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.

 

Image from Google

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.

A Guide to Creating Linkable Content

You’re the small fish in the ocean. The ocean is filled with sharks. As a local business, you are faced with the challenge of finding ways to compete with bigger companies with possibly more years of experience and undeniably deeper pockets. So how can you make the most of what you have? Consider three practical suggestions to make sure you put out content that will make others want to link to you.

Create Helpful Resources

Take the initiative to put together a calendar or lists of local events and attractions that will pique the interest of your target demographic. Not only will this make you stand out against your competition, but it will help your business be top-of-mind when potential clients are browsing for events in the area.

Cater to Featured Snippets

Google is a source for quick answers, and users will often stop looking if they find what they are looking for in a featured snippet. Knowing this, it’s crucial that you format posts in a way that caters to this. Optimize your content in a way that it comes as the answer to a question to increase the likelihood of being Google’s first choice in a featured snippet

Featured Snipped Example

How-to lists are ideal for encouraging this type of result. A personal injury lawyer may want to create a checklist for what do to after being in a vehicle accident, while an immigration attorney could opt to publish an FAQ page for common issues clients face.

Yes to Video, But Do it Well

Video can be an invaluable tool to have in your repository, but don’t be tempted to have video for the sake of having video. Consider what content will be most useful to your clients and focus less on generic company updates. For example, a criminal lawyer could produce a video along the lines of, “What You Should Do if You or a Loved One Have Been Charged with a Crime” to cater to the practical concerns of potential clients.

One move to appease YouTube’s ranking system is to entice users to stay on YouTube longer, since your channel is rewarded the longer the Watch Time of your user (a.k.a. the more time someone watches that your video stays on YouTube). A practical take on this is to break videos into shorter segments as parts to a series, with having Part 1 then Part 2 and so on. This way, you increase your business’s chances of ranking higher in a Google search.

Key Takeaways

Before diving into a blog post or video production for attracting potential clients, take a step back to make sure you know what will interest them. Ensure that what you are creating will be useful for your target audience. Your goal is to make helpful content for people that are in need of your services, and for that content to be the stepping stone that leads new clients straight to you.

 

Source: https://searchengineland.com/practice-useful-marketing-for-local-business-content-success-300397

 

Moving Your Firm’s Office with Local SEO in Mind

Moving sucks. It’s no secret. Whether it’s your office, your home, or moving your kid to college…it’s no fun. Mockingbird just recently upgraded our office space and it was a nightmare. With all the stress of moving to a new office location, it’s easy to forget that you have to make the virtual move as well. It’s imperative that your online business information mirrors exactly what’s happening offline. The only problem is that when done poorly, you can really hurt your local organic traffic. Below is a step-by-step process for how to move offices online at the same time you move offices offline.

This process should be completed in order and preferably on the day you actually move your office.

Full disclosure I stole this general process from Joy Hawkins’ amazing guide created back in 2015. See the full guide to “Moving Your Office Without Losing Rankings.

1. Update location information on your website.

Areas on your website to check:

  • Contact or location page
  • Footer of website
  • Header of website

2. Mark the previous location as closed on Google Maps.

You don’t want Joe’s Law Offices showing up when people search your address. Here’s how to permanently close a business on Google Maps.

3. Update your address in Google My Business.

This is an incredibly crucial step in the process. How is Google Maps supposed to know where your office is if you don’t tell them? If you don’t have access to your listing, you’ll need to create or claim the listing first. If you don’t have access, and have no idea how to change the address without it, contact a Google Local Guide like myself and I’ll be happy to help.

4. Embed a Google Map of your new office on your website.

If you already have one, replace the current embed with the updated maps listing. If you don’t have a map embedded on your contact page, now is a good time to start.

5. Update data aggregators and top tier directories.

This can be done efficiently through tools like Moz Local and Yext, but doing it by hand works too!

6. Update legal directory profiles.

I would advise starting with the following:

  • Avvo
  • FindLaw
  • HG
  • Justia

7. Hire a Google certified photographer.

This step is optional, but a virtual tour of your office is a great signal to Google and to the user that you are where you say you are. You can now request a quote directly through Google for this service. I’ve seen pricing everywhere from $400 to $2,500 depending on how big the space is and what package you get. I suggest this to all of my clients.

