\u201cMy business makes local deliveries, but doesn\u2019t have a storefront. How do I handle listings management?\u201d\u201cI work from home. How should I be doing local SEO?\u201d\u201cAre there any tips for doing local SEO for clients like NerdWallet or Credit Karma that serve all customers virtually?\u201dQueries like these about doing local SEO for businesses with nuanced, hidden, or no physical locations and with varied models of customer fulfillment are AMA FAQs and perennial topics on marketing fora. Attendees at the recent Moz Webinar on The ROI of Local SEO repeatedly asked about this subject.Business owners and marketers who haven\u2019t serendipitously discovered Google\u2019s various guidelines are left wondering how to promote non-brick-and-mortar brands. Even where there\u2019s awareness that such guidance exists, Google is continually evolving its stance. It\u2019s easy to make mistakes, overlook updates, and miss out on opportunities.The great news is, there are local marketing possibilities for almost every business type, but you have to know which pathway to follow, based on how the brand you\u2019re marketing operates. In today\u2019s column, I\u2019ll help you identify your model along with the best opportunities available to you for being discovered by the maximum number of local customers.Identify your business modelIf you\u2019re asking about how to do local SEO for something other than a brick-and-mortar brand, chances are, the business you\u2019re marketing falls into one of four categories:1. Service Area Business (SAB)Most home services (plumbing, landscaping, housekeeping, etc.) fall into this category. You may or may not have physical street addresses that serve as headquarters or offices, but the defining feature of your business is that you serve nearby customers face-to-face at their locations, not at yours.2. Home-based businessYour home address is your physical location, and you may either serve nearby customers at your house (like a daycare center), or go to nearby customers to serve them (like a dog walker), or you might do a combination of both (like a yoga teacher who teaches some classes at their home studio and some as private appointments at clients homes). The defining feature of your business is that you\u2019re working out of your house.*If you work from home but don\u2019t ever meet face-to-face with customers for delivery or fulfillment of any kind, then you don\u2019t fall under this category; you fall under category 3.3. Virtual businessYou conduct all transactions virtually, via phone, computer, shipping, and other remote means. Your business may be e-commerce (like the Dollar Shave Club), or offer digital services (like Credit Karma), or sell via print catalogue or other remote methodology. You may be operating out of one or more physical addresses and want to get the attention of customers in various regions or cities, but no customers ever come to your locations. The defining feature of your business is that you never interact in-person with customers.4. Hybrid businessThis category is a sort of catch-all that covers many variations.One classic example is a restaurant with on-site dining where customers pay in person, curbside pickup where customers come to the location but may pay online, and delivery where customers pay online and drivers come to their homes.Another variant would be a home services company like a security specialist with walk-in key grinding at a physical premise, at-home appointments for installation of new locks on doors, and e-commerce sales of security products.Yet another hybrid would be a model like the Vermont Country Store, with its brick-and-mortar shops, e-commerce shopping, and huge volume of print catalog-driven sales.Hybrid business models became more common in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, and there is no single defining feature of them. They are only united when all of them are looking for ways to increase visibility to customers in a specific local region.In most cases, if the business you\u2019re marketing is a hybrid, then your best bet will be to find the relevant opportunities in models 1-3, pair them with any applicable brick-and-mortar opportunities if those also match your model, and move forward with a very broad, hybrid strategy that seeks geographic visibility by every means possible.Never do these things, regardless of your modelBefore we begin listing out your model-based local SEO opportunities, now is the time to protect the brand you\u2019re marketing from unwanted outcomes by avoiding missteps. No matter whether you\u2019re trying to earn local visibility for an SAB, a home-based business, a virtual brand, or a hybrid, scratch these from your playbook:Don\u2019t set up unstaffed virtual offices or P.O. boxes in an effort to fake locations for the sake of creating local business listings.Don\u2019t set up strings of locations via the houses of staff, friends, or family members in an effort to fake operating multiple locations.Don\u2019t set up listings for vacation homes, model homes, or empty properties. You can list the sales office of such businesses, but not the