definitive guide to local seo

Contents

About Local SEO

  1. Optimize your website

  2. Claim your online profile

  3. Add local content

  4. Get reviews

  5. Build citations

  6. Key Google changes

Conclusion

 

Local SEO is a key tool law firms should be using to generate more clients and Google My Business (GMB) is a key asset that lawyers can and should use to propel their firms up the search engine rankings (SERPs).
Why is it important?
Simple –  46% of all searches on Google are local.
Google My Business was created by Google to enable companies to share important business information and improve the accuracy of your company  on Google. 
This makes it easier for consumers to connect with you and to therefore reach new clients.
Having the right Google My Business category can make a big difference in how your firm ranks on Google. 
Key Moves.  There are some key steps lawyers need to know about using GoogleMyBusiness to get the most out of it.
This FuelPoint Guide is intended to help you do just that.
Don’t just go with the “Lawyer” category — claim a more specific category that says what kind of law you practice (i.e., family law attorney, estate planning attorney, business attorney, company lawyer, immigration lawyer etc.). 
If your competitors are currently outranking you on Google, check out which category they are using and try using the same one to see if that moves the needle for you.
Recent Google Changes.  
Over the past year, Google has added some additional features to Google My Business, including:
Google Posts look like PPC ads but they are free. 
You can include a photo, description, offer, landing page URL — whatever you have to say or promote. You can make offers — a complimentary consultation, a free report, or information on an event you’re hosting.
Customers tab lists all the people who have connected or tried to connect with your law firm using Google tools. 
You can respond to reviews, answer questions and even text message from your Google My Business page or app.
Local service areas are sometimes more useful for law firms than a physical address and you can define your service areas on your Google My Business page. 
This will help your listing show up in Google Maps and Search when someone searches for legal services in an area where you don’t have a physical office, but you cover.
Home screen analytics in the Google My Business app.
This tells you how you are performing across the Google platform — including how many views, searches, calls, website clicks, direction requests, and more helpful insights.
Local Business Searches. 
About 89% of people search for a local business on their smartphones at least once a week, with 58% searching daily.
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These searchers are unlikely to find you if your local SEO is poor.
But what exactly is local SEO?
Local SEO is much the same as organic SEO, but with an added geographical component.
Specifically, you’re aiming to rank high in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for local searches.
There’s no point in a New York law firm ranking high in Houston’s local search results, or a London firm ranking high in Birmingham . . You get the picture?
They want people searching for lawyers in New York or London, Singapore or Auckland to find them.
So it’s key to improve your local SEO if you want to increase your organic local traffic.
According to Moz’s 2017 local search ranking factors, proximity to the searcher is the top local pack-ranking factor.
 
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But what is the ‘pack’?
The Google 3 Pack is the top three results that are returned from local search.
However, there have been some changes that have occurred recently that affect how it works.
These changes have mainly occurred to ensure the 3 Pack better suits mobile searches, which are now the predominant search method.
The Definitive Guide to Local SEO For Lawyers 1
That is where you want your firm to be.  
The question is, how do you do it?
There are some key steps.

