According to Google, nearly two-thirds of smartphone users are likely to purchase from companies that customize online information to a user’s location.
In today’s high-tech society, it’s not enough to have a tastefully designed sign outside of your office or to hand out business cards at every local function you attend. With so many potential clients turning to local search to find business or legal services, it’s imperative that the online presence of your business or practice is well-optimized.
What exactly does that mean?
A company’s rank in Google My Business (GMB) results can be boiled down to three distinct areas of focus:
Enhancing your listing in all of these areas can help you rank in the top three spots in Google local search (also known as Google’s three-pack or rich cards). But before you can optimize a GMB listing, you have to create or claim one. We won’t get into that here, but Moz has an informative article on how to do it.
Our agency has worked with hundreds of law firms over the years, and a common thread among all of them is that a presence in local search is a vital step in earning new business. The same is also true for the millions of local businesses out there (and even national brands with a local presence) who need to be relevant for local audiences.
Relevance: First On The Local SEO Checklist
Relevance is a staple of Google’s algorithm and attorneys, business owners and marketers need to make their GMB profile as relevant as possible to what searchers are using to find them.
Here’s how you can do that in a GMB profile:
• Choose an accurate category. For example, don’t just pick “attorney” if you’re a personal injury lawyer and if that option is available.
• Add practice area and business descriptions. Google allows up to 1,000-word descriptions on business profiles. Use all the space if you can, and add keyword phrases relevant to your practice areas.
• Complete and detail business information. Include accurate name, address and phone number information (something local SEO companies refer to as NAP) to your profile. This information should also be consistent across the internet.
The goals here are to make sure the profile is filled out as completely as possible and also to use every opportunity to fill it with relevant information about your firm and the type of business you run or law you practice.
Distance: Strategies For Location-Based Searches
Google tends to favor businesses that are closest to where a searcher is, and this is one of the most influential factors for GMB results rankings.
Of course, there isn’t much that businesses can do about that but they can increase the likelihood of relevance by creating location-based pages on their site and linking them to their GMB profiles as well as other profiles on the web.
I should point out that this only works within reason and business owners or marketers should use this tactic regardless of where they are located. Here are some tactics for making an effective location page:
• Select a high-volume keyword phrase that has location intent. Typically, for an attorney, this will be “practice area” plus “city name.” For example, “personal injury lawyer Philadelphia.”
• Create a page on your site targeting this phrase.
• Include the phrase in your page title, headings, page copy, meta description and image file names.
• Include your name, address and phone number on the page.
• Include the phrase in your page permalink as such: example.com/city-name/target-keyword-phrase/
Prominence: Where Businesses And Practices Can Set Themselves Apart
This is where a company can really get ahead of the competition in local search. The prominence of GMB profiles can be improved in many ways. Some of these things are included in the profiles themselves while others are included as part of a broader SEO strategy.
Here’s what you do:
• Images: Add as many images as you can to your GMB profile. Ensure you have more images than competing firms in your area.
• Reviews: Get as many reviews on your GMB profile as you can as well as other top sites around the web like Facebook and Yelp. It’s important to disclose that you must follow your state bar guidelines as it relates to reviews and that Yelp discourages profiles from openly soliciting reviews.
• Permanent Signage: Google attempts to mimic the weight of businesses in the offline world. The more prominent you can make your firm in the offline world, the more that will translate online.
• Citations And Links: A more enhanced web presence overall will translate to better local rankings. Work on building out citations (mentions of your firm name on other sites) as well as inbound links to your website. Yext is a great tool for building citations.
If you are opening up a new location for your firm, Joy Hawkins of Sterling Sky offers some great tips for getting a profile to rank well. Here are some additional tips:
• The location needs to be staffed during business hours (no empty offices rented only for an address)
• The staff at the location has to be yours (no virtual offices)
• Avoid sharing an office with another lawyer as this can cause filtering issues
• Also avoid things like co-working spaces and virtual offices (your office needs to stand apart from everyone else)
• Have permanent signs visible from street view
Final Thoughts On Local Search
This is the short list of local SEO tactics. There are many more pieces to the puzzle as well as a solid overarching strategy that needs to be put in place to rank well in location-based search. The more robust your overall SEO campaign is, the better chances you’ll have of ranking your GMB profile in the top spot.