The Google Guaranteed badge was supposed to cost $50/month, but this appears (from what I’ve found thus far) to be in addition to what you would pay to be included in Google Service Ads, which requires lawyers and other types of small businesses to submit insurance information, State Bar Association information, agree to a background check, and set a monthly budget which appears to be far from inexpensive.
When we went through the preliminary budget for a criminal defense lawyers who is a client of ours, the weekly budget that we selected would generate an average of $25/lead, with personal injury lawyers and law firms in extremely competitive markets likely needing to pay more as time goes on. The $50/month to be included in Google Guaranteed is likely in addition to the monthly Google Screened and Local Service Ads weekly adspend, so be prepared to spend more than the advertised $50/month to be included.
How Do Attorneys Sign Up For Google Guaranteed?
We registered a domain which will redirect you to the page where you sign up for Google Service Ads and Google Guaranteed, the domain is:
We also recorded a video on how to sign up for Google Local Service Ads and Google Guaranteed.
Need Help Signing Up For Google Guaranteed?
If you need help with your lawyer SEO campaign or with signing up with Google Guaranteed, please fill out a contact form or call us at (410) 929-5610. We work with law firms across a wide variety of practice areas, and also work with non legal businesses in Maryland and surrounding areas. Our monthly SEO prices are competitive and we also offer hourly SEO consulting.
As SEO has continued to evolve over the years and consultants are looking for the next big focus or buzzwords, indexing continues to be one of the most overlooked factors as it relates to both organic AND local SEO.
When a new prospective client contacts us and asks for an SEO audit, it’s almost guaranteed that if I spend 10 minutes in the SERPs (search engine result pages) I’ll find at least a handful of pages indexed that shouldn’t be included.
This is especially true when it comes to WordPress websites. Tag and category pages, archive pages, individual media pages, and other types of pages that WordPress creates as part of their back end structure continue to cause indexing issues, with SEO consultants overlooking these basic factors while focusing on content, link building, and other advanced SEO methods.
How Do I Know Which Website Pages Are Indexed in Google?
There are a few ways to figure out which pages on your websites are currently being indexed by Google. The first would be to dig into the SERPs themselves, if you do a “site:https://www.yourwebsite.com” search in Google you can get an actual look at what pages are being indexed.
If you perform that search and the majority of pages indexed are tag or category pages, you may want to consider reviewing which pages on your site Google is presenting to search engine users. One thing to look out for are potential 404/not found pages, if you see URL’s which you don’t recognize, click through the results and be sure to implement a 301 redirect for any URL’s being shown in Google’s index which are either removed, or which you plan on removing following your inspection.
Another way to have a better understanding of which pages are being indexed is to look at Google Webmaster Console. Go to the “coverage” page and you’ll get a better idea of which pages Google considers valid, and which pages are currently being excluded.
While in Google Webmaster Console, you should also dive into the sitemaps that have been submitted to Google. If you’re using a WordPress website, I highly recommend clicking through your XML sitemap to get a better feel for which pages, posts, and custom post types are being indexed. You’d be shocked if you knew how many times a website is developed using a pre-developed WordPress theme and demo content, and once the website is launched the developer or their SEO consultants forgot to remove the initial demo content from the website or from Google’s index.
Can Indexing Make a Difference For Google Local/Snackpack Rankings?
Indexing is the first thing we focus on for new clients. Below are local search engine rankings for a new client we took on 3 months ago, we’ve been working on improving website load times and Google My Business optimization, but our main focus has been removing duplicate and thin content pages created as a result of tagging and categorizing blog posts over the years.
Local rankings before we started (April 2020):
Local rankings in July 2020 following sitemap review and content indexing audit:
Now again, indexing isn’t all that we worked on, but following our initial audit it was identified as a primary focus.
If you went through a list of Local SEO ranking factors, I doubt that “duplicate content” and “indexing” would be in the top factors to focus on in order to break into the coveted Google Local “snack pack”.
Here are a few resources that are generally accepted by the SEO community in terms of what local SEO factors you should focus on to improve local rankings:
Generally accepted for years as one of the top surveys among SEO industry experts, the primary methods that survey participants said you should focus on to improve local rankings are fairly predictable
Google My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) 25.12%
On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) 13.82%
Citation Signals (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.) 10.82%
Behavioral Signals (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, etc.) 9.56%
Social Signals (Google engagement, Facebook engagement, Twitter engagement, etc.) 2.82%
A few mentions of indexing and cleaning up redirects, but I wouldn’t say that indexing was a primary focus as opposed to “well that’s a typical organic ranking factor, shouldn’t make much of a difference for local rankings.”
