Local SEO for Lawyers

The internet has almost completely replaced yellow books as the place people go to look up business information. Many Google searches for lawyers return search results that contain local results. In fact, for mobile device users, as many as 50%+ of Mobile queries have Local intent. So, for lawyers who depend on local searchers for new business, understanding local SEO ranking factors and local marketing ideas can make a big difference in how much the phone rings.

Many local search experts agree the major local ranking factors include: Place Page Signals, External Location Signals, On-page Signals and Link Signals.

Place Page Signals

Place page signals include “stuff” related to your firm’s Google Places Page (or Google+ Local Page). This includes:

  • Business categorization
  • Whether your firm’s physical address matches the user’s city
  • The consistency of structured business citations
  • HTML name, address and phone matching place page name, address, phone.

While some business owners try to “game” these signals, in my experience, you’re much better off complying with the Google Places Quality Guidelines. To me, the risk of violating the guidelines and getting your local listing “nuked” just isn’t worth any relative temporary advantage you might be able to obtain. But that’s just me.

A couple things that lawyers need to be especially cognizant of with regard to their Place Pages:

  • Don’t use P.O. Boxes.
  • Don’t use practice descriptive keywords in your business title (use your firm name).
  • Don’t create listings for every practice area in which you work.
  • Don’t create multiple listings for a location or lawyer.

The quality guidelines permit lawyers to create a single listing for each real office location, as well as, each lawyer. There are reasons that you might decide not to create a listing for each lawyer, but generally speaking, you should create a listing for each lawyer.

Finally, depending on your state’s Rules of Professional Responsibility, you should remove the friction from the process for happy clients to leave positive reviews on your Places Pages (and elsewhere).

External Local / Location Signals

External local signals include the “stuff” that Google finds “around the web” about your firm. These include things like:

  • Consistent name, address, phone citations on internet yellow page sites.
  • The quantity of these citations.
  • Review signals on these sites.

The good folks at GetListed.org have provided some helpful resources for local business citations by category and city. For attorneys, their recommendations include:

  • FindLaw.com
  • Lawyers.com
  • YellowPages.com
  • SuperPages.com
  • Justia.com
  • YoutTube.com
  • Nolo.com
  • Avvo.com
  • HG.org
  • Yahoo.com

Many of the above listings are paid, meaning you have to pay a subscription to be listed there. You’ll have to decide for yourself how these fit into your firm’s marketing plan and how much of your marketing budget should be allocated to these listings. Again, the purpose of these listings is to improve your visibility in local search results and not necessarily as a source of traffic and client inquiries (although ones that do both are preferable).

On-page Signals

On-page signals include the “stuff” that Google finds on your web pages. These include things like:

  • The existence of your firm’s name, address and local phone number on your pages.
  • The use of local keywords in page titles and other HTML sections of your pages.
  • Your pages’ relative authority (i.e. link signals, which we’ll discuss below).

Unfortunately, this is one of the areas that is most abused by local business owners, and is rampant with lawyers and their SEO consultants.

If you use WordPress, you should check out Yoast’s Local SEO WordPress Plugin.

My advice, don’t create pages for the sake of ranking in local results. That means don’t create pages for every iteration of local search phrase that you can think of. That’s just spamming the results and is likely to eventually lead to loss of visibility in results or even a manual webspam action.

Instead, think of what the people who you want to attract to your site might be looking for on a local level. For example, if your firm assists injury victims, you might provide local injury resources pages. These pages might include information about local rehabilitation locations, hospitals, etc. Here’s one example (disclaimer: my company assisted with this project).

Link Signals

Yes, even in the post-penguin search world, links still matter. Acquiring quality, relevant inbound links is a major factor in local search too. And by now, it should go without saying that not all links are created equal.

For local search, you should focus on hyper-local sites to acquire links. Here are a few ideas:

  • Related local businesses
  • Local non-profits
  • Local blogs
  • Local schools
  • Local news sites
  • Local professional societies and organizations

Broken record time: Not all links are created equal.

Focus on acquiring links from real sites. Not sites that exist for the sole purpose of link building. Also, I recommend against paying for links. Especially from sites that are advertising links for sale. You’ll hear other SEOs advocate for buying links, but Google’s been pretty clear about their policy on buying links. There’s not doubt, it can work. But again, it’s about risk assessment. If you’re playing the short-term rankings game, by all means, knock yourself out. But if you’re looking to build true long-term visibility in organic search results, skip it.

Honorable Mention Signals

Perhaps not as significant as the above-listed signals, here are a few more you should concentrate on:

  • Social signals (i.e. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn likes, shares, +1′s, mentions, etc)
  • Review signals – I think this one is actually more important than many people recognize.
  • Mobile signals – I think this is another one that is likely to gain more importance as more people access the web via mobile devices.

In the end, much of local search marketing for attorneys is just like regular old-fashioned marketing. Do great work for clients. That will motivate them to talk about you, leave positive reviews of your service, mention you on social platforms and even link to you. See how it’s all connected?

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Gyi Tsakalakis

About Gyi Tsakalakis

Gyi Tsakalakis helps lawyers put their best foot forward online because that's where clients are looking for them. He's a Co-Founder of AttorneySync and regular contributor to Lawyerist, Attorney at Work and Lawyernomics. If you have a question or an idea for a post, don't hesitate to contact him.

Website: http://www.attorneysync.com/
Email: gt@attorneysync.com
More posts:View all posts by Gyi Tsakalakis

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