In the past eighteen (18) months the local business listings for Google Places (formally known as Google Maps) has become increasingly competitive. Many consider the local business listings on Google, now called the “Place Page” to be the new yellow pages for small business.
Recently, Google has merged the information on the business listings with the organic listings which has radically increased the importance of optimizing the local business listings. Read more – Google’s Place Search for Attorneys and Law Firms.
Because these listings are so competitive, contact Internet Lava to discuss how the Google Local Business Listings on Google Maps relates to your larger internet marketing strategy.
Our first step is creating and optimizing your local business listings on Google Places or “Place Page,” Bing Maps and Yahoo! Local. Why waste your time and deal with the frustration of creating a local business listing on Google Places that will never show up for the key trophy phrases such as “Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney” or “Personal Injury Attorney in Boston”? We know how to revamp and update your Google Places listing to give your law firm the best chance at the top spot.
For many of our clients, the results have been immediate. Many attorneys assume that “luck” or some secret formula causes some websites to jump to the top of the search engines. The internet is completely transparent and most of the factors involved in achieving the top spot are pretty easy to understand. We created this guide to help attorneys understand the basic steps in optimizing their Google Place page.
Google Places – A New Name with New Features
Google Local was the local business listing service provided by Google. Recently, Google changed the name to Google Places. The new name also comes with some exciting new features. If you do not have a picture of your business, Google Places will automatically post a picture for you. Although your listing may already contain a picture of your business, you are also allowed to post an additional 10 pictures. Those pictures are one piece of the puzzle required to properly optimize the listing.
Optimizing your law firm’s local business listing is now even more important since that information is merged with your organic placement. Google’s Place Search has changed everything about search engine optimization. Staying one step ahead of your competition often requires the help of an internet marketing firm. At Internet Lava we understand how to help our clients quickly achieve higher rankings. Even jumping up a few places can double the number of clients that find you through your website.
Latest Update: Google retired the Tags option on April 29, 2011. It was great while it lasted because for a monthly fee of $25, Google Places gave our clients the option of tagging certain information on the local business listing. The tag is basically a yellow button that could be placed next to something on the law firm’s listing such as the address, directions to the office, or anything else. Our clients could even post a “status update” with a link to an interior page on their main website. While other attorneys paid thousands of dollars a month for “pay per click” we helped our clients create a tag for their law firm which costs only $25 dollars a month. Although tags has come and gone, we follow every change that impacts our client’s Google Place page so our clients can take advantage of each new option as it become available.
Google has named certain law firms and other businesses as a “Google Favorite Place.” Google has begun sending these select businesses a “Bar Code” sticker that can be placed on your front door. Your customers can use their smart phone to scan the bar code to instantly deliver to their phone your contact information and other details about your law firm.
According to the letter received by one of our client’s recently when their law firm was named as a “Favorite Place on Google” less than 250,000 businesses received that distinction. Although a lot of those letters went out, less than one percent of all businesses in the United States received this distinction.
How to Guide: Adding your Law Firm to Google Places
If you want general information on how to do it yourself, then you have come to the right place. Although we have listed many tips and tricks to optimize the local business listings on Google Place, this information represents a small fraction of the possible ways to optimize the listings.
- Log into your Google Account, or if you don’t already have a Google Account you need to create a New Google Account. You will be asked to “validate the listing” by answering the business phone when the Google automated system call the business number. You should write down a PIN number from the automated system, and then imputing that PIN number online.
Tip Number 1: Important: Do not attempt to set up your law firm’s local business listing on Google Places until you are able to answer the main business phone number for your business.
Tip Number 2: Always use a local number on your Google Places listing instead of a 1-800 number. If you have a 1-800 number you can add it as an alternative number.
Tip Number 3: Make sure that you have set aside sufficient time to set up your law firm’s Google Places local business listing correctly. Set aside at least two hours of your time so that you will not be tempted to rush through setting up the law firm’s listing. The most important factor in the success of your listings is whether you have completely and accurately filled out every category with enough information to distinguish your law firm from your competition.
- Go to Google Maps and enter a search for your law firm. Unless your law firm is extremely new, you should have a local business listing which is currently “unclaimed.” After you have found your law firm’s Google Maps local business listing click on the link that says “more information.”
- Next, go to the link that says “business owner” which will take you to a section in Google’s Local Business Center where you can edit or add information about your law firm. Click on the “edit my business information” link.
- Now the most important part – you will see a long list of fields that will need to be filled in. Use every word wisely to add the following information:
- The actual name of your law firm (don’t spam the listing with “key words” or you may eventually be punished by Google for trying to trick the search engines);
- The full address of the law firm;
- The local business phone number for the law firm;
- A local fax number;
- Description of your law firm (be sure to use words that describe your practice areas and the local jurisdictions in which you practice);
- Categories (the single most important factor in determining your rankings);
- New! Service Areas and Settings:
Google Places now allows the attorney to provide information about service areas and setting locations. Google Places will ask you “Does your business provide services, such as delivery or home repair, to locations in a certain area?”
You should probably answer this question with a yes and then fill in the information to cover the jurisdictions in which you practice such as a 50 mile radius around your law office or you can list the zip codes).
