Does the City on a Google Local Services Ad Indicate the Actual Location of the Business?

Google Local Services ads

On the initial view of a Local Services ad you will see the following information for each business:

  1. Business name
  2. Review rating
  3. Google Guarantee badge (if they’re an advertiser)
  4. Location (City)
  5. Phone number
  6. Business hours

Location, shown as city, is important since I think most people would assume it’s where the business is located. It’s also a significant ranking factor for determining which Local Services ads will appear based on a user’s location and their search query.

Since a Local Services ad is connected to a Google My Business listing, at least in that a Local Services ad profile pulls in reviews from a corresponding GMB listing, you might think the city on the Local Services ad profile would be the same as the city on its GMB listing. Usually that is case, but not always.

Surprisingly, this is the odd description of what ‘location’ can indicate on a Local Services ad:

Local Services ad info

Considering all of the hoops a business has to jump through with background checks for employees and license and insurance verification to ensure they’re a legitimate company, I would think that Google would also do the following for a Google Guaranteed business:

  1. Confirm the actual address of the business
  2. Check to see if that is the address used on their Google My Business listing
  3. Verify that the address is eligible based on Google My Business guidelines
  4. Require that same address to be used for their Local Services ad

Why does it matter which city shows on an ad?

Again, it’s a big ranking factor for Local Services ads. It’s also influential to a potential customer trying to decide which service provider to go with.

And allowing this type of location flexibility opens the door for abuse.

If a business is physically located in a small suburb, they could submit an address in the main city of their metro area when they go through the LSA on-boarding process. Or they could use an address in a larger suburb where they would prefer to have a stronger presence.

I have seen many examples of businesses doing this, including one business whose LSA profile indicates they’re in one suburb while their GMB listing (and any reference I could find for their physical address) shows they’re in a different suburb over 40 miles away. And the city they’re actually located in? It’s outside of the Local Services ad area. So they were able to get themselves into the Local Services ads program despite not being within the LSA footprint for their metro.

There are plenty of businesses gaining an unfair advantage over competitors by using an address on their GMB listing that isn’t their actual physical location. I was hopeful that Local Services ads would help put a stop to this type of abuse. Instead, it amplifies it because:

  1. They don’t check the eligibility of the address a business uses for their GMB listing. So listings that should be ineligible for GMB listings can now be used as the source for Local Services ads
  2. Regardless of the eligibility of the address used on a GMB listing, they are essentially allowing businesses to enter whatever address they want when they sign up for Local Services ads

I don’t think Google’s intention was to allow businesses to use whatever address they want when signing up for Local Services ads. I just don’t think they put much thought into it. And to be clear, I believe it needs to be a valid address since it will be used for communication. But unless Google makes a change to this policy, signing up for Local Services ads with an alternate physical address will become a standard part of “optimization” for Local Service ads.

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