Google Places, Local Search, and Your Law Firm
If you haven’t noticed, Google is working to deliver much more localized search results. Which makes sense considering as many as 20% of searches on Google are related to location. So, if your law practice serves clients that use search to find local businesses, like law firms, you may find value in claiming and optimizing your firm’s Google Places profile and taking advantage of the local search channel.
Here are some tips and resources that you may find useful in growing your firm’s presence in local search results.
Is Local Search Right for My Law Practice?
The first question you might want to ask yourself is whether local search marketing is right for your firm. And the truth is that it’s not right for every firm. However, if you provide local legal services to consumers, and if you have systems in place to efficiently and effectively handle inquiries that might be generated via local search, then taking advantage at least of the local search marketing techniques that are free, is probably worth doing.
On the other hand, if you don’t service local legal services consumers, or you don’t really have the resources in place to efficiently and effectively perform a volume of intakes generated via local search, then perhaps making local search marketing investments of time and money don’t make as much sense for your practice.
Google Places for Your Firm
To me, the first thing that should be done in any local search marketing campaign is to claim your firm’s Google Places listing.
Adding your law firm to Google Places is free. Further, it’s worth noting that Google doesnít accept payment to increase your firm’s places listing in their search results. You should avoid any agency or consultant that claims that they have a special relationship with Google’s Places program.
In order to be eligible for inclusion in Google Places, your law firm must have a mailing address. If you work from home or you have a virtual practice you can specify a ìservice areaî and choose to hide your physical address.
Also, keep in mind that there should be only one listing per office location. Don’t create multiple Google Places listings at the same location for each practice area that your firm handles. Instead, you should use the descriptions available to help Google organize how and when your listing appears in results. You may, however, create/claim listings for each of your firm’s physical office locations, as well as, for each lawyer at your firm.
Google provides a lot of great online help, as well as, a help forum for Places. While you may encounter web marketing consultants that claim to know secrets about how to increase your local visibility in Google Places, I strongly advise you to stay within Google’s quality guidelines. Even if you experience some benefit from a technique that violates the guidelines (which is unlikely in my opinion), it’s very likely that it will be short-lived. In fact, certain violations of the quality guidelines can get your listing removed from local search results altogether.
Here are 6 things to keep in mind when claiming and optimizing your law firm’s Google Places profile:
- Use your firm’s official name. Don’t use a short-hand, nickname, or other trade name if it’s not your firm’s official name. Check to see how your firm is filed with your state and state bar.
- Don’t use a P.O. box. This is a big one. Make sure that you use your firm’s actual physical address. Also, use the actual city where your firm is located. Don’t try to game the system by including a major city if your firm isn’t located there.
- Use your local phone number. Don’t use tracking phone numbers, 800 numbers, or other vanity phone numbers. Use your firm’s real local phone number.
- Use specific suggested categories. If you begin typing attorney into the category box, a variety of specific attorney categories will appear. Use the ones that are applicable to your business. Once you’ve identified the correct existing categories, you can then consider using custom categories. However, don’t try to create spammy-looking categories that include geographic and practice modifiers.
- BE CONSISTENT! Consistency in name, address, and phone numbers (NAP) is how local search engines sort out business data online. Making sure that this information is consistent across the internet is one of the most important aspects to local search marketing.
- Foster reviews. Where ethically permissible (check with your bar), you should take action to make reviewing your firm as easy as possible. Getting both client and professional reviews of your firm will have an impact on your listing’s visibility in local search results.
If you want to understand more about how Google serves up Google Places listings in their search results, you should take the time to watch this:
If you’re handling local search marketing for your law firm without any outside help, I also recommend that you spend a good deal of time learning from GetListed.org, and David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors. You should also check out these 25 local law firm web marketing strategies.
About the Author
Gyi Tsakalakis is a law practice web marketing consultant at AttorneySync. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.