properties being rented or sold.Never, as a marketer, silently engage in violations of Google\u2019s Guidelines. If you and a client choose together to risk a penalty or suspension for some reason, you\u2019re agreeing to share the risk of potential disaster, but never undertake a forbidden strategy without the client\u2019s knowledge.Be careful about over-promising results or agreeing to unrealistic goals when competing against brick-and-mortar businesses. Whether Google is genuinely biased towards locations that display their street address is a subject of long debate, myth, and speculation. What can be said with certainty is that it\u2019s tough competing for local visibility with brick-and-mortar brands when you aren\u2019t marketing a brick-and-mortar brand, so go into the work with informed expectations instead of unachievable aims, based on how Google appears to be handling results for your key search phrases.Now we\u2019re ready to talk strategy!How to do local SEO for Service Area BusinessesAbundant opportunities exist for service area businesses without public physical locations. In fact, updates to Google\u2019s Guidelines in 2020 created a more favorable scenario for SABs. We\u2019ll break your activities down into three sections: local, organic, and paid.Local marketing for SABsYour path to success begins in understanding Google\u2019s requirements (which exist here and here) specific to SABs. You should read them in full, but I\u2019ll excerpt the most salient points here:In-person contact requiredThe guidelines state that SABs must make in-person contact of some kind with customers to be eligible for a Google My Business listing. However, during the pandemic, do not worry that your transition to contact-less services disqualifies you from inclusion. The business you’re marketing is still an SAB if it\u2019s painting a house or delivering a meal while observing social distancing. Google likely needs to update its guidelines to make this clearer.Hiding your address requiredYou\u2019ll be providing an address to Google in the creation of an SAB listing. Even if it\u2019s a home address, warehouse location, or other facility you don\u2019t want the public to visit, you must have some sort of address. Then, Google\u2019s guidelines state that you should tell them to hide the address when creating the SAB\u2019s listing.Google will automatically hide the address if you answer \u201cno\u201d to the question \u201cDo you want to add a location customers can visit, like a store or office?\u201d when setting up a new listing.There are many reasons businesses object to this requirement. As mentioned earlier, it\u2019s long been debated whether hiding an address impacts a listing\u2019s local rankings, but whether or not it does, listings with hidden address listings lack pins\/markers on Google\u2019s mapped displays, compared to their brick-and-mortar counterparts. It\u2019s a definite disadvantage in terms of visual impact. The lack of a published address may also influence whether customers trust that a business is truly local to them, and this could adversely affect calls and leads.Nevertheless, it\u2019s Google\u2019s position that this business model should hide its address, and clear its address from the GMB dashboard if it previously published one.Setting a service area allowedOlder GMB listings had a feature that let you set a radius depicting the service area. On new listings, however, you must enter cities or postal codes to depict where your SAB serves. You can enter up to 20 such points. The boundaries of such areas shouldn\u2019t exceed about two hours of driving distance from where the business is based.No study has ever found that what you enter as your service area impacts your local rankings in any way. If you choose to depict them, it\u2019s for the information of customers.More than one listing allowed for some modelsIf the SAB you\u2019re marketing has multiple, separately staffed locations about two hours apart from one another, and with non-overlapping service areas, you\u2019re allowed more than one listing. I highly recommend having a unique phone number for each office, if possible.Joy Hawkins has done a praiseworthy job summarizing the confusion that\u2019s historically surrounded this topic, given that Google had previously stated that SABs could only have a single listing per state while not appearing to apply this rule to franchises. The latest addition of the two-hour context has made the guidelines better and clearer.However, don\u2019t create multiple listings for the different services the SAB offers. For example, an HVAC company may not have one listing for heater repair and another for air conditioner repair. Google sees this as just one brand, and it\u2019s eligible for just one listing.Other notes for SABsA few last things to know:Google defines the large, emergent field of ghost kitchens as SABs, so all of the above guidelines apply to this model.It\u2019s up to you whether you link from your SAB GMB listings to your website homepage or to local landing pages on your website. The former may provide a rankings boost due to homepages typically having the