Google Screened Badge and Local Service Ads rolling out for Lawyers

Earlier this week, screenshots of a new Google offering began to make its way around the SEO world.  The Google Guaranteed (or Google Screened for the legal industry) has been getting tested in select locations. Google is promoting this shiny new badge as an upgrade to your Google my business profile and a way to to “stand out”.

But you guessed it, there’s a catch. The badge is going to cost $50 a month* for eligible businesses. I know, I know I can hear you throw my computer. “This is just another money grab by Google”. That’s how the entire SEO industry feels about it too. Just take a look at twitter.


Here’s a spin zone for you (I promise I’m not a Google lackey). This is going to help clean up the map of spam. I have written about the spam problem in the past, and how your leads may be getting stolen. Spam has been a constant battle of whack a mole. Isn’t $50 a month a great investment to make sure your leads don’t get stolen?

Also, take a look at your competitors. How many of them break the Google guidelines and throw keywords into their GMB business name. “Smith & Smith DUI Lawyers Denver”. The good news is, they won’t qualify for the badge until they remove the added keywords.

I am also quite optimistic that now that Google has a way to profit off of this tool, they are going to allocate more resources to improving and expanding Local search.


*As of writing this the program is still not officially announced by Google. Pricing is based on screenshots of Google testing the feature. Pricing may be different for the legal industry.

What is Google Screened exactly?

In Google’s own words:

“Google Screened helps professional service firms build a trusted reputation online.

Businesses with this badge go through extensive background and license checks and must have at least a 3.0 rating.

On Local Service listings, you will see the Google Screened icon next to these businesses.”


What Practice Areas Qualify?

As of now, the practice area’s that are included on the requirements page are:

  • Bankruptcy lawyer
  • Business lawyer
  • Contract lawyer
  • Criminal lawyer
  • Disability lawyer
  • DUI lawyer
  • Estate lawyer
  • Family lawyer
  • Immigration law
  • IP lawyer
  • Labor lawyer
  • Litigation lawyer
  • Malpractice lawyer
  • Personal injury lawyer
  • Real estate lawyer
  • Tax lawyer
  • Traffic lawyer

You can read about the individual requirements for each practice area here.

Why this matters

Google Screened is the first step that a law firm must take before qualifying for the new ads variation that Google is slowly begging to roll out: Local Service Ads (LSA). This ad type is very atypical in comparison to the more traditional version of the ad approach that Google has typically adopted. Instead of a Pay per Click model (PPC) these ads will be a pay per lead, and you will only be charged when a client actually calls you directly through the ad.


What now?

To learn more about what the “Google Screened” badge and how to apply for Local Service Ads, reach out to our team. We will happily walk you through the process and get your firm on your way to getting “screened” and eligible for LSA’s.



Should My Blog be Separate from My Site?

Here at Mockingbird, we are constantly getting asked about how law firms should run their blogs. Is it better to have a separate site? Should it be on the main site? If it’s on the firm’s main site, should it be on a subdomain ( or a subfolder (  This is my attempt to answer these questions and dispel any misconceptions that may be floating around. Let’s dive right in.

Should my legal blog live on my firm’s site?

I’ll get right to it. For a law firm, the blog should live in a subfolder ( on the main site. How was that for short and sweet?

From an SEO perspective, this is critical. By merging the two sites, you are allowing both entities to benefit from the same backlinks. When one gets a new valuable backlink, they both benefit. Combining sites also allows for a seamless user experience and a shorter conversion journey for potential clients. If you have a blog that discusses the intricacies of employment law in Texas and you handle employment law in Texas, why would you want to send clients to a separate site?

I’d suggest checking out this case study that highlights the value of merging an off-site blog onto the firm’s main site.

Should my blog be on a subdomain ( or a subfolder (

If you want to fully capitalize on the joint SEO value, it is extremely important to use a subfolder. Google looks at subdomains as separate websites and the value of the backlinks will not be shared between the main site and blog.

Did I mention the case study yet?

When does a separate blog make sense?

