The three ranking factors
The answer to whether you can rank in another city nearby is Yes and no. Local rank is determined by three main factors Relevance, Proximity, and Prominence. If there is little competition then it is possible to build enough relevance and prominence that your business ranks in nearby cities. But if there are other similar businesses in those cities then prominence will dominate in favour of the local businesses.
Google will take the location of the user into consideration when they make a search, especially on a mobile device. Based on this information, Google will deliver the Local Pack Rank and SERPs. Businesses that are farther away will appear lower down the list, all things being equal. So its rank in another city will depend on how competitive the business type is and how far away the user is.
You may notice when doing a local search, that sometimes a business which is miles away from the search location appears in the 3-pack. This clearly indicates that the business is highly optimised for Local Search compared with nearby competitors. The more optimised a business listing is, the better it will rank. The better it ranks means that it might rank in another city.
Google Listing Guidelines
Some businesses try to overcome this problem by setting up a separate listing to rank in another city. Many get away with it but Google has clear guidelines and if they are not adhered to then the business risks becoming penalised. For instance, it is against the guidelines to use a virtual office address.
The important thing is to have a compliant physical address and local phone number. Having a local phone number is a local signal to search engines unlike a mobile phone number or a national or Freephone number.
Location information is taken not only from website content but also from other sources such as directory listings. If there is no strong evidence that a location exists then Local SEO proximity signals will be weak.
No physical address
In the absence of a compliant physical address, businesses can certainly include content on their website which targets a different city or multiple different places, and that will help with organic SERPs. But in the absence of a Google My Business listing it will have no effect on the Map Pack Rank, which simply won’t exist without one.
The point of Local SEO is not to rank in a different city in any case. The whole purpose of using Local SEO is to get more visibility when people are searching nearby. That is, visibility to customers right around the corner, or three streets away; not in an entirely different city.
But if your conversion goal is simply to get a phone call rather than have a customer knock on the door then targeting different cities can be considered.
We work with your website designer to improve your ability to be found in Google and other search engines. Also, to look good wherever you may appear online. We specialise in local SEO and most of our work is off-site. But there still needs to be some on-site work undertaken by your webmaster to complement what we do. If you would be interested in finding out more, please use the Contact Form on our website.