Google Maps is rolling out what it hopes will be a solution to one of the Local Business Center’s longtime shortcomings: the inability for service-based and/or home-based local businesses to use the LBC. Before today, all local businesses using the Local Business Center had to display a business address for their physical location — not an ideal situation for home-based businesses. Further, for plumbers, real estate agents, and countless other businesses that serve many towns in one area, it’s been extremely difficult to have visibility anywhere other than the town associated with the LBC listing.
Those problems appear to be a thing of the past.
When logged in to the LBC, users will see a new tab called “Service Areas and Location Settings.”
After clicking “Yes, this business serves customers at their locations,” a new set of choices appears.
As you can see, at this point the local business owner can indicate that s/he doesn’t want a business address to appear in Google Maps. This is for local business owners who work from home, but don’t want to give out their home address in Google Maps. Until now, the primary advice for business owners in this situation has been to rent a mailbox somewhere and use that address; others have simply spammed Google Maps by using someone else’s address or creating a new, non-existent address to get around this problem.
For service-based businesses, there’s also an option to tell Google Maps how your location should be specified. The choices are “Distance from one location” or “List of areas served,” and you can only choose one.
There’s been no official announcement from Google about this yet, and we don’t know if this is available to all LBC users or if it’s a limited test. We have an email in to Google for more information. In any case, this will be extremely welcome relief for a large group of local business owners who’ve essentially been unable to use Google Maps for search engine visibility.
Update: A Google spokesperson tells us that this is a limited test, but “many” business owners should see the new options in their LBC account.
Update #2, a few hours later: There are some potentially serious bugs with this new tool. Within an hour after updating my wife’s listing (shown above), her listing had been merged with another real estate agent’s listing. I’ve explained more, with screenshots, in this post on my own blog.
Update #3, an hour later: Regarding update #2, Google says the problems I’ve described are NOT related to the new Service Areas tool, but are due to my wife and the other agent sharing the same physical address and both updating their listings on the same day. I’ve updated my post (link above) with their full explanation.