The single most important online marketing technique for lawyers and how to best implement it.
1. How important is Google Local to a law firm’s online marketing?
8 or 9 on a 10 scale. It is the most valuable and cost-effective tool in your web marketing arsenal. If you are struggling to rank organically, switch a material portion of your efforts to ranking for Local.
You don’t need a dynamic website with lots of content to succeed with Local. And Local conversion rates are 60% higher than organic and 80% higher than PPC.
2. What is the trick to succeeding with Local?
Local is mostly built around having consistent business citations and 100%-complete profile development. There is a right and a wrong way to go about obtaining these, but this is work that firms can do internally. And the benefits arrive quickly.
3. What is a business citation?
A directory listing. Name, address, phone number, or NAP. Google primarily looks at 200 directory listings. A few examples in alpha sequence are Avvo, CitySearch, HG.org, YellowPages, and Yelp.
The process sounds easy, but it is astonishing how many attorneys have varied, inaccurate, or few listings in directories. The most common error law firms make is having incomplete profiles. You should add as much content to the listings as is allowed, including photos and videos.
And your listings must be consistent, with every letter and character exactly the same. Lastly, make sure a staffer does not use his or her personal email and password when creating your listings, or you will lose the ability to change that listing if the staffer moves on. We unfortunately see that problem frequently.
4. Are paid directories more valuable than free directories?
In general, yes. Paid directories typically have a higher PageRank and Google trusts them more. That is why they can charge you. But it only makes financial sense to be on some of the paid directories.
5. Do reviews affect Google Local rankings?
I believe so. They definitely affect prospect contact rates.
6. If a law firm has multiple locations, should it have multiple listings?
Yes, you should create a different listing for each location.
7. If you are just starting out with Google Local, how should you proceed?
First, research keywords. Understand what search phrases are actually generating Local results. Most firms miss this step.
Second, build out your profiles using those keywords. There is a right way and wrong way to go about this, which can take awhile to explain.
Third, focus on your primary practice area. Do not, for example, attempt to be a criminal lawyer and a family lawyer in the same listing. Google has a very singular focus with their Local account listings.
Be sure to complete your Google Places listing completely. Supply photos, videos, topics, business hours, etc. Then replicate that Places listing on the primary 52 directory sites. And connect the Google map on your Contact Us page to your Google Places account.
LINKS FROM TRUSTED SITES
8. How important is link building?
Obtaining high-quality links is extremely helpful to your site’s Google ranking. You should strive to over time create a diversified link profile from trusted sites. It is an easy goal to state, but hard to pull off.
Examples of high-quality links are .gov, .edu, org, or PR3-PR7 .com links. [Editor: PR stands for PageRank, Google’s technique for assessing the trustworthiness of a website.]
What you don’t want to do is to ask an agency to, for example, “Build 300 links to my site this month.” You want to grow your inbound links incrementally, and you want to focus on quality links. Set a goal of obtaining 2-3 links a week.
9. How do I obtain these links?
It is about relationships and outreach. Maybe you work with several charitable organizations. Ask them to link from their .org sites to yours.
10. My prior link-building efforts backfired, and my site’s ranking suffered. What do I do now?
Google’s Penguin update probably penalized your site for a low-quality or poor backlink profile. 9 times out of 10 when a law firm site nosedived it was because of a bad link profile.
Ask your SEO provider to run a back link profile report, and tell them to be candid with you about how bad it is. Then put them to work cleaning up the problem by disavowing the bad links. If they created the bad links, then it might be time for a new provider.
11. What are your recommendations about content?
Well written content for Google is great, but well written content for your prospective client is even better. That is what Google has been preaching for a long time, and that is what law firms should be providing.
Many attorneys miss this critical point. They write generally on a legal subject instead of writing content to address a prospect’s need for information. Prospects have questions. They rarely search for a topic. Answer questions – the same questions you field on the phone and in person from your prospects and new clients.
I will visit a personal injury site, and I will see every topic from catastrophic injury, to brain injury, to rear end collision. But the site doesn’t tell me what to do if I’ve been in a rear end collision. The site doesn’t talk about the possible outcomes if my loved one has a traumatic brain injury. Some of the good sites do, but most don’t.
12. How do you rank pay-per-click ads for law firms?
I give them a 5 on a 10-scale. It is not feasible for law firms to rank for every key phrase they want to target, so PPC can fill gaps.
The key is to target phrases which are less expensive and convert well.
PPC can be expensive, and its conversion rate is low, so it should not be the cornerstone of any law firm’s online marketing over the long term.
Law firms should instead take a diversified approach to their online marketing, using a little PPC, some SEO, and a lot of Google Local, quality content creation, and link building from trusted sites.
Travis Hise is a veteran legal marketer and the president of James Publishing. If you have questions about any of Travis’ advice, or want him to take a closer look at your firm’s marketing, you may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 714-918-1848. He enjoys talking about law firm marketing with attorneys.