1. Optimize your website for local search

If your website isn’t properly optimized, it will be hard for you to climb the search engine rankings (the SERPs.)
Check your website’s SEO now using this tool to see how it could be improved.
For local SEO, in addition to standard SEO best practices, you need to do the following:
Have a dedicated contact page
There are some key factors you need to include on your page.
On your contact page, make sure you clearly show your “NAP:”
  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone
And also put your email on the page.
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Include all of your firm addresses if you are located in multiple locations.
If you have 10 or fewer locations, include the complete name, address, and phone number of each in the sitewide footer element on your website.
Make phone numbers clickable on mobile devices
It’s important to remember that around 30% of mobile searches are location-related, which makes it important to ensure your site is mobile optimized.
Further, US figures indicate that 76% of local searches result in a phone call.  Those results would not be much different in other Western jurisdictions either.
So make sure your phone number is clickable.
If someone finds your website on their mobile device and wants to call you, they might be annoyed to find they have to switch between apps to type in the number manually.
Log In
Log in to Google.com/business
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Start typing in your firm name and check the box if Google has it or fill in the form if Google does not have it.
You should also show where you’re located, obviously.
When the user clicks the phone number, their phone will prompt them if they’d like to call the number.
Google has a useful post that walks you through how to make a phone number clickable on your website.
Add a map or your locations
Adding a map is important.
Why?
A remarkable  86% of people look up the location of a business on Google Maps.
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In this example, Starbucks gets it right, including an interactive map of all their locations.
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Add testimonials
Local SEO Guide says, “Google considers testimonials a ‘trust signal.’”
And that’s why Local SEO Guide has a whole page dedicated to these types of reviews.
An additional boost to your SEO will come from testimonials, so you need to collect them – and display them on your site.
Add key information
If you have particular specialty areas of practice, add them into your profile along with anything else that distinguishes your practice, including how long you’ve been in the area.
If you have things like disabled access, a room for kids etc then tell people.
Add media
Add images of your premises so people can find them, as well as your logo.
Have pictures of your staff and interior shots to portray the image you want to create, plus provide the search engines with more information to build on.
Remember that you’re showcasing your firm.  Media will help greatly with that.
And if you add a video clip you’ll be ahead of the game, too.  (Remember the clips should be 100 MB or smaller).
Add Schema
Schema.org is a key tool to help propel your firm site up the search engines.  It was invented to create a common language between major search engines Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
Essentially, Schema  makes it easier for search engines to understand your business by adding Schema markup for local businesses to your website..
To make this process easier, Hall Analysis has created a tool to help you create your Schema markup.
Just fill in your information, then copy the code on the right-hand side of the page.
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Next, paste the code in thesection of your HTML document or website builder.
Then you should ensure it’s all working by testing with with Google’s structured-data testing tool.
This tool should pull out your information, and show it on the right-hand side:
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Once you’ve optimized your website for local SEO, you should be in a better position to improve your rankings and increase local organic traffic.
2. Claim your online profiles
Your website isn’t the only place you need to be online.
You need to make sure your business is properly listed on the main review platforms, like Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook.
And don’t forget any popular local-review sites and directories too. Different jurisdictions will have different directories so check them out and add them.
For instance, in the UK there’s the Law Society Gazette, InfoLaw, the Legal500 and others.
Why is this important?
Because when it comes to local searches, Google’s 3-pack is often followed by both directories, blog entries, social media listings and review sites.
Any local listings
You’ll often get the occasional local review site among the heavy hitters, like TripAdvisor and Yelp.
You can find sites that are relevant to your business and location by searching keywords like:
  • [target location] reviews
  • [law/niche] [target location] reviews
Add your other social profiles
You’ll also want to set up profiles on the social media channels relevant to your target demographic.
Be sure to follow social media best practices.
When setting up your profiles, it’s very important to make sure your information is identical on each platform because consistency is important when sending ‘messages’ to the search engines.
And sending the right messages will boost your rankings.
Add local content for local search impact
Blogging is essential to SEO and great for law firms as a means of getting your firm details across.
Just in case you haven’t already, create a blog on your website.
If possible, host your blog on your business’s domain for optimal SEO benefits.
For example, “www.website.com/blog” instead of “blog.website.com” or “websiteblog.com.”
This way, as you acquire links to your blog, you’ll also gain links to your business’s main site.
Remember that links are the key localized organic ranking factor for businesses and law firms.
Rankings for your firm’s blog will help increase the website rankings too and is an easier SEO ‘fix’.
When writing the blog posts ensure to include local city and neighborhood names wherever possible.
Not everyone will use your city name when searching for a specific lawyer, be sure you also include neighboring towns and cities, neighborhoods, and unofficial terms that locals may use.
Include local news and happenings, which will not only boost your SEO but will also provide useful information to your audience.
Write about local events and news, or law points that feature your local area or neighborhood.
Similarly, local sponsorships, events, news and interviews will all help generate high local SEO ‘search’.
But don’t just write about your wonderful law firm – write instead about how you can help them.
You want to become a trusted ‘authority’ source.

