Guest post from George Murphy.
Google has continuously strived to make their Places section an invaluable part of how local businesses, including lawyers, are found online. Solo attorneys and law firms with offices located in or around the city that they want to rank well for on Google must have a strong and accurate Google Places listing in order to stay above the fold on Google results for geo-based search terms, especially now that Google Places and Google organic results have been combined for most geo-based search results.
Google is more invested than ever in providing accurate search results to users who are looking for a business in their area via geo-based search terms, such as “San Diego personal injury lawyer” or “Florida DUI attorney”, and law firms who are able to manage a visible Google Places presence are able to stay a step ahead of their competition.
Claim and Gain Control of Your Google Places Listing
Every law firm should claim their Google Places listing or create a listing if their office is not listed. This can all be done within the Google Places for Business dashboard. Make sure you have a profile for each address where you have an office, and be sure to suspend or delete any duplicates that exist for each location. Once a law firm has been ownership and editing rights to their listing, it is crucial to go through all listed information and correct any errors, as well as adding any new information, such as a website URL.
Citation Sources: How Google Places Verifies That You Exist
One of the main ranking factors when it comes to Google Places’ algorithm is verification. Google Places will usually rank profiles which are not only claimed, but also verified by having the business information match up on multiple citation source sites. Not having an accurate Google Places listing for your practice can be disastrous and can affect revenue, especially when it lists a lawyer at the incorrect address or includes incomplete information because the profile has never been claimed by the owner, and for you to maximize your Google Places rankings you have to take the next step and work on citation source building.
Make sure you’re listed on as many citation sources as possible, since Google Places uses this as one of its main ranking factors. You can use the WhiteSpark citation finder to find possible citation sources that your competition is getting “juice” from, and take a look at LocalEz or Universal Buisness Listings as possible ways to syndicate to major citation sources (even though manual submissions are usually the most effective).
Some of the most influential citation sources for your law firm include:
- Merchant Circle
- Super Pages
Pin Location on Google Maps
Google Places also allows users to change where the location pin is displayed on the map. In order to come up correctly in geo-based search results, make sure the pin location on the map is correct. Pin location influences geo-based search results. Changes can take a while to update and should be checked at least monthly in order to ensure that other Google users haven’t recommended updates with erroneous information.
Also, be sure to add your location to Google MapMaker as this may affect whether or not your Google Places profile comes up for certain geo-based search terms.
Client reviews, posted not only on your firm’s Google Places but also on some of the aforementioned citation source sites, can positively affect Google Places rankings. However, getting your past clients to the right place where they can leave reviews can be tricky at times.
One effective way to do this is to register a domain name that’s easy to remember, like “reviewGeorgeMurphy.com”, and set that domain to forward to the Google Places profile or citation site where you’d like for them to leave reviews. You can switch this up every few months or so to point to a different citation source or Places profile so that you spread the reviews out, which is usually more effective than getting reviews all in one place.
Also, while many firms may be buying fake reviews to boost their Google Places rankings, I strongly recommend staying away from this tactic as it will likely negatively affect your standing with Google Places farther down the road.
The new changes and options made available by Google, along with the fact that Places are usually one of the top three results to show up in a geo-based search query, makes having a well-maintained and accurate Google Places listing crucial for any service-based or retail business, not just law firms. Google provides simple instructions on creating a Places listing or claiming a current one on the main Google Places website.
George Murphy is the owner of The Search Ninjas. He helps solo attorneys and law firms throughout the country to maintain a visible web presence through SEO, PPC marketing, display advertising, and other web marketing methods.