- Add the law firm’s websites URL (www.example.com).
- Check off each payment options that applies to your business.
- List the hours of operation.
- Imput any additional details.
- Great opportunity to add additional information about your training and experience or other important information about your practice.
- Also, you can use these fields to add links to other place on the internet. For instance, you can add “Visit Our Facebook Page; www.facebook.com/AttorneyWebsiteDesign and this field will then link to your facebook page.
- Create a coupon for your local business listing on Google Places (such as free evaluation or free legal guide).
- New! You can now add a “post” to your law firm’s local business listing on Google Places which acts like a status update which can be changed frequently. You can and should change your “status” at least once a week. Also, you can add a link to an interior page on your website with each status update.
- Do not forget to add exactly 10 photos:
You can upload up to 10 photos which should each be properly tagged with key words such as “Picture of John Doe – Personal Injury Attorney in Denver Colorado.”
Photos can include pictures of your law firm’s office building, lobby, each attorney, your logo or other marketing material.
- YouTube videos (although if you are a criminal defense attorney make sure the videos do not use the word “marijuana,” “drugs,” “sex,” or any other of the taboo topics that might spook Google).
After you are satisfied with all the information that you have added then click on the “submit” link at the bottom of the page. Google then needs to validate that you are the owner of the company. Google will then show a field where you need to enter a “PIN” code and instructions on how to activate the listing.
You can choose to validate the business phone number or wait for Google to mail you an address. Always use the phone option because it is much faster. Google will then call the phone number on your listing, simply answer the phone and write down the PIN code that Google provides you. Enter the PIN code into the field and submit.
- After you have successfully activated your Google local business listing on the maps, you can go back to edit the information anytime. If your listing is showing up for your ideal categories, avoid the urge to make any change. From time to time your listing may slip off the front page. Once it slips off, go back to make small changes until you regain your position. If you can’t obtain the desirable result, call a professional at Internet Lava.
After you have claimed your Google local business listing, start setting up profiles on other popular websites that will then pull in information to your Google Places listing such as AVVO, InsiderPages. Yelp, CitySearch and Yellowpages.com.
Using Google Places Analytics to Improve Your Rankings
Checking your Google Places allows you to check your statistics or analytics so you can see whether your listings is being used by viewers online. Find out which phrases are being used and whether the traffic to your website is increasing or decreasing. Find out how Google’s new “Place Search” options affect your search engine optimization efforts.
The Role of Reviews on Google Places for Lawyers
Testimonials or customer reviews are particularly important on Google Places. For better or worse, the client reviews now place a major role in how Google Places ranks the various law firms. If the bar rules for your particular state does not have a rule which prohibits the practice, you can ask a former client to consider adding a customer review to your listing. Of course, you should always wait until the representation is completely over before you ask the client to write a review.
Not all reviews are created equal. Client’s that give a review that is connected to their pre-existing Google Profile are particular helpful because Google can tell that the review is not “anonymous.” Insider pages and other third party websites can also associate the clients review with their Facebook profile which again shows Google that the review is more reliable because it is not anonymous.
Never Try to Remove a Negative Attorney Review on Google Places
Google Places does have a procedure for removing a negative review. However, you should never use this procedure because Google will also penalize the attorney or law firm business listing for at least 12 months (but the effects last much longer). If you have a negative review keep in mind that eventually positive reviews will minimize the impact of one negative review.
Important Update: Starting August 4, 2010, if your law firm has a verified Google Places listing, you can respond on the business listing to any positive or negative review or testimonial written by a prior client from Google Maps on the Place Page for your law firm.
Interacting with the prior client who shared their opinion about the law firm is a great way to let your potential clients know that you care about the feedback. By using this option to respond to a customer review on your Google Places business listing, both negative and positive testimonials can help your business. Because of attorney / client privilege concerns, attorneys should be particularly careful in the way they handle these responses.
A general comment inviting the client to contact you about their concerns or a note of appreciation for a particularly raving supporter will probably help potential clients understand that you care about your clients and helping them with their legal problems.
Just the Beginning: Now Add Your Law Firm’s Yahoo and Bing Profiles
After you have finished your Google Places local business listings for your law firm, you can also do listings for each attorney within the law firm. Then do the same for the other search engines such as Yahoo! Local Business Listing on Maps (we highly recommend you pay the $9.95 per month for the enhanced local business listing which is worth every penny), and Bing Maps Local Business Listing (find the “Add a Listing” link at the bottom of the page).
Hire Our Professionals at Internet LAVA to Do All the Work
Although you can attempt to do it yourself, at Internet LAVA we have learned through trial and error how to help our attorneys show up at the top of Google Places. Now that Google has added the Place Search these local business listings are even more important.
Instead of spending hours trying to do it yourself only to see your listing fall off the first page, contact us to find out how we help our attorneys see immediate results. Staying at the top requires constantly adjusting your local business listing to use new techniques favored by Google.
At Internet Lava we understand that a professionally designed website for the attorney is just the first step. To dominate the search engines you must also take advantage of all the other tools available on the internet. One of the most important tools is the Google Place Page.