The 4 Best Ways to Optimize for Local

The importance of local SEO has seemingly been emphasized to death, but I think you’ll find that we’ve barely scratched the surface of the importance of the practice. Consumers consistently choose local businesses over larger businesses, and will often make that decision early in their search journey. 

 

1. Google My Business

By setting up your Google My Business you are giving yourself a local physical presence. You will now show up when someone searches for “law firms near me” and will appear on Google Maps. By having an up to date and consistent Google My Business Profile you are preparing for customers to find you. 

 

2. Local Landing Pages

What are consumers seeing when they first land on your website? Is it relevant to where they are? It should be. Local landing pages are only really for firms that have unique services depending on locality. If your firm has multiple offices or attorneys with different practice areas in different cities, then local landing pages would be ideal for you. You can talk about cases you won in those areas and your best settlement amounts, all of which help to advertise your work.

 

3. Local Reviews

Reviews can be made through Google My Business, Yelp, or simply by the local paper. Reviews by locals are ideal, as it makes your business appear more trustworthy (we know it’s already trustworthy, but we need it to appear that way too). Local newspapers are especially useful as they provide opportunities for link building, PR, and reviews by trusted members of the community.

 

4. Provide Community-Centered Resources

What issues are unique to your community, or are at least prevalent? Is there already local information about it online? Can you be a better resource? Having quality, helpful links that people in your area can click on is incredibly vital for a local law firm and shouldn’t be neglected. Any time you see an opportunity to write about the legal implications of a local issue, you should be planning your next blog post. Being a resource is the best way to raise brand awareness.

Knowing how to build your local presence should go hand in hand with building your brand. Your firm should be a part of the community, just as any other local business would be. If you would like help planning your local strategy and investing in local marketing, contact Mockingbird.

How to Claim and Create your Apple Map Listing

I recently visited a client of mine and tried to use my iPhone to pull up directions to their office. Despite looking for them directly by name, I couldn’t find their listing. This can be frustrating for anyone trying to visit your office, and could potentially cost you business. But fear not, the fix is very simple and takes less than ten minutes.

  1. If you have an Apple ID, use that to login here: https://mapsconnect.apple.com/. If you don’t have an Apple ID, you can create one on the same page.
  2. Click the “Add Place” link. Enter your business name and location.
  3. If nothing shows in your search, create your listing and fill out as much information as possible.
  4. If you do have a listing, click into the profile and “Claim this place.” Update and add any relevant business information.
  5. Verify through a phone call. *NOTE: your listing will not be visible on Apple Maps until you’ve finished verifying.

Here’s what your finished product will look like:

Apple Maps

As you can see, Apple Maps also pulls information from Yelp, like your reviews and photos. So, make sure you add your Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter accounts, if you have them.

Not only is it important to have an Apple Maps listing for your potential clients to find you and share important details about your business, but this is also the information that’s shared when someone does a voice search using Siri.

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.

Summary

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.

Creative Ways to Increase Positive Reviews

Getting clients to leave reviews is tough, so I’ve complied a list of some creative ways my clients have attempted to increase their positive review count. Below are five techniques clients have used to generate additional testimonials:

  1. Create a bound book of written reviews

    This particular firm receives a lot of hand-written thank you’s from their past clients and wanted to showcase them in their office for future clients to read. They also have their clients fill out a form during their final meeting, reviewing their experience with the attorney and paralegals.

  2. Use QR codes

    I recently had a law firm come to me with this idea. This is a great option for those who are asking for client reviews while the client is in the office. Creating QR codes is very simple, I used this tool. Simply choose the site you’d like to link the QR code to, and use the image wherever you’d like.

  3. Give advice on cases that don’t require legal help, ask for a review in exchange

    This was actually a really great idea that came from Conrad. A firm I work with gets a lot of phone calls from a page on their site that covers a practice area that doesn’t require legal representation. Instead of removing the page to stop the barrage of phone calls, he answers their questions and asks them to let him know how their case ends. After that, he asks for a review.

  4. Create an incentive program for employees

    If you have a lot of attorneys and paralegals who are responsible for getting reviews, this is a good option. Ask each employee to get 5 positive reviews every quarter. If they succeed they get an extra vacation day, a catered lunch, or a gift card.

  5. Use automated text messages

    This works better for case types that are more transactional. Companies like BirdEye and Gather Up (formerly Get Five Stars) are good options for this. Essentially, once the case has concluded, the client receives a text message asking to rate their experience.

Asking for reviews can feel intrusive to some, but it’s extremely important for SEO. If you and a competitor have very similar Google My Business profiles, the one with the most reviews will usually win out in local search results.

No matter your firm’s size, location, or practice area, choose a review strategy and stick with it!

Google+ Shutting Down in April 2019

Google is Killing the Google+ Social Network

Google+ is (was) Google’s attempt at creating a social platform to compete with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Launched in June 2011, Google+ has had many ups, downs, and pivots throughout the platform’s life cycle.

