Google My Business Service Area vs. Brick and Mortar Business Listings

Here’s What the Difference Means to Your Business

Google My Business (GMB) helps your potential customers find you in local search results. It can give you a definite edge over your competitors by highlighting your business ahead of theirs – in one of those coveted top three spots. When used correctly, that is.

This is where understanding the difference between a Service Area and a brick and mortar Google My Business listing becomes essential.

Reaping the Benefits of Your Google My Business Listing

There are several benefits to having a GMB listing:

  • Greater visibility of your business.
  • Being better positioned than your competitors in search results.

As well as;

  • Showing your potential customers concise information about your business and what you offer.
  • Getting and responding to Q&As and reviews of your business. (Which can impress potential customers.)
  • Improve your SEO ranking within Google My Business listing categories.
  • Gain click-throughs to your website or calls to your GMB listed numbers.
  • Did we mention it’s free advertising?

Set Yourself Up for Success with Your GMB Listing

To ensure your GMB listing ranks high in organic search results, you have to:

  • First of all, have a GMB profile. It is possible that your business is already automatically listed. If it is, you will have to go through the process of claiming and verifying your Google My Business listing in order to optimize it.
  • Ensure that it is fully set up with accurate information. Incorrect information will likely irritate searchers. It could get your GMB listing suspended by Google sooner or later.
  • Keep the information in your GMB profile up-to-date. Changes to your policies, as well as new opening and closing hours are things customers like to be kept aware of. They will also want to know about new or discontinued services.

One piece of information GMB requires for accurate listing is whether you are a Service Area Business (SAB) or a brick and mortar business. It is also possible to be a combination of both (what Google refers to as a hybrid business). That sounds fairly easy to do. However, many businesses aren’t really sure which of the three best describes them.

Plus, the process of signing up for each of these Google My Business listings is different. And, an error could lead to suspension of your GMB account. You would then have to go through what can be a convoluted process to get it reinstated. While that is happening, you run the risk of falling behind your competitors in online visibility.

What is a Service Area Business in GMB?

A SAB delivers its products or services directly to its customers, where they are, and not at the business address. It does not have a storefront for customers to physically visit.

Examples of A Service Area Business in Google My Business

SABs are actually quite common. Service providers such as plumbers, cleaning companies, and landscapers are all types of service area businesses. Others include: HVAC providers, building contractors, painters, dog walkers, and many kinds of repair services.

It is very unlikely that any of these businesses wants or is prepared for foot traffic at their business address. If that also applies to your business, then the SAB designation most likely suits you, too.

How Are SABs differentiated in Google My Business listings?

When you are setting up your GMB profile, Google will ask you whether or not you have a location that customers can visit. It also tells you that the location will show up on Google Maps and in Google Search. At that point, you can select “No.” You will then be asked to indicate the area that you serve. You can use zip codes, cities, counties, states, etc.

So, what potential customers will see in Google Maps is a shaded portion of the map showing the area (around your business address) that you serve. They won’t see the actual address. However, Google does still require you to input an address that they can send a verification postcard to.

NOTE: Google suggests that everywhere within your Google My Business service area should not be more than a 2-hour drive from your business address. However, there are businesses that do serve greater areas so this is merely a recommendation.

Furthermore, a business with different locations with different service areas and those locations are staffed by different employees, can set up a service area in Google My Business for each business location.

Common Problems When Setting Up Your Service Area in Google My Business

Navigating your way through setting up your profile and your Google My Business service area can be challenging. One of the main issues is that Google will need to verify that you are an actual, legitimate business.

To do this, the company will do one of three things: call the number in the listing with a verification code; send a postcard with the code to your listed business address; or send the code in an email to an email address that matches your business name.

You will have to ensure that whichever one you choose to use is listed accurately and is in a form Google will accept. For instance, Google will not accept business addresses that are listed as a UPS box, co-working space, or virtual office.

Are you Cleanie Cleaners? Then the email address you list for the verification code to be sent to will have to be for that domain name. So,,, or could all work.

What is a Brick and Mortar Business?

This is a business that has a storefront and welcomes foot traffic.

It serves its customers at its business address but does not (strictly speaking) go out to them. Another of the criteria here is that your business address should have permanent signage.

Examples of A Brick and Mortar Businesses

Anything from a drugstore to bank branches qualifies. Others include coffee shops, department stores, and clothing outlets.

These businesses would not need to set up a Google My Business service area. Instead, the listing will show the address of their business.

You can start seeing where the idea of a hybrid business on Google My Business comes into play. As in the case of a yoga fitness trainer who runs a studio but also offers classes to clients in their homes. Such a business is allowed to list its storefront address, as well as set up its Google My Business service area.

How Are Brick and Mortar Businesses Differentiated in Google My Business Listings?

One important difference is that for a Google My Business service area listing, customers see the service area an SAB works in. The listing for a brick and mortar business will show the actual business.

It is perhaps for this reason that brick and mortar businesses do better in Google Map results – so customers can see how to get to them. SABs, on the other hand, have a greater chance of having their listing shown in Google Search results.

Choosing Your GMB Categories for Better Optimization

Categories are often what customers enter when doing searches for a product or service. The ones you choose will improve your chances of showing up in the results for your potential customers. Be specific when choosing your categories. For instance, Google suggests “nail salon” as a better choice than simply “salon,” if that is your specialty.

You also have the option of listing different categories for departments of your business. So, if you own a salon and spa that does nails and hair, you can have “nail salon,” hair salon,” and “spa” as your categories. You can also consider having the operators of each of those sections of the business set up their own GMB listing.

Use Google My Business for Free Visibility

As you can see, the free GMB tool from Google is a real gift to local businesses when it comes to increasing online visibility.

To take full advantage of it, however, it is important that your Google My Business listing is accurately set up. It must reflect the type of business that you are: service area business, brick and mortar business, or a hybrid of the two.

That, along with choosing the right categories to describe what you offer, will help to ensure your listing:

  • Fully represents you.
  • Ranks high in searches.
  • Brings you the business you need.

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Author: David Hunter

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