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….

 

Google’s Question & Answer Feature on Mobile: What We Know So Far

What is it?

A new feature on mobile browsers that provides additional question & answers through the Knowledge Panel (business information shown beside search results for a business). This Q&A feature rolled out on Android Google Maps only at first, but we’re now seeing it pop-up across various mobile devices. The feature gives an opportunity to consumers and potential clients to ask questions of the business and for the business to respond. As the business owner, you can also provide frequently asked questions and the appropriate answers.

Users can answer each others’ questions and up-vote questions they think are helpful so they move up the list.

What does it look like?

Sprout Google Q&A
You can see the “Questions & answers” section outlined in red.

Who Can Provide Answers?

Anyone! This is crowdsourced data.

Potential Benefits

As Google is increasingly becoming the homepage for your business, it’s become even more imperative to control the information as much as you can. Although this Q&A content will be populated through crowdsourcing, it’s an incredible opportunity to connect with potential clients. If you find certain questions popping up again and again in conversation with new leads or clients, take the initiative to ask that question in Google Maps and provide a useful answer for everyone to see.

Have some self control, though. Don’t overdo it.

Potential Issues

These questions will be moderated with the same sort of system as reviews. This is a scary thought because we’ve seen from experience that removing reviews from Google is a dance you do not want to get into. Worst case scenario is if a competitor, spammer, or displeased client asks a question like “Does this law firm screw people over?” and then it’s answered “Yes” with a bunch of people up-voting it as helpful. We already have to monitor reviews with great care, now we will have to monitor questions with the same attention and scrutiny.

In short: prepare the battle-stations, here come the spammers.

Bonus Information: A great article from one of the smartest minds in local SEO: Mike Blumenthal’s 11 Tips for Optimizing Google’s Q&A’s

6 Must-Haves for Law Firm’s Contact Page

As a law firm, and for any local business, the contact page is one the of the most important pages on your website. If someone is visiting this page, they are likely very close to hiring you. This is your opportunity to present all of the most important information you can about your business.

6 Things Every Contact Page Should Have…

  1. Name, address, and phone number
  2. Business hours
  3. Contact form
  4. Embedded Google Map
  5. Reviews
  6. Hand-written driving directions

1. Name, Address, and Phone Number

Duh. A user visits your website’s contact page because they intend to get your contact information. Don’t let them down. Make sure this information is stated very clearly high on the page. Google also looks to your website as another data source – if the information conflicts with what they have in their index you are not likely to rank in Google Maps and local packs.

2. Business Hours

See above point.

3. Contact Form

There are a lot of people who either aren’t able to contact an attorney over the phone, or feel uncomfortable doing so. You need to cater to this group of potential new clients and give them another option. This is why every contact page should have a contact form of some kind. Pro tips for contact forms:

  • Use the word “send” instead of “submit” at the bottom of your contact form. We’ve seen this have a positive effect on conversion rates.
  • Give a confirmation message that the form was received.
  • I also advise writing a headline above your contact form that states when you will get back to them. Something as simple as… “We promise to respond to you within 24 hours.”

4. Embedded Google Map

Google has made it incredibly easy for anyone to embed a Google Map on their website. This is a must have on your contact page – there is tremendous local SEO value in tying your Google Maps listing back to your website. It’s also great for users because it allows them to easily get directions to your office from your website without having to type it into Google Maps. Here are the basic instructions for embedding a Google Map on your website.

5. Reviews

If a potential new client is about to contact you, why not show off all those fancy stars that helps confirm they are making the correct decision? We recommend using a plugin for this if you are on a WordPress website. I personally like Google Reviews Business by RichPlugins because it provides a clean look shown below.

Google Business Reviews Plugin

6. Handwritten Driving Directions

There are two reasons to have driving directions directly on your website… 1) Some people (like my father) don’t trust navigation and would rather have the local business owner describe how to get to the office. 2) It’s a chance to give Google more hyper-localized information about your office (parking info, office building name, etc.). This helps build your local relevance and Google will have more trust in your location.