I know my answer to the first question was pretty definitive, but that is because we are discussing specifically legal sites. Outside the legal industry, there are plenty of situations that a separate blog makes sense. If you run a nature photography blog, there is no reason to connect that to your business site (well unless you own an outdoor recreation company). Or maybe you want to eventually sell the business, but keep running the blog (or vice versa). Then you should keep them separate.

In my experience, I have yet to run into a time where a legal

What do I do If my firm has an offsite blog?

Call Us! Our team has the experience and knowledge it takes to handle this migration seamlessly.  Let us help your firm fully capitalizes on your situation and turn two sites into one much stronger asset.

Third times the charm, read this case study. I promise you won’t regret it.

Important! (Temporarily) Stop Asking For Reviews!

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was in the middle of writing a post about the importance of turning your clients into zealots of your business and leveraging that into a 5-star review profile and a successful referral program. Unfortunately, until everything returns to normal that post will have to sit in the purgatory of my drafts folder.

If you haven’t already, stop asking clients to leave reviews!


As of last week, Google has suspended “new reviews, new review replies, new short names, all videos, and all Q&A” on Google My Business. This was in response to many businesses getting flooded with 1-star reviews for issues concerning the outbreak. While Google’s response may seem extreme, its aim is to protect the digital reputation of businesses during this unprecedented time. You can read Google’s response here.

Yelp’s response is more conservative, but still is attempting to protect businesses’ reputation from unfair reviews.  The important points of Yelp’s response are below.

  • Zero tolerance for any claims in reviews of contracting COVID-19 from a business or its employees or negative reviews about a business being closed during what would be their regular open hours in normal circumstances.
  • Reviews flagged by the community will be evaluated by our human content moderators to ensure they comply with our content guidelines.
  • Content that does not meet these standards will be removed and not count toward a business’s star rating.


This is a situation we are continuing to monitor. We will update you as soon as reviews have opened back up. In the meantime, continue to do great work for all of your clients and keep a list of happy clients to reach out to in the future.

Hosting Hack: PHP 7 Vulnerability

The Vulnerability

Over the weekend, a vulnerability was found within recent versions of the PHP7 programming language. The vulnerability allows hackers to take over servers through a remote code execution (RCE). Luckily, not all PHP servers were affected.  More technical information can be found here. 

Our Clients

Thankfully for Mockingbird’s clients, who host through our provider (WP Engine), the vulnerability was not an issue.


“WP Engine Security has reviewed the recent PHP vulnerability and have determined that we are not vulnerable because at least one of the NGINX prerequisites is not present.” -WP Engine

Next Steps

If your site is not hosted by WP Engine, I strongly advise that you reach out to your host and have them check your server settings for the vulnerability, and then update to the most recent version of PHP.  If the host has not already handled this, It may be a good time to think about switching to a new hosting company.

How We Can Help

At Mockingbird, we realize that you have way more important things to worry about than technical maintenance and hosting issues. That is why we recently launched our maintenance package. Our goal is to bring you peace of mind, knowing that the technical aspects of your site are monitored and maintained. Not to mention, top of the line hosting on WP Engine is included!

Call us today to learn more about our maintenance package, and any of our other digital marketing services.

The Value of Google My Business Posts

One question we always ask ourselves here at Mockingbird is not only what moves the needle for our client’s marketing, but what moves the needle with the greatest impact, at the lowest cost to our clients. This leads us to constantly debate and discuss tactics on how best to grow our clients business and market share.

One internal debate we have is, “What is the value of Google My Business Posts?” This debate, up until recently, has been largely focused around theory and gut feelings on Google’s intention for the future of GMB posts. But now, after posting weekly for a few clients we have data to back our opinions.

Local SEO Context

Before diving into the results from our tests, I should probably explain some information for those who are new to Local Search, GMB and other key topics highlighted in this post.

If you are well versed in Local SEO, skip down to the next section.

Local Search: The facet of Search Engine Marketing that focuses on targeting the geography of a user. The GPS proximity of the searcher to the business and location keywords in the search query are key examples.

