By Ian M. Bardorf
Google Places is an online directory of businesses around the world. Having a current listing in this directory is essential for all types of businesses, but is especially important for attorneys and small law firms.
Why? Because most people seeking legal assistance start their search on Google by entering their location and the specialty they need. For example, someone looking for help with a will in a Boston suburb may type “Needham Attorney Wills.”
Google then serves up relevant results based on that query. Frequently, businesses from Google Places are among the top ten listings on the critical first page of results.
Being listed in Google Places will help you be found online, differentiate yourself from the competition, and get insights about your clients. And best, of all, the listing is free.
There are four steps you can take to make sure your practice is among those top listings.
1. Claim your listing.
Each business listing on Google is composed of information from a variety of different places including Yellow Pages and other third-party providers. But Google values and trusts the information that you submit through Google Places the most. This means that it will appear instead of any basic information from anywhere else.
The first step to making the most of your free Google Places account is to claim your listing and verify that the basic information is accurate. Although the site lists almost 50 million businesses, only two million have claimed their listings in the U.S.
You can edit or update this information whenever you need to. You can add other information to your listing too — such as a description of your business, for example, as well as photos, reviews, or information about hours and parking costs — that will appear above similar information from other providers.
2. Stand Out.
The links that appear at the top of the search engine results pages are extremely sought after real estate, especially the links that appear in rank 1 – 10. Because most searchers only click on the first few links, appearing in a top spot means more traffic to your website. For this reason, being listed here is very competitive. Only two to six business listings from Google Places can appear for any given search.
To help your practice gain a good ranking, you can enhance your listing with relevant terms and descriptive phrases. This is called “optimizing” your listing. For example instead of describing your practice area as “bankruptcy” you can specify a particular type like “Chapter 13 bankruptcy.” This will do two things: help your listing appear when someone searches for those terms and generate leads from the type of client you really want. There is tremendous value in claiming those top places and optimizing them.
Or for $25 a month, you can buy “tags,” relevant keyphrases that will return your listings in local searches, including on Google maps.
Your listing is also a great place to tie in other online profiles you may have on Linkedin, Avvo, or Justia; pull video from YouTube; or link to positive reviews on other sites. Google Places makes it easy for someone to find you and learn about your practice quickly, and allows you to gain visibility and capitalize on targeted searches.
3. Gain Insight.
To keep track of how your listing is performing, Google offers a personalized dashboard within Google Places that includes data about how many times people have found your practice on Google, what keywords they used to find it, how many people clicked on the link or asked for directions, and even where clients traveled from to visit your office. You can use this information to learn about interest in your practice, make more informed decisions about how to be found on Google, and how to interact with your clients.
4. Be Wise.
Google is finicky. If you don’t claim and optimize your listing properly, or if you try to game the system by jamming your entry with keywords or posting two listings, Google will eventually catch up to you and bump your listing from the search engine results pages, sometimes for months.
This can be devastating to your lead generation, especially for a smaller firm, with accounts going from a thousand impressions a month down to zero. With careful steps it is possible to get a listing back up and running, but it can take up to six long months before it appears again.
Google tries to give searchers a relevant selection to their query, so your listing, even if well optimized, won’t come up on top every time. If you optimize properly and offer good quality information you can consistently appear for months among the top results.
Google Places is a great way to generate good quality leads, learn about your clients, and differentiate yourself from the competition. Making the most of your listing is not a one-time event, but an on-going process that requires expertise, time and an understanding of Google’s requirements. A well-defined listing, with links to other profile information, must be optimized properly, frequently updated, and managed well to achieve the best results. For assistance with your Google places listing, contact Ian Bardorf at www.BardorfMarketing.com.
Ian M. Bardorf is an Internet marketing and social media advisor to attorneys and law firms seeking to grow and advance their business via the web. This article is copyrighted as original content by Ian M. Bardorf and Bardorf Legal Marketing. This article may be reproduced or republished with appropriate attribution and credit.