Once again, a respected SEO publication (and a vendor that we have used for years) but not many mentions of indexing or improving user experience by presenting more relevant, quality content in the SERPs.
Typical local factors such as “proximity” and “write more website content”, build citations, and traditional on-page factors such as page titles and meta descriptions.
Typical local SEO factors, but no mention of improving which pages are being presented to search engine users.
Prove to Google That You’re Making an Effort
By only focusing on local ranking factors that will hopefully skyrocket you into the top 3 of the Local Snackpack results, you’re ignoring one of the most important Google ranking factors of the last few years: improving user experience.
If Google sees that you have tag and category pages, media pages, outdated archive pages with broken links, and duplicate content pages in their index, you’re not improving user experience for their search engine users.
To continue to be thought of as the world’s best search engine, it’s their job to provide a product that users are confident in. If you’re not adding value to their search engine index you’re going to have a hard time breaking into the top local search engine results even if your business name in Google My Business has keywords and your office is in the middle of downtown. Take the time to get a better idea of which website pages are being indexed, make the necessary adjustments and take the time to make an effort to prove to Google that you’re presenting users with relevant and valuable information that users are searching for.
In 2020, we’re always looking for the new shiny red ball in the SEO industry. Recent news regarding featured snippets and links in PDFs being treated as nofollow links is all great. But sometimes. it seems like the industry as a whole is overlooking traditional and obvious ranking signals in favor of new and exciting methods and techniques.
NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency is one of those traditional ranking factors which I don’t think we pay enough attention to.
What is NAP Consistency?
NAP consistency refers to the name, address, and phone number of a business being consistent on a number of third-party citation websites. These citation sites are important sources of information that Google crawls for local business information as they attempt to determine the legitimacy and accuracy of a local business that their users are searching for.
If you have a business name, address, and phone number listed on your website, that same NAP should appear on your Google My Business profile, as well as on important third-party citation sites such as:
If you have a different phone number, or missing suite number, or missing “LLC” on a variety of citation sources, this could negatively affect both your local AND organic search engine rankings.
Does NAP Consistency Only Affect Local SEO Rankings?
So if you recently changed your business phone number, you can just wait a few months to update it everywhere because it won’t make a huge difference to actual organic rankings, right? It just affects local rankings?
While NAP consistency has almost always been referred to as a local ranking factor, there is quite a bit of data and client case studies that we’ve been working on over the past few months that might suggest otherwise.
Moz does a “Local Search Ranking Factors” study every 2 years, and in the 2018 version you can see that NAP consistency is listed as the 8th most important local factor, but the 24th most important organic ranking factor.
The majority of organic ranking factors that are listed in the study are related to links and domain authority, but not much importance is given to NAP consistency on citation sources for organic search rankings. I believe this has changed over the past year or so.
SEO evolves just like every other industry, but as SEO professionals we are always trying to make sure we stay ahead of the curve. We want to make sure we stay updated on BERT and A.I., but sometimes I believe that we lose track of the core focus of SEO.
Going back to 2005, search engine optimization (SEO) has always been about optimizing a website and doing more than your competitors. The early days of SEO were basically all about optimizing page titles, meta descriptions, alt image tags, and meta keyword data. But, as someone who has been doing this for a long time, I always thought during those early days: “what will happen in 5, 10, 15 years when everyone is able to easily update meta descriptions and page titles? What next?”
During these years, link building methods evolved. Free article and press release sites, directories, and blog commenting were easy ways to obtain Dofollow links in bulk, and from a wide variety of domains. But after the first Penguin update launched, it was the beginning of the end of bulk link building. In comes content as the main focus, along with citation building and mobile-friendliness.
As we continue to look for new and evolving ways to perform SEO on a website, it’s easy to lose focus of the main goal of SEO: to make sure your (or your client’s) website is more optimized than your (or your client’s) competitors, from an on-page and off-page perspective. In other words, make sure your (or your client’s) load times, mobile-friendliness, link profile, on-page optimization, content, and every other ranking factor is optimized better than your competitors.
Fast forward to 2020, and I do sincerely believe that NAP consistency is important for both local AND organic rankings, as Google continues to battle spam and filter out websites and local businesses which they see as less legitimate.
