During the pandemic, a lot of businesses have gone virtual, reaching out to customers outside of their local areas and expanding through ecommerce or virtual services. Some have given up their physical spaces and are working out of virtual offices. If you’ve relied on local search for local customers, you might be thinking that it’s time to go regional with multiple virtual locations. If that’s your plan, you need to think about SEO for multiple locations, not just local search.
Your first thought might be to set up virtual locations: a post office box or phone number with a local address in the city you want to target. After all, now that we’r doing business with Telehealth and Zoom, a virtual location is just as good as a physical location, right?
Not to Google. Here’s what they say about setting up a Google My Business profile for a virtual location:
If your business rents a temporary, “virtual” office at a different address from your primary business, don’t create a page for that location. Businesses can’t list a “virtual” office unless that office is staffed during business hours by your business staff.
Google wants to show physical locations near a searcher who searches for “pediatrician near me.” Virtual locations aren’t the same.
We’ve seen people try to do this on their websites. They’ll claim that they have an office in another town, list NAP (name address phone number) information correctly on their contact page, set ups a Google My Business page for the secondary location, and hope Google will consider their phone number and mailing address a second office.
In fact, your human visitors won’t, either. When they visit your supposed physical location and find an accommodation address, they will feel frustrated.
The screenshot above shows how we showed virtual locations for a company with phone numbers for a couple of virtual locations. There is no pretense of having a physical location. And the cities they’ve chosen are within their service territory, so they’ll have a good experience if they call those numbers.
Sometimes we say “Headquarters” and “Branch Offices.” The point is to be transparent and honest.
Multiple physical locations
The screenshot above shows how we showed multiple physical locations on a website. This client has enough physical locations that it makes sense to create a separate page to show all the locations.
The separate locations have separate web pages, Google My Business pages, and even separate ad campaigns, because they are legit physical locations. Each location can take steps for their own local search presence. Google can also tell that this is a large, regional outfit. Again, there is no pretense.
Just don’t try to do this with virtual locations.
A second website
We’ve made multiple websites for several of our clients. The reason for this is simple: they have more than one audience. Sometimes it’s a different demographic or a different set of services. But it could also be a different location.
Each website needs to be a good website, though, with strong content and a unique user experience. You can’t build one strong website and then copy it and change the contact information. Google will see this as a sneaky trick — and your human visitors might, too.
If you have developed a different set of virtual services during the pandemic, it can make sense to do a second website. For example, if your primary business is in-office medical spa services, but you’re now also doing telemedical dermatology services, it could be sensible to split those two services up. Your Telehealth website could provide information on the how and why of telemedicine dermatology and provide tools for booking appointments and getting records and prescriptions.
Think about your resources when making this decision. If you can’t keep up two strong websites, you’re better off keeping one. A good website can show up in both national and local search, and a strong regional website can do more for you than two weak local websites.
Making the decision
Use our simple contact form to get in touch and we will help you make the right decision for your particular needs.