Devan Hudson, Writer

Proximity is one of the most heavily weighted ranking factors in local search. The businesses’ proximity to the user’s location will be taken into account when they do their search. If they’re standing less than a block from your location then congratulations, you might just be #1 for that user on that day regardless of anything else you might do to improve your local SEO.

If they’re not? You might not show up in the local pack at all. 

This can be a problem for a home services company, since most service area businesses (SABs) don’t do business at their own location and want to get as much business as possible in other, nearby cities that they’re willing to drive to. 

For example, here is a roofer in Mukilteo, Washington.

Mukilteo is a small town. Just 21,336 people. Not all of those people have roofs of their own to worry about servicing. So there’s not enough customers in Mukilteo alone. 

So this roofer serves customers in Seattle, the Eastside, and South Snohomish County, which covers quite a bit of ground. 

This covers a lot of ground. Lower down on the site they name some specific cities: Edmonds, Seattle, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Mercer Island, Mukilteo, and South Everett. 

Though they did not provide the traditional “red circle map” on their site anywhere I was able to find it, the map above is a rough guesstimate of the entire service area they’re trying to cover. Pretty huge. They might well want to show up at the top of the Map Pack in Edmonds, Washington, but it’s not going to happen. They’re too far away. You can get 4 pages in to the Map Pack and you still won’t find them.

In fact, they’re going to stop ranking in the Map Pack about 10 miles away from their actual business location. You can’t move your business and you aren’t going to win by setting up a bunch of fake, dummy addresses (you will in fact get your business blacklisted on Google if you try). 

So what are the solutions? 

Go Ahead and Generate that Red Circle Map

It doesn’t hurt anything, even if it’s not a ranking factor, and you can use it on your own service area page. 

One service area page, please. You can feel free to list every major city you care about on the page. If you are willing to drive anywhere in the state because you live in a small state, great, say that, too. 

Create Gallery Pages for Key Cities

Do not mistake me.

You’re not going to create 30 of those crazy “city pages” where you basically have the same content, maybe said differently, with the name of a different city on every page. Those are terrible, they will not help you rank. They clutter up your website, they make you look less reputable, they eat up your crawl budget, and they don’t add anything to the customer’s experience.

But! If you take photos of the jobs you do then you can create a gallery for each city. Or photos of your guys working on the job, if your jobs are kind of boring to look at. “Here’s John, hard at work putting a wood shake roof on this great house in Lynnwood,” works just fine.

Get more creative than that, though, if you can.

Have you done any charity work? For example, I once had an HVAC client who volunteered to help restore a local library in one of his service area cities. He had some great photos of himself on the job, and it made for a great story. Hey, perfect. Now he’s got a reason to talk about this city. 

Trust me, there are plenty of ways to find similar opportunities, especially for home services SABs. Partner with Habitat for Humanity’s Home Repair Program. Reach out to your local Agency on Aging and offer to perform free repairs for local senior citizens, retirees, and disabled people. Reach out to Rebuilding Together, a volunteer group that helps rebuild homes impacted by natural disasters. Call Volunteers for America or ask your minister.

Oh, you’re an SAB who doesn’t repair stuff? You’re a lawyer? Done any pro bono work lately? Volunteer with Legal Aid or at the local woman’s shelter? 

Maybe you have to create your own opportunities. Maybe you’re an accountant, again willing to serve the whole gosh darn state via Zoom and Email. Fine. Maybe set up a little seminar at the local libraries of every one of those cities. Something like…Financial Basics for New Business Owners. Hire some local kid to snap some pictures. List the business owners you helped.

Sometimes all this work still won’t be worth its own page. That’s fine. It still helps you add content to your service area page. It still helps you.

Someone, somewhere needs help. And yeah, you’ll actually have to do the work, but guess what? People love local businesses that help out in their community. You might just get backlinks from the organizations you help. You could get a mention in the local paper for that city. If you restore a historic building or a building of public interest you might get a backlink on their webpage.  

All of that gets you traffic, makes you more visible, and makes you more trustworthy. It’s all part of that holistic approach to visibility that we talked about when we talked about creating a business that deserves to stand out. 

There is no putting your feet up here. There is no cheating. It’s competitive out there. You’re going to have to roll up your sleeves. Your SEO can’t do it all for you. Take the photos and provide them. Do the work. Give your SEO consultant something to work with here so they’re not left helplessly trying to daisywheel content because they feel like they’ve gotta do something on your behalf to keep their jobs. 