Build links

While you build your blog audience, you also want to collect inbound links.
A good way to start is to join conversations in other local business blogs, law blogs and the like.
You might want to avoid direct competitors, but are there any complementary or related business blogs in your community?  You should also contribute content and comments to relevant forums that focus on your areas of specialty – divorce law, employment, tax, DUI etc.
Participate by leaving thoughtful comments or mentioning (and linking) their posts on your blog.
Building relationships with other businesses is a great way to establish your website and attract links back to your blog.
Know who you’re targeting
If you don’t know who you’re writing for, it’s extremely difficult to create valuable content that hits the mark.
So once you’ve created your reader personas, you need to understand your target neighborhoods and their demographics.
Nielsen created an excellent tool called Zip Code Lookup to help you do just that.
Enter your zip code, and you’ll receive information like the median income, age, and consumer spending.
The tool also provides a title summing up the area, like “Urban Elders” or “Aspiring A-Listers.”
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Local content mistakes to avoid
Make sure you avoid common mistakes as you focus locally.
Don’t take content from other websites unless you’re using it as an attributed source or quote in your own original content.

4. Get reviews to boost your local search effect

We all now know how important reviews are, which has placed power into the hands of clients and consumers.
Research shows that 81% of people read reviews and check ratings, and more than one-in-three consumers comment on blogs or contribute to online forums.
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And 97% say customer reviews factor into their buying decisions.
So, basically everyone.
What’s the state of your online reviews?
If you have anything other than a four- or five-star rating on the major review sites, you might be in trouble.
Poor ratings turn potential clients off, while a lack of ratings may not instill trust and confidence in your brand.
However, a Harvard Business School study found that even bumping up your score by one star can help boost revenues by almost 10%.
Reviews also stand out to prospects as they’re often featured in local search results.
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They actually make up 13% of the local pack-ranking factors.
Acquiring reviews is an ongoing process and one you’ll be engaged in for the life of your law firm.
Every firm or business will receive negative reviews at some point along the way.
When you do, be sure to respond professionally and personally.
The best way to prevent negative reviews is to provide the best possible service.
By delighting your clients, you’ll limit bad reviews and encourage good ones.
According to Moz, Google reviews are believed to have the greatest impact on Google local rankings.
You can create a shareable Google review link to promote to your audience here.
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Things to avoid when asking for reviews
Before you start asking for reviews on any platform, make sure you know its guidelines and terms of service.
For instance, Google doesn’t permit you to offer incentives in exchange for reviews, and Yelp forbids businesses to request customer reviews in any way.
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You want to channel your client’s positivity to influence new customers.
As a lawyer you have to play by the rules even more than anyone else, so don’t get overly ‘clever’ about this.  Make sure your clients leave reviews using their own devices, under their own accounts.
You want people to want to leave reviews, which once again comes down to the quality of your business.
Also, don’t ask for too many reviews at once. A sudden influx of positive reviews can look suspicious and may result in filtering on some platforms.
Once more, acquiring reviews should be a steady, ongoing process for your business.

