Recently in Local SEO Category

August 19, 2011

Google Related: The Competition Now Has A Listing On Your Firm's Website

Google recently announced the launch of Google Related.

Now with Google Related, a new Chrome Extension and Google Toolbar feature, you'll automatically see interesting content relevant to what's on the page you're viewing, right where you're viewing it.

Here is a video that describes the new tool in more detail:




The Competition Is No Longer Just A Click Away.....

Now they are a scroll over, from a visitor's mouse, on your own website. As you can see from the screenshot below, the visitor can simply mouse over the "Related Places" and see links to your competition:

related.png

Over at the Marketing Pilgrim they discuss some interesting ramifications:

While the additional information is striking for the end user it can be a web site owner's worst nightmare. Why? Well, Google's Related Places from their Place Page data is put front and center for your visitor to see. Now we are seeing what Google had planned for some of the information they recently stripped from their place pages.

Now, more than ever a businesses website better keep a visitor's attention. Right now, not all sites are seeing the extension pop up but in the local space it looks like it is the vast majority of sites are seeing the bar with this additional information.

Now the competition isn't just in the SERP's but it can come up on you're your own website! I liken it to being in a store that is running ads for their competitors on big screens while you try to shop at the store. Not ideal for a businesses in most cases.

Google Related Is Not Everywhere

One thing to keep in mind is that Google Related needs to be installed as an extension with Chrome or an Internet Explorer user needs to have a Google Toolbar in order to use it. This means that only a small percentage of the total searches performed will have an end user with access to Google Related at this time.

What This Means To You

This means that you should be paying attention to the type of content and engagement you are offering on your website. It's no longer as simple as generating a high ranking and getting a click. You have to pay closer attention to what you are offering once a visitor arrives on the site. If you have thin content, a suspect design, poor architecture, etc. than it's getting even easier for a potential client to find someone else who is able to offer the visitor what they are looking for.

July 28, 2011

Google Places: Updates To The Look But Not The Algorithm

Google recently revamped the layout and look of their Places pages. They made a number of changes including removal of the review snippets from 3rd party sites, an aesthetic redesign for a cleaner look, more prominent call to action buttons, and removal of "More About This Place" results which gave insight into citations Google found for a Places page.

What the leading experts in the local space have stressed is that you should not confuse the updated look to mean there is a new algorithm.

Let's take a closer look at the various changes.

Cleaner Look & Streamlined Information

Google updated the look of the Places page to make it more streamlined and clean. The reviews and the call to action for users to leave a review have been made more prominent.

Citations: Places pages used to have a section called "More About This Place" which showed other web pages that referenced the business. These citations essentially serve a similar purpose for local visibility as links do for traditional SEO. The disappearance of these citations from the page does NOT mean that they don't remain an important part of your local strategy. It simply means that mining a competitors Places page for citation sources is no longer a viable strategy.

Review snippets: There was quite a bit of push back from other review aggregators (such as Yelp, CItysearch, and Tripadvisor) when Google started to show snippets of those third-party reviews on Google's Places page. There is even an ongoing antitrust investigation part of which involves this specific issue. Google has decided to pull the snippets of reviews from 3rd party review sites. Instead there are links at the bottom of the Places page pointing directly to the review sites.

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Best Practices For Local Search Still Remain

What is important to note is that even with all the interface changes, the best practices for local search still remain. Citations are still important as are getting reviews on a variety of 3rd party websites. The absence of these from the redesigned Places page does NOT mean that they are no longer a component of the local algorithm.

June 16, 2011

Why You Don't Need A Google Maps Optimization Company

There was a time, before October of 2010, that a law firm might have outsourced their "Google Maps Optimization" to one company and the "traditional SEO" to another. Some of you might be thinking, "I still have two different companies working on my Google Maps and SEO". This shouldn't be necessary any longer. Let me explain.

