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The goal of all search engine optimization is to get found on the Web easier and more often. That gets you more eyeballs—and ideally more legal clients.
For attorneys, who are typically embedded in their local communities and continue to do much of their business face-to-face, making connections via “local” SEO for law firms is more crucial than ever.
Local SEO is a segment of online search strategy designed to deliver results that are most relevant to a “searcher” based on that person’s current location. Given the rise of mobile phone use, local SEO has become indispensable for brick-and-mortar businesses, but increasingly valuable for professional services as well. It’s obvious why optimizing around geography would be critical for a pizzeria. When someone types in “best pizza restaurants” while driving around town, a pizza joint just around the corner should come up first in Google results. One click and a mobile user could be placing an order for a large pie.
Local SEO can be just as valuable in professional service industries like law. Why? Because people are increasingly doing a majority of researching on all topics, interests and motivations online from small, portable mobile devices that they keep with them at all times. Convenience is key for consumers, but it can also lead to quicker conversions for companies. Let’s say someone was in a car crash. While still in crisis mode that person might start to search for legal representation from the nearest local hospital. You want your law firm of auto accident lawyers to come up first in that victim’s search. It’s instant top-of-mind. That’s what local SEO for attorneys can accomplish.
What’s in a local listing?
A local search marketing campaign is built around creating a variety of business listings online. These are mini profiles on popular sites and directories that will include your law firm’s name, along with a physical address, phone number and other details you deem most relevant to searchers and callers. The big players in the local-listings space currently include Yelp, Google+ Local, Bing Places, Internet Yellow Pages and Yahoo! Local, many of which share data with each other.
In local SEO, more is better. The more relevant listings you have the more visible your attorneys will appear online and the more chances your law firm has of ranking well in local searches—and therefore being found by prospective clients.
The first step in solid local SEO is to make sure you have “claimed” any listing of your business online. While each local business index does this a little differently, the process simply verifies that you are the owner of a valid business and are authorized to maintain its presence on the Web.
The baseline local business listing across all indexes include these criteria:
- Business name or DBA
- Local phone number that matches your city of location (toll-free, shared and call-tracking numbers won’t work)
- Physical street address (no shared addresses or PO boxes) where you can make live contact with clients who want to do business
Common local SEO snags and solutions
Because local SEO is multifaceted and continues to shift like all things related to Google’s changing algorithms and rules, it can be a devious space to navigate alone. That’s why local SEO specialists for law firms are in high demand. While it’s typically not possible to take on local SEO alone, it is still helpful to understand some of the most common pitfalls that occur with this very specific sector of digital marketing.
We’ll categorize some common mistakes, as well as some tips to avoid them, under some big local SEO buckets, including content, “indexability,” citations, Google My Business (GMB) and links.
In order for local SEO to work the way you want it to for Google, the content on your website must be scrubbed of all the little errors and issues that search engines don’t like and will penalize you for.
- Stick to one powerful umbrella website rather than breaking up content into microsites.
- Use only original content—don’t scrape it from other sites.
- Make sure content is robust enough and is not duplicated anywhere on the site.
- Consider unique “city landing pages,” where you can leverage local testimonials, if you offer legal services in different locations.
- Integrate a blog, videos and images to add the “freshness” that search engines like.
- Build in location specifications wherever possible: schedules/calendars for different locations; bios of staff in other offices; sponsor/promote events by city region; and create tips-style content specific to your geographic region
Instituting a solid local SEO strategy does not get your firm out of having a great website. The same SEO best practices still apply in that to be “found” quicker your professional website must be well organized, properly optimized, easily “indexable,” free of errors and work on any device. Overlooking any of these fundamentals will only work against local SEO for attorneys.
- Make sure you have a complete Contact Us page on your website.
- Your phone number should be clickable and highly visible throughout the site.
- A site-wide footer needs to include all of your locations.
- Your name, address and phone number (NAP) should be perfectly consistent.
These little nuggets of information—complete or partial references to your name, address, phone number or website online—get a lot of attention, and for good reason. Studies are showing that with citations it’s consistency that matters more than their specific “strength” or volume, so, like content, keep citations clean. To start, ask an authority in local SEO for law firms to show you common aggregators for citations.
- Build a unique set of citations for every physical office and ensure accuracy of each.
- Learn acceptable citation abbreviations, for example St. for Street, because they vary by platform.
- If you have multiple offices, point the website link on each citation to the corresponding website landing page.
- Once you’ve built citations for biggies like Yelp and Google, move on to local listings like your chamber of commerce, the BBB, or city newspaper.
One of the most detrimental downfalls of good local SEO is ignoring duplicate business listings. Often lawyers don’t even know about dups. But if you don’t catch these copies they can quickly weaken the muscle you’ve built in local SEO.
- There are plenty of free tools to detect duplicate listings. Just Google it.
- If it’s dups on Google that are tripping you up, look for cleaning options like the search engine’s Map Maker.
- For advanced issues with duplicate listings, you’ll need a combination of paid scraper tools and some slick query strings. (Ask a pro.)
Google My Business
Because it is linked to the most powerful search engine on the planet, law firms must be especially cognizant of Google’s own local indexing machine—Google My Business (GMB). Remember, if you are ranking well in Google’s eyes the more likely it is that people will see your site or call your business.
- Get linked: Local SEO Guide’s recent study of 30,000 businesses across more than 100 SEO factors showed that links (with optimized anchor text for both keyword and city) are the key competitive differentiator in GMB rankings.
- Having a keyword in your business name will help you rank higher in GMB searches.
- GMB also seems to like business with a strong showing of owner-verified profiles, online reviews and photos.
If all this information on local search has made you feel anything but grounded, we understand. It’s tricky digital stuff that only gets more sophisticated by the day.
Network Affiliates has always been here for attorneys and will remain at forefront of digital marketing to ensure that our legal clients have the tools they need to succeed. Give us a call to start localizing your SEO strategy: (888) 461-1016