Local Optimization for Multi-Location Firms
BY Dexter Tam
More than half of consumers use the internet to look for local businesses. Therefore, having a strong online presence and competing for local traffic is necessary for law firms to prosper.
As your law firm allocates time and resources to enhance its online search visibility, the benchmark for ranking well is increasing exponentially due to competition and extended knowledge. Since the tried and true SEO techniques are widely known and used by many, being creative in your approach can help set you apart from competitors in your area.
If you are a law firm with multiple locations, being listed on Google My Business (GMB) is key to your Local SEO strategy.
If you are a law firm with only one location, optimizing for your business is straightforward. You have one set of information you need to distribute to help your potential clients find you online.
However, what if you have more than one location? How do you best present multiple addresses and phone numbers to your potential clients without confusing them or Google? How do you tell Google your multiple addresses are not a mistake?
Remember, Google will penalize you in its search results if it does not understand why you have multiple, conflicting addresses. Google may see these conflicting addresses as a sign that your firm is not trustworthy; you cannot be relied upon to provide accurate information.
You can avoid this trap by creating a unique Google My Business (GMB) page for each location and implementing on and off-page optimization that indicates you are a multi-location law firm.
Google My Business
Google My Business was launched in June 2014 to help local business become more accessible via search. Google My Business has the benefit of allowing business owners to preform Analytics on clicks, views and requests for directions, and to monitor reviews.
Local businesses use GMB to establish a page or pages that are used in Google’s local map, its search engine algorithm and on Google+. You can claim your page if it has already been created, or if you do not see it, you can build your own. Claiming a page requires verification via postcard, email or phone.
If your law firm has more than one location, you will need unique pages for each location. A GMB business account would be ideal for you. With an account, one email address can be used to allow multiple people to access all pages. This is also helpful if you would like to use location ad extensions for your AdWords PPC campaigns. A business account allows people with access to make bulk edits, which will save you time if you are a firm with offices in multiple locations.
The requirements for having a GMB business account are: having more than ten locations, not being in the service industry (banking, insurance, etc.) and not being a marketing agency managing multiple clients. If you do not meet these requirements, you can simply set up the pages with your Gmail account.
Once you have housed all of your GMB pages in your respective accounts, you can begin optimizing them. Google My Business pages are essential to local search because they give searchers additional information about your firm.
While the organic search listing will show your website plus a description, an optimized GMB listing will provide information such the address, phone number and practice areas, which can be the determining factor in whether a potential visitor becomes a lead.
The most important task in optimizing your GMB pages is to have a consistent and correct business name, address and phone number (NAP) for all locations. If you do not input the correct NAP for a given location, Google may penalize you for publishing incorrect or misleading information about your firm.
Find and delete duplicate or incorrect listings for your firm that you do not own or recognize. You can do this by claiming and deleting, or suggesting an edit to Google that the information listed is incorrect, and supplying them with the correct information.
Another way you can boost your local visibility is by having location-exclusive pictures on your GMB page. Find pictures that are relevant to that specific location and that will highlight why each location is unique.
Google’s local map, also known as the 3-pack, is valuable real estate for law firms. The map is usually placed higher on the results page than organic search listings, and it provides information that can lead to conversions. A majority of online searchers consider local search results to be more relevant and trustworthy than organic or paid listings. In fact, the local map results dominate the results page on both desktop and mobile devices.
On-page and off-page optimization techniques can be implemented to improve your local search rankings. These techniques are not limited to law firms with multiple locations, but are especially important for such firms. You do not want your main office or one location to dwarf all your other locations as this will hinder your earning potential. Therefore, having all your locations performing equally well will maximize your overall revenue.
Ideally, you will have pages on your website for each of your locations. These pages would have content exclusive to that address. Google considers your website the authoritative source for information regarding your business. An example of this would be to have pages with statistics on practice areas for each city in which you have locations. If you have offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles for example, you could write about how car accidents vary between the two cities.
For back end optimization, have a web developer include structured data to your pages to help Google understand your different locations more proficiently. Structured data gives technical meaning to the page through metadata. An example for structured data to help differentiate your multiple locations would look like:
“addressLocality”: “XYZ Town”,
“streetAddress”: “1234 Street”
“description”: “X & Y Law Firm specializes in x, y and z law.”,
“name”: “X & Y Law Firm”,
You would include this script on every page with the correct NAP for the location referenced on the page.
As mentioned earlier, one of the most important steps to optimizing for local search is to have consistent and correct NAP citations. Since your law firm has more than one location, you will need to spend more time making sure your citations are accurate across all locations — not just on your website or your GMB pages, but on all of your social media platforms. This can prove to be a time consuming task as you will have to make sure all your listings have consistent NAPs.
Increasing your visibility will only help you if you do it correctly, with accurate citations. Claiming or creating listings using consistent and accurate citations on sites like Yelp, Yellow Pages, on social media and other local directories, will help boost your rankings. When Google sees that all your citations are in order, you appear more trustworthy. However, if you have a multitude of outside listings with incorrect or inconsistent information, Google will penalize you.
Lastly, having a collection of quality, user-generated reviews will help your firm advance to the local 3-pack. Having satisfied clients give you five star reviews shows you provide quality service and subsequently gives Google confidence to boost your local rankings.
In short, creating individual Google My Business pages with the correct information for each office, having location-exclusive pages on your website, and creating listings on local directories with accurate citations help boost your rankings for all your offices.
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