One of the most important places for your law firm to “get found” online is within Google’s local business listings called Google Places.
However, like law firm websites, Google doesn’t treat all local law firm listings the same. Luckily, Google provides several quality guidelines and best practices for claiming, completing, and optimizing your law firm’s Google Places listing.
Google Explains How Google Places Works:
Each business listing on Google is in fact a giant ‘cluster’ of information that we get from a few different places: Yellow Pages, for example, as well as other third-party providers. However, the basic information that you submit through Google Places is the information that we trust the most. This means that it will appear instead of any basic information that we get from anywhere else. To make sure the basic information you submit is accurate, we’ll ask you to verify it first by entering a PIN that will be sent to either your business address or phone number.
You can add other information to your listing too — such as a description of your business, for example, as well as photos, reviews, or information about hours and parking costs — that will also appear above similar information from other providers.
As you will notice, Google has a very specific verification process to make sure that your law firm’s information is accurate. Claiming and verifying your listing is one of the most important factors in getting results from your listing.
The first issue of which to be aware is that your law firm’s listing in Google Places needs to contain accurate physical location information.
Like other areas of online marketing, you will want to represent your law firm exactly as it appears in the offline world. Be sure to match your firm’s name, address, phone number and website.
Google advises that you should not use extraneous keywords or a description of your business into the business name. However, we have found it beneficial to use some descriptive words inside your listings title. As with other areas of optimization, the key is for the listing to appear natural.
Google also discourages users from including phone numbers or URLs in the business name. We also do not advocate using numbers and URLs in the title area.
Here are some additional quality guidelines from Google:
- Do not create listings at locations where the business does not physically exist.
- PO Boxes do not count as physical locations.
- Do not create more than one listing for each business location, either in a single account or multiple accounts.
- Businesses that operate in a service area as opposed to a single location should not create a listing for every city they service. Service area businesses should create one listing for the central office of the business only.
- Businesses with special services, such as law firms and doctors, should not create multiple listings to cover all of their specialties.
- The precise address for the business must be provided in place of broad city names or cross-streets.
- A property for rent is not considered a place of business. Please create one listing for the central office that processes the rentals. If you’d like, you can add your real estate properties to Google Maps so that they are available on our Real Estate layer.
In our experience in managing local online marketing for our clients, we have found that consistency is one of the most important factors. Being consistent with the names and descriptions you use for your law firm across the web is a key factor in increasing your firm’s visibility for local searches.
Generally speaking, the better you are able to describe your firm as it appears in the offline world, the better visibility you will get.
Finally, don’t stop at Google Places. Keep in mind that Google, as well as other search engines and local directories, uses a variety of data sources to assign authority, and therefore, visibility to your listing. In other words, make sure that your law firm is properly listed in places like Avvo, Yelp!, the online Yellow Pages, etc.
If you’re looking for more information on local search marketing for your law firm, one of the best resources on the web is David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors. This is probably the foremost resource on the subject of local business search marketing. In addition to weighing the relative importance of various factors, David also lists the professional opinions of several local search marketing experts.
There is no question that local search marketing is an important piece of building a well-rounded online presence for your law firm. This is especially true in light of some of the new local search changes with which Google has been experimenting.