The most important factor when it comes to your law firm ranking well on Google Places is the location of your actual business, and this is no surprise as Google Places (in contrast to Google’s organic search engine algorithm) aims to give more value to verified local businesses with strong, positive reputations in their local community.
You may want to rank well for a city search term on Google Places despite not having a physical address in that particular city, but this will be extremely difficult as competing law firms in that particular city become more aware of Google Places and what it takes to increase rankings.
It’s not secret that Google Places is becoming more and more important for geo-based search terms such as “Chicago personal injury lawyer” and “Seattle accident lawyer” since these results show up above the fold on search result pages, so if you’re hoping to rank well for these terms, you’ll need to have an address in the actual city that you would like to rank for.
In addition to having an address in the actual city, law firms which are located closer to the “centroid of the city” are also giving special treatment on Google Places, a ranking factor that has once diminished in importance but has recently made it’s way back to the top 3 most important Google Places ranking factors.
When you’re considering a location for your law firm’s office, are you taking into consideration how close the business will be located to the center of the city (versus more obvious factors such as how close it would be to public transportation stops and court houses, the amount of space and monthly rent, overall accessibility, etc.)? Probably not, but this doesn’t matter to Google Places as it’s possible that a less reputable law firm might outrank a law firm that has been around for longer and is more established based simply on how close they are to that particular city’s “centroid”. Doesn’t make much sense to us, but it’s possible that this ranking factor may be revisited once again as the ever-changing Google Places algorithm is adjusted as time goes on.
Google Places is extremely important when it comes to your law firm being found for geo-based search terms like “Seattle divorce attorney” and “Orlando personal injury lawyer”, but not all of the Google Places ranking factors have to do with how well your Google Places profile is optimized or how many reviews you have. There are actually certain changes that you can make to your law firm’s website which can help to improve your rankings on Google Places, which include:
City and State in the Website’s Page Title
Implementing city and/or state into the page title of a legal website is a pretty common SEO method. Page titles like:
Orlando Accident Lawyer | Florida Personal Injury Attorney
Seattle Divorce Attorney – Washington State Family Lawyer
are pretty common. But, if you’d be willing to forget about some of the old school SEO tactics, and implement something like:
Cullen and Hemphill, PC – Personal Injury Firm in Orlando, Florida
Engel Law Group- Family Law Firm in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, WA
you would probably have a better chance of not only improving your Google Places rankings, but you would also play better with Google’s Penguin over-optimization update which penalizes website for keyword-stuffed on-page factors like page titles, meta descriptions, and content.
A Website’s NAP in HTML Matching Up With NAP On Places Profile
A businesses’ NAP, which stands for name address and phone number, can be implemented into the website using rich snippets which tells Google’s spiders what the correct name, address, and phone number of a business is outside of what it find’s in the website’s content. Websites which implement these rich snippets have a better chance of ranking well on Google Places, and if the NAP that’s included in these rich snippets are an exact match to the NAP on the Google Places page, it helps to build authority with Google Places and prove to them that you’re an a legitimate business.
There are additional markup codes which you can implement into your website, such as schema.org markup, and an hCard which includes your name, address, and phone number.
Schema.org and hCard are two different types of markups. Hcard has been around for longer and is still the most preferred method, but Google has publicly endorsed schema.org markup code and many believe that it will become eventually become the standard. For more information on each check out:
It’s important for your website’s home page to include the city and state that you’d like to optimize for when it comes to Google Places, but what if you have multiple locations and they won’t all fit into the page title of the home page?
If that’s the case, make sure you have a page created for each location that you have, and make sure the city and state are listed in the page titles of these pages.
The amount of authority, aka “link juice’, that a page has probably also comes into play when it comes to Google Places, so try to include the city and state in the interior pages that have the most authority (which are usually your practice area pages and attorney pages) if you can.
City, State in Places Landing Page H1/H2 Tags
If you can also implement the city and state in the H1 and H2 tags of your home and some of your practice area pages, you would probably have a better chance of improving your Google Places rankings for that specific city and state as well.
KML File on Domain Name
A KML sitemap is a loction-based sitemap which is crawled by Google Places. To create a KML sitemap check out any of these free KML sitemap generators:
and be sure to create a KML sitemap for each location, as well as upload the appropriate KML sitemap(s) to your website’s domain. It would also be a good idea to include the URL of the KML sitemap, once it’s uploaded to your domain, in the sitemap.
This is a list of the most important on-page Google Places optimization factors according to a survey conducted by a number of Google Places consultants and experts from all over the world. The survey is located here.
Real vs fake, the Internet’s main debate and yet primary marketing technique.
If you can come up with a video that can make you wonder “hmm… is that real? (Kobe jumping over a speeding car, college kids making insane beer pong shots off of skateboards, etc.)”, you’re probably going to get some exposure.
Then again, there’s the obviously fake like those cheesy “Trainers Hate Him” banner ads or most women’s fake boobs (okay we’ll stay on point here just wanted to make sure you’re awake and ready for this).
Google Places is THE driving force for any local business that wants to be found on the Internet by their local audience (right now, who knows what I’ll be saying a year from now), and the number of positive reviews that a profile has is a key part to Google Place’s algorithm. The more reviews you have, the better chance you have of ranking well for a search term.
I’d like to say that I’m surprised when I come across law firms and lawyers who are competitors of our clients who have obviously paid for positive reviews to be posted on their profiles, but in all honesty- I’m not.
When you’ve done SEO for an extended period of time, you see a lot of unethical and immoral techniques that other lawyers and law firms use in order to gain an upper hand. Whether it’s buying links from unrelated websites, hiring an SEO provider who uses automated software to build backlinks through spammy forum comments, blog comments, linkwheels, dripfeeds- you name it, and we’ve likely talked to a current or potential client who has hired one of these providers and is left scratching their heads wondering why their rankings plummeted.
