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!

 

[Mockingbird Survey Results] – Online Reviews for Law Firms

About Our Law Firm Review Study

It’s widely accepted that reviews account for a significant portion of Google’s local search ranking factors (Moz Local Search Ranking Factors). Google My Business reviews are, and have been a vital piece of Local SEO. Once you’ve acquired at least 5 Google reviews for your business, you may start seeing the star indication in the coveted “local pack” of the search results page.

We recently sent out a simple 8 question survey to various law firms around the country with two goals in mind: 1) Gather insight on the review process for law firms and 2) Determine which outreach methods are most common and effective.

Here are the results…

Does your law firm actively request client reviews or testimonials?

Do You Request Reviews?
Note: links to review on the website, in email footers, etc. do not count as actively requesting.

How do you request reviews?

How Do You Request Reviews?

Who solicits reviews for your firm?

Who Solicits Reviews?

On average, how many times do you ask for a review before giving up?

How Many Requests For Review?

Which platform(s) do you ask clients to review you on?

Which Platforms Do You Request Reviews?

Do you use review management software?

Review Management Software?

How many reviews do you currently have on Google?

How Many Reviews On Google?

Note: for primary location only (if multiple offices). 

How many reviews do you currently have on Yelp?

Reviews On Yelp?

Note: for primary location only (if multiple offices).

Mockingbird’s Takeaways From Our Law Firm Review Survey Research

  • 9/10 law firms actively request reviews from past clients, but only 4/10 will reach out more than once. Persistence is key in obtaining online reviews — we suggest you send at least 2 review requests before giving up on that lead.
  • 6/10 law firms will request reviews on Avvo, Yelp, and Google. We recommend this approach as well to give the client options, however, we emphasize Google reviews as they have the most direct impact on local SEO results. (Don’t sleep on Facebook either!)
  • 5/10 law firms surveyed have 6+ Google reviews. In the hyper-competitive legal market, it’s increasingly important to obtain a high number of quality reviews.
  • 9/10 law firms do not use review outreach software. We’ve tried our hand with automated software before (shout out to Get Five Stars), but have had better luck doing it the old fashioned way. Requesting reviews manually requires much more leg work, but yields a better conversion rate in the end. Here’s a cool free tool from Whitespark that will actually create a print out template for you: whitespark.ca/review-handout-generator/
  • 5/10 law firms have the primary attorney who handled the case make the review request. We advise our clients to adopt this strategy as well since the personal relationship is already established and the client is more likely to take action.

A good bonus from our survey’s comment section…

“…I’d be interested in hearing about the fake reviews it looks like a few firms are getting (60+ five star reviews)” – Anonymous Attorney

My two cents: Google is not perfect. Unfortunately we still see an egregious amount of spam in Google Maps and the local 3-pack. However, I believe the big G will catch up with spammy reviews in the same way they eventually caught up with spammy backlinks (thank you Penguin). Keep your white hat on and don’t give up the good fight yet my friend.

If you are interested in the specifics of the study, want help generating reviews for your firm, or just want to say hi please feel free to drop me an email: dustin[at]mockingbirdmarketing.com

 

Review of Google’s Possum Algo Update with Joy Hawkins

Local SEO rockstar, Joy Hawkins and I discuss Possum – the unfortunately named Google algo update impacting local SERP results.  While we have seen Possum as a win for most of our clients – Possum seems to impact businesses in shared locations with multiple providers in the same categories.  This includes practitioner listings.  Listen along for more details and get a surprise opportunity to hear me defending FindLaw!

UPDATE: “the unfortunately named…..” – turns out this was coined by…… wait for it….. Joy and Darren (among others).  Nothing like insulting your guest.  My coworkers are enjoying my foot in mouth a little too much.

This is the biggest change in local since Pigeon back in 2014

Google Maps Update

Estimated Read Time: 2 minutes

Recently, Google released an update to Google Maps on Android, IOS and desktop machines. The de-cluttering aims to help users discover your law firm and make it easier to navigate.

What Google Updated:

  • A cleaner look: removed information from the map that isn’t “absolutely required”. Example: Road outlines. This makes it easier to see important things like traffic and transit info.
  • Improved typography of street names, points of interest and transit stations.
  • New Exploration features: Cleaner means new ways to explore information.
    • Areas of interest are highlighted in orange. In dense areas like NYC, Google uses a “human touch” to make sure they are showing the most active areas.*
  • Updated design for viewing business photos and street view imagery. This includes a quicker carousel-like layout so you can interact with various images.
    • New tabs to quickly view the “Overview” or “360 degree View” of businesses.

*My best interpretation of this is that they use search data. Cause why wouldn’t they?

Examples of Google Maps Updates:

Here’s an example of the new and improved street view on Google Maps:

San Diego Lawyers HRO Google Maps

Here’s a before update and after update snapshot:

Here’s a color key for reference on what the new Google Maps colors represent:

In short, if you or your law firm hasn’t spent much time optimizing how your business information is displayed on Google Maps now would be a really good time to clean the dust off of your listing. We’re here to help.

Get Ready for $300 CpCs in Legal

I spent today at SMX Advanced Local – a Workshop hosted by the inimitable Greg Sterling in conjunction with the greater SMX Advanced Conference.  I talked about advanced linkbuilding, but was mostly interested in the talk preceding mine from Google’s Ali Turhan who shed some light on upcoming changes in local advertising.  As far as Greg knew (and he would know) – this was the first time Google has really talked publicly in any level of depth about the upcoming sponsored (read: ads) maps listings.

What are ‘promoted pins”?

Very simply, the promoted pins are a way to buy yourself onto mapped local results – to hell with reviews, links, NAP etc – these are a color coded (i.e. visually delineating between sponsored vs. natural) pins that show up on the Google map interface in local results.

Why this is (another) game changer (again).

Ali mentioned many times they are still experimenting with exactly how these would function.  However, he kept coming back to what seems to be a default plan: one promoted pin within the map interface.  When pressed – my read was that maps would continue to have just 3 results – with 1 of them being “promoted”.  So the local pack looks like it has just shrunk again – from 3 down to 2 organically listed results (ahhh- remember those wonder years of the 7 pack.)

While it has yet to be seen exactly how these sponsored pins perform, I can only imagine the extremely high click through rates commanded within the legal industry. Especially on mobile devices, primed for that first initial inquiry from a potential client.

Seattle DUI Lawyers stripping for $1.99 a minute?

OK… admittedly a clickbaity title, but wait for the punchline….

So….. spam is prevalent in the local results. We’ve known this for ages and its been a problem the search engines have been trying (with some level of success) to crack down on. Frequently its an out-of-town competitor pretending to have a larger geographic footprint than they actually do.  Sometimes, its an attorney trying to double dip with multiple “offices” within a single city.  We’ve also seen directory domains hijacked and used

Now…. we’ve turned to porn.

Looking for a Seattle DUI lawyer?  Try the third result here, just a few blocks from Mockingbird HQ up on 4th Ave.

(oh… and make sure your kids/spouse/coworkers aren’t around)

dui porn II

Yup… thats right… while you are contemplating your DUI defense strategy, you can drop $1.99 a minute with some very friendly ladies.  Or gentleman.  Or both.

unintended porn

 

Frankly, I’m surprised the site targeted a hyper competitive market like DUI lawyer in Seattle.  Or perhaps, there’s just a lot of money in porn.