If you haven't noticed, competition for Google real estate is fierce. It wasn't all too long ago that search results could be broken into two general categories, organic and paid. Today, with universal search, we know that search results include news, video, map, and socially modified listings. And while all of these should be considered for online professional reputation development, in my experience, organic local listings are demonstrating the most value.
While there are a variety of reasons for this, the two most significant are probably changes in the way people use search to find local businesses and the changes in the way that Google is inferring local search intent.
While research type searches may eclipse local business searches, not surprisingly, local business searches generally convert into an inquiry at a higher rate. It stands to reason that people searching for a local service provider are more likely to contact a service provider than those that are merely researching an issue.
For example, someone looking for a plumber or dry cleaning service is more likely to contact such a businesss than someone who is researching how to fix a leaking pipe or how to get a stain out of a silk blouse.
In fact, many of users the that search for local businesses, and are served local organic results, will call businesses without ever clicking-through to the business owner's website. They may call after visiting a Google Places profile or even directly from the phone number listed on the result page.
While legal professionals may not appreciate being "shopped for" in this manner, it is undeniable that it happens every single day. In fact, with the increase in local search visibility, in some instances, we have seen increases in tracked phone calls with overall site traffic remaining the same.
Couple this with the increased appearance of localized results, and the additional value of local results for local businesses is clear.
If you haven't done so already, you ought to claim your Google Places profile and optimize it. You should also visit GetListed.org and register their profile recommendations.
There are several valuable legal directories worth consideration. Even directories that don't generate inquiries have value in terms of increasing your firm's visibility in local results.
Finally, you should find ways to increase the number of client and professional reviews on your various local profiles. Of course, this starts with providing great service. However, you may be surprised to see how many more positive reviews you will receive by helping clients facilitate the online review process.
If you're creating happy clients, chances are that they are more than willing to leave a positive testimonial. Unfortunately, many of them may not know how to go about it or may simply forget by the time they leave your office.
Of course, it is critically important that you understand your state bar's rules with regard to testimonials before you take any action to encourage online reviews.
While profile optimization and online reviews are unlikely to jettison you to the top of local results by themselves (especially in competitive online landscapes), they are the foundation of local signals that search engines use to order local organic results.