In this 20-minute interview between Tom, Zach, and Jamie, the SEO analysts of Foster Web Marketing discuss the benefits and risks of satellite, shared, and Regus offices. You can watch the entire video above, or learn about specifics in the shorter clips within the content below.
Part 1: Clearing the Air About Setting Up a Satellite Office [2:28]
It is time for you to expand your practice. Either you want to be able to meet clients in more diverse locations, or you want to expand your advertising reach.
One way to branch out into a new geographic area is by setting up a satellite office that you don’t necessarily have to staff. Companies like Regus provide affordable, shared office space—or you may be able to share space with another business.
This may seem like a win-win—without spending too much money you can give clients the convenience of meeting you at a central location—but if you’re not careful, the way you share your satellite office information online can wreak havoc for your current web presence.
The RIGHT reason to open a shared satellite office: To provide a professional environment in a convenient location for meeting with clients.
The WRONG reason to open a shared satellite office: To rank well online in different geographic locations.
We’re not here to debate the merits of opening a satellite office; the advantages of being able to meet clients at a location more convenient for them should be self-evident. We’re here to talk about the impact these offices can have on your local and organic search rankings if not implemented correctly.
Part 2: How Shared Satellite Offices Can Negatively Affect Rankings [1:37]
The biggest issue we see with shared satellite office listings online is “NAP confusion.” NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number—unique identifying information used by search engines to determine if a business is legitimate. Simply put, if you share an office address or phone number with other businesses in the same location (a common occurrence for virtual offices), your business listing can get merged with those of the other businesses at that same location.
What does this mean? It means that your phone could ring to another business. It means that your online listing could point to another company’s website. It means your information could appear under another business’s name! This happens because Google and the other search engines are grouping online listings by NAP. If you have the same address as another business, search engines will assume you’re the same company!
What else can happen?
- Google may remove the local listing for your main office. When you add another office, the search engines may assume you’ve moved to a new area and remove your main office listing. If this happens, you’ll not only lose your local online presence for your main location, but you will lose any reviews you have associated with that profile!
- Google may create a new listing for your “new location.” Much of what Google and other search engines do is automated. If they think you’ve moved or have incorrect information online, their software may decide to merge your addresses. All of the sudden your only local presence is in a city two hours away from your real office; a city that you don’t actually have a staffed office in.
And guess what: Google isn’t the only player here. All the other directory websites can do the same things we described above. You can end up with quite a mess on your hands when it comes to your online directory listings!
Part 3: The RIGHT Way to Set Up Satellite Offices Online [1:19]
If you’re going to use virtual satellite offices to expand your business, we just want you to do it correctly. If you don’t, you run a very real risk of harming your online presence. Here’s how to set those satellite offices up online the RIGHT way:
- Unique local phone number. If you really want to expand your local search visibility by claiming a Google+ listing for your virtual office, the first thing you need is a local phone number. The next thing you’ll need is someone who will answer that number and say that they’re in the location you’re trying to claim when Google calls to verify the listing.
- Unique address. Next, you’ll need an address that’s different from the other businesses sharing that space. This is to ensure that your listing does not get merged with your virtual neighbor’s listing. Sometimes adding a suite number to your street address is enough. Sometimes it’s not. We don’t make the rules—this is the reality today for business owners.
- Clean up old data. Once you get Google+ sorted out, remember there are other data aggregators out there that collect your NAP information and share it with directory websites. If you’ve been working with a satellite office in a shared location, you may have some cleanup to do to show yourself as a separate business from the other businesses at your location. And yes, phone numbers matter: local data aggregators like Localeze and Axicom are unable to navigate number trees and call forwarding of local numbers, and can often create duplicate listings as a result.
How can you do cleanup if you have duplicate or merged listings on your hands because of one or more improperly implemented satellite locations? Tools like Yext.com and the resources at Moz Local can help. This kind of cleanup can be time-consuming and requires attention to detail, so don’t expect to knock it out in an afternoon. Fortunately, we do offer a complimentary website analysis and consultation, which will point out issues with your local listings and we can get into more detail about how to fix any problems. Fill out the form at FWMAnalysis.com to get started.
Part 4: Don’t Expect a Rankings Boost From Your Satellite Offices [1:35]
You may think that opening a shared satellite office location may help you rank well in a new city. We hate to discourage you, but even if you set up the local profile perfectly don’t expect much—if any—search “boost” in the new city. This isn’t the point of this kind of office. The point is to offer a service your clients want. Period.
The best way to promote your satellite office and to ensure potential clients can find them is to list them on your website. This way you show that you have the ability to meet with them in their area. Many of our clients include “By appointment only” when listing these offices, so that people don’t try to stop by when nobody is present.
As long as you’re aware of the common pitfalls and the inherent risks of shared satellite offices, you can mitigate them. Know that recent Google updates like Pigeon haven’t changed any of this. This is how it’s always been. Google’s local listings are an attempt to create an accurate list of real-life businesses. If a person can’t walk up to an address that they find online and find your business, it’s going to be hard to get it to show up in local searches.
Sound Off: How Do You Use Satellite Offices?
We want your thoughts on satellite offices. Do you use them? If so, how do you promote them? Have you made separate listings for each? Please reply to this blog and give us your take. I look forward to reading your comments and keeping this important conversation going.