It’s been linked to and disconnected from Google My Business (previously Google Places), Google Hangouts (RIP), Google Photos, and a slew of other Google products. In short, Google attempted to connect it to everything at one point or another.

In October 2018, Google cited low user engagement and announced they were shutting down Google+ by the end of 2019.

In December 2018, they accelerated their timeline to shut down by April 2019 due to bugs and security concerns.

Should You Be Worried?

No.

I’d safely bet that 99% of people reading this don’t use Google+ at all. Even if you do copy your Facebook posts to Google+ Circles, there’s nothing to save or transfer or export or worry about.

Let Google+ die, and be happy you didn’t waste time in a social network ghost town.

What You Need To Do

While Google+ is appropriately being killed off, Google My Business has absorbed many of its best qualities. If you’re not already taking advantage, you absolutely should be leveraging the following features through Google My Business:

  • Posts – Publish announcements, deals, and more directly on your GMB page.
  • Follow Button – People can follow your business, and be notified of updates & posts.
  • Q&A – Users can ask (and answer) questions about your business. Watch these closely!
  • Messaging – People can message your business straight from your GMB page.
  • Photos & Videos – Not new, but a major factor in promoting your business.
  • Reviews – Not from Google+ but you can’t talk about GMB without talking about reviews. Go get some!

The elimination of Google+ is long overdue, but if you’re already using Google My Business to its full potential you have absolutely nothing to fear. And, if you’re underutilizing some of the features highlighted above, now would be the perfect time to start.

New “Follow” Button For Google Maps

Currently rolling out only to those using Google Maps for Android, Google is now giving users the ability to “follow” specific businesses as announced on their blog. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before IOS users start seeing this feature as well.

Once a user starts following a business on Google, they start to receive news from that business, like events, offers and other updates. The news, events and updates show up under the “For You” tab within Google Maps.

google maps for you tab example

GMB (Google My Business) Posts Shouldn’t Be Ignored

 

This Google Map update shows that Google is putting more stock into the Google My Business posts and so should your firm.

Prior to this update, users would only find your business’s Google post and Q&A if they actively searched for your business and found the Knowledge Panel or business listing. Now, this information can be actively sent to users that have shown an interest in your services.

We’ll have to see how this unfolds and the implications to your law firm’s marketing strategy as the feature is rolled out.

Interestingly, this update comes at a time when Google+ has been discontinued following a massive data breach and trust in Facebook is at a low.

Is Google My Business Sending People to your FAX Machine?

Google My Business may be accidentally displaying your fax number as your phone number. I now have three data points from three different firms over the past week in which the fax number is being prominently displayed as the phone number. This is especially damaging for branded queries which typically return the knowledge graph (including the phone / fax number).

Here’s a very real, worst case scenario:

“Harry, you should call Bill Smith, he’s a great lawyer.”

Harry looks up Bill Smith on his laptop, sees the Knowledge Graph, dials Bill and gets the horrendous fax connect audio. Harry makes a split second decision that if Bill can’t figure out his own phone number, then there’s no way Harry is going to put his legal future in Bill’s seemingly incapable hands. Harry, goes back to Google and looks for a new lawyer.

It’s a simple check – run a query for your law firm’s name in Google. Then your name. See what phone number shows up and actually dial the number to verify it’s going through to your front desk. Then check Yelp (yes Yelp), Bing, Avvo, and other directories.

I’m not sure exactly why this is happening – highly possible spiders are running through sites and erroneously identifying fax numbers as phone numbers. Suffice to say – assume it’s broken and verify that your phone number isn’t delivering an annoying beeeeeeeepppppwhiiineclangclang to prospective clients.

Avvo now hiding your info?

I was disappointed to hear on a legal listserve about two weeks ago the whispers of a plan by Avvo to remove contact information from profiles unless the lawyer was paying.  I thought perhaps it was a misunderstanding, as it seems that a directory devoid of…. directory information, makes it universally less useful.  But now that Internet Brands has acquired Avvo, and Mark is no longer behind the helm….

Just got a notification from Avvo Internet Brands that confirms their new product called Premium:

Our new offering, Avvo Premium, now includes the following features:

  • Display your contact information in search results and on your profile
  • Remove competitors’ ads from your profile
  • Have your profile prioritized in search results
  • See your contacts from calls, emails, and website visit
  • Select your best client reviews and promote them at the top of your page
  • Summarize your practice with a personal summary at the top of your profile

Of course, that contact information was always a part of the free profile and didn’t require Premium.  Apparently no more.

With this pivot, Avvo is essentially shifting from being a useful directory where consumers can find the best lawyer for their specific situation to functioning solely as an advertising platform. They have every right to do this, but from a user experience standpoint it would be a disservice to remove essential information from highly qualified attorneys solely because they’re not actively advertising with Avvo. With Google’s focus on user experience – I wonder how this removal of key information may impact Avvo’s performance in the SERPs – will be interesting to monitor over time.