help virtual businesses with qualified leads in the local market.

d) Social Media Marketing for Virtual/Remote Businesses

Social media marketing for virtual businesses would be similar to the service area business.

  • You can create your social media profiles with localized content for major cities.
  • Moreover, Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to employ demographically-targeted social media ads.
  • Expand your reach by connecting with different service-specific social media groups.
  • Build engagement on different social forums like Reddit, Quora, and Tumblr. Here’s a nice example of how Ifttt explores social media platforms to grow their business.

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4. Online Trainers/ Coach

This model is a virtual business type where the seller offers online coaching services.
It could be a fitness coach, a teacher offering classes, or a job consultant. Here’s an example with no physical address but only online services.
It can be a hybrid arrangement, too, if the seller offers online coaching as well as at-home tuitions. We will cover the hybrid business model in the next section.
The online trainers have no in-person contact with the customers.

a) Organic Marketing for Online Trainers/Coach

Since there is no in-person contact, these businesses generally target a global customer base.
In case they target a local customer base, they can build city-specific landing pages. And optimize them with local keywords and relevant neighborhood information.
However, Google favors brick-and-mortar coaching centers for local intent searches. Therefore, it would be challenging for online businesses to rank in SERPs for local searches.
They can get good visibility for global and service-specific search queries. Businesses also earn business by listing on popular marketplace platforms.

b) Local SEO for Online Trainers/Coach

Like virtual businesses, online training businesses are not eligible for GMB listing. It is because these businesses have no public physical location or in-person contact.
One can list their businesses for service-specific listing sites requiring no physical address.

c) Paid Advertising for Online Trainers/Coach

Since these businesses are not eligible for GMB the listing, they cannot access Local Service Ads.
One can opt for Google Ads with targeted locations.
With this, you get an edge over the competitors and pull the audience’s attention.
These can help you direct qualified traffic and conversions to your landing pages.

d) Social Media Marketing for Online Trainers/Coach

It would be hard to establish a local business awareness through social media.
One could create official social media profiles for his online coaching business.
Online trainers can reach their target audience through paid social media ads.
Take a look at how online trainers run their ads on social media platforms.
Target your ad audience according to - profession (student), demographics, interests, etc.
These ads can help you get good conversions for your online coaching/training business.
You can expand your exposure with social media groups and education-related forums.

5. Hybrid E-commerce Businesses

This model includes various variations of general ecommerce businesses. These variations might include:

  • A retail store where buyers can purchase products in-person and even order products online (similar to ecommerce). The store delivers products at nearby locations within its local service area.
    For example, here’s how Zara tries to help its customers by providing both options.
  • A store offering curbside pickup. Here you can book products online and pick them from the store.

These types of businesses gain sales through both local SEO and print catalogs.
These hybrid ecommerce setups gained popularity in 2020 after the pandemic situation.

a) Organic Marketing for Hybrid E-commerce Businesses

These hybrid ecommerce businesses have both in-person contact and online delivery deals. And these stores have a physical business presence. It makes them compete directly with the local brick-and-mortar businesses.

  • These hybrid ecommerce businesses allow footfall traffic or curbside delivery. And they can easily highlight their physical business address on their website.
  • Google considers the ecommerce businesses’ websites for local intent searches. And therefore, it becomes crucial to create a mobile and SEO semantic website.
  • One can expect a good ranking in SERPs. Use hyperlocal keywords in your content. And optimize for relevant neighborhood queries.
  • These ecommerce storefronts can attract backlinks from local listing and blog sites.
  • Highlight your business-specific USPs on your local business website. Curbside pickup and online delivery are also your USPs.

b) Local SEO for Hybrid E-commerce Businesses

Google allows hybrid ecommerce businesses to compete for local finder or Maps rankings. A hybrid ecommerce business can create its GMB listing in the case:

  • The business is temporarily serving as ecommerce due to a pandemic situation. And will again switch to a physical store.
  • The business serves both as a brick-and-mortar store and a local ecommerce platform.
  • The business temporarily offers curbside pickup due to the pandemic situation. And will resume to a working store that attracts footfall traffic.

The above businesses can create their business listing on Google. It is similar to a brick-and-mortar brand.
They can add their address, operating hours, offerings menu, and contact details.
They can link their local ecommerce website with the GMB listing.
Most top brands employ this to increase their SEO performance. For instance, Louis Vuitton has listed their business location on maps and online sales options.
They do not have to hide their physical address. And hybrid businesses can display the stores with marked pins on Google Maps.
Hybrid ecommerce businesses can list on Yelp and other local business directories. It will help them draw maximum visibility for local searches online.
Google algorithm favors hybrid ecommerce businesses over SAB and virtual businesses. Given these hybrid businesses have a public physical address.

c) Paid Local Advertising for Hybrid E-commerce Businesses

Besides local SEO strategies, you can track maximum visibility through paid advertising. Google has favorable guidelines for hybrid ecommerce businesses.
Hybrid ecommerce stores can lead with Google’s Local Service Ads. They can also opt for Google Search Ads with location targeting.
Promoted pins on Google Maps also help hybrid ecommerce attract relevant leads.
Google Shopping Ads and PLAs (Product Listing Ads) can help grow hybrid retail businesses.

d) Social Media Marketing for Hybrid E-commerce Businesses

E-commerce businesses find a huge audience on social media platforms. And hybrid ecommerce is no different. One can create business profiles on various social platforms. With this, Facebook lets you create your ecommerce page. You can use this page to promote online product sales.
You can promote a hybrid eCommerce through location-targeted social media ads. You can divert traffic to your ecommerce website or promote direct sales.
Product ads on social media also earn a good return on investments.

Key Learnings

The overall local searches on Google are growing each year. And Google’s algorithm is continually updated to offer the best local search results. This surge in local intent searches has been beneficial for brick-and-mortar brands.
However, Google has already updated the listing guidelines for SABs. And it will soon consider other models as well.
2020 has witnessed an upward surge in the growth of hybrid businesses. Different models of hybrid businesses have gained popularity. And hybrid retail stores have already started utilizing the best of both worlds. Search Engines allow these hybrid businesses to compete for local pack rankings. Therefore, more hybrid companies will strive for a stellar local presence in the future.
Above are some tips for local businesses to grow their local SEO efforts. However, virtual businesses without public physical presence need to focus on organic reach. It is because they aren’t eligible for Google Place listings.

Relevant : Benefits of Local SEO for Your Local Business

Paid advertising trends will become significant with the growth of local intent searches:

  • Businesses will start choosing paid local advertising to counter high competition;
  • Google’s Local Service Ads and Google Ads with location targeting will dominate;
  • Demographically-targeted social media ads can also offer excellent visibility to businesses;
  • Paid local listing channels might take over free listings.

Moreover, the conversion rate from local SEO has been growing recently. And local SEO will soon become the most effective strategy for local businesses. With that said, it is essential than ever for businesses to grow their local SEO efforts. Are you a business owner operating without any physical locations? Then you can implement these to get more leads and improve your local business. If you want a free consultation with our Local SEO expert then you can reach them here.

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Joseph Schneider

He has spent more than 12 Years in strategising and executing SEO campaigns. He is interested to writing Digital-marketing, PPC and Social Media Marketing related topics.


Joseph Schneider

He has spent more than 12 Years in strategising and executing SEO campaigns. He is interested to writing Digital-marketing, PPC and Social Media Marketing related topics.