Each month, there are approximately 7 billion unique local searches done on Google in the U.S. Many of those represent prospects in your local community looking for the very services you offer. You can improve your visibility in the local search rankings by taking a few easy steps.
Optimize Your Website
There are some very basic updates that you can and should make to your law firm website to improve your local search rankings, the most important of which is optimizing the title and meta descriptions on every page.
SEO titles should be approximately 50 to 60 characters and should include your location. Meta descriptions should be approximately 160 to 200 characters and should include your most important keyword, placed at the beginning. Not only is the meta description important for search engines, but it’s the text that prospects see in search results, so be sure to include copy that will inspire them to click on the link to your website!
Another website element that factors into your local search rankings is how quickly pages of your website load. Optimally, pages should load in 3 seconds or less. You can check your site load speed using Google’s Page Speed Insights tool.
Whether your website is mobile responsive and secure are also important factors that are considered in local search. Secure websites use HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) to securely transmit information. With a standard HTTP connection, it’s possible for unauthorized parties to access the information being exchanged between your website and website visitor.
You can tell if your website is secure by viewing the URL. If it starts with https://, then the site is secure. Most browsers will also display a lock icon somewhere along the edge of the window to indicate the website you are currently visiting is secure. If your site is not secure, it’s easy to obtain an SSL certificate from your web hosting company and migrate to HTTPS. You’ll be improving your local search rankings, while protecting visitors to your website.
Build Complete, Consistent Citations & Directory Listings
A citation is any mention of your law firm on the web, with or without an accompanying link. Citations may include any or all of the following: firm name, address, phone number, and/or a link to your website. Of course, the more complete the citation, the better. Citations may be references to your law firm, such as mentions in news articles or social media or they may be more structured, such as directory listings on platforms such as yellowpages.com, avvo.com, or your local chamber of commerce website.
Speaking of directory listings, there are literally thousands of directories available to list your firm in, so you’ll want to be strategic about where you invest your time and effort. You should absolutely start with establishing your presence on Google My Business (GMB). Begin by claiming and verifying your listing, then be sure to fully optimize it by including a description of your law firm, selecting the appropriate categories and adding as much additional information as you can – your business hours, types of payments you accept, etc. Don’t forget to upload your logo and any images and/or videos that would interest your clients and prospects. Information that you include in this listing will appear in Google Maps, Google+, and Google search results.
Once you’ve completed your GMB listing, move on to other important core listings, such as Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, and Facebook. Next up, work on legal niche directories including Search Attorneys, Avvo, Super Lawyers, etc., followed up by local and hyper-local directories, which can include local media sites and local business directories.
You likely already have listings in a lot of these directories, just waiting for you to claim and update. Google your law firm name to find which directories you have listings in, then begin to build out your listings. Be sure to include more than just your basic contact info. Prospects are looking for additional information, such as your hours of operation, service offerings, and other relevant information.
Having the correct, CONSISTENT contact information on all of your online assets, including your website, social media accounts, directory listings, and citations is not only important for prospects who are looking for you, but it’s also vital for SEO. In fact, it’s considered one of the most important factors in local search ranking. Having outdated or inaccurate information will lower your visibility in search results and make it difficult for prospects to find you.
Obtain Client Reviews
Recent studies have found that 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so reviews are playing an increasingly important role in search engine rankings. Since both search engines and consumers are looking at your reviews to determine how you stack up against your competition, gathering some of those reviews is well worth a little time and effort.
Some best practices for easily obtaining and leveraging your client testimonials:
- Know your state bar rules – some states prohibit soliciting reviews
- Get permission – make sure your client approves before you post that thank you note they sent, singing your praises
- Don’t “borrow” reviews from third-party sites – if one of your clients has left a great review on Google, don’t copy and publish it on your website. Not only will your client possibly be unhappy, but Google will be too
- Clients must leave reviews using their own devices and accounts. While it may seem like a good idea to provide a computer or iPad for clients to post a review while right in your office, all of your reviews will be coming from the same IP address and therefore will be filtered out of search results
- Make it easy for your clients to post reviews on your Google+, Avvo, and other profiles by providing links to those platforms
- 7 out of 10 customers will leave a review if asked, so be sure to ask EVERY happy client – systematize the process!
SEO is a long-term investment of time and effort, so implementing these 3 easy steps won’t result in a #1 ranking overnight, but by consistently publishing quality content, accumulating stellar client reviews, and building valuable citations, your law firm website will soon be outranking the competition.
Director, Web and Online Marketing Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128