Local SEO campaigns are a crucial part of search engine optimization strategies for businesses such as law firms that want to increase their online visibility to attract new customers and clients.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re a personal injury attorney located in Jacksonville, Florida. You’d use local SEO techniques so that when potential clients search in Google for a term like “automobile accident attorney near me,” Google would compare your location to that of the searchers. After verifying your geographic proximity, and that you provide the desired services, your law firm could appear in the Google Map local pack for that keyword.
Ideally, you’d be listed as one of the top three listings in the local pack. That’s because those are the ones that searchers can see without needing to click on the “More places” link.
The local pack is a specific type of Google search result, one that shows local results that are connected to a searcher’s query. Here’s an example of what local pack results would look like for the keyword of “Jacksonville personal injury attorney”:
How to get into and stay visible in the local pack for desired keywords continues to evolve as Google makes changes to its local ranking algorithm. Local search is a mix of art and science, and it’s important for your law firm to adjust its strategy when changes are made without doing what’s called “algorithm chasing.” That’s when someone hears of an algorithm update or notices an unwanted change in a metric, and then hurries to make tactical adjustments without being strategic about them.
Although Google doesn’t always share the details of its ranking algorithms, it does provide a high-level look at how it ranks sites for local search: “Local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. These factors are combined to help find the best match for your search.
“For example, Google algorithms might decide that a business that’s farther away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer, and therefore rank it higher in local results.”
Let’s break this down:
- Relevance: Google is looking to see how closely a local listing matches what a particular searcher is seeking. For example, if someone is looking for a Jacksonville automobile accident attorney, and that’s a service you provide, there is relevancy.
- Distance: Google checks to see how geographically close a business is to the searcher.
- Prominence: This can mean online visibility or how well a brand is established.
As noted in Google’s explanation, their algorithm uses a blend of these three factors to make ranking decisions.
So, what does that mean for the local search campaign for your law firm?
You’lll need to determine your overall strategy, one that dovetails with Google’s algorithm, as well as deciding upon more granular tactics. After you implement your strategy and employ your tactics, monitor results and adjust as needed.
Here’s information that will help you to create the elements of your campaign:
Factors That Can Affect Local SEO Rankings
A quality local SEO campaign should contain the following components:
- Google My Business (GMB) optimization
- on-site optimization, especially in connection with NAP consistency (name, address and phone number)
- inbound link and citation strategies
- Google reviews
- location pages
- keyword research for your targeted area
- strategies that will help your local SEO campaign dovetail with your other online marketing efforts; you can find information about digital marketing for law firms in our SEO for lawyers guide.
Understanding Google My Business
Google My Business is a free tool provided by Google to help businesses like your law firm provide and manage their information in Google. When you have the correct information listed in GMB, this helps people in need of your services to know where you’re located, the hours you’re open, how to find and browse through your law firm’s website, and more.
Companies that verify their GMB account are two times as likely to have people see them as reputable firms, according to a study that Google commissioned a few years ago.
If, on the other hand, you don’t have a GMB account, then it isn’t possible for your law firm to appear in the Google Map local packs, which puts you at a significant disadvantage when large numbers of people use Google searches to find the services they need.
Although GMB is free to use, the setup and optimization process can take some time. It includes claiming and verifying your listing, and otherwise optimizing it strategically for best results. This involves writing an engaging business description that uses keywords appropriately, without crossing over into spam. You get 750 characters to write this, so do so thoughtfully. You’ll also need to select the appropriate categories/sub-categories, add eye-catching pictures, and more.
If you find it valuable, Google includes a Q&A section where you can answer questions people have about your firm. You can also create posts for your GMB page, allow potential clients to send private messages to you through the platform, and more.
Finally, a key step of optimizing your GMB is ensuring that your business name, address, and phone number (your NAP) is correct and consistent with what’s listed on your law firm’s website. If they don’t match, fix any incorrect information, ASAP.
Important Online Listing Sites for Law Firms
The idea of NAP consistency goes beyond making sure that what’s listed on your website matches your GMB. You’ll also want to ensure that there is NAP consistency on business listings for your law firm throughout the internet. If you’ve moved your office or changed your phone number, then it’s especially important to do a thorough NAP audit.
Google is getting increasingly better at identifying business information and checking it for consistency—and, when conflicting information is found, Google may consider your law firm to be less than trustworthy. If this happens, then this will likely cause your business to be less visible on Google than it otherwise would be. Plus, clients seeking your services may not be able to find you, and might go to a competitor.