8. Follow up on your work!

  • Remove any duplicates that pop up with the legacy address. Unfortunately it becomes a game of whack-a-mole after you change addresses. The local search ecosystem is a fickle beast.
  • Check back on the Google Maps pin – sometimes you need to move this manually.
    When you move, there will undoubtedly be legacy address issues. Be sure to keep an eye on directory listings to ensure you’re removing duplicates that pop up with your old address.
  • Make sure driving directions are correct on Google Maps (see point 2).

When you go through the steps 1-8 above, and quickly, you likely won’t see a drop in Google Maps traffic at all. In fact you may be surprised at what happens…

One of my favorite clients, a medium sized law firm in Los Angeles, recently moved across town and we braced for the possibility of losing rankings in Google local results.

We followed the above process to the tee and here are the results…

Google My Business Insights GraphGoogle My Business Insights Numbers

The searches, views, and actions on her Google My Business listing all improved in the month after moving offices. This likely has a lot to do with the fact that she moved from an area with high competition to a more competitor friendly area of LA. But the fact is, we were able to virtually move her office without losing ranking or traffic because we followed a strict process and completed it quickly, leaving no doubt with Google and other search engines about the firm’s location information.

Next Level Marketing…. Local Legal Spam across NY and NJ

About a month ago I wrote about the strange case of the solo practitioner, Andrew Calcagano who staffed 66 offices across the tri-state area.  Here’s the follow up post regarding his agency, Next Level – who according to one of the testimonials on their site….

“They maximize our exposure in a way no one else does.”

Well, at least that part is true.

Let me start with this:  Next Level produces amazing, slick, professional quality video.  They also spam the hell out of the legal market across the eastern seaboard.  And while Next Level pulled all mention of Calcagno from their website after my post… there were plenty more to do a little review on like:

The Law Offices of John W. Tumelty

Solo practitioner with seven “offices” across the bottom tip of NJ.

Proner and Proner Attorneys at Law

Despite their name “& Proner” and “Attorneys at Law”, the only attorney I can find on the website is Mitchell Proner, although he manages to have no fewer than five different locations.

Team Law

Team Law is upfront about their “appointment only” office space (on their website at least).

Lombardi and Lombardi

This 10 lawyer firm manages to spread their attorneys across 6 offices across the Garden State, although their Point Pleasant locations looks like I might get to order some friend popcorn shrimp along with my legal help.

And according to Yelp, 62 Broad Street is really the location of Jack Baker’s Lobster Shanty – to be fair, perhaps this did get turned into a law office once Jack’s shut down.

I did check out more of their clients’ alleged office spaces and in many cases, found some that might have been genuine spots; athlough there was a strange prevalence of law firms sprinkled inside medical office buildings.   But…. the pattern remains, small (even solo) firms, pushing 5-66 different locations is simplty Local Spam.  And, to reiterate my point from my previous post: faking office space is stealing, not marketing.

  • Its stealing from clients who want to hire (and think they are hiring) a law firm who is just down the road.  Remember 43% of people make their lawyer hiring decision based on proximity – so faking an office location when you are really 100 miles away is lying about the most important hiring factor to prospective clients.
  • Its stealing from other lawyers – well positioned in their local community – who are losing out to geographically distant firms. (And sometimes not even firms, but marketing agencies scumbags masquerading as law firms who sell local leads to non-local law firms).

Join me this Wednesday, for a webinar to discuss a case study on a State Bar that stepped in (or “stepped up” to deal with rampant local spam.  Join us:  Local Spam, Lawyers, State Bars and an Ethical Quandary.  (And Next Level Marketing people…. if you’d like to join the webinar and defend your tactics, consider this an open invitation…..)

Local Spam: The Solo with 60 Offices

Spamming the Garden State

Let me start by saying that I’m calling out a single lawyer here, simply as an example. There are thousands of law firms engaging in these spammy tactics either in-house or through their “agency” or marketing “expert”.  And let me also reiterate the point of my latest post:

Faking office locations is NOT marketing – its stealing.

  • Its stealing from clients who want to hire (and think they are hiring) a law firm who is just down the road.  Remember 43% of people make their lawyer hiring decision based on proximity – so faking an office location when you are really 100 miles away is lying about the most important hiring factor to prospective clients.
  • Its stealing from other lawyers – well positioned in their local community – who are losing out to geographically distant firms. (And sometimes not even firms, but marketing agencies scumbags masquerading as law firms who sell local leads to non-local law firms).