So it’s no surprise that buying fake reviews (in addition to Facebook Likes and +1’s) is a tactic that some attorneys are using. It’s similar to athletes using steroids- it may work, and you may not get caught, but the odds aren’t exactly in your favor and those five minutes of fame are suddenly not worth what comes with the consequences.
A New York Times article touches on some of the issues related to buying fake reviews on sites such as Fiverr and Digital Point (a forum site where the majority of the users, in my opinion, use black-hat techniques one way or another), and according to the article a group of Cornell students are developing a piece of software that will detect fake reviews being posted on review sites.
So let’s see. The topic of fake reviews has gotten some press in The New York Times.
Google continues to plow forward with their plans of making Google Places the main search engine for law firms and attorneys to maintain a positive presence on in order to succeed, knowing that the number of reviews is a key aspect of a business ranking well.
Google has access to reviewers’ info- such as IP address, number of past reviews, etc.
So if a group of Cornell students can develop a piece of software that will detect if a review is bogus, don’t you think Google will eventually figure it out (if they haven’t already)?
The way they look at reviews will likely look like this:
Scenario A: A law firm’s Google Places profile has 35 reviews. Each user only posted one review and hasn’t reviewed any other businesses. The IP address where the reviews are being posted from are all the same- in the firm’s city, so maybe the firm asks the clients to post the reviews while they’re in the office. Conclusion: Okay, somewhat believable, so not bogus.
Scenario B: A law firm’s Google Places profile has 35 reviews. Each user only posted one review and hasn’t reviewed any other businesses. The IP address where the reviews are being posted from are all different- with most of them being overseas in countries like India and The Philippines. (We came across one of these profiles this morning- a big law firm in an extremely competitive market had 35 reviews, all pretty much worded the same way, and one negative review from another local lawyer calling them out on it which was epic. We don’t have any way of knowing where the reviews came from geographically, but we’ll make our assumptions). Conclusion: FAIL Sir Spam-a-lot, you lose.
Scenario C: A law firm’s Google Places profile has 6 reviews. All of the reviews are positive, all of the reviews are from different IP addresses, and all of the reviews are from users who have registered Gmail or Google+ Accounts, have reviewed another business in one form or another, and appear to be actual people. Does this mean that a lawyer didn’t ask his attorney buddies for reviews, or that he didn’t post an ad on Craigslist selling $10 reviews? Nope. But, from what Google can see… Conclusion: Seems legit.
I’ve said this before, but Google’s main priority is to think ahead of spammers. They’re like a warden in a jail trying to think about every possible way that an inmate can escape, and taking the necessary measures to keep that from happening (warning: this blog post is approaching it’s out-of-content analogy limit).
Ethics debates aside- if you think that buying fake reviews for your Google Places profile isn’t going to backfire on you like all of those other blackhat SEO tactics that you hear about usually do- think again, it’s probably only a matter of time.
You’ve probably heard this before, but not everyone who comes to your solo attorney or law firm site is ready to hire you or contact you right away. There could be a number of issues- they had to quickly jump off of their computers because their boss was coming, they weren’t 100% sure if they had a case, they wrote your number down and lost it, they were putting it off for a later time, etc- why a potential client didn’t fill out a contact form or pick up the phone to call you at that exact time. So, just like in every other business, a proper follow-up might be just what the doctor ordered for getting a potential client to at least commit to an initial consultation.
There are a number of ways to follow up with website visitors who have provided their e-mail address in one way or another- newsletters, drip campaigns, social media interaction, etc.
But how do you strategically re-market your services to those who have simply visited your website for a certain amount of time but didn’t bite on one of your calls to action?
The answer is re-targeting, and it might not be as difficult as you think.
The demographics for a potential client, especially a personal injury client, are very broad. It could be someone of almost any age, background, education, occupation, location, marital status, or gender. That being said, you know how difficult it can be to reach your target audience on the web, especially considering how competitive web marketing is in the legal sector. Your competitors are spending more and more money on Adwords, SEO, and other web marketing efforts, but through re-marketing you can easily and effective re-introduce yourself to those extremely valuable visitors, and without it being as obvious of a pitch as Adwords or other online advertising methods.
Re-targeting, which can be setup in Google AdWords or through other advertising network providers, works as follows:
A user visits one of your main target/landing pages (usually your practice area pages for organic visits, or your landing pages for Adwords/PPC visits).
In your Adwords account, you’ve created a setting that specifies that you’d like to re-market to users who visit this specific page. When you setup this feature, a code is populated that you embed into the footer of that specific page. This code:
Installs a cookie on that particular user’s browser that says a) you’ve visited that particular page, and b:
An ad for that particular service/practice area will be re-introduced to that user whenever they are on another website is within Google’s content network. The ads that are displayed are usually display ads and, depending on how well you fine-tune them, can be extremely specific when being re-marketed to that specific user (if that user visited your automobile accident practice area page, a banner that re-markets attorney services for that exact practice area could be displayed to that specific user in the future).
Do keep in mind, however, that the pages that you dedicate as being eligible for re-targeting have to reach at least 500 visits per month before being eligible for re-targeting. Sometimes, for local businesses such as local law firms, this can be difficult because you’ll want to add other interior pages such as blog pages and news items. The problem with that, however, is that those users have a higher chance of being from outside of your local market, so try to focus on main focus pages that are primarily targetting users within your target geo-specific area.
Outside of Google, there are also other ad networks which offer retargeting/remarketing such as Criteo, Fetchback, MyAds, and a host of others. Be sure to find out pricing, minimum requirements, and other information before looking into additional opportunities, or contact us for a recommendation regarding which ad networks are the most effective for solo attorneys and/or law firms.
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