How can I build citations but keep my address private?
As more businesses turn their gaze towards local online marketing this is a question that is asked more and more. ‘Local’ represents an untapped opportunity for them and they’re keen to squeeze the benefits from it.
But some of these businesses don’t tick the box of being a physical, local business, and so when it comes to publishing their address to would-be customers they hit a stumbling block.
Why does a business want to hide their address?
For a typical local business that has an office, store or physical location, they’re happy for customers to know where they’re based. Even if these businesses don’t serve customers at their location they’re happy to make their address public knowledge.
But this isn’t the case for all businesses. In particular, service area businesses, which are mobile or operate out of a home rather than an office, either don’t have a brick-and-mortar location or the owners aren’t comfortable giving people their home address. However, not all reasons for hiding address are quite as legitimate…
From my experiences there are six main reasons why a business wouldn’t want their address publicized:
- They don’t serve customers at their location and they don’t want customers to come knocking on their door
- They work in a sensitive business field (e.g. Therapists and counsellors) and they don’t want unsolicited customers coming to them
- They work from home and don’t want customers to know this in case it appears unprofessional
- They’re based in one location but actually serve a totally different area and they want to rank for searches in that locale
- They’re not really a local business but want to get the benefit of local search traffic/visibility
- Their local office is a virtual office and doesn’t have staff on location so they don’t want customers to drop by
I’m sure that there are more good reasons but these six cover the majority of cases. Please provide a comment if you’ve come across others and I’ll update the post accordingly.
Does hiding your address limit your local ranking?
Short answer – yes it does.
Long answer – yes it does but you can still rank as long as you optimize the bejesus out of other signals and don’t work in a super-competitive market.
The reasoning for this is pretty obvious. Local search is all about local businesses and service area businesses offering services in a specific area. If you’re a search user and you search for Accountants Pasadena you expect to see listings for accountancy firms in Pasadena. You don’t want to see listings for accountants in Hollywood or Santa Monica.
You want genuine local results and Google wants you to be happy so you come back to them again and again.
To this end, Google strives to serve up businesses which it thinks are high quality and that are local. If you hide your address you make it much harder for Google to determine if you are a genuine local business.
But can I still appear in Google Local/Maps results with no address?
Yes you can still rank in Local results in Google’s blended results, and also on maps.
Here are 2 screenshots showing a business with a hidden address ranking #2 in local & maps results:
Google Blended Results
Google Maps Results
Do you REALLY need to hide your address?
This is the big question that every good local search consultant or agency asks their clients. Another way of phrasing it is:
Which is more important to you: winning more customers or keeping your address a secret?
Given that hiding your address hampers your ability to rank in local search, then all business owners should think carefully about their answer.
So what if the final answer is No, and the business owner really doesn’t want their address displayed? What options do they have when it comes to citation building and should they even bother?
Don’t despair, there are some options and I consider these below.
Virtual Offices, PO boxes and other slippery fish
Well, if you won’t show your actual address, then can you get an alternative address and display this publicly?
Yes, you can, but the tactic has its pitfalls and can do more harm than good if tackled badly.
Virtual Offices – Using a virtual office is quite common practice and has worked well in numerous cases. However Google is alert to the fact that many businesses do this and actively spots locations where virtual office space exists. So over time Google gets smarter and wiser, making the practice of using Virtual Offices less beneficial and eventually harmful to you because Google will reduce the trust it has in businesses listed at these locations.
PO Boxes are a non-starter, so if you’re considering using a PO Box don’t do it for search reasons but for other, genuine businesses needs.
Alternative, genuine office – If you want a solid, long-term option then business owners should seriously consider getting an alternative office that carries your name, has a phone line and even a desk which is manned part or full time. This will cost you more, of course, but it does give you a genuine, real location to promote.
The returns from improved search ranking > customers > revenue may well be worth it in the medium to long term.
How to build citations and keep your address private
If you or your client categorically want to keep the address private (particularly in the case of service area businesses) then where does this leave you when it comes to citations?
Well it does limit the opportunity, because the vast majority of citation sites do force you to display your address. But there are a decent number of sites, many with medium-high authority, that allow you to hide certain parts of your address.
Before we look at these sites, lets do a quick review of the citation building techniques and which of these will work for you.
Two of the four main aggregators (see below) do enable you to hide your address. You do need to provide them with your address but you can then specify that you are a Home Business or that you explicitly want to hide your address.
However, in doing this you will limit the effectiveness of using an aggregator. Many of the sites they syndicate to will not take your listing without an address. Therefore you pay the full amount but only get partial distribution.
- Localeze – YES you can hide address
- Acxiom – YES you can hide address
- InfoUSA – NO you can’t hide address
- Factual – NO you can’t hide address
Yext requires you to provide your address because some of its distribution partners require it. I took this passage from their T&Cs:
“Currently, Yext PowerListings is available only for businesses that have a physical street address (which cannot be a post office box). Some partners in the Yext Network do not accept listings without a street address, and so we are unable to process listings without them.”
Yes, you can use MozLocal, however the process is a little unclear.
Before Moz will upload your listing to its aggregator and directory partners, they need to check (‘Validate’) your listing against Google+ or Facebook Places to check the data is correct.
So you need to provide your address for them to do this. If you want your address to remain hidden you must state that your business is a ‘Home Business’ on the CSV file you upload to Moz.
Doing this will keep your address hidden when pushed out via aggregators, but again the distribution will be restricted only to sites which accept listings with no/hidden addresses.
See this thread from their forum – http://moz.com/community/q/how-does-moz-local-work-with-business-that-don-t-have-a-physical-location-e-g-handyman-locksmith-etc
Yes, UBL can be used but again their offering is limited by the lack of address. They submit to certain sites directly – many of which do allow addresses to be hidden – but the aggregator distribution is to InfoUSA & Factual, both of which don’t accept listings without an address.
This approach offers you the most flexibility. You can hand pick the specific sites that you want to submit to. You can select the sites that DO allow you to hide your address and avoid those that don’t.
We have curated the following list of sites (68 in total) which allow you to hide your full address or just part of your address. This list focuses on directories, review sites, etc. It doesn’t list Google+ or aggregators but if you’ve read the rest of the blog above you’ll know the score on these!
Citation sites that allow you to hide your address
|Site / (Authority)||Hide Add Line 1?||Hide Full Add?||Hide Zip?||Country|
Extra Resources & Reading
- Phil Rozek on LocalVisibilitySystem –
- Mike Blumenthal post on LocalU.org – Feb 2013
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