One of the biggest and most long-held complaints with Google’s Local Business Center (now Google Places) was that it forced home-based business owners to make their home addresses public if they wanted to be included in Google Maps. Naturally, this made some people uncomfortable. Thankfully, Google recently addressed this problem with a new feature that allows businesses to define what service locations and areas they cater to in lieu of an address. That means your home address is now safe and no longer a requirement to appearing in Google Maps. Awesome.

When logged into Google Places users will see a new tab called “Service Areas and Location Settings”. This tab will allow business owners to tell Google if (a) customers come to their business location or (b) if they serve customers at their locations (eg plumbers, electricians, etc). By selecting the later, small business owners will see the addition of a new Service Areas and Location Settings box.

Google Places Service Areas and Location Settings

Here, Google provides a box to allow small business owners to opt out of having their business address appear in Google Maps. Business owners will also have the ability to specify whether they want their business to be listed by distance from one location or by the locations they serve. Both additions are sure to win friends with SMB owners. You may remember that there was a bit of backlash last year when Google stopped allowing home-based businesses to use a PO Box as their listed address. Google assured us they were working on a new solution to calm the fears of the many SMBs obviously not wanting to make their homes public. It’s nice to see Google reacting well and giving business owners a new way to go about things.

According to Matt, the new feature is running in a limited test but “many” business owners should see this in their account soon. Hopefully with the new feature, any home-based businesses which were afraid of making their address public have now lost their excuse for not registering their business with Google. We really can’t stress enough the importance of claiming and filling out all of your local listings.

Worth noting is that while there were some early reports that taking your address off your listing caused ranking drops, that seems to have been an unrelated bug that Google is working on. So, small business owners can switch over without fear.

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