Local SEO for Lawyers

In this chapter, we’re going to explore local SEO for lawyers.
You’ll learn:

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What are Google’s top three local search ranking factors?

Google uses a relatively narrow set of categories to determine local rankings for law firms which consists of relevance, distance, and prominence.

#1 – Relevance

Google is looking for how well GMB listings match user search queries.
There are many tactics attorneys can use to make sure their Google
My Business listing is as relevant as possible.

#2 – Distance

Google uses proximity (the relationship between their location and that reported by a business’s IP address or other methods) to determine which local GMB directory results to show to searchers. Unlike organic search (where links are the #1 ranking factor), proximity is local search’s #1 factor.

Consider this: when you’re on vacation and you search for restaurants, what do you expect to see? Places nearby your resort, not establishments two states away. No matter how great the restaurant is, if it’s not in your immediate vicinity, it’s unlikely to appear in local Maps results.

#3 – Prominence

Google uses proximity (the relationship between their location and that reported by a business’s IP address or other methods) to determine which local GMB directory results to show to searchers. Unlike organic search (where links are the #1 ranking factor), proximity is local search’s #1 factor.

One of the most challenging aspects of local search engine optimization is improving a firm’s overall prominence. This is because the competition dictates the amount of prominence needed to appear in the three-pack. That is, there are a number of factors that need to be considered:

Google My Business – Maximizing Rankings and Profits

It’s pretty clear that you need a Google My Business profile. It’s also obvious that you need one that’s optimized. You can find a detailed guide to Google My Business for lawyers where we lay out how to set up, claim, and optimize your Google Business Profile.

That said, there are a few common mistakes that I’d like to point out.

The largest mistake I see is in not claiming the proper primary category. If you’re a personal injury attorney, your category should be “personal injury attorney,” not “law firm.” Likewise, if you’re a criminal defense attorney, you should be claiming “criminal justice attorney.” Claiming the right category sets you up for success under the right umbrella.

Another mistake I see is placing minimal emphasis on image and video. Google is pretty smart, but sometimes they incorrectly interpret images.
If you want your business to have the image of a trash can, go ahead 
and skip this step.

One of the main ranking factors for local is prominence. Adding more imagery than your competitors has a direct relationship with increased prominence. Our recent study of 112,000 search results reaffirmed our certainty that images have a measurable effect on rankings.

Above and beyond that, one reason we know this for certain is because Google specifically calls it out subtly within Google My Business. In the image below, you can see how Google compares the amount of views your images have with those of “businesses like yours”
(read: your local competition).

The above photo references a client of ours who ranks #1 for “Philadelphia car accident lawyer.” As you can see, their firm has nearly 10x the views as their competition. It would be natural to ask how many photos they have, 
so let’s take a look at that below:

We have seen a direct correlation between the number of photos and local rankings, across the board for all of our clients. Most attorneys aren’t aware that Google can put you in touch with a Google Certified Photographer. Not only can they shoot a 360 tour of your office, but they can assist in maximizing the use of imagery on your Google My Business profile. If you’ve changed your hairstyle and considering deleting that outdated shot and replacing it with an updated one, keep in mind that it may be helping you rank in local search.

Reviews

As a quick reminder, here’s what Google says about reviews:

Let’s be real: there’s no “probably” about it. Reviews absolutely help your rankings.

Reviews Aren’t Only Important for Restaurants

Some of the common complaints I hear are that attorneys don’t want tire-kickers and the best cases go to their competitors. A big reason for this is having fewer total reviews and a lower overall rating from them. Consumers are more educated, particularly when it comes to making a difficult decision for an important case. A low-level traffic ticket might not motivate them to do a lot of research, but a personal injury case (which everyone knows might be quite lucrative) will send them searching for the absolute best attorney.

If you were on vacation in an unfamiliar place, you might do a search for “best restaurants near me.” Unless you’re on a food challenge, you’re not likely to choose the three-star restaurant, much less the one-star. You’re looking for not only an establishment with a five-star rating, but one based on a considerable quantity of reviews: you want to go somewhere that you expect to give you the same experience and treatment. Consumers do the same thing when looking for legal representation.

Of the attorneys listed in the reviews below, the firms with a greater quantity of reviews look more attractive than the one firm with only a handful despite having a higher average rating.