SERPs: Search Engine Results Pages

Google My Business: Also referred to as GMB, this is the knowledge panel that accompanies the search results on the right-hand side of the SERPs. This is where you can create and update your business’s name, address, phone number, website, hours of operation, and many other business details.

GMB Posts: The focus of this post. These are social media-esque posts on the GMB account. They “expire” after 7 days but still show in “View previous posts” section.

The Data on GMB Posts

Below we have compiled 6 months of data coming from one of our clients, Tiftickjian Law Firm. The data is broken into four graphs representing Search Exposure, Costumer Actions, GMB Listing Views and Post Views.

Beginning on November 19th, we started posting on a weekly basis. As the data clearly shows, there has been a massive upward growth across all four of the tracked metrics.

These results are not limited to just one client. We ran the exact same test for Ross Scalise Law Group, and the results are almost identical.

Posts in the Map Pack

Additionally, back in February, an interesting discussion took place on the Local Search Forum after Dave DiGregorio noticed that GMB posts are showing up in the Local Finder and Joy Hawkins found them in the 3-pack as well. This looks to have been an initial test by Google, but my assumption is that we will continue to see GMB posts influencing and showing up in the search results.


To wrap everything up into one final conclusion, I believe that making weekly GMB posts is valuable. They require minimal effort, and as the data shows, they have had a substantial impact on search exposure and engagement.

Are Your Leads Getting Stolen?

Is your law firm getting overwhelmed with emails and cold calls from lead generation companies trying to sell you local leads? Next time they call, take a moment and ask them where and how they are generating these leads. It is very likely that they are stealing the leads right from under you and selling them back to you at a premium (shady af).

I know this comes as no surprise for all of you, but legal marketing is cut throat. When there is a large amount of money to be made, there are bound to be black hat companies that exploit the system to make a quick buck. That’s exactly what many of these lead generation companies are doing. In a few hours, a company can set up 30+ keyword stuffed Google My Business listings, that without any reviews or even a website, will rank higher than your firm’s listing.

Is It Happening to You?

Take a few minutes and google your practice area and location. You may be shocked to find how many “personal injury law firms” your city has.

Below is a search for a car accident lawyer in Bakersfield CA. As you can clearly see, the entire outskirts of Bakersfield are overrun with these keyword stuffed listings. Google’s algorithm overvalues exact match keywords between the search queries and the name of a listing. This, unfortunately, boosts any listing that keyword stuffs its business name.

The other “secret to success” for these fake listings is that they are located in the neighborhoods and suburbs near the potential clients. Proximity to the searcher is another huge ranking factor and these lead generators are taking full advantage of it.

Keyword stuffed titles and proximity to the searcher allowed these fake listings to take over the entire map. Of the 14 Listings that are visible, 11 of them are fake offices.

What Can Be Done?

Without GMB having a strong vetting process, search marketers are forced into a game of whack a mole, trying to report listings to Google and get them taken down before more pop back up. One issue is that it takes quite a bit of time to escalate these spam offices to Google, validate that it is fake, and then have it removed. The other issue is that in the same amount of time that it takes to burn one listing, one person could create 2 or 3 new listings. This seems to be an endless war. Clearly, Google’s local search algorithm is broken. I hope for my client’s sake (and my sanity) that they come up with a solution soon.

If you would like to take on the task of fighting your local spam, Google has recently made it easier for anyone to report a location. Fill out the “Business Redressal Complaint Form” and work with a Google representative to clean up the map.

If you find your firm surrounded by fake listings and the problem seems too daunting to handle, Mockingbird is happy to help. Give us a call or fill out our contact form and we will do our best to help solve any of your digital marketing problems.

If you’re interested in this topic and wish to learn more there are plenty of awesome resources.

Site Kit by Google: Check-in on Your Site in one Location

Google announced a new site plugin that plans on making many aspects of web admins and business owners jobs more streamlined and efficient.

This new plugin dubbed Site Kit by Google will be a free, open source plugin that will incorporate many different Google tools and products into one easily readable dashboard. A perfect location to check on the health of your site.

