If part of your client development plan includes attracting potential clients on a local level, then you should spend some time understanding how to improve your law firm's local ranking on Google.
Local legal search results are delivered to people who search for attorneys and law firm near their location. It's also worth noting that these results are shown across a variety of places across Maps and Search.
For example, Google will likely show local results if you search for “personal injury lawyer” from your smartphone.
We've know for a long time some of the major local search ranking factors. Recently, Google provided some additional documentation about how businesses can improve their local rankings. While most of this information isn't new, there are a few things that might be worth re-prioritizing.
Google has historically broken these factors into three major categories:
Relevance boils down to how well your firm or practitioner listings match the search. Improving relevance comes down to completing and maintaining your firm's business information (i.e. name, address, phone, category, description, etc).
Distance relates to the physical distance between your firm and the location information used in a search. Unless you're willing to relocate, there's not much you can do to influence distance.
Finally, there's prominence. Prominence is a calculation of well-known your firm is in Google's eyes. This includes information that Google can find about your firm across the web (i.e. links to your site, articles, and even some directories).
Google has also confirmed that:
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.
Let's walk through this.
First, Google confirms that review count, as well as, score are factored into their local results. This is yet just one more reason to deliver remarkable service to clients. Niki Black and I briefly chatted about this at ABA Techshow:
This is one reason why listening to what clients think about you is so important. Fortunately, it appears that Google now allows reviews to be left with just a Google account (Google Plus no longer needed).
Combining this update with other recent Google updates, we can confidently say that OMG, It's Links also applies to local search.
Couple these updates with some of the things we know from Google's search quality rater guidelines, particularly those related to your money or your life pages, and the direction in which Google is headed becomes clearer and clearer. Put simply, if you're not adding information to your sites that other people find useful and trustworthy, you're going to have an increasingly difficult time appearing in local search results. Plus, of course, you're likely going to have to pay for visibility (i.e. AdWords and potentially a local paid platform).
If you're interested in learning more about how local search works, be sure to check out the Local Search Forum's Featured Local Search Articles.
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