Does Using A Virtual Office Have Local SEO Benefits?
You might think virtual offices would help local SEO. Through allowing businesses to advertise their address as a different one from where they actually operate, virtual offices have significant implications for local search.
6th October 2016
However, unless you know how Google views the listing of virtual office addresses, you could end up doing more harm than good. Furthermore, if you’re solely interested in the SEO benefits, there are other ways to enhance your local search performance without risk.
- Virtual office business listings may offer local SEO benefits but they contravene Google’s guidelines and are extremely risky;
- Virtual office business listings that come as a package with co-working spaces are less risky but still problematic;
- When trying to gain local online visibility, nothing compares to a long-term SEO strategy that’s informed by best-practice.
In Google’s official guidelines on representing a business, it is stated that you can only create a business listing for a virtual office if it is staffed during your normal business hours. In addition, the following standards must be met:
- Make sure that your page is created at your actual, real-world location;
- Provide a phone number that connects to your individual business location as directly as possible;
- Provide your regular customer-facing hours of operation.
Due to this criteria, the majority of virtual offices (ones that simply offer a mailing address, and forward mail and phone calls) cannot qualify as a Google My Business address.
It would be extremely ill-advised to use one in the hope that you may go undetected. Search Engine Roundtable have reported that SEO practitioners who use virtual offices as part of their local SEO strategy are being caught more frequently. Most importantly, they noted that abusing the system can end up “hurting your main listing”.
Some virtual office providers offer co-working spaces as part of a package, which could make them more eligible. However, to meet Google’s guidelines, a business would have to operate from their listed virtual office address as though it was their official address.
For businesses who use virtual offices, this notion may be incompatible with their reason for signing up for one in the first place: virtual offices are commonly marketed as a method for building a presence in a new location, often a prestigious one, without making the physical move.
Even if a company can make their virtual office address their permanent work address, it isn’t entirely risk free either. If you’re sharing a building with many other companies, as is the case with co-working spaces, then you’re probably sharing a phone number too. In instances like this, Google has been known to merge all the listings of the companies operating at the same address.
Unlike a strategy based on quick but high-risk virtual office business listings, improving your local SEO should be a part of your long-term strategy. Through adhering to local SEO best practice, you can build a solid online reputation at a local level, even without having an office in the area.
This includes optimising your website for local keywords, and gaining local citations and reviews. As a bare minimum, you should make sure that your business address is properly listed with your name and phone number, and that you’re reinforcing that information on your site.
See our guide on establishing your business name, address and phone number (NAP information).