Is Local SEO for Lawyers Important?

The short answer is: Yes. There seems to be precious few lawyers who have a practice so specialized that they take clients all over the U.S. or operate mostly on referrals. Local SEO should be the main focus of any lawyer marketing services. We often find law firms that have not focused on their local SEO efforts being outranked by less experienced firms in their market. Law firms should laser focus on their local SEO rankings. Unfortunately, few understand how local SEO works and what needs to be done to get into the coveted three pack on the first page of Google. A few key stats that should get your attention and interest you in reading this entire article.
  1. 88% of consumer local business searches on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours. (Nectafy)
  2. 46% of all searches on Google are seeking local information.
  3. 97% searched online to find a local business  (Source: Hubspot)
Business litigation attorneys, personal injury attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, civil defense attorneys, family lawyers, employment law attorneys, and estate planning attorneys, and others, need to operate at least within the state whose laws govern their practice. Most clients like to meet their attorneys face to face. However, in cases where that isn’t possible (say a tourist gets into a car accident while visiting another state), they still need an attorney who is local to the area. So concepts like geolocalization are extremely important to attorneys and their law firms. Here, we’ll discuss how it works. If you would like to discuss lawyer marketing services in more detail with me or my team, click here to schedule a time that works best for you.

Google My Business

Google My Business is where localization begins. Without it, your business will not show up in “near me” searches and Google itself will do precious little to help along the way. The first step is claiming your listing. How do you do that? Supposing you don’t have an SEO firm doing everything for you, the process is relatively simple. You’ll want to make a specific Google account for your business. This process is free and simple. Everything you need to accomplish can be done so here. Google will ask you some rudimentary questions such as where you’re located and what kind of business you are and then you’ll be set up with a page. Please note that it could take up to three days for Google to publish your business and make it searchable. This is a quality control check. The process doesn’t end with your GMB listing, but since Google has an 87% market share when it comes to searches, it’s definitely the best place to start.

Understanding Local SEO

Search engine optimization involves making your business eminently more searchable (and thus easier to find) over search engines like Google. When someone types in “car accident lawyer”, you want to ensure that your website is at the top of the list. There seems to be very few people who will look beyond the first page of hits. More traffic to your website means more cases for you and that translates into more money for your firm. Google automatically sifts through results that are local to the searcher although “near me” searches remain valuable. Aside from basic “organic” search results, Google offers a number of options that law firms can familiarize themselves with to improve their standing in local searches.

Google Snack Pack Results

“Near me” searches remain a large part of local Google SEO, yet the organic search results you’re likely to find on Tripadvisor links and then, down the list, you’ll find actual businesses. However, at the top of the search engine box, you’ll find a list of three results. Google considers these the top three options for your search. As an example, try a search for “delis near me”. You’ll notice that the top three delis listed in your area are probably not the only delis within a 10-minute drive of your location. Not only that, but some of those delis may actually be closer than the ones listed in the snack pack list. Now, research has shown that Google searchers will choose an option off the snack pack list 33% of the time while 40% will choose from the “organic” listings underneath. The best play is to rank highly in both. Lastly, these results look different on different devices. Therefore, it’s important to consider the experience of searching over different kinds of screens. You can rank well regardless of device, but it takes a little effort. It means developing a site that looks right for both mobile and desktop/laptop searches. Google supplies a tool for testing how mobile-friend your site is. You can find it here.

Keyword Research and SEO

In the early days of SEO, sites could saturate content with keywords in order to artificially drive up their search engine results. However, the content itself was abysmal and the visitor experience of the content was unpleasant. Today, keywords still matter, but the user experience of the content matters now too. Google can analyze things like how long a visitor stays on your site or the number of interactions. For instance, if they click around a site or send you a message, Google will recognize that the search result was worthwhile to the visitor and rank it higher.

How can you be sure you have the right keywords?

SEO specialists use common sense tactics and SEO tools to make such determinations. First, let’s take a simple example. If you’re a personal injury attorney, then one of the keywords you’re going to want to rank for is “personal injury attorney”. This is obvious. If you type that into Google, you can scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will find other related searches. These can give you some indication as to what other search queries are worth ranking for. In some ways, attorneys have it lucky when it comes to SEO. Lawsuits are stressful events and when people feel stressed, they want to seek out knowledge related to their situation. That’s why you’ll find “personal injury calculators” on websites that attempt to answer the question “how much is the average personal injury case payout”. It’s not that these calculators give an accurate answer, it’s that people are curious about that question. Potential clients also have other questions related to their lawsuit that they’ll desperately want answers on. These include: Do I have a case? Defenses against DUI; How to win a case; Understanding insurance settlements; and so on. It’s fairly easy to predict what kinds of questions your clients will have given your area of practice. By answering them, you set them at ease and generate a good rapport. Google rewards you when their interaction with your site is good. That’s why having the best content results in better local SEO rankings which results in more business.

