If people are going to use google to find their lawyer (bearing in mind that not everyone does of course), there's a pretty good chance they want to find a lawyer somewhere vaguely nearby. So while your overall SEO efforts are important, it's also why lawyers need to understand a bit about local SEO and how it can help their digital marketing.
What is Local SEO?
Ordinarily, your search engine optimization strategy involves a sequence of steps to identify relevant words and phrases, produce highly valuable content about those words and phrases, and convince Google (or Bing – lol) and your audience that you and your site are authorities in connection with that topic.
Think of local SEO as normal SEO with a twist of lime. It's best explained with an example.
If you're out in the middle of a city that you don't know very well and have a sudden, irrational but compelling desire for a kebab – what are you going to do? There's a good chance you'll Google something like “kebab store” or “where can I get a kebab” or some kind of variation on the theme. You might name the place that you are, or you might not. Which would you like Google to show you in that particular case?
- the site with the best kebab related SEO – irrespective of its location; or
- the best kebab store nearby your present location?
The answer is obvious. And that's how local SEO works.
So if I was hunting for a construction lawyer, for example, and I searched for “construction lawyers” Google's going to run through a process:
- where am I currently located
- do I seem to be looking for construction lawyers that are near my current location;
- if so, which law firms should Google show me as the most likely candidates for my query.
While a construction firm in London might have the best overall SEO, that's not necessarily going to be the most relevant site to show me in those circumstances. Here's what I get if I search “lawyer” (after a bunch of ads)
This is where a law firm's local SEO efforts are going to help.
First Step – Normal SEO Practices
Good SEO is simply good.
So all of your usual SEO efforts are going to help when it comes to your local search presence as well.
While I won't go into them here, if you really have no clue what you're doing with SEO generally then I'd suggest you read this longer article and get the basics nailed if you want to have a hope of showing up on the map like those firms above did.
But things like site speed, site architecture, on page factors, and your overall SEO strategy are important to get right – whether it's local SEO or otherwise.
What's the Local Pack and Why Do you Care?
Although this is slightly less compelling for law firms, it's still relevant.
The local pack is the set of 3 (it used to be 7) businesses that appear in and below the map when you search for something that Google thinks should result in a local search response.
That picture above – that's the “local pack”.
Why you care is probably obvious: it's right at the top of the results and it's way more visible as a consequence of the map. So even if you don't encourage walk-ins to your business, getting in the local pack can offer a big boost to your website traffic.
Google My Business is Critical for Local SEO
If you don't know what Google My Business is or have been ignoring it, now is time for that to change.
Head over to Google My Business and hit “start now”. Presumably you've already got some kind of Google account, but if not it's time to create one.
Complete your details (it's fairly self-explanatory) and wait for your verification postcard to arrive (around a week or so). Verify your business following the instructions, and voila!
What's the point? The point here to make sure that Google knows:
- you exist
- where you exist
- what you do
- which website is relevant to your business listing/location.
Because if it doesn't know these things, then it can't show other people the information, right?
Get your Contact Page Set Up for Local SEO
All that stuff you put into your My Business account just now? That needs to be on your contact page (or your about page, if you prefer).
It also needs to be the same – if you change numbers, emails or contact details then ensure you update both or Google's going to get confused about whether you are really you.
You could use the Yoast Local SEO plugin if you want to make things a bit easier to manage – it'll pimp out your contact page appropriately.
But most of what you need to do isn't too hard. For immediate purposes, just ensure that:
- All of your details are identical between your contact page and Google My Business
- Your page has a map on it with your business tagged in it
- Your contact page is content rich (if possible), rather than just a bland set of data
Although a law firm isn't like a local kebab shop, many local searches are done on mobile.
If your site isn't optimised for mobile, then it must be.
I don't mean “mobile friendly”, I don't mean “responsive”, I mean “our site looks awesome on mobile and is easy to use”.
Traditionally, law firms haven't been great at this because of the sheer volume of information they keep trying to stuff into their site. But we're improving.
Make it so.
Find Your Citations
Everywhere your firm is mentioned online, whether it's chambers of commerce, local business listings or other aggregation sites – your details should be the same, and you need to work your way through those and ensure that you're keeping your online presence consistent and up to date.
Where your firm is listed – make sure it's right.
And… It's Time for Reviews
Law firms fear reviews in the same way that almost everybody does.
Much like cats and children, they are powerful, dangerous, hard to control and potentially going to wreck your stuff.
But consumers of legal services love them.
Do you read reviews? I'll bet you do, and I do too. Sure, I take them with a grain of salt and I weigh up how crazy people sound along the way, but I certainly check them.
Even if you don't want to use a large scale method for obtaining reviews, you should certainly collect a few dozen high star reviews from clients that you know are going to support you. They should be genuine, realistic and from people who actually know you.
Reviews are important when it comes to your local presence, and ignoring them isn't going to do you any favours.
Of Course… Content Relevant to your Local Area
Producing content relevant to your local area is going to be helpful.
If you're a law firm serving businesses in Toronto, then how about a “getting started in Toronto” guide somewhere?
If you deliver family law advice to Queensland individuals, then “Family Law Traps for Queensland Residents” might be relevant.
You get the idea. If you're local – then be local, and produce content that is attractive to local people.
Get your Firm in the Local SEO Results
And that's more than enough to get you started.
Here are the fundamentals of getting your law firm into the local search results, and capitalising on local seo efforts:
- make sure your content and your site generally comply with best seo practices
- get your Google My Business page set up and accurate
- ensure your Contact page (or about page) is a good reflection of what's found elsewhere
- check your citations in other places and make sure the information is consistent
- get reviews
- produce relevant content for local interests.
Got any more tips? Let me know!