[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.

 

Google Playing with Click-to-Call Phone Numbers in Mobile Organic Results

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

In his blog post yesterday, local SEO guru Mike Blumenthal reported on click-to-call phone numbers now showing in mobile organic searches. What does this mean? Essentially, along with the normal website link and description, Google is now testing out clickable phone numbers directly in the search results for mobile searches. Let’s look at some examples from Mike’s blog post

Mobile Organic Click To Call AC Repair
In this example, the user was searching for AC repair businesses in Corpus Christi, Texas.

 

Mobile Organic Click Call Jewelers
The user was searching for local jewelers in Buffalo in this screenshot.

So what happened when I tried to replicate the click to call numbers for legal related search queries? (I’ll give you a hint: it worked.)

Mobile Organic Results Attorneys Buffalo
My search for “criminal defense attorney buffalo, ny” produced the click-to-call feature on page 3 of the results.

 

Mobile Organic Results Attorneys Spokane
In this example, you can see the click-to-call results on page 2 of the results for the query “dui attorney spokane wa”

Here’s what we know:

  1. The change was first noticed on February 29, 2016.
  2. Google is likely testing this feature – clickable phone numbers are not yet showing on the first results page (usually a solid sign this is a Google test).
  3. This is likely to be a mobile-only update.
  4. They are testing the new click-to-call feature in most service business searches, including legal search queries.

Why is this change significant?

It might not be. Most likely, this is just another test by Google to see how they can improve their user’s experience. We’ve seen mobile organic tests (remember colored separators on mobile?) like this before that never made it to the big stage. However, if this clickable phone number as part of the snippet is ultimately implemented across the SERPs (search engine results page) and not just sitting quietly on page 2, 3, or 4, there could be some major implications, both negative and positive.

Potential implications:

As an SEO, it’s not only fun, but also my job to speculate on the potential impact of Google’s tests. So what could this click-to-call change mean?

  1. Increased conversion rates. By removing one step for the user, they should be more likely to call your business.
  2. More holes in lead tracking. Much like in the local pack results, businesses probably won’t be able to use call tracking for the click-to-call number, thus creating a hole in lead reporting.
  3. NAP consistency will be key (with an emphasis on the P). If you have multiple conflicting phone numbers on your website – a common blunder in the legal industry – Google will be more likely to either display the incorrect number or not show your phone # at all for the click to call option.

Check back for updates – we’ll keep an eye on this for you.

Yext Integrates Google Into PowerListings

From an outsider’s perspective, business location management is hardly considered a problem. For the unfortunate marketers and SEO’s doing the leg work, location data management is often a major issue. The most straight forward solution to fixing your business listing’s consistency across the web is to outsource to a third party provider, such as Yext. Tools like this have the capacity to simultaneously manage thousands of online business locations at once.

Google’s recent partnership with Yext grants all businesses the power to manage virtually every aspect of their location data. Yext mentioned that instead of having to worry about simply finding and correcting problems, the Google My Business API allows businesses to think about their data not only as data, but as a marketing tool. In other words, they can start utilizing and interacting with data rather than just reacting to what their data is representing.

The Google integration permits immediate data changes, such as special holiday business hours or unplanned closures. However, it’s important to note that while you can implement these changes immediately, Google has the final say over when your changes are actually published.

Google explained in a blog post last December that through the new Google My Business API, developers can:

  • Create business locations with information such as name, address, phone number, category, business hours, and more
  • Manage special hours
  • Mark a business location as permanently closed
  • Manage business photos
  • List, invite and remove managers on locations and business accounts
  • Read listing state to identify Google updated, duplicate and suspended locations
  • Search/Filter locations by name, category and label
  • Set the service area for a business either by specifying a point and radius or Place IDs

In part six of Mockingbird’s “Toolbox Webinars” series, we’ll walk you through the two most popular local business management tools: Moz Local and Yext. Learn why just buying these tools isn’t enough, why you need both of them, and more about Yext’s newly forged partnership with Google – a service previously only available to agencies and large buyers.

If you want to learn more about utilizing Yext for optimizing your local web presence, sign up for our webinar today!

Moz’s Local Ranking Factors Report

Every year, I get an email from Moz asking for input into their Local Ranking Factors survey.  The survey is conducted amongst a small group of SEO nerds. Due to the competitiveness of legal marketing, be glad to know our niche is especially well represented- I’m joined by legal marketing geeks, Mike Ramsey, Gyi Tsakalakis and Casey Meraz.  This year, the study came out shortly after Google launched the snack pack (catch up here), so the results are particularly interesting.

If you want to geek out, you can read the full Moz study here.

Overall Ranking Factors

Ranking Factors continue to diversify – meaning there are a wide array of things you need to get right.  Vendors who provide just one piece of the puzzle are rarely going to be enough to drive success (and yes – I fully acknowledge this is a self-serving comment.)  The factor consistently gaining in significance is behavioral performance (i.e. click through rates, time on site etc.) – this has been backed up by numerous studies.  In legal, this emphasizes issues like brand, meta descriptions, a site’s look and feel/user interface and accessibility of information.

And despite the ongoing assertions of social media pundits – Social is entirely immaterial to local performance – coming in dead last among all ranking categories.  Joy Hawkins (who is our secret go-to person when we get utterly stuck on a complex Google My Business issues) explains social and search:

I gave social signals 1% for organic impact because I do think it’s possible that they could impact ranking – I have just never seen a single case where they did. I always quote Matt Cutts where he indicated that when it comes to social signals it’s a correlation and not causation. Businesses that are active on Facebook also usually care about their ranking on Google and are actively trying to improve it. One doesn’t cause the other.