In the first release of the plugin, Google has integrated four tools. Here is what Google currently says will be available on the dashboard.

  • Search Console: Learn how users discover your content on Google Search.
  • Analytics: Understand how users navigate your site.
  • AdSense: Set up AdSense and monitor your earnings.
  • PageSpeed Insights: Identify critical performance optimizations for your site.”

The plugin will also include deep links to Google tools and advanced reports.

Site Kit will begin Beta testing in early 2019. Mockingbird will keep our eyes out for the release of the full plugin later this year and will keep you updated as more information is released. Subscribe to our Newsletter to stay informed on this and many other aspects of the legal marketing industry.

Google Begins Labeling Sites as Not Secure

Is Your Site Secure?

Google is once again leveraging its online clout to push the internet forward. The most recent initiative is to encourage websites to incorporate HTTPS encryption into the website to make the internet a more secure place for users. With the recent update of the popular Google internet browser, Chrome, the search engine giant will begin to label HTTP sites as not secure.


On the internet, sites currently live under one of two options, Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). The difference between these two is that the HTTPS creates an encrypted communication channel between the browser and the website. This allows for safe communication of passwords, credit cards, and other sensitive information. HTTPS is achieved by installing an SSL certificate onto the site.


In the past, HTTP sites were labeled on Google Chrome with an “i” icon. These icons were inconspicuous and did not draw user attention. When clicked, the icon alerted users that the site was not secure with the notification seen below.

HTTP not secure warning


At the same time, HTTPS sites that utilized encryption were labeled as secure, written in green, and included a lock icon next to the HTTPS. This was a subtle way to incentivize websites to transition to HTTPS and told users that they could trust the site.

How HTTPS is shown

The Update

Now with the update from Chrome 64 to Chrome 68, Google is taking less of a subtle approach. Google wants to make sure that it is a top priority for all websites to immediately transition to HTTPS. Users will now see “not secure” next to any website that still uses HTTP. This change will all but force any remaining websites to adopt HTTPS to remain competitive in today’s digital market.
Google Chromes Treatment of HTTP

Mockingbird Marketing is here to help. Contact us today to find out how we can optimize your site to achieve your online business goals.

Getting the Most out of Exclusive Google Trainings

Here at Mockingbird Marketing, we pride ourselves on our commitment to employee growth and the continued training and development of our people! That’s why, when opportunities arise we participate to our fullest capability.

We are very proud to be a Premier Google Partner. That partnership comes with a few great benefits, one of them being exclusive in-person trainings with Google Representatives on the best practices and use of their products and tools. This last week members of our staff had the opportunity to learn and grow at the Google Campus here in Seattle! They participated in the Google AdWords BootCamp, and three full day classes centered around Profit-Driven Marketing, Automation, and Performance Video. Our team learned a lot and will be putting these lessons into practice, making us a better Agency, which in turn makes our clients even more successful.

Some of the key points covered during these sessions included:

  1. Maximizing Ad Extensions. (Enable 3 or more for a CTR increase of 10%-20%)
  2. The Rise of Voice Search. Optimize content to be user-friendly and conversational.
  3. Remarketing is Key. (96% of users do not convert on 1st visit)
  4. Utilizing Ad Attribution. (5% more conversions when non-last click attribution is used)
  5. A Slow Mobile Site Costs You Money. For every 1 second delay:
    • ~8% Increase in bounce rate
    • ~7% Decrease in conversions
    • ~2.1% Decrease in cart size
    • ~16% Decrease in customer satisfaction
  6. Tracking Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).  Allows for intelligent decisions and optimization of marketing budgets.
  7. Focusing on Profits, Not Cost. Don’t set a budget if you can make more by spending more on ads.
  8. Using Google’s Automation Tools. (Machine learning can save 50% of time spent on optimizations)
  9. Developing Video Assets! Video delivers an increase in conversions. Google will even make you a video for free!

Obviously, this is just a portion of what was covered, but Mockingbird will continue to utilize all of the opportunities available to stay on the cutting edge of technology and continue delivering great results for our clients.