Why do I believe that NAP consistency is important for both local and organic rankings?
I have two recent client case studies that have inspired me to write this post.
The first is a personal injury law firm who recently added a second office location. This transition was a bit on the difficult side, but because they’re one of our longest and most favorite clients, we had no problem with assisting them with the transition.
The law firm was moving their previous office to a new city, with a new phone number. They then wanted to add a second location in the city they were currently located, in order to maintain their presence. The move involved two new addresses, and two new phone numbers.
Luckily, the client uses Yext, so we were easily able to add the new office location’s new name, address, and phone number to the majority of important third-party citation sources. Same goes for changing the address for the existing location in the city they were already located in, along with the new phone number.
However, fast forward to 2 weeks after rolling out a new phone number and we noticed a drop-off in both local and organic rankings. We identified a number of important citation sources where the phone number needed to be changed. BBB, Facebook, Youtube, Justia, LinkedIn, the list goes on.
We updated the phone number across the majority of citation sources last week, and after checking search engine ranking reports yesterday, we’ve noticed a dramatic increase in ORGANIC search rankings. There were some improvements to local rankings, but the most noticeable difference came on the organic side for both of the client’s two office locations.
The second case study is actually our business office address. We moved a few months ago, updated the address on our Google My Business profile but didn’t spend much time updating the address on important third-party citation sites because we were spending the majority of time on client work. I decided last week to keep the old address listed and use it as a “by appointment only” address, updated the Google My Business address to our old location and noticed an immediate improvement in both local and organic rankings, but the most noticeable difference was definitely on the organic side. Organic traffic, rankings, and inquiries all improved.
So does Google only use NAP consistency when determining which websites or businesses to include in the local “Snack Pack”? In my opinion, no. While the case studies I presented are still on the early side, it’s always been theory of mine that Google uses NAP consistency as a ranking signal, and one that might be a lot more important than you think.
How do I check my NAP (name, address, and phone number) consistency?
If you’d like to see how your business name, address, and phone number appears on third-party citation sites, here are a few ways to check:
If you’ve changed your business phone number, do a Google search for the old # to see what citation sources still list the old information.
WhiteSpark Citation Finder is a useful tool, it allows you to search for a business phone number or name to see which citation sources you’re listed on. We have been a long-time Whitespark user, if you’d like for us to run a check on your business simply email us and ask.
Request one of our free local SEO audits, which include important third-party citation data, along with consistency. We can check to see which citation sources you’re listed on, along with name, address, and phone number included in the listings. Simply request your free local SEO audit here.
Earlier today, Brightlocal, one of the leading and most respected SEO software vendors in the local search industry, hosted a webinar entitled “The State of Local Search in 2020”. Webinar panelists included local SEO experts Joy Hawkins, Ben Fisher, David Mihm, and host Myles Anderson of Brightlocal. From my experience, you couldn’t ask for 4 more knowledgeable guests as it relates to local search. Here are some key takeaway from the hour long discussion.
Back to the basics
Sometimes, in SEO, we are always looking for the new shiny red ball, but all 4 participants agreed that traditional on-page factors continue to go overlooked in 2020. Page titles, meta descriptions, website load times, quality of content, and other traditional ranking factors are still extremely important in 2020.
Google My Business interactions
One of the participants pointed out that local search users don’t always view a GMB profile and simply click on the company’s website. A number of different users will use the GMb profile to read reviews, read Q and A, look at pictures, and find out more about the business before clicking onto the website, if they even visit the site before contacting the business. Make sure your GMB profile is optimized with as much useful information as possible.
Hawkins: Links are still very important
Joy Hawkins mentioned in the webinar that links from local organizations, getting mentioned in the press are still viable ways to obtain new links, which are still ultra important for local SEO. Not necessarily citation building, but building domain authority via link building from sites relevant to your geographical area or service offering still makes a huge difference for local SEO.
Google My Business Insights not always reliable
As many have speculated over the past year or so, Google My Business Insight reports which shows actions and impressions aren’t always 100% accurate. Joy Hawkins brought this up, and mentioned that the search views and other data can be valuable, but that the data generated in other categories isn’t always 100% accurate.
BERT, AI, Semantic Search
To attempt to summarize Ben Fisher’s explanation of semantic search and how Google continues to evolve following 2019’s launch of the BERT update and implementation of AI, Google continues to attempt to understand information. Long-tail search queries can easily be confused, but if a website’s common theme and topic can be narrowed down through informative and relevant content, the better chance that Google can understand semantic search as it relates to that website.