5. Build citations

What exactly are citations?
They’re mentions of your business name, address, phone number, or website (NAP+W) anywhere on the web, even if there is no link to your website.
Citations are important to your local SEO efforts because its signals make up 13 per cent  of local pack-ranking factors.
Make sure you only build citations for real physical locations, as P.O. boxes and virtual offices are not acceptable.
You can build a unique set of citations for every physical location you have.
But make sure the name, address, phone number, and website URL are correct and identical on each citation you build.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, mismatched NAP citations account for 41% of the total ranking issues.
So once again, consistency is key.
That said, search engine algorithms are clever enough to understand most abbreviations.
It’s important to check whether your abbreviation will be picked up and read correctly by search engines.
For a full list of acceptable abbreviations, check out Whitespark’s complete table.
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Here are some ways to build citations.
Local search engines
Search engines like Google or Bing crawl the web for citations to validate or update the information in their own indexes.
You can help the search engines do this by listing your businesses on sites like Yelp, Hotfrog, and Foursquare.
Dedicate some time and resources to making sure your business is listed in as many relevant, quality local business directories as possible.
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Local blogs
Local blogs are a fantastic place to get your business listed to boost your local SEO.
These blogs are well-indexed by the search engines and are highly associated with a particular city, region, or neighborhood.
As you acquire links from these blogs, search engines will increasingly view your business as trusted and relevant in the local search engines.
Local blogs will be different for each location, but you can find ones relevant to you and your business by searching terms like:
  • [target location] [niche/industry] blog
Often, the top local blogs will have the name of the city or region in their title or domain, which helps further with local SEO impact for your firm.
Locally focused directories
Like local blogs, local directories are strongly associated with a geographic region and they’re well indexed by the search engines.
Directories edited by a human are preferred.
This is because they’re less susceptible to spam, so they tend to be more trusted by the local search engines.
To start with, if you’re in the US, add your business to Best of the Web’s Regional Directory.
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Then you can search for specific local directories by using search terms like:
  • [Target city] directory
  • [State] directory
Industry-focused directories or blogs
You can also gain citations from industry focused blogs and directories.
These websites are focused on the topics and keywords related to your products and services.
Although these sites don’t always have a local focus, they may be counted as citation sources by local search engines.
Do you have a membership directory for your trade organization or a blog that’s popular among readers in your niche?
Both are likely to be crawled by the local search engines for citations.
You can find law firm directories and blogs relevant to your business by searching terms like:
  • [your industry] directory
  • [your keyword] directory
  • Top [your industry] blogs

Key Google Changes

Google is always changing and evolving its algorthims and there are some changes with Google My Business too, including the following:
Google Posts: 
Google posts included in GMB gives business owners the chance to write short blog posts, announce new products, list news about the company and so on. Business owners should use this feature along with images or videos to grab the customer’s attention.
Posts can be between 100 to 300 words long and can contain any type of content the business sees relevant. The posts can also link back to the business’s website. A tracking link within the post can give the owner an idea of whether or not the post is generating interest in the business.
Q&A feature:  This feature allows customers to ask a business owner questions directly on the GMB listing. The business owner can upvote the good questions with their answers so that they appear first in the profile. Giving informative answers and upvoting good questions is one of the best ways to take advantage of the Q&A feature.
Chat & SMS:  
GMB has a chat feature that can be switched on and linked to a phone number. Business owners can select this feature to receive queries via SMS. The feature enables business owners to reply almost instantly to questions. The response time is displayed on the GMB profile; a quick response time can help the profile rank better in a Google search.
Longer Description:  
The 750-character description should be used to its full extent, permitting you to add your areas of specialty and using the key words that will help ensure good rankings.  Make sure your language though is clear and accurate.
Appointments:  
The book an appointment feature allows customers to contact the business for an appointment directly from the GMB listing. 
The owner of the profile should use this feature to increase customer engagement by adding a URL that takes the customer directly to a landing page.

Conclusion

Fighting to climb the SERPs can be tough for businesses, especially if you’re a small law firm with limited resources.
But local SEO is critical to your law firm’s SEO (and general) success — 18 per cent of local mobile searches lead to a sale within one day.
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And as people rely more and more on search engines and reviews to find what they need, you’ll need to boost your local rankings to be found.
So climb the local SERPs by optimizing your website, producing great local content, acquiring citations, and earning reviews.
By improving your local SEO, you’ll increase your organic traffic, find more leads, and grow your business.
Don’t limit yourself to technical local SEO practices like citations and web optimization, though.
Build relationships with other relevant local firms and business organizations, join local organizations and become involved.
Local SEO isn’t a stand-alone endeavor either. You also need to use SEO and social media marketing to boost your rankings.
Online efforts are always a reflection of offline realities. If your business is bad, your reviews will be, too.
SEO continues to change, but establishing a great local SEO base will help hugely in continuing to maintain good rankings and traffic.
Just be sure you’re firm isn’t left behind.  Starting with these SEO steps will generate higher traffic (ie ‘clients’) and help your firm establish a great profile online.
For more information about SEO for your law firm you can enquire about a LawFuel Listing on LawFuelList, plus get content published on LawFuel to attract better rankings, online profile, backlinks . . and clients.
Contact LawFuel at: lawfuel@gmail.com