Take Advantage of LSAs

I know, I know. Paid advertising, yuck, what dirty words. We’re supposed to pretend like paying a local SEO person’s consulting fee is the only thing you’ll ever need to win. Sorry. Google is looking for ways to make its money. You’re probably going to have to pay Google something, too.

These are what the ads look like on a “roofers near me” search. Guess what? They show up above the Map Pack now.

You earn that Google Guaranteed badge, too, which means Google will pay the customer if they feel like you did shoddy work. 

You’ll have to set aside a budget for that. How much? Depends on your zip code and the number of new leads you want your LSAs to produce every month. Google in fact has a tool for that.

You pay per lead though, not per click, which is nice. If your average roofing job is $5000 then paying $600 to get 15 leads makes pretty good sense. It means it’s easier to generate ROI from these than their sister product, AdWords PPC.

How do you make these ads more powerful? Review management, hands down. Notice how the advertiser’s review profile basically serves as the subhead for each ad? Yeah. You need good reviews. Lots of them. If you don’t have them yet? Skip this step until you have a solid bank of reviews to choose from. You need at least as many as your nearest competitor. You need them to be positive, too. Don’t buy LSAs if you’re sitting at 3.2 stars. The results won’t be pretty. If you’re struggling with your reputation then first you’ve gotta fix your business and your reputation. Then you can worry about LSAs.

When you create these ads you’ll create a Local Service Ads profile. It looks a lot like your GMB profile, but it isn’t the same thing. You’ll need to optimize it just like you optimized your GMB profile though. Fill out all the information and add photos. 

Note that you’re going to have to include your license and insurance details. You’re also going to have to complete a background check. The background check is done by Pinkerton, and it’s free. 

There are other benefits of LSAs you ought to be aware of. Using them means getting included in voice search results. This is huge. The current reported statistics on how often voice search is getting used vary: I’m seeing it reported as low as 33% and as high as 50%. So that’s either 1/3rd or ½ of your potential customers. Let’s not leave them on the table.

You also don’t have to mess around with setting complicated keyword budgets. Google basically does it for you. The LSAs will show up for “roofer near me” or they’ll show up for “my roof is leaking.” Which, again, makes them a real nice alternative to AdWords.

Use Google Posts

They make your GMB profile a lot prettier.

They showcase the quality of your work right there on your GMB listing. Looks nice, doesn’t it?

Note: Google Posts don’t help you rank. At all. They do help you convert. They help customers make the decision for your business over another business, even if one ranks a little bit higher than yours does. 

Remember, it’s about making the phone ring. It’s about standing out from your competitors. These posts also show up in the search results on mobile searches. Make sure each of your posts includes an image, write good, solid, promotional ad copy on them, and include a clear call to action. These are ads, not social posts, even if they seem to look a lot like social posts.

There are a few little fiddly bits on using Google Posts that make them worth a blog post all their own, but commit to either using them or having them used on your behalf. If you’re going to have your local SEO do it, be prepared to provide some photography. 

Use GMB’s Messaging Feature

You want to make it as easy as possible for customers to reach out to you. One way to do that is by enabling the GMB messaging feature. Then either hire someone to stay on top of those or do it yourself. Failing to respond to the user in a reasonable period of time is against Google’s guidelines for the service. “Reasonable time” is within 24 hours of receipt according to the guidelines.

So is using it to send spam or unwanted messages, or using it to collect sensitive security information like credit card numbers, SSNs, or passwords. 

You can use it to answer questions or schedule appointments though. 

What will happen when you enable this feature? First, you’ll be able to get to and answer all of your messages within your GMB profile. You can customize an automated welcome message. You can also add a “Get a Quote” and a “Request Booking” button to your GMB site.

Look, Google’s doing everything it can do to keep users off your site and on theirs. You might as well roll with the tide here and make it easy to convert customers from the SERPs. It may be a little annoying but it is what it is. 

Use GMB Attributes 

I talked about attributes extensively in this post. The short version is they’re the things that add some of these little green checkmarks to your Maps listing.

They draw attention. They make it easier to do business with you. They’re not ranking factors, but they are conversion factors. Both are equally important.

Make Sure Click to Call is Enabled on Phone Numbers on Your Site

If someone does find their way to your site you don’t want there to be a single roadblock between them and doing business with you. Every time your phone number shows up on your site it should have the click-to-call feature enabled. That way “I want to call them right now” becomes a single smooth action instead of a whole production with the customer’s phone.

I can’t say it enough: the more steps you take to make life easier on your customers the better your own (business) life will be. 