Service in Location Queries

Service in location (SiL) queries follow all variations of the format “ in location”. For instance, “personal injury attorneys in Atlanta”, “Atlanta personal injury attorneys”, “personal injury lawyers Atlanta”, “personal injury lawyer in Atlanta” and so on. There are even tools that exist to generate all variations of SiL queries from a given prompt. Some tools provide more information like statistics related to the search query and the cost related to purchasing an ad using the search query.

Interesting Ways to Find Relevant Keywords

SEO specialists use a number of industry patented methods to uncover all of the glorious keywords that you want to rank for. One of the most common is using Google’s predictive/auto-complete text to find common searches. These are searches that others have put into Google enough times to warrant them easing the process of searching by offering it as an option. The technology to do this is called n-grams. It creates a statistical model of the most common searches and then ranks them according to frequency. For those interested, tools like Ahrefs provide a number of options for predicting keyword searches related to your law firm.

Local NAP Citations

“NAP” refers to Name/Address/Phone. It is a typical listing that includes your business. Sites like Tripadvisor have NAP citations and so does Yelp and other such sites. All search engines (not just Google) regard NAP citations highly as a top indicator for your business. They bolster Google’s confidence in your GMB listing, and they figure into whether or not you’ll be listed in the “Snack Pack” results. One important thing to consider here is that the information should be consistent. In cases where you move your business or change your phone number, the NAP listings should be corrected as quickly as possible. Google does not like inconsistent NAP listings. SEO specialists will scour the web to ensure listings in any and all business directories contain consistent NAP information. Another technique that is useful is to build more NAP listings in various business directories across the web. You can find many of the most important local business directories here. For attorneys, FindLaw and Nolo are two obvious places to list your law firm.

SEO in Content and Geolocalization

For obvious reasons, you want to understand the basics of SEO keywords in the content you use on your website. For instance, if you want to rank for the query “DUI Defense” there are certain spots where you want to have your keyword. Those are:
  • Your title tag
  • Your first heading (H1)
  • The URL
  • The meta description
This is also important when trying to rank locally. In fact, it’s one of the most important things to bear in mind when creating content. It is also the reason why websites will have multiple landing pages for different areas in which they operate. You don’t need to go crazy creating landing pages for every city in your state, but you will want landing pages for major suburbs. Or if you operate in a smaller town and want to do business in a major city, it helps to have individual landing pages for those cities.

Link Building

Link building remains one of the most important factors for ranking in local searches and Snack Pack listings. However, directory listings won’t (necessarily) factor into those. When your site is listed on another site and someone uses that link to access your site, the interaction is recorded and the link. Additionally, link signals can be generated from basic questions asked over Google such as: “car accident statistics in ”. These sorts of queries strengthen your site’s Google ranking. They can be only indirectly related to your area of practice. For instance: Safe driving tips or How to reduce your car insurance can work for a traffic accident attorney.

Other ways to build links include:

  • Guest blogging – Attorneys have a great opportunity here because their knowledge is both invaluable and esoteric.
  • Improve well-performing content – Simply giving blogs that are performing well a better look readability wise or adding a more comprehensive amount of information can improve your visitor’s interaction with your site.
For more information on link building, have a click here.

Reviews

The oldest form of advertising is word of mouth. In today’s market, it has become even more important. With the speed at which information travels, good results for clients result in higher rankings for your webpage. You can respond to customer reviews or concerns (or not). With GMB, you can also keep them in the loop as far as your latest results and updates by creating new posts.

Fresh Content

Adding fresh content keeps your web page in the public eye. You can share this content over social media and it also lets Google know that your page is being actively maintained. This is good for local SEO. Whereas once, SEO specialists believed that quantity trumped quality, today, it is largely regarded that the reverse is true. High-quality content encourages visitors to read about situations that are similar to their own. Moreover, Google keeps track of that interaction and weights it positively helping your website.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that local SEO is extremely important for 99.9% of the law firms in the U.S. Consider the digital profile of your business quite carefully. You need fresh, exciting content that is updated on (at least) a monthly basis that ranks for important keywords relative to your business. You also want content that indirectly relates to your law firm and draws visitors who may possibly be interested in various aspects of your practice. Taking the measures listed above ensures that your site out-competes other sites in your market. Which in turn brings more cases to your firm, and keeps your visitors reading for more information that may help alleviate some of their anxiety concerning their situation. If you would like more information on our local SEO services schedule an appointment with our team today. We are happy to review your current local SEO strategy and give you recommendations to improve your rankings.