highest Page Authority. The latter may be better UX for your customers.Don\u2019t overlook the chance to create service menus in your GMB dashboard, listing out all the different offerings the business you’re marketing provides.Beyond Google, you\u2019ll be glad to know that other local business listings platforms don\u2019t make listing SABs so complicated in regards to hidden addresses. Unless a specific platform states otherwise, feel free to display your address on your other citations, if you like, and enjoy the opportunity to prove to searchers that you truly are local to them.Moz Local can help you get listed on directories that allow you to hide your address, if you prefer to keep that private.Organic marketing for SABsNo surprise here that every service area business should strive to publish the best possible website it can. Just like a brick-and-mortar brand, you want a mobile-friendly, secure website that provides a great user experience, has a strong internal link structure, persuasive consumer-centric content, and steadily growing Domain Authority based on inbound links earned over time. You want to get this site ranking as highly as you can for as many of your important search phrases as possible.Where things become confusing for SABs in the organic marketing scenario typically relates to the concept of landing pages. This topic is constantly being discussed at SEO fora, and so we\u2019ll break it down here.It\u2019s a best practice for brick-and-mortar models to create a unique location landing page for each of their physical stores. The goal of these pages is to serve a specific local audience with content that\u2019s been specially designed for their needs related to a particular store location. These pages can rank well organically and can be used as the landing page URLs for a multi-location model\u2019s GMB listings. SABs with multiple physical offices can also create these types of pages as proofs of local-ness, even if customers don\u2019t come to the offices.But the big question is: what if the SAB serves a large area beyond its own physical location? Should location landing pages be created for the locales an SAB serves?The answer is, yes, you should consider creating SAB service area landing pages if you have something unique to showcase in each service city, and if you limit coverage to a reasonable geographic area.For example, a house painter in the San Francisco Bay Area could create some really beautiful, highly-converting landing pages featuring houses they\u2019ve painted in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Mateo, and Mill Valley, even if they don\u2019t have offices in each place. Each page could focus on different completed projects, historic information about design styles in each city, happy customers in each city, home maintenance tips based on the different microclimates of each city, etc. These pages could rank well and convert customers if developed with thought and care.The two things I would recommend that SAB marketers avoid would be:Creating duplicate or near-duplicate service area landing pages because there aren\u2019t actually unique features about the services or customers in association with the different cities.Creating vast numbers of these pages in an attempt to get a single location SAB to rank over a huge area, like a dozen counties or even a state.Take an approach that makes sense for the customer, and focus on content that will answer their questions and meet their needs. Build a strong internal link structure to these pages, try to earn a few good inbound links to them, and track how they are ranking in the localized-organic results for desired keyword phrases.Paid local marketing for SABsAnyone who markets SABs knows that one of their key, historic pain points has been being unable to rank throughout their service area because of Google\u2019s bias surrounding user-to-business proximity. Despite having a separate set of rules for SABs, Google continues to treat these models too much like brick-and-mortar storefronts, typically focusing their ranking opportunities around their given (but hidden) locations.When your local and organic efforts are failing to earn the visibility you need throughout your focus service area, Google\u2019s Local Services Ads program lets you pay to fill in the gaps. If the business you’re marketing is in a qualifying industry and geographic region, you can run these ads for the job types you want to do in the service area you want to cover, and pay Google for the leads they send. SABs can also simultaneously run Google Ads for additional paid coverage.The downside to LSAs and Google Ads is that they require an investment (as opposed to the \u201cfree\u201d visibility of local pack and organic results) and they increase local brand dependence on Google for revenue. Be sure you\u2019re working hard to turn each Google lead into a repeat customer outside of Google\u2019s lead gen loop. The upside to paid Google advertising is that it lets you pay for visibility you just can\u2019t earn any other way. If it creates positive ROI for the brand you\u2019re marketing, then it\u2019s a worthwhile investment.