David Mihm, the author of the survey, offers his take on the waning (if not entirely dead) impact of Google+ in ranking:

At this point, I view Google My Business essentially as a UI for structured data* and a conduit to AdWords. While Google’s original “business builder” vision may still come to fruition, it clearly won’t be under the social umbrella of Google+.

Top 10 Ranking Factors for Local (now Snack Pack)

  1. Physical Address in City of Search
  2. NAP Consistency in Structured Citations
  3. Proper Google My Business Categories
  4. Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (i.e. physically where is the searcher)
  5. Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  6. Domain Authority of Website
  7. Product/Service Keyword in Google My Business Business Title
  8. City, State in Google My Business Landing Page Title
  9. HTML NAP matching Google My Business Location NAP
  10. Click Through Rate from Search Results

Of particular note is the focus on quality including the prevalence of accuracy in Google My Business information (note David’s comment above).

Ranking Differentiators for Competitive Markets (i.e. legal)

My favorite facet of the survey is the focus on competitive markets – essentially almost all of the legal marketing space.  After getting the fundamentals right, this becomes the tactical focus of our engagements and frankly, these are often the hardest components of search – the stuff that can’t be automated, simplified or easily copied.

  1. Consistency of Structured Citations
  2. Domain Authority of Website
  3. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  4. Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  5. Proper Google My Business Category Associations
  6. Physical Address in City of Search (in the past month, we have been consulted twice on helping law firms decide what building to move in to.)
  7. Quantity of Native Google Reviews
  8. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Google My Business Landing Page URL
  9. CTR from search results pages
  10. Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations (i.e. Newspaper articles)

Note the heavy heavy focus on quality above.  You don’t achieve these tactics through $10 for 1,000 twitter followers or a paid citation campaign.

Non Local Local Results

Heh?  This is really localized natural search – i.e. results for local queries (even those without a geo-modifier) that return typical SEO results.  I don’t want dwell on this, as this is a post about Local (i.e. mapped) results, but for natural search with a local component (which represents at least 95% of legal searches – the focus is on providing accurate location signals through Google My Business and a heavy focus on site authority (i.e. high quality links).  In fact the top 2 signals according to the survey are link related.

Negative Ranking Factors

Of course, no SEO conversation would be complete without a discussion of penalties.

  1. Incorrect business category
  2. Listing at false business address
  3. Mis-Match NAP or Tracking Phone Numbers
  4. Presence of malware
  5. Reports of Violations in your Google My Business location
  6. Mis-matched NAP/tracking phone numbers on Google My Business page
  7. Mis-matched Address on Google My Business page
  8. Multiple Google My Business locations with Same Phone Number
  9. Absence of NAP on website
  10. Address includes suite number similar to UPS Mail Store or other false address.

The negative ranking factors center around incorrect NAP as well and inconsistent information in…. here it is again…. Google My Business.  Given the prevalence of geo spam among lawyers (i.e. “virtual offices” or fake offices shoehorned into your friends insurance office), I expect we will continue to see a greater focus on reporting of non-real offices.   Frankly, the only impact we saw among law firms with the Pigeon roll out was severe penalties on some significant local spammers; so none of this really surprises me.

Snack Pack

Acknowledging that the Snack Pack launched just prior to the survey (and so the following is probably more intuitive rather than based on any studies, Moz asked about change in tactical focus given the snack pack.  Across the board, the increased focus was on quality signals (NAP, Authority, Citations).  The only quantity factor was Google specific reviews (i.e. the more the better but note the focus on Google, NOT reviews across the web – Avvo, Yelp etc.).   Tactical losers focused on quantity (which I read to mean low cost, low value, low authority – easily replicable) links, citations and…. my favorite punching bag…. social shares.

HOT: Google Updates Local Results

Fresh from the web comes this update about Google’s recent changes to the local pack.

The local 3-pack

Google’s local results, AKA the “Local” or “Map” pack, just got streamlined from seven results to three.

What is it?

The “Local Pack” is the list that appears on the left of your screen when you search Google for a local service or business. As an example, here’s an image from a post last year:

What’s Changed?

As you’ll note below, the local pack just slimmed down. It lost four listings, doesn’t feature a phone number and no longer shows the Google+ page. The number can be found by clicking the listing: More on that in a bit. Businesses still show star rankings where applicable. Street names are now used in lieu of full addresses. Hours of operation will show either opening or closing times, depending on the time of day.

Attack of the 3 Pack
LA Area Search for “Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney” – 2:30 PM, 8/7/2015

Previously, clicking a link in the local pack would have the listing’s knowledge graph page fly-out to the right, as detailed here. In this new iteration, clicking the the listing (and not the website or direction links) brings up an entirely new pageLocal Pack Click-Through

This new page now features the business knowledge graph card. Users can now find the full address and phone number here. This page also features a total of 20 business listings, and links to more at the bottom.

So what does it mean?

The obvious first thought is that it just got harder for folks that were ranking 4-7. Does this mean it’s time to up your Adwords advertising spend? Perhaps. It could also be a boon to companies that rank #1 or #2 organically but don’t show up in the local pack. That the local list is now shorter means less scrolling to get to them.

Time will tell if users adjust to this new “local pack lite” and click through to the 20 listing page.

We’ll keep an eye on this for you. In the meantime, redouble your local SEO efforts: The bar just got higher.