Google My Business For Law Firms

With business giants and global corporations competing daily for top placement on Google, it’s nice to know that Google is still looking out for the little guy. Introducing Google My Business: a free tool and one-stop shop for small businesses—law firms included—to increase their online visibility via Google search, Google Maps, and Google+. Google My Business is a more visual way for smaller businesses to connect with clients on a local scale, and is ideal for those who aren’t SEO-savvy, and/or are looking for Google to help them establish a significant presence online. Google My Business puts all Google services and business-related applications in one place. With Google My Business you can:
  • Update business information on Google search, Google Maps, and Google+ simultaneously.
  • Upload staff photos and a virtual tour of your law firm to help clients see your firm on a personal level.
  • Connect daily with clients by sharing content, news, events, and other updates from your Google+ page.
  • Stay on top of business reviews from top review sites, including Google reviews.
  • Determine how clients find your firm using integration with AdWords Express.
  • Access your Google Analytics dashboard.
  • Start or join a Hangout (aka video meetings) with just a click.

Google vs. Facebook: The Battle Continues

Google My Business is designed to make advertising, and finding, a local business easier than on other search portals—e.g. Facebook. While Google My Business is meant primarily for small businesses, all page owners have been upgraded to the new view to appeal to companies of all shapes and sizes. Non-local accounts can also use Google My Business effectively.

A New Dog With New Tricks

Although Google has tried management platforms before, Google My Business is different in design and application, and is poised to be the easiest, most effective way to manage your business listings and content under one roof. Also, if you already have a Google Places account set up, no worries. There’s no need to duplicate content, as an existing account will populate into all of Google My Business portals. Further, Google has already launched Google My Business for Android mobile users, and the iOS version will be released shortly.

SEO for Attorneys Has Changed—Here’s What Your Law Firm Can Do about It

By now, all attorneys and law firms are probably familiar with the acronym SEO, which stands for search engine optimization.  Yet, many may be unaware of the recent changes within the SEO world and how they could be affecting their firms’ daily business. In May 2013, Google released its Penguin 2.0 search engine algorithm update and in October, rolled out Penguin 2.1 tweaks.  The company stated that the updates were designed to punish websites that were taking advantage of Google’s current system and utilizing malicious strategies like keyword stuffing and “aggressive webspam tactics” to increase search rankings and website traffic.  Similarly, the changes aimed to reward honest websites abiding by Google’s quality guidelines. So what do these changes mean for law firms’ SEO strategies?

1. SEO for attorneys has become more about producing quality content and websites

. Gone are the days when businesses could get by with occasionally producing average content or piggybacking off of external material.  In order to stay competitive, law firms must constantly push unique blog and webpage content, and a cache of additional materials such as white papers, newsletters, and infographics does not hurt either. The rule of thumb is the greater the amount of quality material your law firm produces, the greater your chance of impacting current and potential clients

2. Law firms should avoid keyword stuffing at all costs.

This goes back to the first point—quality, not quantity, matters. Although plugging keywords into website, blog, and article content matters to SEO, inserting keywords naturally into text (rather than crafting articles to simply disguise loads of keywords) is a must.  Google has even stated that it can ban websites promoting rampant keyword and tag stuffing.

3. Social media involvement is even more crucial.

Focusing on SEO does not mean merely writing great content.  Getting current and potential clients to engage with the content is the real test of a law firm’s SEO strategy.  Think social media—LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Yelp, Pinterest—as well as article comments, client testimonials, inbound links, and outside references to your law firm’s articles and webpages.  Accruing engagement is truly twofold.  First, it demonstrates that your law firm’s content is valuable and reliable and second, it exponentially increases the content’s reach.

4. Focus on website design or risk getting lost in the dust.

A website’s format and coding can make or break a user’s experience, not to mention enhance or diminish a law firm’s SEO impact.  Ask yourself: is my law firm’s website easy to navigate?  Is it optimized for mobile usage?  Are the site’s links naturally occurring rather than built in just for SEO purposes?  If you answered ‘no,’ it’s time to redesign.

Weekly SEO Trend: Local SEO

Google hasn’t added any new announcements to its three key blogs (Matt Cutts’ Blog, Inside Search andWebmaster Central Blog) this week, despite the fact that the company has been making changes to its Google Local structure. Fortunately, other SEO news sites picked up on the development and have been busy featuring Local SEO stories during the past week. This week’s roundup features news stories fromSearch Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Roundtable.

