Google My Business is a tool that can help lawyers manage their online presence across Google Search and Maps. By verifying and editing your firm’s business information, you can help clients find you and tell them about your practice. It might actually be the most important online legal marketing tool. Here’s why:
It’s likely to command the best SERP real estate for searches on your name:
In many instances, it plays a significant role in a prospective client’s first-impression of your practice. No matter how someone hears about you, at some point, they’re likely to look you up online. One of the first things they’re likely to see is information populated by Google My Business. Information like:
- What former clients think of you and your law firm.
- What times of day your firm is open for business.
- Your firm’s contact information.
- Questions and answers about your practice.
- Images of you and your office.
It’s also the cornerstone of local pack listings, you know, like these:
Recently, Google has been making some serious updates to its My Business tool. Let’s take a look at some of these new features and how you can best leverage them at your firm.
Google My Business Posts
Posts are a relatively new feature. They provide you with an opportunity to publish content directly to Google search results! Here’s the view of the posts tab inside our Google My Business management dashboard:
You can use Google Posts to publish a variety of content about your firm. Some of the more obvious examples include:
- Firm events.
- Community service and charity activity
- Speaking engagements.
- Professional organization leadership positions.
- Information about your services.
You can also use Google Posts to highlight content from your blog or website. However, one of the most effective uses involves highlighting happy clients:
Here’s one way to do this. First, provide remarkable service that motivates a happy client to leave a review on your Google My Business listing. Second, head over to Small Thanks with Google. Next, search for your law firm or practitioner listing. Here’s an example for AttorneySync:
Next, click “Personalize Your Toolkit” to customize your testimonial. For use in Google Posts, I tend to prefer high-contrast styles and colors. Then click download. Extract your materials from your zip file. Now head back over to your Google My Business Posts interface. Click upload a post photo.
Navigate to the Social Media Images folder inside the Toolkit folder you downloaded from Small Thanks. Select a colorful image. Crop the image to fit inside the post. Next, write your post. Be sure to consider your professional ethical obligations. If it’s checked, be sure to uncheck the, “Make this post an event,” button. Also, make sure the “Add a button,” slider is in the “on” position. Select one of the provided calls to action (I tend to prefer learn more). Add a link to your site (maybe a bio page, service page, or contact page). Next, click preview. Finally, click Publish.
Now, go perform a search on your firm’s name (or your name if you posted to your practitioner page). If all went well, you should now see the post underneath your firm information:
Make sure you add Google Posts to your regular publishing workflow. It’s probably one of the most visible places you can publish to an audience that is searching for you.
Google My Business Messaging
Legal services consumers expect to be able to quickly and efficiently connect with lawyers. The more difficult you make it for your next client to contact you, the less likely they’ll actually become your next client. One way we’ve seen legal services consumers expect to connect with attorneys is through Google My Business’s Messaging function:
You can configure messaging to connect directly to a firm smartphone with text capabilities. Alternatively, you can use Google’s Allo messaging app. Caution: if you choose to configure messaging, make sure someone is actually responding to inquiries there. Otherwise, you’re more likely to motivate some unhappy reviews and questions in the q&a.
Google My Business Questions & Answers
Another Google My Business area to pay attention to is Questions & Answers:
Google recently opened the floodgates for users to be able to ask questions directly on Google My Business listings. While this presents a great opportunity to provide answers to commonly asked questions, it also presents a potential for “hidden negative reviews.” Here’s an example:
Hopefully, it’s obvious that the best defense against hidden negative reviews is providing exceptional client service. But let’s face it, if you practice long enough, you won’t please all of the people, all of the time. So, your next best defense is providing answers to questions here. I also encourage to be proactive. Anyone with a Google account is eligible to ask questions here. Find ways to encourage folks to start asking. Whitespark’s @DarrenShaw_ had a clever idea of hosting an AMA on his Google My Business Page and promoting it on Twitter:
I am Darren Shaw, Founder of Whitespark. We have Q&A on our Google listing now. Ask me anything: https://t.co/E1Td7OqVhQ Serious and ridiculous questions are both welcome.
— Darren Shaw (@DarrenShaw_) December 18, 2017
Google My Business Videos (Coming Soon)
Local SEO super-genius, Joy Hawkins, recently noticed that the option to upload videos to a Google My Business listing finally arrived for one of her clients:
Needless to say, video in Google My Business will offer attorneys a powerful way to communicate with potential clients. Video posts that illustrate a lawyer’s knowledge, skill, and experience can be particularly persuasive in terms of motivating a prospective client to inquire about the lawyer’s services.
Google My Business Booking Button (Coming Soon for Law Firms)
Last fall, Google introduced Reserve with Google for select local business categories. While I haven’t yet seen this option available for law firms, my guess is that it’s only a matter of time before Google adds legal.
In the meantime, you should consider adding an Appointment URL:
This might be as simple as a link to your contact page. However, it could also be something else, like a live chat link that lives on your site. Again, the idea here is to make it easier for clients and prospective clients to contact your firm.
Tracking Parameters in Google My Business Listings
While Google My Business does provide some basic account data on the Insights tab, many SEOs have already recognized the value of adding tracking parameters to Google My Business URLs. Doing this allows you to independently track GMB listing data in Google Search Console! You can realize use any parameter scheme you like, however, keep in mind that if you use utm parameters, make sure you understand their impact on analytics data (i.e. source, medium, etc).
Google My Business Guidelines
Finally, it’s always worth saying a few words about the guidelines for representing your business on Google. I see smart lawyers screw this up all of the time. First, remember to use your real firm Name, Address, and Phone. Don’t try to stick category keywords into the name field. Yes, I know that this “works” to bump rankings, at least for a little while. Here’s the thing, people are actively looking to report businesses that do this. Eventually, Google may up the ante and add a more serious penalty to businesses that do this. In my view, it’s not worth the risk if you’re in it for the long-haul. Second, use the more specific category for your practice. I know that some firms work in a variety of practice areas. Unfortunately, Google’s world doesn’t quite match the real world, at least not yet. Adding every category that’s even loosely relevant to what you do, tends to negatively dilute the category signaling to Google, which can impact for which queries your listing appears. Third, carefully consider whether you should add practitioner pages for each lawyer in your practice. While practitioner can add additional real estate to your search presence, they can also compete with one another. Furthermore, it’s worth considering what happens if/when a lawyer leaves your practice (Hint: They take their practitioner page with them and all the reviews.
Of course, staying active on Google My Business is just table stakes for local rankings. If you really want to improve your local ranking on Google, focus on Prominence:
Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be prominent in local search results.
Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.
Put even more simply, focus on topically and geographically relevant local links from real websites.
Questions? Comments are open!