It is not unusual for a business to setup a "service area" on Google. The idea is to tell Google where most of your customers live and where you want exposure in the search results. Often, the physical address of the business is not important because customers don't come to you... you go to them. With this in mind, you complete your Google My Business profile and hide your physical address. To you it's less important. But guess what? Google still considers your location for Google searches related to your business products and services. This is a grid ranking map of a local, well established and well optimized business. Grid maps allow you to check ranking status at very precise points on the map. Green represents a top 3 listing. Those top 3 are the only listings that appear in a Google search. This particular client's physical location is Centerville, Ohio (the red marker). The major clients for this business are in Dayton Ohio, centered on the blue location marker. In December of 2021, location became an even more dominant ranking signal for local area businesses and that may suggest challenges for many. For this business, local ranking in the northern part of Dayton dropped to essentially invisible in a Google search... obviously not good!
It wouldn't be the first time that I've told one of my clients that having an office in the center of the geography you wish to reach would be cheaper than SEO! With the location signal becoming one of the more dominant signals to ranking on the Google My Business listings (the MAPS listings), that's just a practical reality. However, you have to do it in a way that isn't against Google's terms. So do NOT use someone's house! It should be a legitimate, staffed office location. Clearly this isn't alway practical.
There are things we can do to improve the reach in the ranking and that may be a solution in this particular case. If we just moved the location of the office, the business could lose ranking that is well established at his current location. It's better if we can increase the depth of the map.
It is possible to take a map that looks something like this:
And with dedicated optimization transform the map to this!
Google My Business Optimization still depends on many ranking factors and location is only one of these factors (albeit a pretty strong one). Every year, MOZ puts out a survey to SEO companies asking to rate the top factors contributing to local search results. Here is the most recent top 10.
Top 50 Local Pack Finder Factors
#1 Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (Searcher-Business Distance)
#2 Physical Address in City of Search
#3 Proper GMB Category Associations
#4 Product/Service Keyword in GMB Business Title
#5 Location Keyword in GMB Business Title
#6 Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
#7 GMB Primary Category Matches a Broader Category of the Search Category (e.g. primary category=restaurant & search=pizza)
#8 Consistency of Citations on the Primary Data Sources
#9 Domain Authority of Website
#10 Completeness of GMB Listing
Given this list, clearly proximity to search is a huge affect. Beyond that, the Google My Business listing must be fully optimized. Website optimzation is still very important especially for keywords not specifically mentioning the business category on the Google My Business profile. In other words, the things you were doing to optimize your Google Business Listing and your ogranic website ranking still matter. This includes having a complete and correct profile, populating citations (directories) with your Business Name, Address and Phone number (consistent with your listing on Google My Business and well optimized website.
As a business owner, don't forget to actually engage with your Google My Business system. Setup messaging and call tracking. Post periodically. Upload images. And, most importantly, get people to review your business. It all matters!