Google Places Adds Over 1,000 New Categories

All the SEO news sites covered this story. However, the changes to Google Places won’t affect many US law firms. These new categories only apply to international business listings.

Google Sending Warnings To Business Owners

Another story featured on Search Engine Journal may require your attention. Google has made changes to Google Maps and this seems to have impacted Google Places listings. Your law firm may lose its Google Places listing unless you log in and verify the details of the business. Make sure whoever is in charge of your firm’s Web presence reads this article and takes the appropriate action.

Google+ Local Pages Now Show To User Before Pin Verification

Search Engine Roundtable features this story which covers a change Google has made to its Google + Local dashboard. This is a minor technical change on the visibility of a business to its owners. However, coordinated evolution going on at Google in its Maps, Google+ Local and Google Places show that you need to get your law firm on these systems because they are becoming important tools to get your law firm at the top of search engine results pages.

Can Yahoo Make A Come Back Into Search?

Good news from Yahoo sparked another article on Search Engine Roundtable. This details that Yahoo is planning on re-launching its own search engine.

Yahoo Turns To Yelp To Beef Up Local Search

Search Engine Land has more insight into Yahoo’s moves with this article showing that the company wants to focus its new search engine on local data. If your law firm already has a Yelp listing, it looks like that will soon be transferred over to Yahoo search results.

YP Wants To Compete Directly With Google And Yelp In Local

Search Engine Land also reports that Yellow Pages, now called “YP” is reconfiguring its online service to look and feel more like a search engine. Given the nature of Yellow Pages, this will result in another rival for Google+ Local. Check your law firm’s Yellow Pages listing and make sure it is up to date.

5 Tips To Kill The Competition In Local Search

If your law firm is not taking advantage of Local SEO, check out this guide from Search Engine Land on the topic.

6 Local Tips For Small Business SEO Success

This second guide from Search Engine Land would prove useful reading for the partner responsible for digital marketing at your law firm.

4 Tactics to Drive Incremental Local SEO Performance

Search Engine produced this guide which will also be of interest to you as you develop your law firms Local SEO strategy. The “World Wide” in “World Wide Web” stresses the international nature of the Internet which enables the little guy to reach a vast marketplace. However, in reality, do you really need the attention of the world to make a living as a lawyer in the US? Small partnerships and sole practitioners only need to focus on their own neighborhood to find clients. This reality applies to many businesses and the search engines have latched onto this factor. As far as search engine optimization is concerned, we are currently in a transition phase from global reach to local focus and from computer-based Internet access to phone-based access. The advancement of local and mobile go hand in hand and both have lurched forward slightly this week, according to news from Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land and Digital Third Coast.

Secret Contracts Keep Google In Control Of Mobile Search Argues Lawsuit

This Search Engine Land article makes interesting reading for a legal eagle. It illustrates how vital mobile is becoming and that Google is making sure it remains top dog among search engines in the mobile search arena.

Google: Local Searches Lead 50% of Mobile Users to Visit Stores

Over at Search Engine Watch we learn that Google is promoting its position on the marriage of local and mobile. Although this article talks about local searches on mobile devices leading directly to footfall in shops, the implication of this study is obvious for small law practices. This new trend is greatly to the benefit of small local practices over the multi-site mega-corp law firms and brand affiliations.

Local Listing Management Priorities: How & Where to Syndicate Local Data

Speaking of large multi-site law firms, if you run one, you would be more interested in this Search Engine Watch article, which explains a strategy you could adopt to fight back in the local search rankings. The little guy might like to read this, too, just to see what you are up against.

How To Build A Local Brand Through Online Marketing

As a small partnership, you stand to gain most from the trend towards local and mobile, but we now know that the big boys are muscling in on the local action. Your response to this is covered in this Search Engine Land article, which explains the importance of building a local brand to tie in with your local search opportunities.

Bing Launches On Firefox OS, Does It Matter?

Just to show that the Web isn’t all about Google, here is a story about the Bing search engine, which also powers searches on Yahoo. Google has established a dominant position in mobile applications because of its ownership of the Android operating system. Ironically, Bing, owned by Microsoft, is the underdog in the mobile search fight because of the migration away from Windows-operating laptops towards smartphones. Bing is getting into bed with the open source Firefox operating system for smartphones, which Google is pointedly ignoring. Therefore, if you are testing your law firm’s Web presence, make sure your new pages look good on the Firefox operating system, because it looks like it may be on the rise.

