Part of my job entails speaking with law firms on a daily basis, learning about their marketing tactics and goals, and suggesting new avenues that can expand their online presence. I’ve dealt with larger firms that spend thousands per month on marketing and advertising, and conversely, solo attorneys with limited budgets. Regardless of firm size, I’m always surprised when a lawyer tells me that he or she is not using Google+ Local (formerly Google Places), Google’s local business directory.
Below are five points that should convince any attorney to get involved with Google+ Local.
1. Google results are becoming more localized.
Beginning with the Venice algorithm update, Google has been proceeding steadily toward search results that revolve around a user’s location. These days, Google will track yourIP address and deliver results in your immediate vicinity if you run any type of local search. For example, type “lawyer” into Google and run a search. You will notice that it automatically returns listings of offices near you.
2. Google+ Local listings sometimes supersede regular organic listings on search result pages.
Going back to our example from above (the search for “lawyer”), you may have noticed that a good portion of the real estate on your Google results was taken up by what is called the “seven-pack”: a group of local listings with alphabetical markers on a map. These listings come from Google+ Local, and they are prominent to the point of pushing down organic website listings for certain types of searches. Therefore, if you are not on the system at all, you have no chance of being listed in the seven-pack, and less chance of appearing on the first page with your website due to decreased space for organic listings.
3. The Google+ social network is directly related.
While Facebook is still the undeniable champion of the social media space, Google+ has been quietly building a loyal client base over the past several years. By the end of 2012, Google+ had over 135 million active members (those who routinely use the system). Creating a listing on Google+ Local gives you a way to connect with these people. Utilizing your local listing to share pertinent information about your business and services may convince some Google+ users to relay that information to friends, family, and other connections that may someday turn into referral business for your firm.
4. It’s free.
Yes, Google’s local business directory is totally free. Unlike their AdWords platform, which is essentially a “pay to play” scenario, anyone can join Google+ Local and be on equal standing with the competition. Savvy solo attorneys can bump right up against huge firms if they know how to optimize their profiles, and they don’t need to worry about being outspent each day. Which brings me to point #5…
5. Anyone can optimize a Google+ Local listing.
While optimizing your website requires the creation of new and useful content, struggling to figure out ways to get other sites to link to yours, and utilizing on-page techniques that can be incredibly time consuming, optimizing a Google+ Local listing is much more straightforward. Each month, you should strive to build additional profiles/listings (“citations”) on other directory sites. You’ll want to ensure that your contact information and business name is listed exactly the same on each profile you create. The more citations Google can check to verify your information, the more highly they often value your Google+ Local profile since they can check its trustworthiness. Be sure to fill out each profile completely, using photos and videos if possible.
There are very few instances where Google+ Local will not be useful to attorneys, which is why I frequently recommend it. Legal marketing is shifting with the rest of the online marketplace, and this system gives lawyers a chance to keep up with Google’s trend toward localization.