What is a service area business and how can it help my driving school business?
Google My Business has changed a lot since it started as Google local and lots of those changes have been quite small in themselves but ultimately mean things are a lot different to what they used to be.
One important change is that Google does not want businesses without an address that people come to to have a location specified. Shops and restaurants obviously have a location. Driving schools on this basis by and large do not have a location – unless people come to your premises for lessons.
Such businesses should opt to be a “service area business” – ie you don’t have people come to your location but you cover a specified area which you can enter into your GMB listing.
I did have a driving school customer who was in the three pack and then disappeared (while still being in the top 3 in his city in the organic listings). When I got some help from Google on the problem they said the first thing to address was that he had a specified address rather than a service area. Subsequently he recovered his ranking in GMB but its not clear if changing to a “service area business” was the deciding factor.
Now of course that doesn’t necessarily stop driving schools that specify an address from ranking well in the business listing. It is though a danger that they could get suddenly demoted. If you search driving lessons Leicester there are three listings. Two that specify an address and one that uses a service area. You will also see that the driving school with a service area listing does not have a pin in the map. What should happen is that businesses that specify a service area should rank well for the wider geographic area. The local listing with an address should rank higher for searches very close to the location. However with Google there are always so many variables that what happens in one instance may be different in another.
You can change your listing to “service area business” in your GMB control panel.
So you should consider whether you should change your listing to a service area rather than using your home location. There is a risk in changing. The risk is that you may lose the ranking in GMB that you have. However the alternative risk is that Google deems that you should be using the service area model and demotes you anyway! The “correct” way for most driving schools is for you to use the service area model and then you can specify a number of different areas – eg different towns that you cover, as separate service areas. Setting up separate listings for each city is not really the route that Google wants you to go down. It may in practice work but is not how they want it done.