Before October 2010

Prior to the local update from Google in October 2010 there were two separate algorithms used to serve up results. The first was an algorithm for local/Google Map results which was often called the 10-pack or 7-pack. This would appear on top of the traditional SEO results when someone performed a search with local intent.

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Google's other algorithm determined the traditional organic results that we are accustomed to.

The Birth of A Niche SEO Industry

The high visibility of the Google Maps results, along with the fact that a separate algorithm determined which results showed up, gave birth to a niche of SEO companies specializing in Google Maps optimization. Since law firms are for the most part local or regional businesses, many signed up with these companies.

After October 2010

Google made a significant change in October of 2010 to the way they integrated Google Maps results into the search result pages. The most significant change was that there were no longer 2 separate algorithms being used. Components of the Google Maps algorithm had been integrated into the main algorithm. Additionally, the results page itself changed so that instead of having a separate maps section, many local searches turned up "hybrid" result listings that had links to a firm's website, their places page, their address and phone number, reviews, photos, etc. right on the page.

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The Winners

The firms that came out on top after the switch are the ones that had a well-rounded SEO campaign. They paid attention to local factors such as citation building and consistency with your firm name, address, and phone number. They also paid attention to more traditional SEO factors such as link building, on-page optimization, site architecture, etc.

The End Result

An agency that is performing local SEO tasks for your law firm should be handling all these components for you. Because the new algorithm took all of these factors into account, performing proper SEO for a law firm includes paying attention to local factors as well as more traditional SEO factors.

If you hire a firm that says they only handle Google Maps optimization, you are essentially buying a car from them that doesn't have any wheels. In other words, just doing a few of the tasks important for local visibility, while ignoring the traditional SEO work, isn't going to get you results.

March 2, 2011

Where to Get Citations to Improve Your Law Firm's Local Search Rankings

If you have spent anytime building your professional reputation online, you have probably come across information about local search marketing. And if you have read anything worth its salt on local search marketing, you probably should have read something about business citations. But how and where should you get these citations? Here are some places to add to your spreadsheet for consideration for getting local citations for your law firm.

Continue reading "Where to Get Citations to Improve Your Law Firm's Local Search Rankings" »

December 4, 2010

Review Quality vs. Quantity

As Jeff discussed over at AttorneySync's lawyer marketing blog, a recent embarrassment for Google has prompted an algorithm change that may have consequences to your law firm's local positions and your local web strategy.

On Mihmorandum, David Mihm talks about how this incident may impact Google's use of reviews in its algorithm:

Thing is, Local Search experts have long speculated that the valence of reviews has had an extremely low, if any, impact on rankings, whereas the volume of reviews has always been considered one of the strongest factors. Many of us have noted how puzzled we were that this was the case but this bias (or lack thereof, I suppose) has been pretty obvious for awhile.

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Google announced it has updated its algorithm as a result of all this negative publicity, to take into account some of its sentiment analysis capabilities, prompting outcry from various corners of the web that Google was becoming a further moral arbiter of how to do business, rather than returning relevant results. It's a fine line, but frankly as a searcher in this case, I'd side with Google on this update.

I would agree that the importance of volume of reviews is on a steady decline and that the quality of reviews is increasing. However, Google has a problem here. Aren't bad reviews something that consumers should know about?

By burying businesses listings that receive negative reviews, Google may effectively create a chilling effect on the voices of dissenting reviewers.

To me, the problem of serving "the best" results to users is far more complicated than simply deciding between local businesses that have positive and negative reviews. While review quantity and quality are undoubtedly signals, more advanced algorithmic factors are necessary to provide quality results for local searches.

Nonetheless, law firms that provide an easy way for their clients to post reviews will have more success with local search engine visibility. If you're looking for ways to increase your reviews online, be sure to check with your state bar's rules on this subject.

December 1, 2010

Why Is Local Search Important For Law Firms?

