Google has revamped its local SEO algorithm, making it a huge ranking factor for local businesses like law firms. On 6th August, the “Snack Pack” results moved up the SERPs (search engine results pages) and more than halved in number.
Previous to the change, a Google results page for local-based queries would often start with a couple of PPC ads, then a couple of organic results, followed by the 7-pack of local results, with the rest of the results following. Now SERPs for local queries consist of a smaller 3-pack that appears above all organic listings. Additionally, the full address no longer appears in search rankings, in favour of just the street name and a pin on the map.
How does Google’s new local search algorithm affect your law firm?
Most law firms are local businesses – they have one or more physical addresses where they work and meet clients. More importantly, when people search for a solicitor or law firm, they will tend to look for one nearby (despite technology making it easier for lawyers to serve broader and broader areas). In fact, Google doesn’t rely on users stating a preferred town or city when making a search. Instead, it picks up their current location information and gives them relevant results.
This new 3-pack takes up most of the vied-for space above the fold (i.e. you can see it without scrolling down). It’s also no coincidence that it fits perfectly on a mobile screen – and no surprise either, given Google’s focus on mobile-friendliness earlier in the year.
From our data, the 7-pack had been generating a good amount of calls for our local clients. Users can call a local business directly from the Google results page on their mobile – again, Google has the mobile user in mind throughout all their updates. But with the ‘snack pack’ update, the 3-pack display makes things even more competitive for law firms and other local businesses and our recent data over the past several weeks confirms that this is indeed a massive change.
What can lawyers do to get in the 3-pack on Google?
Google guards its algorithms closely, and there is no secret recipe for local SEO success. However, the research that has been done so far indicates several strong factors that will influence Google’s local results. In fact, these haven’t changed much since the launch of Google’s local SEO ‘Pigeon’ algorithm update last year – read our blog on that here.
In no particular order …
→ Google+ Local Page
No big surprises – to rank in Google’s local listing, you have to have a Google local listing! This currently consists of creating a Google+ local page. Google+ is going through some changes at the moment, and some are doubting its future. Nevertheless, right now it is your ticket to a listing on Google Maps, which is imperative for your Local SEO.
Your page must be set up properly to perform well. This includes (but is not limited to) a verified address and website, fully filled out profile, correct category (or categories), and, most importantly, an accurate company name, address and phone number.
Speaking of which …
→ Local Citations with Consistent NAP
Local citations means getting your business listed in local directories online. Many of these directories don’t even include a link, so the signifier for Google is your business name, address and phone number (collectively known to us local SEO geeks as your ‘NAP’) being consistent throughout all citations. This must match your Google+ listing and website schema mark up. The more citations, the more Google will trust this information – as long as you’re building citations steadily and genuinely.
→ On-Page Factors
There’s no point in nailing your off-page local strategy if your website doesn’t mention the locality you’re targeting. Ensure you’re using best SEO practices to target your locations on page (and don’t forget to keep publishing great content)
→ Google Reviews
It’s currently disputed whether Google reviews are a ranking factor in the local snack pack. What’s not disputed is that a service with five (or even four) stars will get more traffic than a business with bad reviews or no reviews. Search engines generally value websites with higher volumes of relevant traffic, and people value businesses that are tried and trusted.
→ Totally Awesome Online Marketing Strategy
The main thing we’ve noticed is that businesses ranking well in organic search are performing best in local search. Google is clever, and this new algorithm won’t have created any shortcuts to SEO success. Many have learned the hard way that trying to game Google will only cost you in the end!
There’s more tips and news coming every day about local SEO. Even with our years of expertise in generating business for law firms where clients are searching locally, we’re constantly running tests to find out as much as we can to improve our clients’ local search presence. The bottom line is that a swanky website design just isn’t enough to generate business online. As my colleague Chris Davidson would say, law firms need to invest in a “robust online strategy” to keep up with the “shifting sands of search”. In other words: give us a ring for a free site audit, and see how we can help you generate more business online.
Local SEO Experts in Glasgow & London, UK
Stacy is our local SEO expert at Moore Legal Technology and speaks and publishes regularly on the subject, in addition to delivering proven results for our clients. Want to chat to her about your local SEO strategy? Not performing as well in local search as you think your law firm deserves? Thinking about setting up a new office (even virtually!) and getting quality local enquiries fast? Fill in our online contact form and we’ll get her to give you a call.