Local SEO is a critical part of generating business online for law firms - whether you are a small high street legal practice or a large global law firm, you will still have potential clients that search for you locally (even if that location is Manchester, Birmingham, London, Sydney or New York). There are many local ranking factors that you can take advantage of to be found more often in search, we have listed what we beleive to be the most important in our guide below.
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Guide to Local SEO - Local Ranking Factors
Local SEO has become even more important in recent times, thanks to Google's shift to showing just three local search results upon any given local search (previously 7+). Not only does this mean the click through rates to the local 'snack pack' are now higher, but it also means that if you are getting featured there for relevant local searches for your types of legal services, you can attract large volumes of local, relevant search traffic. However, it’s now possible for ads to show in the ‘snack pack’, leaving only two organic local results. With competitiveness at its peak for local ranking, it’s essential for law firms to ensure they have a local SEO strategy in place to help get their local listing where they need it to be.
The Importance of Consistent, Structured Local Citations with a Consistent NAP
One of the most important ranking factors is having accurate local citations. This is achieved by checking every area of your business information (your NAP) is correct and consistent. The NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) of your law firm for any particular office location is your online local identity – it's how Google knows that all of your online local listings are linked. The best starting place for this is your Google local business listing, which forms the essence of the ‘knowledge graph’ which appears when people google your firm. You should ensure all information entered in Google My Business, such as the firm’s name, address, phone number and other details are correct and consistent with the information on your website. And Google is so clever that, should you then search for your firm's name with 'phone number' you'll see that Google understands what your phone number is.
But it's not just about getting one Google local listing. It's about then acquiring or perfecting other local listings you have in local directories and getting the exact same, consistent name, address and phone number there too.
Rather than just noticing that all your listings point back to a central website (local SEO isn't really about links as such), Google also looks for listings that point back to a central physical location. And it's very specific about these details being consistent across all listings. Your business name must be the name across all listings, and each address must be exactly the same. Right down to the small details. So Unit 1a, Sheriff Court Road vs 1a Sheriff Court Road could affect local rankings.
To achieve the best local SEO results it’s important to build relevant, powerful citations in online local directories. This helps customers to find you not only through improved search results for those local listings themselves, but it also has SEO benefits that will improve the performance of your main online platform.
Let us explain more. Google (and indeed other search engines such as Bing) constantly look for cues that your law firm is real and reputable. Local citations, therefore, show Google that your business does exist, at your address(es). Furthermore, if you have some genuine client reviews on your Google local listing(s), all the better. These cues are fundamental in boosting your rankings, ultimately helping clients navigate to your online platform or find your physical office(s).
And note that 'local' citations in this context doesn't necessarily mean local citations on sites for your town or city, but can also mean citations from sites within your country. UK-wide local citations can be just as important if not more important than citations from sites for your town.
Personalised Search Results for Local Legal Queries
Google is now getting more personalised with its search results. This means when you type in a query, it uses your information to give you results that are relevant to you. If you sit at a computer in Glasgow and search for, say, ‘employment lawyer’, your results will include employment law firms near you, and very few if any law firms miles and miles away. It will even include Google maps listings in the results, for your convenience.
But it's not just Google who are locally tailoring search results. More and more people are creating local searches by including their town or city in their search – an example would be ‘Employment Lawyer Manchester’. Therefore, it pays to take this into account for your online strategy.
Creating and Verifying your Google My Business (local) Page
To do great local citation building for your firm's office(s), you need to start with your physical contact details on your main online platform – the website. Then you must set up a Google My Business (local) page – this is how you get a Google Maps listing. Google will ask you to verify this listing. Finally, you can start submitting these details to online local directories. If you have more than one physical location, you need to do this for each one. Consistency is key and there are many considerations to bear in mind when creating such listings, such as what to name your business (authenticity being key) and what keywords and categories for which to list your business. Tip: adding as many relevant photos within Google My Business profile, such as office shots and team pictures, will only serve to improve your rankings.
Positive Google Reviews for Improved Rankings
As mentioned previously, obtaining Google reviews from clients gives Google a strong indicator that your firm is real and reputable. In recent years, Google’s algorithmic updates have taken a major shift towards displaying search results based on user experience and rewarding sites with have a genuinely good reputation. This highlights the importance of getting good client reviews. Our recommended approach is asking clients to leave a Google review as soon as positive feedback is received.
Call Tracking & Local SEO
You may have heard of call tracking, where a unique number is set up for each visitor to track where calls are coming from. It's a great tool to use on your online platforms if you want to know exactly what business you are attracting online. One of the slight complications with Local SEO and call tracking for businesses is that Google likes local numbers, and a consistent NAP, which means it is best not to use call tracking phone numbers for your local citations, and this includes within your Google local business listing(s). But in our experience the value of call tracking from all other sources including your website, PPC campaign and other forms of online marketing outweigh this point.
Best Practice for Local SEO for Your Law Firm or Business
As with all aspects of SEO for your law firm or business, your best course of action with Local SEO is to be authentic and create genuinely useful local citations. This, combined with a consistent NAP; good quality, regularly updated relevant content; best on-page SEO practices and great Google reviews, will help you to dominate the online presence relevant to your service offering. It will give you a competitive advantage and help you to generate the online enquiries your business needs to thrive.
Of course, at MLT, it's our job to know all this, and keep up to date with Google's ever-evolving algorithms. Our online business generation experts can provide the local SEO tips above. Get in touch with us, and let us do all the effective local SEO work for you.