Focus Hard on PR Opportunities

Google is starting to recognize when a local business is being mentioned in a relevant publication with or without a follow-enabled link. That means that getting a quote in your local paper or becoming the (positive) subject of a local news story will help you get visible no matter what.

Of course, you want the link if you can get it, and when you’re featured in a local publication, you usually will get it. Mostly so customers will click on the link to find their way to your website.

Local papers are always looking for stories, and your expertise can help them. Watch the news and weather for opportunities. There’s a giant snow storm coming? Cultivate relationships with reporters and editors so when the time comes you can say, “Hey, Stephanie, we’re about to get some epic snow this weekend. Do you think your viewers would benefit from a quick piece on how to protect their roof?”

Stephanie needs content, and you know pieces like that run on your local news all the time. She might say no, but she might always say yes. The more timely and in-tune with what’s going on with the publication it is, the better off you’ll be.

Obviously you won’t win every time you try, but you will win if you keep trying the right way.

If you’re having a local SEO do this outreach for you just make sure you’re ready to make yourself available for those interviews when the time comes.

Don’t forget to check HARO on the regular too. It might not give you a local link but it may still get you a reputable back link. This would have been a great opportunity for some landscaper or another.

All the landscaper would have had to do would be to click on that link and go, “Hey Amanda, I really recommend succulents. They’re really trendy right now and they’re low maintenance so you don’t have to keep messing with them if the home takes awhile to sell. They’ll be very cheap at your local nursery. By the way, here’s some information I wrote about taking care of succulents in the yard.” Then include info about your business and add a link to wherever you have that information. If you don’t have that information on your site go ahead and add it: now you know it’s useful. Just don’t sit on the query to do it, because those things move fast.

Note, reporters are almost never going to call you and they’re really only going to use direct sources. Be willing to tell your SEO what the answer is or to jump on HARO yourself. Many reporters really just want a quick quote and link they can use. They’re being asked to write like 10 stories a day in an 8 hour period, so don’t judge. Just make their lives easier. 

Create Top Notch Service Pages

That you should have a page for every service is pretty basic advice, but really make the most of them.

They’re a great place to stick the answer to any “Also Asked” question that just doesn’t need an entire post. If you can’t get more than 300 words out of the answer, put it on your service page.

Example, you have a page on “roof leaks.”

One “people also asked” question is will flex seal work on a roof leak?

You can go right ahead and answer it on the roof leak page. You’re not going to talk anybody out of business by doing that. Especially since it’ll void warranties to do that, and you can say so, right? You probably don’t need to spend 600 words telling people why flex seal is kind of a bad plan, but you can put it on your service page.

Think it looks ugly to have a bunch of questions on the page? Just create a table of contents and a collapsable menu. No big. 

This turns your service pages into resources and not just advertisements. People don’t need a 400 word exposition on why they really really need to call about a roof leak. They know it can damage their home. What they need is information, and ways to get over the fear that calling you generates.

Who would you rather do business with, anyway? Someone who drones on and on about how their service is the best? Or someone who has taken the time to answer every question you’ve got about that service and the problem it represents?

Turn Your Learning Center into an Incredible Resource

The answers to some questions won’t belong on service pages. They really will need some in-depth answers, or will deserve them. For example, maybe you want to put together a guide on how a homeowner can effectively tarp their own roof before calling you, the roofer. You know some will have no money and will have no choice but to do that, right? Or will be afraid of how much you’ll cost and so will want to do that first? 

So do that. Put it in your learning center. Add photos. Oh by the way you perform this service too, which a lot of people might want after reading your in-depth commentary on how to be safe while you’re doing this tarp thing. Make it the absolute best guide you can.

Maybe you add another for navigating the insurance claims process. This is stuff people need to know. You’re going to grow all your content around the idea that people really need to know this stuff.

You’ll get organic traffic for those pages. Much of it will be local. Many will call you after reading and using those guides. There are opportunities here. Really think and brainstorm and consider what you can do. Some companies will be able to generate 20 guides like this. Some will only have 2. That’s fine. Just make it the absolute strongest, most useful, most interesting version of that guide you can possibly make. You will get results. 

There are no shortcuts.

It really would be great if we could do some sort of Google or marketing magic to make you show up everywhere you want to show up every way you want to show up. It’s just not going to happen though, so we have to get you visible and find you traffic and make that phone ring in some other ways.

Remember, leads are the metric that matters. Don’t get too hyper-fixated on things you can’t control. Don’t become a spammy cheater business just because you’re feeling desperate. Put in the work, be holistic, build your presence (or have it built for you) in a sensible way, and focus on being an amazing business. 

The rewards will follow. 

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