Home Care Local SEO: Service Area Businesses vs. Virtual Offices

Investment not ExpenseBeing a home care business, you likely serve clients within the city or town in which your actual business is located, but you also serve clients in surrounding cities and towns. A service area business is one where you deliver goods or services to customers at their locations. A virtual office, by contrast, is one in which you operate virtually — that is, you don’t have a physical space for which you rent or lease. Virtual offices are great from saving cash on overhead, especially when it comes to home health care start-ups. However, home health care providers are often considered a hybrid — many operate out of a main headquarters for staffing needs, but their aids and nurses manage their own caseload and visit patients at their homes throughout the day. Still another type of business is a location-based business, which services customers fully on site.

One more word about virtual offices: some of these do have a rental space in an office building or share an existing business’ space but doesn’t actually use it to service clients. The purpose in this instance, from their viewpoint, is to use it as their main address within Google’s interface so as to place their location in a more opportune spot with Google, points out Search Engine News. Google is taking a stand now to discourage this practice.

Google Changes

Your local SEO efforts may soon change. Just last week, word came out that Google updated its Google My Business guidelines to state that virtual offices are not considered service-area businesses and that they must have their virtual office staffed during business hours, according to Search Engine Land. In effect, service-area businesses must have one page for the central office and designate a service area from there. To recap, service-area businesses can’t list a virtual office unless it is staffed 9 to 5.

Google My Business, a free and easy-to-use tool, is designed for businesses, brands, and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. Through the verification and editing of your business information, you can both help customers find you and tell them the story of your business, says Google. This is a great resource, especially for home care businesses looking to gain visibility in the community, but it comes with a lot of rules. Google is no dummy. It’s always looking to optimize, clarify, pare down, and strategize its offerings. It also wants to block anyone not abiding by the rules it sets forth or trying to get away with loopholes.

Your home health care business may fall under the hybrid category, much like a pizza joint, which services customers in its dining rooms as well as delivers pizzas to its customers at their homes. Under Google’s new guidelines, these types of businesses can show their storefront address and designate a service area in Google My Business. As a home care business looking to serve clients and patients at your address as well as a virtual service area, your team must staff it during regular business hours. If your home care business is entirely virtual, you won’t be able to list your virtual office address as a service based business.

This change may likely have resulted from posters in the Google My Business forum who asked whether or not a virtual address can be used for a service area business, when using a virtual office address as the primary address on business cards.

Bottom line is, if your business location isn’t a store front for your clients, you should hide your address within your Google Places dashboard. If it is indeed a physical location for servicing clients, you can make it public.

Challenges of Local SEO

This can be a confusing area for businesses that don’t necessarily have a physical place for clients to visit, which is often the case with home care businesses, especially small start-ups. Unlike businesses with a brick-and-mortar storefront, service-area businesses go out to meet with their clients rather than the other way around, which means they end up servicing multiple cities. This can become problematic, as, says Moz, the #1 ranking factor in local SEO is the physical address of the business. Understanding these local SEO challenges and coming up with workable solutions should be undertaken by a professional. That’s what we’re here to do.

Contact A Servant’s Heart Web Design and Marketing

Here at A Servant’s Heart, we cater to those who serve the elderly and their families. That means we know the pain points and challenges of your type of business much more intimately than a traditional web design company. Contact us at (760) 227-2720 for a free website review and SEO consultation today to start optimizing your local visibility online.


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