How to Improve Your Local SEO

In this article by Digital Third Coast, they dive into the reasons of why local SEO is important, and how can you improve it for your law firm. This article has some great in-depth tips for you to take a look at and reevaluate your SEO marketing. In fact, 46% of shoppers report using their phone to research local products and services. This is a statistic you can’t ignore, as it will only increase in the near future.

Google Places Adds Over 1,000 New Categories

All the SEO news sites covered this story. However, the changes to Google Places won’t affect many US law firms. These new categories only apply to international business listings.

Google Sending Warnings To Business Owners

Another story featured on Search Engine Journal may require your attention. Google has made changes to Google Maps and this seems to have impacted Google Places listings. Your law firm may lose its Google Places listing unless you log in and verify the details of the business. Make sure whoever is in charge of your firm’s Web presence reads this article and takes the appropriate action.

Google+ Local Pages Now Show To User Before Pin Verification

Search Engine Roundtable features this story which covers a change Google has made to its Google + Local dashboard. This is a minor technical change on the visibility of a business to its owners. However, coordinated evolution going on at Google in its Maps, Google+ Local and Google Places show that you need to get your law firm on these systems because they are becoming important tools to get your law firm at the top of search engine results pages.

Can Yahoo Make A Come Back Into Search?

Good news from Yahoo sparked another article on Search Engine Roundtable. This details that Yahoo is planning on re-launching its own search engine.

Yahoo Turns To Yelp To Beef Up Local Search

Search Engine Land has more insight into Yahoo’s moves with this article showing that the company wants to focus its new search engine on local data. If your law firm already has a Yelp listing, it looks like that will soon be transferred over to Yahoo search results.

YP Wants To Compete Directly With Google And Yelp In Local

Search Engine Land also reports that Yellow Pages, now called “YP” is reconfiguring its online service to look and feel more like a search engine. Given the nature of Yellow Pages, this will result in another rival for Google+ Local. Check your law firm’s Yellow Pages listing and make sure it is up to date.

5 Tips To Kill The Competition In Local Search

If your law firm is not taking advantage of Local SEO, check out this guide from Search Engine Land on the topic.

6 Local Tips For Small Business SEO Success

This second guide from Search Engine Land would prove useful reading for the partner responsible for digital marketing at your law firm.

4 Tactics to Drive Incremental Local SEO Performance

Search Engine produced this guide which will also be of interest to you as you develop your law firms Local SEO strategy.

SEO Trends: Mobile Search

Run For Your Life, Chicken Little — The Google Mopocalypse Is Coming!

You should enjoy reading this first article in the list if you have no idea where to start with getting a mobile-friendly site for your law firm. The author, Will Scott, is a digital marketing consultant and he specifically explains the importance of mobile search for his law firm clientele. Scott’s advice is easy to follow and he explains some of the Web jargon, such as “responsive,” so you will be able to use the right language when hiring a Web designer for your new site.

Everything You Need To Know About Google’s New Stance On Mobile

Web entrepreneur, Neil Patel summarizes much of the ground covered by last week’s SEO Trends article, including how to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. Patel lists four action points at the end of the article, which should enable you to find your direction when considering a revamp of your law firm’s Web pages.

Infographic: Mobile SEO Tips To Help You Survive The Coming Google Mopocalypse

The first two articles in this review should get you familiar with the terminology of mobile Web design. This article gets down to the nitty gritty of actual coding decisions that make a site mobile-friendly. You might be daunted by the idea of an article all about programming code, but the infographic presentation of this information makes the topic so digestible, you will be able to understand the advice even if you don’t know anything at all about programming. If you pay someone else to write your law firm’s website, the information in this article will give you tips on what specific code to look out for when checking through your new pages.

Mobile Is Local: Quick Wins and Fast Fails

Here is another easy-to-read guide on adapting your law firm’s website. Local search is particularly important for small law practices and you will read here specific tips on quick ways to get better rankings in local search.

Mobile Optimization and the Google Algorithm Change – 7 Steps to Stay Friendly

If you haven’t had enough of checklists about checking your site for mobile-friendliness, here is another one. This Search Engine Watch article gives a good overall scene-setting discussion before summarizing the things you need to do now for your law firm’s website. Although much of the content of this report covers the same ground as Patel and Scott in their articles, it is good to see that all the advice out there at the moment speaks with one voice. Hopefully, this body of advice will motivate you to examine the mobile friendliness of your site and take steps this week to get it in order. April 21 is not far off and those who aren’t ready will lose out to more mobile-responsive websites.