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

Google moving (some) organic results above the map?

This is the second time I’ve seen this and thought it noteworthy.  For a long time now, we’ve had ads, then Local, then organic (sadly banished to the bottom) of SERPs.  This has heavily driven a push towards local (and the proliferation of spam in local, but I digress) and my personal love, organic SEO has suffered.  Interestingly, we’re now occasionally seeing a smattering of organic showing above the map.  Below is a query for divorce lawyer – note the Avvo listing sitting squarely between the ads and the Snack Pack.

I checked in with local search nerd, Joy Hawkins who said she’s seen it occasionally as well, but didn’t have a good understand of what or why they were triggering. My personal (and thin, anecdotal, unverified and otherwise speculative) perspective is that Google is pushing more subjective “quality” elements into search results.  Note Avvo – which ranks lawyers by quality of their background includes the word “Best” in their title tag.  We’ve also seen quality elements coming up law firms being displaying in Featured Snippets – I wrote about this for Law Technology Today a few weeks ago: Significant Changes to the Search Engine Results Pages.

Or perhaps its just another test that will come and go…..

Accessing the Hidden Fields in Google My Business

These days, Google My Business (GMB) has a nice modern layout that looks simple, clean and straightforward. Don’t be fooled! There are secret, hidden fields in Google My Business that you can only access in certain ways. Here is how to find them.

Using Card View and the Dashboard

“Card View” organizes your locations into a neat grid of cards.

Managing locations from here sends you to a Dashboard where you can access:

  • Info (name, address, hours, etc.)
  • Photos
  • Reviews
  • Insights
  • Users (in the top left menu)

All these fields are important, but there are a few things missing.

Using List View and Direct Edit

Changing to “List View” organizes your locations into simple rows with 3-dot menus on the right.

Clicking those icons bring you to the Dashboard (same as above). However, if you try to edit the listing directly by clicking the actual row, you will unlock a new section:

  • Info (name, address, hours, etc.)
  • Photos (just a shortcut back to the dashboard)
  • Users (no longer in top left menu)
  • Advanced Information

You won’t see Reviews and Insights, but you gain access to “Advanced Information” which contains three new fields you didn’t have before.

  • Store codes: Used to identify individual locations.
  • Labels: Great way to organize locations into groups or mark locations that need work.
  • AdWords location extensions phone: External facing and must be used if you want to utilize call tracking in AdWords campaigns. Very important for maintaining correct conversion numbers!

Which Way Is Better?

If you want to utilize all the tools GMB has to offer, you must use both the Dashboard and direct edit from the list view. This is somewhat of a pain, and I have no idea why Google hides “Advanced Information” from the Dashboard, but that’s how it works. Hopefully the next GMB update will make things a little more consistent, but until then, don’t forget to check out both views!

Mockingbird’s Love Affair With Yext

In honor of Valentine’s day hysteria earlier this week, we want to take this opportunity to profess our love for one of our favorite partners… Yext. It’s true, we love them, and (we think) they love us.

What is Yext?

“We put business on the map. Brands of all sizes use Yext to manage data about their locations across their websites, mobile apps, and internal systems.” (Yext)

Here is my own less eloquent explanation I use when explaining Yext to our clients: Yext is a tool that helps control your business data and listings across a multitude of important online directories, maps and apps.

How Mockingbird Uses Yext For Our Clients

Location data, or NAP (name, address, phone number), is a very important piece to the local search ranking puzzle. If you have inconsistent location data, Google and the other search engines won’t be inclined to show your business in search results because they can’t trust that it’s actually there. Google does not want to provide an incorrect address and accidentally send users to a laundromat instead of the law office they’re looking for.

In the good ole’ days when I first started at Mockingbird, I had the unfortunate job of “directory clean up.” Essentially, I would spend countless hours drudging through websites like InsiderPages, Foursquare, and Yelp in order to manually fix our clients’ inaccurate directory listings.  This clean up is an important duty, but one that comes with the simultaneous pain of monotony and frustration. While that work has not gone away completely, we now utilize Yext to help with the heavy lifting.

Instead of going through each directory individually, we now simply set up one complete and accurate listing in Yext and they push out that information to all of their digital partners.  We can now make sure that our client’s location data is accurate across most of the top and second tier online directories, maps, and apps – a whopping “100+ digital endpoints” in Yext’s own words.

Yext offers a slew of features to help businesses manage their data (analytics, reporting, review monitoring, social posting, etc.), but here are some of my personal favorites…

1. Duplicate Suppression

If you’ve ever had the unfortunate task of removing a duplicate listing from an online directory like Yelp, then you know how frustrating it can be. It’s often an annoying and unclear process that is ultimately futile. Yext’s duplicate suppression tool:

1) Finds potential duplicates and notifies you of the listing
2) Gives you an option to “ignore” or “suppress” the listing
3) Removes the duplicate through an “on-going signal to the publisher”
4) Gets the listing suppressed in 72 hours. This makes directory clean up exponentially easier

2. Data Field Options

While Yext allows you to control the most important pieces of location information (name, address, phone number, website), they don’t stop there. Yext gives you options that actually help you promote and market your business better. For example, you get to create a featured message that will show on your directory listings – we generally use this as a call-to-action like the example below.

Yext Featured Message

Along with the featured message, you get to utilize these other awesome data fields:

  • Business description
  • Business hours
  • Contact email
  • Payment methods
  • Link social accounts (Foursquare, Twitter, Instagram)
  • Business logo and photos
  • Add YouTube videos
  • Edit cover and profile photos for Google My Business and Facebook directly from Yext listing
  • Enhanced content like company calendar and staff bios

3. Control of Categories

Finding the correct category to describe your firm’s practice areas can be very tough on a lot of directories, and even Google My Business. This is one under-appreciated feature of Yext; their categories section is extremely robust. One of my clients specializes in lemon law and the closest matching category we can use in Google My Business is “Lawyer”, which is obviously not ideal. Here are her categories in Yext…

Yext Categories Lemon Law

Wrapping Up

Yext has been essential to our toolbox since 2014 and one of my personal favorite tools. We use it for all of our clients and we’re proud to be a Yext Certified Agency Partner. If you’re interested to find out more about Yext, local SEO, or what we do in general, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 206-209-2136. We would love to hear from you!

How To Create A Direct Link To Your Google Reviews

Reviews are a fantastic way to show potential clients the great work you do. Obtaining those reviews can be a difficult task in the legal world, but I’m here to make it one step easier.

Once you’ve found that wonderful client of yours who is willing to leave a review of your services, you probably want to make the process as easy as possible by sending links to your review sites. Small problem: how do I send a link to my most important review site, Google?

Step 1

Use Google Places API, and find your listing by entering your business information.

Google Place ID

Step 2

Take your Place ID, and add it to the following URL:

http://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=<place_id_here>

Example:
http://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=ChIJQUwKpR5pkFQR5ATGy9MswLc

Step 3

Since your URL might be long, you can use Google’s handy tool to shorten it.

Example:
goo.gl/C00mgT

When either the short or long link is clicked, your client will be taken to this window:

Google Review Link

You can now send this direct link to any participating clients, making the review process one step easier!