Local Search Marketing for Lawyers


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You don’t need to be a local search marketing analyst to know that more and more people are using search engines to find local information.

According to Google, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online.

And while local search marketing isn’t right for every law firm, there are many law practices that are benefiting from local search marketing strategies.

On the low-end, it has been reported that as many as 20% of searches on Google are for local information. But that number is likely much higher. Especially for searches performed on mobile devices:

20% of Desktop queries have Local intent
5% use the city and/or state name
2% use informal terms, like neighborhoods
0.5% use zip codes
50%+ of Mobile queries have Local intent

And as is the case with the differences between organic and paid search results, most people still don’t understand the key differences between traditional organic results and local search results.

Local SERP Anatomy

While several search engines have local listings, because they’re still the leader in search market share, we’re going to focus on local search listings in Google.

The helpful folks at GetListed.org provide some great resources for understanding local search:

As you can see, local search results get prominent real estate on search engine results pages in Google. Here is an example of local search results for the query [criminal defense attorney] in Chicago:

Notice how these results are tied to Google Plus Local pages. Also notice that reviews on Google Plus Local pages are listed in local search engine results.

Local Search Ranking Factors

Now that we know the visual differences traditional organic, local and paid search results, let’s take a look at what factors Google uses to display local results.

In his annual Local Search Ranking Factors survey, David Mihm organizes what the experts have to say about the most important factors that go into local search visibility. Here are the top 10 local search ranking factors in 2012:

Physical Address in City of Search on Place Page
Proper Category Associations on Place Page
Proximity of Address to Centroid on Place Page
Domain Authority of Website
Quantity of Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators)
City, State in Places Landing Page Title
Quantity of Native Google Places Reviews
Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
Local Area Code on Place Page
HTML NAP Matching Place Page NAP

I encourage you to read and understand the full survey. In a nutshell, local results depend upon consistent NAP (name, address & phone) information across a variety of local data provider sites, as well as, sentiment & popularity of your firm in the form of reviews and links to your site.

Obviously, some of these factors are generally out of your control (i.e. proximity from of address from centroid). On the other hand, there are many things you can do both on your website, as well as, around the web to maximize your visibility in these local results.

If you want your firm and attorneys to appear in local search results, these are the factors upon which you need to concentrate your efforts. Be sure to follow Google’s Quality Guidelines for places.

Further, reputation and ethical SEO issues apply to local search marketing too. Make sure you understand what is permissible so that you put your best foot forward online.

Adwords Express

In addition to organic local search results, Google also has a paid search program for local. This is Google’s Adwords Express Advertising. Here is an example of an Adwords Express ad:

Adwords Express can be an effective place to attract local potential clients especially if you have a more limited budget or might otherwise not be right for classic AdWords. Here are some key differences between traditional Adwords and Adwords Express:

  AdWords Express AdWords Local Google+ pages
Free No No Yes
Available for businesses without a website Yes No Yes
Pay only for clicks Yes Yes N/A
Monthly budget control Yes Yes N/A
Daily budget control No Yes N/A
Ads on Google search and Maps Yes Yes N/A
Ads on Google mobile search and mobile Maps Yes Yes N/A
Ads on Google Search Partner sites No Yes N/A
Ads on partner sites and Google properties
(Google Display Network)
No Yes
(contextual and placement targeting)
Other advanced ad formats (e.g. video) No Yes N/A
Ability to target ads geographically Local Anywhere N/A

Is Local Search Marketing Right for My Firm?

Deciding whether local search marketing is right for your law firm requires consideration of a variety of factors. Here are a couple of things to think about:

  • Do you have a physical office where clients can visit you?
  • Do your prospective clients and referral sources use search engines to find local businesses?
  • Does your state permit online lawyer testimonials & reviews?
  • How saturated are the local search results in your location and practice areas(s)?
  • What are your goals and budget for local search marketing?

If you’re a local law firm that provides legal services to local consumers, chances are that some form of local search marketing can be beneficial to your practice. At the very least, you should consider claiming your Google Plus Local profile and completing it as thoroughly and accurately as possible.

Local Search Experts

If you’re looking for people to help you better understand local search marketing, I recommend getting to know these folks:

David Mihm

Mike Blumenthal

Andrew Shotland

Darren Shaw

These are some of the most generous experts in terms of providing information, resources and tools to businesses interested in local search marketing.

Additional Local Search for Lawyers Reading at Lawyerist

This certainly isn’t the first article on local search here at Lawyerist. Here are some more articles for additional reading:

Please keep in mind that local search is an area that continues to evolve at a very rapid pace. In only a few years, local search has undergone enormous change. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you keep up-to-date about quality guidelines and best practices in this area.

Making mistakes in executing local search strategies can have very negative consequences in terms of visibility in these listings. Spend some time learning about the local search ecosystem before claiming and optimizing local listings.

(Photo by: Google.com)


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  • Nice job guys.

    I was in the LSRF this year. There are bunch of other local SEO’ers worth noting too.

    I work with a ton of lawyers and local/maps/google+ is a HUGE part of the online marketing.

    Sucks big time now that those golden stars disappeared this year. I’d suggest if a law firm or lawyer has some solid reviews they participate in the Google Places adwords express. It makes them show up again in the paid ads.