Google Places: How to Rank High for your Law Firm

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Want to rank high on Google Places for your law firm?  Check out this handy list of factors and tips.

  1. Easy Items for Google Places
    1. Address in the City. Yes, you can rank high even if you are outside a city center.  But if you want to rank high in Dallas, you should not be in Austin.  Just know this going into the tasks below.
    2. Google Places Page. Let’s start with the basics. You need to have a places page.  Make sure you sign up for one today and claim your existing listing.  Sign up with a real email account from your firm.  Make sure you verify via phone or the postcard via the mail.
    3. Remove any Duplicate Listings. Claim any duplicate listings and delete/suspend them.
  2. Google Places Checklist
    Signing up for a Google Places account is easy.  However, you can mess up the actual listing if you do not follow some guidelines. 

    1. Check to see if you have an Account.  Always verify that you don’t have any listing.  If you have a listing, claim that one first.  Do multiple searches for your firm:
      1. Name
      2. Name + Short Form (sometimes a long firm name is shortened)
      3. Name + City
      4. Name + Practice
      5. Phone + City
      6. Phone + Practice
      7. Use the attorneys names too
      8. We have found that 99% of the time, something is listed.  Find it and start from that listing.
    2. Use your Real Business Name.  Make sure your business name is legitimate; don’t spam with keyword phrases.  Yes, your competitor may be placing a keyword phrase in their business name, but they will be caught eventually and banned.
    3. Use a Real Address.  Make sure you have a physical office address.  Do not share suites with another business.  Do not use a P.O. Box or a virtual office.  Match it exactly!
    4. Real Phone.  Use a real phone, not a virtual phone or toll-free.
    5. Description.  Fill out this with marketing language in order to attract visitors.
    6. Complete your Places Page.  Make sure you fill out 100% of all information:  description, website, videos, photos, hours, and any other category that Google adds.
    7. Pick Five Relevant Categories.  Ideally, use the categories Google suggests.  Make sure they are in the order you want, as they will appear in that order.  Also, make sure they appear in Google search results for local, as those are relevant categories.
    8. Extras.  Make sure you fill out hours, photos, video, and additional details.
    9. Get Bona Fide Reviews!  Make sure you have reviews.  Don’t create fake reviews – false reviews are a bar violation.  The quantity and quality matter.  Yes, reviews are hard to acquire.  It takes time, trust me.  We only have two reviews so far on Google+, despite having over 500 active clients.  Google requires a real Google+ account that is filled out properly.  Moreover, the reviewer typically has to review other businesses too.  If they only reviewed your business, that review may not appear.  So not only do you have to get your client to set up a Google+ profile and review you, but they may need to review other businesses too! Finally, make sure the reviews don’t come from the same IP address as your business.  Google seems to track the computer that the review is posted from.  Your reviews need to come from different IPs of your own client’s computers or mobile devices.
  3. Website Factors That Help with Rankings
    Not only do you need to properly fill out your Google Places account, but you need to make sure you update your website with your phone number, address, title tags, and content, as well as follow a few other guidelines.

    1. Put a phone number (with area code) on your website.  Do you have your phone number listed on your website homepage?  If not, put it online today on all pages.
    2. Make sure your city and state are listed on every page of your website.  A direct match with address between website and Google Places is necessary.  Make sure your addresses match your Places page.
    3. Title tags matter.  Your title tags should be unique and contain your city, state terms.
    4. Create content.  Create a video and upload it to your YouTube Channel.  Add a blog and write relevant content about your local city.
    5. Don’t spam.  Don’t keyword stuff, but do include the keywords in your page titles, Meta description, H1 tags, and on the page.
    6. DON’T COPY.  Each page must contain unique text.
    7. Create landing pages for your city.  Landing pages should include your location, map, call to action, service information, testimonial, reviews, trust / badges, and photos of your team.
    8. Create a GEO Sitemap, KML file too. Upload to your website directory.
    9. Set up Schema on your website.  This is an advanced area, but schemas and microformats can give you that extra edge.
  4. Citations & Link Factors
    Now that your Google places page is set up properly and your website edited, you need to build citations and links.  Here are some simple tips (a citation list is outlined in Section 6 of this article).

    1. Inbound links to your website.  The number of inbound links to your website, and the quality of those links, still matter.  Build your authority online through networking and content.
    2. Get links from local businesses.  Get links from associations, organizations, and local directories.
    3. Page rank of your website.  Your overall website page rank is important.  This goes along with the number and quality of inbound links to your website.
    4. Citations to your office address.  Make sure you are listed in all major yellow pages and directories.  A good starting place is www.getlisted.org.  More on citations below.
  5. Negative Factors
    The following factors can hurt your rankings.  Make sure you are not breaking any rules.

    1. Mismatching address or phone, or no phone/address at all.  Make sure you have the same address listed EVERYWHERE!  Don’t use P.O. Boxes or virtual offices.  Make sure the address is listed on your website.
    2. Don’t share office space. Don’t use a fake non-physical address.  If you share office space, make sure you have different suite numbers.  Again, use a real office address that is unique to your business.
    3. Don’t have multiple places pages.  Don’t spam.  Don’t try to cheat the system. It may work for a while, but the tactic will eventually get you blocked.
    4. Don’t use too narrow of a category.  Instead use Google’s suggested categories.
    5. Follow the Google Places Quality Guidelines.
    6. Don’t add keywords to your business name.  Yes, I know it works sometimes, but it will get banned eventually.
    7. If you receive negative reviews, respond promptly.  The review will not go away, but you can respond, correct any misinformation, apologize if needed, and assure future customers it will not happen to them.  If you need help, check out the Air Force Response Assessment chart.
  6. Get Citations
    1. Get listed with your name, address and phone (NAP) in other data providers.
    2. Claim your listing in all these providers.  Delete duplicates.
    3. www.getlisted.org
    4. www.localeze.com
    5. www.expressupdateusa.com
    6. www.mybusinesslistingmanager.com
    7. www.yelp.com
    8. www.local.com
    9. www.superpages.com
    10. local.yahoo.com
    11. www.citysearch.com
    12. www.insiderpages.com
    13. www.yellowbot.com
    14. www.hotfrog.com
    15. www.merchantcircle.com
    16. www.whitepages.com
    17. www.shopcity.com
    18. www.yp.com
    19. www.kudzu.com
    20. www.local.com
    21. www.mojopages.com
    22. www.brownbook.net
    23. Social:  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
    24. Local Blogs
    25. Local Directories
    26. Industry Focused Directories
    27. Local Websites – Sponsor an event; put your event information up online on eventbrite.com or meetup.com.  Place a classified ad too.
    28. A Big list of citations: http://getlisted.org/resources/local-search-data-providers.aspx
    29. An even bigger list of citations: http://www.localvisibilitysystem.com/definitive-local-search-citations/
    30. Awesome graphic of citation sources – http://getlisted.org/resources/local-citations-by-city.aspx
    31. There are also some paid directories to consider (Martindale.com, Lawyers.com, Findlaw.com, AngiesList.com, local.botw.org, and Judysbook.com)

Wrap-Up & Further Reading

In short, there is a lot of work to do to rank high in local search.  It is important though as the local search is now blended with organic search results.

Many articles online discuss Google Places and local search. Thanks to all these blogs for great reading.

…and finally if you have a few hours to kill, review this list of over 50 posts about local search.

Also, you can see our original research last year by clicking here.

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