Which brings me to an example of local spam, albeit an extreme one – Solo practitioner Andrew Calcagno who has more offices across my home state of New Jersey than toll booths. In fact…. according to his Google listings, Calcagno staffs no fewer than 66 different locations…

Fortunately, at the Elizabeth Office you can get your acupuncture done while waiting for your lawyer, or your acrylic nails buffed at the Bayonne office.

       

Hurt on the beach? Try Calcagano’s “office” just one block from the sand, that looks suspiciously like my Aunt Doris might live there during the summer.

And nothing says success like swanky office space at 460 Park Avenue in the heart of New York City….  Except of course, the 17th floor of the building is entirely occupied by Dermatologist, Dr. Steven Victor.  How do I know this?  Because the very nice receptionist there told me so.

      

Need a McMansion Litigation Lawyer?  Try their “office” on Agress Road in Millstone, NJ

And at least Google won’t get fooled by the Regus office in Hamilton Township…

And it seems that Walmart (or women’s clothing chain, Joyce Leslie) has started offering DWI Legal services as well at their 100 Enterprise Drive in Dover, NJ locations.

 

Although, double check your car door is locked at the Passaic office….

I could go on and on.  Suffice to say I think its highly unlikely an attorney could plead ignorance of an overly aggressive agency creating all of these “offices.”  Besides, his website lists about 20 of them directly:

But speaking of overly aggressive agencies, I wondered who might behind all of these listings – afterall a single attorney probably doesn’t have the time to create and maintain 60+ “offices” – regardless of how virtual they may be.  So digging just a little further, I uncovered…. post coming tomorrow.  🙂

Directory Management Is Important: Here’s Why

There’s been talk lately about the diminishing importance of keeping firm control over each and every directory listing, large or small, in your firm’s name. This talk is rooted in truth, for tools such as Yext and Moz Local do a pretty good job of cleaning up directories in your name across the web. In addition to this, search engines have a good idea of what directories/websites matter, and pay more attention to those. It’s VERY important to note, however, that some manual directory cleanup can go a long way. At a bare minimum, you must be aware of what’s out there.

Take for example, Peel Funeral Home’s placelookup.net listing. You’ll quickly notice the images of thick slabs of uncooked meat, a cheery butcher, and tags that list Peel Funeral Home as a place for “Eating & Drinking” showing up for… a funeral home:

Butcher Funeral Home

Based on the funeral home’s website, they don’t seem like the type to do this as a some sort of backwards publicity stunt. My best guess is that, when pressed to choose a business category whilst creating a listing, whoever made this chose “butcher”, perhaps not understanding that this tongue-in-cheek choice would not only show up on the listing, but decide the particularly graphic imagery as well.

Either way, THIS IS IS NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO HAPPEN.

Now, as a lawyer, you aren’t at risk of appearing to be a funeral home proudly selling human meat. The takeaway for a lawyer wondering how best to manage their directory presence is this: if you don’t have, at the very least, an awareness of what’s happening with your directory listings, you could be in for a surprise when you find out.

Caught Stealing… Why Your Local Spam is THEFT and Not “Marketing”

A month or so ago, I gave an amazing webinar with Local Search nerd and founder of Sterling Sky, Joy Hawkins  Frankly, the webinar was awesome because of the subject matter and Joy… this is no humblebrag.  Joy and I spent the better part of an hour talking about Local spam…. the underhanded dirty practice of faking office locations as a marketing tactic to artificially expand a law firm’s geographic reach.

Escape FindLaw Contracts

During the webinar I made the comment, that this practice is not a marketing tactic, but instead theft… that law firms are stealing business from other lawyers with fake locations. One of the webinar attendees commented, “thank you, thank you, thank you for finally calling this out for what it is.”

So here goes again:  Those of you engaged in local spam are stealing, not marketing. And those agencies helping you do so should be shunned.  

If there’s any question note this:  according to a Google study, 43% of prospects select their law firm based on the proximity of the lawyer – so lawyers faking locations are screwing not only their competitors, but their clients as well.

I’ve seen the devastating impact on the bottom line of many firms who suffer from competitors virtually elbowing their way into a market.  In any given month, 10% of our clients’ marketing investment is targeted towards combating those fake listings.

To date we’ve been quiet and private about those firms and agencies marketing with Local Spam caught stealing from our clients.  That stops today.  More to come….