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Last Name & City Name The Same: How To Show Google The Difference

While it can get confusing for Google to differentiate names, there are steps you can take to help. Adam Riemer explains in this week's Ask An SEO.

This week’s Ask An SEO question comes from Andrew in Chatanooga, who wrote:

“I have a client who is a personal injury attorney with a last name that is the same as a major U.S. city (City Name Removed).

Google gets confused sometimes and puts his firm’s website on SERPs for that city plus our targeted keywords.

In Google Search Console, these queries keep gaining traction over other, legitimate queries. Is there a way to let Google know that his last name is not in fact the city that they think it is and is just his last name?

It’s an issue because his firm is located nowhere near [City Name].”

Hi Andrew,

Great question and the good news is that the answer will likely be easy for you to implement.

Yes, you can differentiate for Google between a location and a person or business’s name when the city and name are the same.

It’s even easier because you are a localized business with professionals who need to be licensed or board-certified.

Set The ‘Area Served’ In Google Business Profile

Google offers a helpful guide to setting your service area here.

With that said, the instructions in that post aren’t 100% clear, so here’s the path to take:

  • Log into your Google Business Profile dashboard.
  • Click on the business location (if there is more than one office).
  • Click Info on the left side of the screen.
  • Click on “Add Service Area.”
  • Add the city or region you or your client service.

define a service area in Google My Business

Deploy Schema With ‘Area Served’

The next step is to deploy “area served” schema into your website services page schema and organization schema.

Both of these types of schema let you define an area served.

You can reference Wikipedia or Wikidata with the area served section to help define where you or your client provide services.

Build Citations And Backlinks From Local Businesses

The last one, which can be the trickiest, is to build local citations and local backlinks.

In your case, this is easy since you have a licensed professional who can become a local expert.

Getting community and city-based links and references helps show Google that you are a known figure, entity, company, or brand for that region.

Just don’t get spammy and fall into link schemes.

Some of the items listed below could be bad for you if done incorrectly.

You can build citations and links from:

  • Local news websites (TV, radio, or newspapers including on-air interviews where they recap).
  • Running local commercials on TV, bus stops, billboards, etc., with your URL.
  • Local podcasts that have websites.
  • Neighborhood, city, and state-based blogs.
  • Local directories.
  • Complementary businesses and business partners.
  • Sponsoring community and local events.
  • Hosting community events.

Think about what you can do to engage within your community.

And it does not matter if the links are followed or no follow.

You are trying to show you are the dominant force and being referenced regularly for a specific region.

You still want to focus on quality and the localized aspect of the website that is linking to you.

Even if you do all of the above, there is a chance Google will show you in the city with which your client shares a name.

And if that happens, there are a few things to look at to ease their worries.

Go into Google Analytics and look at the visitors by city.

If the city is bigger than the region your client or your company is in, you may still be getting the maximum amount of traffic for your keyword but because the larger city has more people, they’re overshadowing your local traffic.

This means you’re fine and can begin focusing on new niches and new rankings.

Then, localize your site to reduce wasted time on customer support from people in an area you do not serve.

Make sure to add:

  • Local phone numbers.
  • A stamp or message on your hero images that says, “Proudly serving XY city for AB years.”
  • Share only local testimonials.
  • Place a map of your region and area.
  • Make sure your address is in the footer.

If you do the above, you should be in good shape.

I hope this helps, and thank you for the question!

More resources:

Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

Featured image: BOGORA/Shutterstock

Category Ask an SEO
VIP CONTRIBUTOR Adam Riemer President at Adam Riemer Marketing

Adam Riemer is an award winning digital marketing strategist, keynote speaker, affiliate manager, and growth consultant with more than 20+ ...

Last Name & City Name The Same: How To Show Google The Difference

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