Search engines have completely changed how we research, learn, collaborate, and find things online. According to the local search experts at GetListed.org:

Today there are well over 10 billion unique searches done each month, and that's just in the United States! Of those searches,

40% of queries have Local intent (1)
5% use the city and/or state name
2% use informal terms, like neighborhoods
0.5% use zip codes

On Yahoo alone, 100 Million unique visitors per month search with "local intent" (2). We can extrapolate that there are HALF A BILLION unique Local searches per month on Google, based on Yahoo's ~15% market share (though we've not seen any "hard numbers" released by Google about its average Local Search volume). We've seen both Google and Yahoo make dramatic shifts in how they return results in 2008, and all the trends point to Local.

On top of that data, respected technology experts around the world think the world of mobile search is ready to take off in 2009 and 2010.

However, you don't need to be a local search expert to recognize the value of local search. Ask your friends, family, and clients how they would search for an attorney online. I'm willing to bet that many of the people you ask will include some form of geographic modifier like a city, county, state, or zip code.

Even if they are still using very general search terms, as more search engines implement predictive and suggestive search, even unsophisticated users will be directed to search phrases with geographic intent.

With Google's recent Place Search update, we have witnessed many law firms that didn't pay attention to local search signals lose visibility within search engines.

The importance of local search to local businesses, like law firms, is only going to increase as more Internet users search from mobile devices. Classic law firm seo strategies simply aren't enough to maintain visibility as search engines place greater weight on local and social signals.

November 19, 2010

Web Rip-Off Alert: $500 For Google Places Profile Claiming?

As reported by Natalie Waddell in Save your money. Claim your own Facebook Place:

Five hundred dollars to have a third-party consultant claim your Facebook Place on your behalf because it is "complicated to do if you don't have experience"?!

Give me a break. This is absolutely outrageous; but true. It is what is being charged by a high profile seo company located in Vancouver.

If someone tries to charge you $500 to claim your Google Places profile, hit delete, hang up, or walk the other way. Claiming your Place profile is free and not difficult. In fact, head to getlisted.org to claim all your major profiles.

On the other hand, local law firm seo strategy is about more than simply claiming profiles. You need consistent strategic local citations. Getting those requires both strategy and leg work.

November 18, 2010

Web Strategy Before Getting Online

According to Wikipedia, strategy is:

a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked. How a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: the terms and conditions that it is fought on and whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy, which is part of the four levels of warfare: political goals or grand strategy, strategy, operations, and tactics. Building on the work of many thinkers on the subject, one can define strategy as "a comprehensive way to try to pursue political ends, including the threat or actual use of force, in a dialectic of wills - there have to be at least two sides to a conflict. These sides interact, and thus a Strategy will thus rarely be successful if it shows no adaptability.

A Plan of Action Designed to Achieve a Particular Goal

Before choosing from the many law firm web tactics available, it's far more important to develop your strategy. This requires two key components, goals and a plan to reach these goals.

Having goals in place is probably the most important part of any strategy. Goals are the metrics by which we measure our efforts. They also play a very important role in shaping our decision-making.

With regard to implementing your law firm's web strategy, your goals should be your starting point. You should ask yourself, "What am I trying to accomplish?", "Why am I doing X?", and "Is this a goal worth pursuing?"

Defining your goals from the beginning will go a long way to dictating the effectiveness of your overall strategy. Having identified goals will also protect you from some of the most common web strategy pitfalls. For example, many web strategy consultants will try to distract you from establishing proper goals. In fact, many will not set any goals or will sell you on goals of little or no value. Here are some goals that may be a good place to start:

  • Targeted Visitor Traffic - If more and more targeted visitors are coming to your web properties, your strategy is likely working.
  • Visitor Engagement - Perhaps even more important than traffic is engagement. All the traffic in the world is useless from a business perspective if the visitors don't take some kind of action (i.e. leave a comment, ask a question, fill out a contact form, or call your office).
  • Visibility - Tracking your online visibility is important. However, don't get caught up on ranking for one or a handful of particular search phrases. You could be number one in Google for several terms for which none of your targeting audience is searching. While search engine rankings are a piece of the puzzle, they do not make up an entire web strategy.
  • New Clients & Relationships - Ultimately, your law firm web strategy should be designed to develop new business. This means that it should bring in new clients. However, don't get obsessed with how many clients your web presence is developing directly from form fill and phone calls. An effective web presence should also position you as an authority in your particular field. By demonstrating your expertise, you will develop new professional relationships that will lead to referrals and additional business opportunities that you may not have even foreseen.

Once you have identified your goals, the next step is to put a plan in place. How are you going to achieve your goals? How are you going to measure your progress? Is a web strategy even a good investment for you?

Don't assume that a web strategy is right for you. Too many legal professionals simply have unrealistic expectations about how using the web can help them. They are attracted to guarantees of number one positions in search engines in 48 hours. The truth is that establishing an effective web presence takes a lot of work and a lot of patience. If you aren't prepared to make a substantial investment of time and/or money into your web presence over a 6-8 month time frame, you're probably better off sticking with paid advertising.

How Different Engagements Are Linked

You should think of your strategy as a concert. Each tactic that you deploy should work harmoniously with the others. Your website, blog, profiles, and social media should all play off each other to increase your professional reputation. Understanding how these different tactics interact, is a critical component to effective strategy.

The Terms and Conditions That it is Fought on and Whether it Should be Fought at All is a Matter of Strategy

Each legal professional should make an informed decision about how they want to position themselves online. Some may choose to take an entirely different direction than others. Some may choose less tasteful means, while others will focus on only the most professional tactics. And after careful consideration, some should think about whether or not the timing is right for launching a comprehensive web strategy.

Strategy Will Thus Rarely Be Successful if it Shows No Adaptability

The legal web landscape is highly competitive and in a constant state of change. The static law firm websites of the past, simply have no place in today's interactive, real-time, and social web. Failing to adapt your strategy to keep up in today's online environment is likely to lead to significant waste in terms of time and money.

So before you go out and spend thousands of dollars on custom websites and flash graphics, spend some time thinking about your goals and how you want to position yourself online.

November 11, 2010

Check Your Citations

As you may have heard, Google recently implemented what has been referred to as a "tectonic change". The change, known as Place Search, has significantly altered the way the search engine serves up local results. While the change has several implications on law firm web strategy, one of the more immediate is the higher priority that you should give to obtaining citations. In Using Citation Building For Better Google Places Optimization, Dustin Rouge provides guidance on what citations are and how building citations plays a larger role in your firm's search engine visibility:

Google goes beyond their initial claiming validation process and looks for other sources that help validate these listings. These third party sources, commonly referred to as citations, include other local listing sources such as Yahoo, Yelp, Bing, Best of the Web, Localeze, etc.

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Makes sure to claim and optimize ALL of your local listings from the major listing sources on the web.

Make sure your company name and address is consistent throughout all of your listings.

Make sure to claim your existing Google Places listing first. In most cases, existing and unclaimed Google Places listings are there based on citations from other sources which work to your advantage. By deleting these existing listings and starting over, you are actually putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage in more competitive markets.

Remove duplicate Google Places listings based on listings claimed with the same phone numbers, addresses or both.

While many authoritative citation sources are free to claim and optimize, others require listing and/or review fees. Investing in premium or enhanced listings from authoritative, local, and niche data providers can be one of the most important web strategy investments that you make.

November 5, 2010

The Basics of Local SEO For Law Firms

The recent changes Google made to its search results, incorporating Google Places, represents a huge shift in strategy for law firms marketing online.

Your overall web strategy should now include traditional optimization for the search engines as well as local optimization efforts. Our friends over at SEOmoz have created an informative video discussing the basics of local SEO.


SEOmoz - SEO Software