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I do not have special powers or privileged access to Google listings, just a commitment to ensure that spammers cannot rank higher than their honest competitors in local results. If you have searched in your local market to see your ranking, you have probably come across a competitor stuffing keywords into its title and being rewarded for it. For example, in September, the top 3 local listings for a DUI lawyer in New York were:

  • NYC DWI Lawyer - DWI / DUI Attorney - 24/7 on Broadway
  • The New York DUI Experts on Park Ave
  • New York DWI Attorneys on 3rd Ave

The problem with these listings is that the title of each business is not its legal name.

Google’s Guidelines for representing your business on Google state, “Including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted, and could result in your listing being suspended.” The primary reason those three listings were at the top of the page was because they published “unnecessary information” in their business name.

This is more obvious in some states than others. In New York, the State Bar prohibits the use of “trade names.” Therefore, the “New York DWI Attorneys” could not be using their legal business name as that name runs afoul of local attorney advertising rules.

The listing titled “New York DUI Experts” gets two strikes against it. Rule 7.4 of the N.Y. Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits the use of words like “specialist” unless the attorney has completed a certification. In Opinion 1021, when responding to a request to use “expert” in a domain name, the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics declared that “expert” was a synonym for “specialist” and is equally prohibited without a board certification.

I had to do some digging to find out who the attorney was behind “New York DUI Experts.” No attorney is listed on the website that links to that listing. But when I did locate him, I found no evidence that he was a Board Certified DWI Specialist, and therefore he could not use “expert” while complying with the N.Y. Rules of Professional Conduct.

Other states have different rules, which would allow someone to legally have a keyword heavy name like the Missouri firm that operates under Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys, P.C. But you do not need to be a connoisseur of lawyer advertising guidelines to know spam when you see it.

Fighting Back
Keyword spam in Google Maps gives honest marketers a disadvantage. However, you can fight back. In September, I published an article titled “Tired of Law Firms Spamming Google Maps? You Can Fight Back.” Then, I sent the instructions to law firms I work with that are in heavily spammed markets and instructed all of my team members to follow those guidelines anytime they see spam anywhere in Google Maps. Whether we represent a law firm in that market or not, the spam has to stop.

The procedure is simple:

1) Login to a Google account and do a search. Start with a keyword that relates to your city and practice area like “Phoenix car accident lawyer.”

2) See a name that looks suspicious, like “Best Car Accident Lawyer in Phoenix – John Doe?” Click on its Maps listing.

3) Visit the website and find the legal firm name, usually located in the footer. Then return to the Google listing.

4) Right below the phone number in the Maps listing, you will see a link that says “Suggest an edit.”

5) Click the edit icon next to the business name. Type in the correct name (an example from our fictional Phoenix firm may be “The Law Office of John Doe”).

6) Click “Send,” and you are done. Your suggestion is reviewed by one of Google’s quality control specialists. If they can confirm your change, it will be published. Sometimes, the change is not confirmed. If that happens, get your friends, staff and colleagues to join in and suggest edits.

Eventually, a thorough quality controller at Google will do the right thing and verify the firm’s correct business name. If you are tired of being outranked by cheating competitors, Google’s “suggest an edit” feature is a powerful tool for fighting back.

Additional Reading
1) Google Guidelines: blfmag.com/unnecessary-business-info

2) New York State Bar rules: blfmag.com/NY-bar-expertise

3) Tired of Law Firms Spamming Google Maps? You Can Fight Back: blfmag.com/google-maps-fight-back

About Author

Jason Bland is a regular contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine covering legal news, tech related litigation, and marketing strategies that effect highly competitive practice areas.

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