The secondary (and massive) benefit that isn’t always discussed is that if you have a high rating (5.0, for example), you can rank in the map pack for superlative-related queries, such as “best” or “top.” If you have a low review rating, Google simply won’t consider you for those types of searches. Again, back to the restaurant analogy: a search for “best restaurants near me” is unlikely to give you places with one- and two-star ratings in the map pack.

To summarize, reviews not only affect conversions through social proof, but they also impact your ranking position for some queries.

Why You Should Reply to All Reviews

A common misconception is that you need only reply to negative reviews. It’s understandable: you want to defend yourself and your practice, especially in public. However, there is absolutely value in replying to all reviews, positive, negative, and in-between. There are three 
main benefits to this:

What Are the Best Review Sites
for Attorneys?

We’ve said it before, but prominence means being everywhere. It not only helps with your rankings, but also the overall perception of quality for your firm. It’s a psychological trigger.

Here are some of the most beneficial sites on which to get reviews:

The secondary (and massive) benefit that isn’t always discussed is that if you have a high rating (5.0, for example), you can rank in the map pack for superlative-related queries, such as “best” or “top.” If you have a low review rating, Google simply won’t consider you for those types of searches. Again, back to the restaurant analogy: a search for “best restaurants near me” is unlikely to give you places with one- and two-star ratings in the map pack.

To summarize, reviews not only affect conversions through social proof, but they also impact your ranking position for some queries.

Aggregators

Local data aggregators are a method of dispersing your business information (name, address, phone number, images, etc.) to thousands of sites. There are four main data aggregators (Neustar Localeze, Factual, Acxiom, and Infogroup). In order to submit to them, you have a few options: Moz Local, BrightLocal, and Yext (although this last recommendation is conditional, subject to your agreement).

The key thing here is you need to submit to data aggregators. Because they disperse your information to so many sites, it’s important to the extra effort and time to thoroughly optimize your profile (tons of images, usage of video, accurate descriptions, operating hours, proper categories, etc.). Of the three, Yext has some inherent advantages, if you are utilizing their API effectively. From a cost standpoint, BrightLocal is the best.

There’s no question that this is all needed. The thing to ask yourself is if you have the time to perform a similar strategy manually or if you’d rather cut out the middleman and use one of the tools listed above for less than $100. Your mileage may vary, but I value my time too much not to use an aggregator, particularly when the cost is so low.

What is a citation?

It’s an online reference to your firm’s NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). Similar to a backlink, they’re a ranking factor that Google considers when determining the authority of your site. The key difference is that a citation (unlike a backlink) does not need to be directly linked to your site for you to receive a benefit from it.

Top Citation Sites

Here is a top 10 list for local citations in the U.S. BrightLocal 
provides a nice listing that can be found here.

Here is a list of the top local citations, as sorted by city. These will, of course, differ from location to location, so be sure to check your specific geography.

Lastly, here’s a top 10 list for legal. If you’d like to see a full listing, 
it can be found here.

How to Make the Maximum Impact

The same advice applies here as did above: make sure that your profile is optimized, complete, and accurate. You should also ensure that all attorneys at your firm have completed and optimized personal profiles. In some cases, your directory placement is determined by how well your profile is optimized; this is particularly important for legal directories, 
as they may be a source of leads.

Don’t Let Google My
Business Spammers Take
WhatShould Be Yours

Most individuals try to do the right thing and play by the rules when it comes to their Google My Business profile: they optimize their profile and abide by Google’s explicit terms of service (TOS). The problem with this approach is that it leaves them defenseless on a very important flank: they are not addressing the spammers who claim “real estate” (virtual though it may be) that should rightfully belong to the firm itself.

Here’s How to Fight Google My Business Spam

The same advice applies here as did above: make sure that your profile is optimized, complete, and accurate. You should also ensure that all attorneys at your firm have completed and optimized personal profiles. In some cases, your directory placement is determined by how well your profile is optimized; this is particularly important for legal directories, 
as they may be a source of leads.

Here’s what local SEO expert Joy Hawkins has to say on the matter:

“One of the most effective tactics an attorney can do to gain higher rankings in the local results is to actively keep track of competitors and report listings that violate the Google My Business guidelines.

I’ve seen many cases where doing so resulted in an almost-instant ranking increase for the business that was following guidelines.Here are the most common types of violations
I see with attorneys:

If one of your competitors is using these tactics and ranking well as a result, you can report them on the Google My Business forum or by reaching out to Google on
Twitter or Facebook.”

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Chapter ROI by

Chris Dreyer,

CEO of Rankings.io