Enable Google Messaging in GMB
Make sure you download the Google My Business app on Apple app store or Google Play to allow customers to message you via Google My Business. Also make sure to build out your Q and A section of your GMB whenever possible.
Mihm: Keyword-rich GMB titles are still effective, if not spam
David Mihm mentioned in the webinar that, if you’re starting a new business, attempting to integrate your service’s main keyword into the business title could be a way to give you an early ranking advantage over your competitors.
Reviews = scalable content
Ben Fisher also went on to explain that customer reviews are the most scalable content pieces you can integrate into your local search strategy. Fisher says to make sure your clients leave detailed reviews, and to make sure you have a solid process in place for collecting new client reviews on your GMB profile. He also mentioned that he and his team developed a piece of software that allows users to upload images to GMb profiles via text, but if you download thew GMB apps on your smartphone you should easily be able to add images to your GMB profile, which do get a fair amount of views and can be good for improving brand visibility.
Predictions for 2020
Joy Hawkins: “you need to be tracking keyword rankings across multiple zip codes, not just in one area. Especially for hyper-niche industries like dentists and restaurants.” Local Falcon is an excellent tool to see how a business ranks across multiple zip codes and different parts of a city.
Fisher: “Test, adapt, and learn”. See how Google evolves in 2020, stay informed, and be willing to try out new things and test new theories.
Those are the main takeaways from an extremely informative Brightlocal webinar, we hope this information helps provide some guidance to improve your website’s SEO efforts in 2020.
In mid-2019, Google began rolling out a test phase of a new search feature called “Google Screened” in which lawyers and other professionals with at least a 3.5 star rating would be displayed in the top results for a particular search query. As of now, the feature has only been rolled out in select markets (Houston, San Diego, and Atlanta) and for a select number of verticals (immigration and estate planning attorneys), but the fact that Google made changes to the “Google Screened” section as recently as January 13th may be a signal that they plan on moving forward with the new search engine result implementation. It is worth noting that these Google Screened results are currently displayed as paid and sponsored ads, but it could be very possible that Google continues to expand this offering in order to combat the amount of spam listings in organic local listings created by those attempting to improve their local visibility in markets where they don’t actually have a physical presence.
What is Google Screened?
According to Google, Google Screened provides background and license checks on lawyers and other types of professionals who are included in the results.
All firms that have the Google Screened badge must pass a business-level background and a business-owner background check. Additionally, each professional in the business must pass a license check and the business overall must have a 3.0 star rating or higher. In some categories, each professional in the business must also pass a background check. See Requirements by category for details.
These checks ensure that the professionals you work with have been vetted and provides you added peace of mind as you work with them.
Only firms that provide professional services including Law, Financial Planning, and Real Estate are eligible for the Google Screened badge.
While this may be a way to “weed out” those who simply attempt to dupe the search engine rankings while not being as trustworthy or credible as some of their local competitors, it still remains to be seen how Google will rank multiple firms who apply, or are included, in the Google Screened program. Some of the requirements based on each industry that Google plans to include in the future can be found here. These industries include:
Carpet & Upholstery cleaning
Real estate agents
Water damage services
Google’s recent updates to the Google Screened program includes adding images to the Google Screened results in markets where the SERP feature is currently available:
You can find out more about Google Screened (what they look for during a background check, what the minimum criteria is for a business to be listed, etc.) directly from Google on this page.
If Google’s new Screened program is rolled out Nationwide, it would surely be an added benefit for industries in which many have violated Google’s Terms of Service in order to obtain top local rankings. For example, the locksmith industry is one vertical in which those looking for reputable locksmith services have been taken advantage of by individuals acting as independent contractors for Nationwide companies setting up bogus Google My Business profiles in order to obtain local rankings and generate leads. Recently, CBC in Canada published an investigative report showing that a Google user searching for a reputable locksmith became a victim of fraud. The company that was displayed in the Google search showed a reputable address, which ended up being a vacant lot, and the user was significantly overcharged once the locksmith (which was supposed to be local to his address) actually arrived. These lead generation scams are far too common in certain industries, and hopefully Google’s new Screened program will help users feel comfortable again searching for local businesses on the leading search engine in the world.
If your industry is listed above among those which Google plans to roll out their new Screened program, you may want to setup Google and Twitter alerts and stay updated on the progress of this potentially massive shift in the Local SEO industry.
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