Other Contact Page Tips…

  • Utilize location schema (advanced topic: here’s some more info).
  • State your value proposition where possible. What makes your firm different?
  • If you have multiple locations, you should have multiple contact/location pages.

Interested in Learning More?

If you’re interested in local SEO or how the contact page plays a role in local SEO, please feel free to join our webinar on August 2nd with our founder, Conrad Saam, and yours truly. Register here!

How to Write Content for Local Search, Not “Links”

SEO experts and business owners alike know that when it comes to ranking well in local search results, having quality links to your website can help you rise above the competition. However, the type of link that makes the difference may be changing. This could mean a shift from link building for “the sake of a link”, to creating specific content that is optimized for local search.

Creating Content for the Sake of a Link

Moz’s most recent study confirmed that link building is still the top competitive difference maker when it comes to ranking well in Google. That is, having a solid link building strategy is pivotal in helping your site rise above your competitors.

Knowing this, business owners and marketing strategists work to create content that will drive links to their website. Perhaps that means gaining links from sites that are in their industry, or those with a high domain authority. The main focus here has been to get a link for the sake of a link. Though the quality of the link was important, the location of the link source is often less of a consideration.

A Shift Toward Localized Link Building

Now, more and more, Google is prioritizing localized content when it comes to how well a business ranks in local search results.

In Moz’s study, they found a shift from general link building to a focus on gaining “localized” links and creating location-specific content. They explained that one of the key factors for ranking well in local search results was the business’ proximity to the point of search. Google is now showing searchers what best matches what they are searching for AND what businesses are closest to them.

What This Means for Businesses

Rather than trying to gain links from quality websites for the sake of a link, more consideration should be put into what “type” of links businesses are drawing to their website. With localization as a priority, businesses should be drawing links from sites that are related to their location.

Businesses should be adapting their link building strategy to account for this new shift toward localization. In order to do this, they must create content and draw in link sources that are related to their business location.

Localized Link Building for Businesses

With this knowledge of localization in mind, businesses should be looking to create content that is optimized for local search. Creating content that is specific to the business’ location in key. Below we have outlined a few things to consider when adapting your new link building strategy.

1. Optimize Existing Pages for Local Search

It is likely that your website already has standard pages related to your business, such as an About page, a Contact Page, and a few pages about the services you provide. If you are a law firm, you probably have an Attorneys page, a blog, and several practice area pages.

Your existing pages are likely optimized to rank for type of business, practice area, and brand name. The page may mention the location a few times, but it isn’t the focus of the page. Your adapted strategy should be to optimize content to make it clear to the reader (and search engines) where your business is located.

Contact Page

For example, your Contact may include your business address, but consider adding written directions to your office. These directions can include important landmarks and businesses in your area that makes it clear that your business operates in that area. Be sure to include the areas that you serve, and add a short paragraph about your practice in that location. Soon you will have a page that includes all the information a potential customer or client needs in order to know where your business is.

Practice Area Pages

For your practice area pages, mention the location of your business throughout the page in a natural way. Describe your practice as it relates to how you serve your local area.

For example, if you are an employment attorney in New Mexico, instead of saying

“Need an employment attorney? Contact us today!”

write something like,

“Need an employment attorney? Contact the experienced attorneys at our Albuquerque office to find out how we can help.”

On your Attorneys page, you may want to explain how you have been “serving the Albuquerque area for 25 years” or attended the University of New Mexico. Look for opportunities to add localized information in your existing content.

Also, be sure to include your location in the title tag and the meta description, in the alt text of your images, and in your headings if possible. Even these seemingly minor components will help you rank well in local search results.

2. Build Out New Pages and Posts with Localized Content

If you discover that you are lacking localized content on your site, consider building out new pages and posts related to your business location. If you have multiple office locations, create a page for each location with content that is specific to that location. Consider splitting broad practice area pages (such as Employment Law) into more specialized pages (such as “Workers Compensation” or “Employment Discrimination”). Then, make sure these pages include localized content and information. This provides more opportunities for other sites to find content that they are willing to link to.