If you find incorrect NAP information about your firm online, contact the webmaster and ask for a correction. Although obtaining NAP consistency can be tedious, it’s a fairly simple way to improve your law firm’s credibility in Google, which typically helps to improve local search rankings.
On an ongoing basis, get new citations for your firm by getting listed in new directories, particularly those with high domain authority scores, which range from 1 to 100. Directories for law firms with high scores include:
- Justia.com: 88
- FindLaw.com: 84
- Nolo.com: 74
- Avvo.com: 70
- Lawyers.com: 69
- LegalZoom.com: 69
- Martindale.com: 64
- LegalMatch.com: 62
- SuperLawyers.com: 60
- BestLawyers.com: 54
You can often get listed on the websites of professional associations you belong to. Also think about which local websites in your area are the go-to places for communities around you. See if there are opportunities for you to get listed on them.
Each time that you get listed in a directory, it adds another inbound link to your law firm’s website, which helps with local SEO and your site’s organic SEO.
When creating your plan for citations, think about your social media platforms and individual websites, too. What’s most important is to choose quality sites for citations and work on steadily increasing their number while continuing to monitor the accuracy of the information listed.
Because of automated aggregation tools, your law firm’s NAP information can appear on sites without your knowledge. So, checking NAP is an ongoing process, with errors needing to be corrected as quickly as possible to help prevent any negative impact on your local SEO rankings.
Getting Online Reviews
Another key factor in succeeding in local SEO is steadily getting online reviews. Getting Google Reviews is important, and you’ll also want to get reviews from other relevant sites, such as Yelp and the Better Business Bureau.
To help, we’ll describe the process of getting Google Reviews, which can help to guide you with other review sites, as well.
The first and most obvious step is to provide the quality of legal services that will cause people to say positive things about your law firm. But, that’s often not enough because busy people may not think about leaving online reviews or, if they do think about it, they may get distracted by the next thing on their list and not actually follow through. Or, they may not know the process.
Google is fine with you asking people to post reviews, and they’ve provided instructions. (Contrast that, for example, with Yelp that has a no-solicitation policy that imposes ranking penalties for offenders). Before you ask people to post a Google Review, create a link that will take your clients directly to where they can leave that review. Here’s how.
Then, send your clients your customized link, along with easy-to-follow instructions about how to post a review. Note that although it isn’t legit to specifically ask them to write a positive review or to offer them an incentive, you can select whom you ask. Send the request from an email address the clients will easily recognize, and write it in a personal way with a clear call to action. Also come up with a follow-up request for those who don’t respond to your first request.
Pace yourself. A steady supply of online reviews can help your law firm in local search results. But, if Google gets flooded with them, it can look suspicious and this strategy might backfire on you.
As one more “goes without saying” kind of thing, don’t buy fake reviews. It must have seemed like a good idea for some business owners in New York—at least until they got slammed with $350,000 in fines.
Here’s information about Google Reviews and customer engagement.
On-Page SEO for Local SEO
Besides providing your NAP in prominent and logical places on your website, optimize your website in ways that enhance your local SEO campaign. If your law firm has one location, include geo-targeted keywords in your pages and blog posts so that Google and site visitors are clear about where you’re located.
If you have multiple offices in multiple cities, create a location landing page that shares the city and state for each one, along with relevant contact information for each. Then, in the information listed for your first location—say, Jacksonville, Florida—link out to an optimized location page that focuses just on services provided at that office. Do the same for location number two, perhaps Orange Park, and so on. Create quality content for each location page, using relevant geo-targeted keywords.
Using Local Schema
Schema is markup data that helps Google and other search engines better understand the content of your website. Included in this is LocalBusiness schema that helps search engines to have a clearer understanding of addresses, phone numbers, and other location-specific pieces of information.
You can look at the local information found on each page of your site and then find the corresponding schema data. Code the content; test it by using Google’s Structured Data Testing tool; test your markup in Google’s Search Console; and then monitor to see if this improves your local search results. Tweak as needed. Because this process isn’t intuitive, Google has created a Structured Data Markup Helper.
Professional Local SEO Services
If you’re busy helping clients and are looking for a partner to assist with your digital marketing, local SEO services are our specialty.
Local SEO tactics can be a mystery, but we believe in transparency, showing you what we do and how well we’re doing it for you. As you can see in this lawyer case study, our customized SEO strategy for the featured law firm resulted in a 103% increase in the law firm’s local traffic, along with a 406% boost in their conversion rate.
If you’re ready to talk about how we can help your law firm achieve its local search goals, contact us online or by phone at 904-270-9778.