Practical Ecommerce

Should Ecommerce Merchants Claim Local Business Listings?

If you are an ecommerce retailer or a servicer provider with nationwide clients, you may not want to claim your online local business listings. In fact, there are situations where claiming your local listings could actually hurt traffic to your website. In this article, I’ll help you decide if claiming your local listings and getting local citations is right for your business.

When it comes to Google’s search results, claiming your local listings can be harmful if you’re not truly a local business. Claiming your local business listings can restrict your website traffic to only visitors from your local area. You could miss out on international visitors, or even visitors from another state in the United States.

Where Are Your Customers?

To decide if you should claim your local business listings, first think about your customers. Here are a few questions to help.

  • Do you have a brick-and-mortar location(s) that shoppers visit? If so, claim your local business listings.
  • Do you visit your customers at their location? This could be, for example, a service business, such as carpet cleaning. If so, claim your local listings.
  • Do the search queries (keywords) from visitors to your website typically include a city name? If yes, you should claim your local listings.

In other words, claim local listings if your customers and prospects are local. By claiming local listings, you’re telling the search engines that you do most of your business in that city. It’s an important distinction.

If most of your customers do not live in your local area, claiming the local listing could have a devastating effect. Take, for example, an event ticketing business in Chicago that I’m aware of. The business had been online for over 12 years. Consumers ordered tickets online to concerts and sporting events from the company, which then delivered the tickets via overnight delivery. In 100 percent of the cases, the customers never actually came to the company’s location, which is in the Chicago, Ill. area.  In fact, most customers lived elsewhere in the U.S.

When this business claimed its Google My Business listing, it severely reduced the company’s sales. It turned out that once the business was verified, Google thought that the customers were located in the Chicago area.

Google verified the company’s local listing via postcard, and Google began to list the business in the Google Maps listings. For certain ticket-related search queries, the business began to appear in search results only for searchers in the Chicago area — within 500 miles of the business’s location. Since the company’s customers were mainly nationwide, its website experienced a large traffic drop.

In January 2015, a nationwide ticket seller based in Chicago claimed its Google local listing. The effect was to severely reduce web traffic, as shown in this graph.

In January 2015, a nationwide ticket seller based in Chicago claimed its Google local listing. The effect was to severely reduce web traffic, as shown in this graph.

Interestingly enough, the traffic restriction was not necessarily limited to mobile search. To be sure, if someone in the Chicago area searched for tickets on her mobile phone, the company showed up well in the search results. And for mobile searcher from outside of the 500 mile radius of Chicago, Google did not list the website prominently in the search results.

But when I analyzed the site’s traffic based on location, regardless of device, there were significant traffic drops from certain cities, such as New York. Because the site was not located in New York, Google wasn’t showing the site to potential customers there.

In short, for online businesses with primarily nationwide or international customers that do not buy at physical locations, it makes no sense to claim local listings.

Bill Hartzer

Bill Hartzer

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  1. John May 9, 2016 Reply

    I knew Google My Business helped local search but had no idea it then penalized national search. Thank you so much for providing this information.

  2. Bill Hartzer May 9, 2016 Reply

    John, I wouldn’t necessarily call it “penalizing” national search. Think of it as potentially limiting when your business will actually show up in the search results.

    If you do have a local presence in a city, and customers visit your location, then that’s fine. But if you do all of your business over the web, and you always ship to your customers, then you probably shouldn’t set up Google My Business.

  3. Elizabeth Hollingsworth May 9, 2016 Reply

    This is the first cautionary tale I’ve read about Google My Business. I have a home office with a small “showroom” of wedding decor that brides can see via appointment, rent locally with a small number of hire items in other states, but sell nationwide online so I am unclear if I should turn off Google My Business or not?

  4. Bill Hartzer May 9, 2016 Reply

    Elizabeth, in your case, I would definitely NOT “turn off” or delete the listing. Since you do have people coming to your showroom locally, then I would definitely keep your listing going.

    Since you do sell nationally, though, consider the regions or locations where you do business the most. You can always check your Google Analytics to see where your customers are coming from (which cities, States, etc.) and add those to your list of where you do business.

    In the Google My Business listing you can specify all of the cities, ZIP codes, or States where you do business.

    You would NOT want to delete your listing because it would show as “permanently closed” and that wouldn’t be good for business.

    • Elizabeth Hollingsworth May 10, 2016 Reply

      Thanks Bill, you had me worried for a while!

  5. Diane May 10, 2016 Reply

    Hi Bill, really interesting article, I don’t have local customers, and I AM on Google my Business so I tried to investigate further.

