Not all local business owners want customers to show up at their door, but they all want customers to know about their business, and purchase their goods/services. For businesses that operate from home, many want to keep their addresses private. There are also Service-Area-Businesses (SAB) that go to clients, businesses that are not staffed during operating hours, and decentralized offices that require the ability to keep their addresses private,while still wanting to be found locally, create a strong online presence, and connect with customers.
Is it possible to build citations and not share your address? Yes, but your options for sources are limited. Before we get to the sources let’s take a quick look at why some businesses want to hide their address, if this can have a negative impact, and alternative address solutions.
Why Would a Business Want to Hide Their Address?
- The business operates out of their home and they are extremely uncomfortable with sharing their address and the risk of having a potential customer show up at their front door.
- The company operates as a SAB and customers are not served at their location.
- The business isn’t staffed during regular hours, and they don’t want anyone to show up at the location to find no one there.
- It’s a virtual office and it isn’t staffed or it’s staffed but by the V.O. employees who aren’t equipped with the knowledge of your company.
- The business uses a shared co-working space, but they aren’t always there at consistent hours, and it’s not an ideal location to help serve clients.
Is It Harmful to Your Local Visibility to Hide Your Address?
Harmful, no, but you will be limiting your citation opportunities if you’re adamant about never showing your address. There are far less options, and you miss out on most industry and city specific citation sources, as the majority of these sites won’t let you hide your address. So you will have to ask yourself how important hiding your address is versus taking full advantage of all of the available citation opportunities.
But Google’s Guidelines Say I Have to Hide My Address
According to the Google My Business guidelines, if your business is un-staffed during business hours, then you are required to hide your address; showing your address in this case is against their terms of services and you risk having your listing suspended and removed if you don’t comply.
Example of listings with hidden addresses:
Google is the only site that requires SAB’s and home-based businesses to hide their address, though. These are just the guidelines on Google, and Google doesn’t care whether your address is visible on other sites or not. (Other important features and details you should know about a GMB listing).
Most businesses with home-based addresses don’t want people showing up at their door, but they would still like to maximize their potential to rank in local search. We recommend that you hide your address on the sites that will let you, but you still build citations on the rest of the sites. The thing is, all of the sites that have actual humans looking up business information let you hide your address: Google, Bing, Facebook, Yelp, Yellowpages, etc. Your address is going to be effectively hidden for the most part. It’s very rare that someone finds your business listing on more obscure sites such as bizvotes.com.
Plus, there is no guarantee that your business address will stay private/hidden online even if you only list your business on sites that let you hide your address. There are many listing sites that get their information directly from government databases, business registries and so on, and these sources will have the registered business address that you used in your documentation. Your address is likely to show up somewhere online no matter how hard you try to prevent it.
So, we recommend:
- Hide your address on the sites that will let you.
- But also build citations on the other sites as well, because it’s very unlikely that actual humans will come across your address information on these sites anyway, so you might as well get the benefits of more complete citation building work.
Maybe You Should Just Get an Office?
If there is absolutely no way you can have your address on the internet, then you could consider getting a different address for your business. There are plenty of alternate options available to business owners when it comes to establishing a base location, but should you be using them?
Using a P.O. Box for your business is an outdated practice. You absolutely are not allowed to have a Google My Business listing if you do use one. This means you miss the opportunity to rank in the local pack, local finder, and maps.
With the amount of competition that’s already out there and the challenges to rank enough as it is, we view the P.O. Box strategy as a hard no, especially when there are far better alternatives.
Virtual offices were all the rage in the past for home-based businesses, SAB’s, and startups, etc (think Regus, UPS, Da Vinci). However, if you do pay for virtual office you’re still required to hide the address on GMB if you do not keep it staffed during business hours. This isn’t a deal breaker though because a virtual office will still give you the flexibility to publish the address freely on other citation sites.
What is an issue with virtual offices though, is the bad reputation they’ve acquired over the years, and if you’re using a V.O. address and still not going to be there to meet clients at the location, why bother? It would be better to use your home-based address. There is also the risk that Google will hard suspend your business listing for using a virtual office (this applies to businesses who are not adhering to the guidelines). But with guidelines constantly changing there is the risk of having your listing removed, and being stuck with finding a new business address.
Co-working spaces offer a unique opportunity for businesses to rent an office, work in a collaborative area, gain access to meeting rooms, and run their business operations out of an affordable shared space. These spaces are physically occupied, have regular hours, and are often staffed with a receptionist.
If the space is setup well and follows the GMB guidelines, then it can be a great alternative to other address options, and potentially provide a solution to having a hidden address and limited citation options. Many co-working spaces provide additional services such as mail forwarding, extra office amenities, a chance to collaborate with other business owners, and a location to meet with clients when needed.
There are still potential issues that can arise from this option, you have to be there during your stated hours or you will be required to hide your address. Then there’s a small risk of having your GMB listing getting merged or worse, removed (learn more about the GMB guidelines for co-sharing spaces). It’s also crucial that you have your own unique phone number, that is separate from the co-sharing location’s business line.
Super Cheap Office Space
Depending on what city you operate your business out of, or if you are expanding your service areas, it’s very possible that you could find an affordable office space, and eliminate the headache of having to hide your address. We think this is the most ideal option if you are adamant about not having your address on the internet. Please note that to have this new office address visible on Google, and be in compliance with guidelines, you still need to have that office staffed during your stated hours.
Wrapping It Up
To recap, here are the scenarios and our recommendations:
Situation: you have a home-based business and you don’t want people showing up at your door.
Recommendation: hide your address on the sites that will let you, but still build citations on other sites because:
- You’ll have more citations and increase your likelihood of ranking.
- Hardly any real humans are ever going to see your listings on the other sites.
- Your address will likely make its way on to the internet anyway because of government databases.
Situation: under no circumstance can the address of your business be found online.
Recommendation: get an office space of some kind (see options above) and use that for all of your online listings instead of your home address.