Yelp Beats Google to Service Area based Rankings

Nearly a year ago Google added the ability to set a service area for local businesses in Google Places. At the time there was speculation as to how it might influence rankings and many local SEO’s quickly realized it had little to no influence at all. Except that if you opted to hide your address, because you were a home based business, it more or less kicked you right out of the rankings all together. That unfortunate side effect of hiding an address has been fixed since the roll out of the new blended oragnic-local results. But there still is no ranking benefits outside of the actual city your address is tied to.

Service Area settings in Yelp

Will Google one day get around to using service areas as a ranking factor for businesses serving say, a larger metropolitan area from one of the outskirt communities (a common occurrence)? Well it appears Yelp has recently done just that.

…business owners in service-based categories who have unlocked their Yelp page will be able to add up to 5 major cities to their areas of service via our Business Owner Tools!

The best part? Once a business updates its areas of service, it becomes searchable in those cities on Yelp.

This feature has been added only for specific categories of businesses, these that tend to be service based businesses that travel to customers locations.

Now that Yelp has upped the ante, how long till Google follows suit?

6 Comments on “Yelp Beats Google to Service Area based Rankings”

Trent on March 1st, 2011 wrote:

thanks for the info! seems like yelp has supported this to a certain extent for storefront/non-traveling businesses. i live in a suburb of denver and when i search for restaurants, services etc in my town a lot of denver results get mixed in. possibly due to the proximity and/or lack of relevant businesses on yelp in my area.

Stever on March 1st, 2011 wrote:

I used to see the same thing sometimes in the old Google 7pack, mostly in smaller cities and towns, when inventory of businesses was low for that query others in nearby locations can show up in the map. But now with new blended local-organic results I’ve not seen that happen.

Also being a suburb of Denver your IP address probably resolves to Denver itself, so search results might be tailored more to that location.

Don Campbell on March 2nd, 2011 wrote:

Nice one Stever. Let’s hope this spurs Google into action – a lot of businesses need this capability!

Brian Bien on March 6th, 2011 wrote:

Thanks for the tip. If I were in charge of the ranking algorithm, I know I would implement countermeasures to prevent service area greed. I think the “5 cities” is a first step and we’ll see changes to this; maybe businesses with more authority will get to choose more cities. “5 for everyone” is a good start though.

Stever on March 6th, 2011 wrote:

@Brian, nice point on “service area greed”. Some business owners would want to go nuts on that. On the other side of that I talk to lots of small businesses that service portions of larger metro’s and targeting multiple individual areas (small cities on edge of larger city, or communities within the city) can be difficult. Or targeting the metro city name keywords makes for lots of leads from other end of town they have to turn away.

On top of all that, people search differently. Some in smaller outlying cities will search using the bigger metro city name knowing they can usually find better results, and businesses that likely service their area too vs. the sometimes poor results of searching at community level where inventory is low or small businesses just not optimizing for those finer scale searches.

Traffic can sometimes be too low at community level and too high, along with higher competition, at the bigger city level – for those only servicing a portion of the city.

Local search is challenging and different approaches need to be taken for different cities.

Brian Bien on March 7th, 2011 wrote:

@Stever, I can’t disagree with you on the inherent motivation not to spread oneself too thin, but I have spoken with a number of business owners about their preferred radius, and gotten the impression that in general, they will overextend themselves given the opportunity. Maybe that’s because I’m from Michigan though :) For example, most small computer businesses (like one-man shows) can’t realistically cover a 45-mile radius, but they will try. Anyway, maybe the “different approaches for different cities” strategy will be key.

Leave a Comment