    In the answer to Elizabeth, you said ” In the Google My Business listing you can specify all of the cities, ZIP codes, or States where you do business.” But I can’t see where that is on my Google my Business account. I’m in Canada so maybe that is why?

    Also, in the graph above, looks like comparing 26 month stretches, the one that includes Jan 2015 doesn’t look like it lost sessions, so what am I missing? Trying to understand the reading of these metrics! Thanks for raising an important issue.

  6. Jake Baillie May 10, 2016 Reply

    Fantastic insight, Bill. Thanks.

  7. Powell May 10, 2016 Reply

    We rely upon our ecommerce store for 99% of our business. We do have a brick and mortar store for those very few customers that are living in our area should they desire to pick up their order locally. Since 99% of our business is national, is this hurting us?

  8. Keith May 10, 2016 Reply

    So many options & opinions for maximizing our websites being ‘found’. Sure gets confusing. Last week discovered I’d left google my biz unfinished at 90% who knows how long ago. So posted some photos & updated info to finish it. Probably like many of us we do a mix of local area biz (with some warehouse pickups) but also sell across the US. Guess I’ll have a look to see about the option for adding states to google my biz.

  9. Bill Hartzer May 10, 2016 Reply

    Powell, if you have a brick and mortar store then I would definitely keep the Google My Business listing. Consider the areas where you do business (even if it’s national) and add those areas to the listing. You can list cities, ZIP codes, States, etc. in there.

    Based on information from Google that I have received, there is no limit to the number of locations that you can enter.

  10. Bill Hartzer May 10, 2016 Reply

    Diane, I’m not sure about Canada in particular, I don’t manage any business locations in Canada currently so I cannot check.

    But, you may want to add more locations if that’s appropriate for you, here’s how you do that:

    In Google My Business, click on Manage My Location. Then Edit the location. Under the Address, you should edit that. Then, use the City of ZIP code to add locations and don’t use the “Within X miles or kilometers of my business”.

    • Diane May 10, 2016 Reply

      Bill thank you!! I managed to go in and edit the “Address” and simply added all the countries I sell to. (it had previously been set so that the box “I service my customers at their location” was not ticked, which by default means I am a local business I guess.) This was very helpful!

      • keith May 10, 2016 Reply

        Diane I didn’t find an option for adding states, did you find that option too?

  11. Bill Hartzer May 10, 2016 Reply

    Diane, regarding the graph above, that’s probably not the best example–it just shows the difference in traffic before/after the local maps (Google My Business) location was verified.

    When I looked at when it was verified and when it was not, there was a significant amount of traffic loss related to certain visitors from certain cities and locations that were visiting the site. Then, once it was verified, I noticed a lot more traffic coming from within 500 miles of the verified business location.

    This business wanted to remain anonymous, so I can’t provide any more details.

    • Diane May 10, 2016 Reply

      I see. This is why experts in Analytics get hired! Thanks for the clarification.

  12. Keith May 10, 2016 Reply

    Don’t see an option to select state(s), there’s city (blank) listed & other info, such as a checkbox for local delivery or “we deliver to customers”. Hmm, add to service area is an option I’m exploring now.

    I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location — Important information
    My business delivers goods & services to customers within this area:

    City or ZIP code
    mi of my business
    I also serve customers at my business address

    • Diane May 10, 2016 Reply

      Hi Keith,

      I was a bit confused too so I just tried typing in the countries and they were accepted. So, I logged in, went to
      checked “I deliver goods and services to my customers..”
      and then just typed in the countries.
      Maybe try there for names of States?

      • Aguyonline July 20, 2016 Reply

        There isn’t a option listed for States, however you can just enter in a state and it will accept it.

        As well, there seems to be a limit of 50 entries.

  13. Raju October 6, 2016 Reply

    what are the settings to set for an ecommerce store that ships products worldwide but also allows customers to purchase at the store.
    How do you set:
    1. “My business delivers goods & services to customers within this area:”

    and how does this hurt seo ranking when people from far away land search for products that the ecommerce store has.

    2. Is this Google My Business location really necessary for ecommerce stores that ship worldwide then?

  14. Michael Lofton May 25, 2017 Reply

    Hi Bill,

    Most of my citation research suggests that GMB continues to be primarily used for ‘local’ biz activity….

    Curious ? – Have you heard of or noticed any updates since last year regarding anyt specific settings within GMB to best leverage for ‘national’ geo targeting pursuant a product and/or services?

    Just wondering if I should continue to ‘not claim/verify’ my national accounts and keep GMB at bay and just use Search Console and other tools only (?)