There’s an emerging search engine marketing opportunity for businesses: opening additional physical locations, then deeming them marketing expenses instead of facilities costs, as they generate good standings on Google Screened and Google Maps (two tools that revolve around physical proximity).
Google Screened is currently open to specific types of businesses and is offered only in limited parts of the United States. Essentially, organizations that qualify will get a green checkmark next to their Google Local Services listings, highlighting a “Google stamp of approval” of sorts for potential customers. Google looks at the business’s region, reviews and responses to those reviews (specifically, the timeliness of those responses), while Google Maps uses relevance, distance and prominence to rank businesses in its search results.
So, how does this all play out? If a business only has one office (in, say, a downtown area), a potential customer further out (in the suburbs, for example) may never stumble upon that downtown business while searching, as Google deems the proximity between the searcher and the business to be too far. A Google Screened checkmark is of little to no value to that customer either, as they will never see it in the first place. However, if the business opens a second location in the suburbs, it’ll have a much greater reach in those local search results.
I would recommend that businesses consider opening more than one location to impact their standings for both Google Screened and Google Maps. However, there are some factors that need to be considered before pursuing this route.
1. More Attention From Prospective Customers…and Google
Because of the convenience factor, opening up an additional location (or even multiple new locations) has a higher likelihood of leading to more conversions. Naturally, if a prospective customer lives in the suburbs, they would prefer a location closer to them, rather than having to drive downtown.
Here’s another way to think about it: If you go on vacation and you search “best restaurants” in Google Maps, you’ll see restaurants closer to you, not ones that are 60 miles away in a different city.
Given Google’s 2021 “Vicinity” update, proximity is more important than ever these days, so having more than one location can help your business cater to prospective customers in both general areas.
But here’s the catch: The more locations your business has, the more Google will pay attention to you. This is because they want to make sure people aren’t spamming or cheating the system with fake satellite addresses, suites, ghost offices, etc. This is not a problem for most businesses, but if you have dabbled in some gray areas (such as opening a fake office), be aware that you’ll fall increasingly under Google’s magnifying glass.
2. Location/Market Evaluations
Another factor business leaders looking to expand their physical offices should carefully consider is where they want to go. I highly recommend conducting market research to see where your existing and prospective customers are.
When businesses think about expanding, they tend to think about going to a new city or state, but to reemphasize my first point, I encourage companies to think about how to maximize visibility in their current city. This is especially worth considering if they live in a sprawling metropolitan area that presents valuable market opportunities.
For example, market research aside, a business in downtown Houston that opens a second location roughly thirty miles away in The Woodlands would put itself closer to over 100,000 more people. A company in downtown Los Angeles that opens a second location in Long Beach would be closer to more than 460,000 additional people.
3. Higher Facility Costs
Of course, there’s the obvious: Opening additional locations means additional facility costs. You’ll have to pay more in rent, utilities and payroll, to name just a few expenses. You’ll also have to deal with more issues as they pop up; for instance, the second location could develop a mold issue that needs to be addressed ASAP. When you have more locations, there are more opportunities for problems to arise.
However — and I say this with caution, as you should always consult with a CPA before doing this — you could write off these expenses as marketing or advertising expenses instead of looking at them from an operational standpoint. After all, in many ways, an additional location is similar to propping up a billboard in a high-traffic part of town (but again, your first step should be to check with a CPA).
If you approach opening an additional location with the right mindset and conduct ample research, you can put your business on a path to staying even more relevant.
The information in this article is not financial or tax advice. You should consult with licensed professionals for advice concerning your specific situation.
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