Blog posts are a great way to get unique with your content and write about issues that are unique to your area. Perhaps you write about the best legal conferences in your area- something that is related to both your field and your location. You can cover local news that is relevant to your practice areas, being sure to include location information and local businesses/landmarks in your content.

3. Draw Links to Localized Pages

For the longest time, businesses have worked to gather links to key pages on their website or on their blog. This often meant prioritizing links to the home page, practice area pages, or their contact page.

With localization being a key factor in ranking in local search, more focus should be put on drawing links your localized pages.  By this step, most of your existing pages should be optimized for local search. Going forward, your link building strategy should involve gaining links to these localized pages. Having links to these pages will indicate to search engines that these pages are of high priority on your site. The more you can boost pages with localized content, the more search engines will see your site as relevant to the searcher’s location.

4. Look for Link Building Opportunities from Local Sources

In previous link building strategies, the focus was simply to get a link to priority pages for a little SEO “boost”. Though the quality of the link was important, the geographic location of the link source didn’t seem to matter so much.

By focusing on localization, you can get a bit more unique with your link building. Gone are the days of struggling to get that coveted link from some obscure, high authority site. The source of your incoming links should be localized and related to your business. Look for opportunities to gather links from other local businesses, news sources, and blogs related to your field.

5. Think Creatively About Your Localized Link Building Strategy

Part of localized link building is being aware of the many features that your local area has to offer. Learn more about your area and look for opportunities where local businesses may be interested in your content.

Here are some ideas that you may want to consider for localized link building:

  • Getting your business featured in a local directory
  • Host an event and have it featured in a local news source
  • Get a link from a local business owner that has used your services
  • Conduct interviews with local entrepreneurs and have them link back to your post
  • Write reviews of your favorite places in your area and get links from those featured businesses

These are just a few of the many possibilities for link building with local sources. Remember that the quality of the links still matters, so be selective in your strategy. Work with your marketing team to find sources that are relevant to your business area and location. Doing so will give search engines more information about your location and what other local sites are saying about your business.

Summary

With Google’s shift toward prioritizing location in local search results, business owners and marketing experts should adapt their link building strategy to get ahead of the curve. By optimizing existing content, creating new localized pages, and focusing on local link sources, businesses can provide search engines with more information about where their business is located and the areas it serves. By doing so, businesses are more likely to show for potential customers who are looking for a business in their area.

As the world of SEO continues to shift every day, and it is important for businesses keep up to date with the current trends. We expect to see localization to be a significant factor in local search. This post will help you adapt your marketing strategy to drive success for your business.

For more answers to your marketing questions, check out our business resources page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing Duplicate Google My Business Listings in a Post Map Maker World

Since the old Map Maker feature was terminated at the end of March 2017, you may be left wondering how to deal with duplicate Google My Business law firm and individual practitioner pages. The information below, summarized from the recent post by Local SEO expert Joy Hawkins, should provide some direction for you and your firm.

Steps to Fixing a Duplicate Google My Business for your law firm’s listing:

  1. Find out if the duplicate listing is verified
    1. If it is, you’ll need to get access/ownership or have it unverified
    2. If it is not, continue on.
  2. Note any reviews that are on the duplicate listing. If there are positive reviews, contact google my business support to have them transferred.
  3. Compare the addresses between the listings. Do they match?
    1. If yes, contact Google My Business support via Twitter and ask them to merge
    2. If no, find out if the business used to be at the address at some point & continue
      1. If the business never existed at the wrong address, click “suggest an edit”
        1. Toggle to “Yes” next to “Place is permanently closed”
          1. Select “Never existed” as the reason and submit.
        2. If the business used to exist at the address, contact Google My Business support via twitter and ask them to change the status to “Moved”.

Special considerations for Attorneys

Attorneys can have individual practitioner pages. If you have an attorney that has a practitioner page and the attorney no longer works for your firm, contact Google My Business support via twitter and ask them to move the practitioner page to your firm’s page. This only works if the practitioner page is unverified or is willing to give you access to it. If they aren’t willing to do this, your last option is to have them update the information to the new firm.

Example of a proper individual practitioner listing:

example of google attorney practitioner page