A local search is a special case for internet search engines like Google. It helps users find local businesses. When you search for “Best donairs near me,” for example, your favorite search engine captures your location, then taps into its vast store of information to find the best donair near your location and displays it in your search results for your perusal.
Optimizing your law firm local search is called, appropriately, local search engine optimization (“SEO”). Your law firm local search optimization is a key part of your firm’s online presence that, in turn, is a critical part of your visibility to potential clients.
All search engines use local SEO. Here we’ll focus on how local SEO strategies help you on Google specifically.
Getting Started with Local Search
Your first job with local search is really simple. Just claim and build out your Google My Business (“GMB”) listing. (We have a handy download to help you out with this!) First, you’ll have to verify that you’re the owner and make sure Google doesn’t have multiple pages dedicated to your law firm. After you’re verified, confirm that the information on your page is accurate and complete with information about:
- Your law firm’s full name
- An accurate business category (i.e., that you are a law practice)
- Your hours
- A local phone number (no 1-800 numbers)
- An email address that uses your domain
- A brief description of what you do. This should also include any keyword for which you’re trying to rank.
- Pictures of your office so people know what to look for and expect when they head out to meet you.
Remember to keep all this information accurate and up to date! Perhaps you’ve even struggled with a business that didn’t: you search for a particular restaurant and find that three different websites list three different closing times. When you call the second (inaccurate) phone number and the restaurant still doesn’t answer, you decide you’ve got to grab your donair from the true King of Donair. This experience can be especially frustrating for people searching for legal help. Keep your information up to date!
In addition, Google now allows you to add posts, a Q&A, messaging, and bookings to your GMB account. So you can create posts on your GMB page, answer questions people may have about your law practice, allow potential clients to send you private questions, and schedule meetings all through your GMB account. Nota bene, you’ll need to integrate a schedule with your GMB account if you plan to use the appointment scheduling functionality.
All this information about your law firm through GMB is featured in Google’s Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used to enhance Google’s search results. You may have seen the information gathered by the Knowledge Graph in an infobox when you’ve searched for something on Google.
Infoboxes also display information about businesses like your law firm based on the information you provide. That is all the reason you need to keep your information accurate and current.
Improving Your Law Firm Local Search
So you have your GMB account, all your information is updated, and you’ve even uploaded a few pictures, posts, and answers for potential clients, too. Great work. But what else can you do to optimize local SEO for your law firm?
Take Advantage of Local Directories
Local directory and rating sites can be extremely powerful for improving your position on search engine results pages (“SERPs”). For starters, you need to claim your listings, track what people are saying about your firm, and engage with former, current, and potential clients.
There are plenty of directories out there. Some are free, some are paid, some are user-friendly, and some are flat-out scams. We’ve put together a 7-Day Directories Challenge to help you get started on boosting your law firm local SEO.
Listing your law firm on a website like Yelp definitely helps boost your law firm local search cred, and, if you have any reviews on your Yelp page, Google will show that in the Knowledge Base infobox too.
On a similar note, create and claim your law firm’s social media accounts. Creating accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and even Pinterest or Instagram is a great way to engage with potential clients. They are also excellent channels to engage with fellow lawyers, too. Besides, creating these accounts for your firm now means someone can’t pretend to be you later.
Just remember, whether your interactions are good or bad, be professional and constructive with your response. No need to accidentally start a Twitter war with a troll.
Localize Your Website
Be clear that your law firm is a local business. You should have your law firm’s address, city, neighborhood, email, phone number, and hours right on your home page, and in your footer, too.
Having all that local information indicates to Google that you are indeed in the geographic location the user is searching in.
Other ways to help localize your law firm are to make sure you are listed in your local bar’s directory and by joining your local chamber of commerce. Having your law firm website cross-listed in other local websites helps build the trustworthiness of your site to Google, is a great marketing strategy, and further reinforces your local-ness.
So now you have your website, your directory listings, and your social media accounts claimed and telling the universe that you’re a local business. But make sure you’re consistent across all your listings. This helps reinforce your identity, branding, and trustworthiness across the board.
Test Your Law Firm SEO
So you’ve put in all this time and your law firm local search looks great from the inside, but how does it look when a potential client searches for your law firm?
Hop into your web browser’s incognito mode and search for your law firm or your GMB account. Does it look the way you want it to? Even big companies can suffer from this easily-fixed problem.
If you see any issues with the way your law firm is being displayed, take the time to fix it as soon as possible. First impressions matter. You can also consider hiring someone to help you with it. What you’re seeing is what potential clients are seeing, too, so make sure to put your best foot forward.
Paying for Your Law Firm Local SEO
What we have been talking about so far is unpaid search, which is also known as organic search.
Paid search results display at the top of the SERP, like this:
Paying for ads that display your law firm first can be a great way to improve your visibility and to drive potential clients to your site. Even though you’re paying for it, you’re the first thing potential clients see when they search relevant keywords. The good news is that you’ll be listed first without putting in the groundwork needed to earn that first-place listing for organic searches. You’ll also have more control over your visibility with ads. You can control the text, images, the location, and even the keywords that surface your paid search ads. You don’t have nearly that kind of control for organic search. But paying for ads is, you know, paying for ads. It can get expensive quickly and who knows if it will get you what you want.
You will pay Google for views, clicks, or calls through your ads, and those views, clicks, and calls won’t always generate business. Because of the expense and the time commitment, you want to make sure jumping into paid search is right for you.