Adding Local SEO To Your Marketing Strategy
A huge percentage of people no longer use traditional methods for finding local businesses online. Today the go-to tool for research about products and services is the internet. It is estimated that about 87% of U.S. Adults use the internet according to a Pew Research Center report. Of those, more than 70% use a search engine to find what they are looking for online. In another study titled “How Today’s Consumers Really Search for An Attorney,” 39% of respondents were more likely to use a search engine to research firms than asking their friends and family or other channels.
For attorneys, this means that a presence in local search is huge for getting found by new potential clients. These days if you don’t show up right away in a search on a leading search engine, you aren’t relevant.
The good news is that there are many strategies that will help enhance your online presence. Some are specific to attorneys while others can work for a variety of businesses. More traffic means more chances that local searchers will be able to find the information they are looking for to make a buying decision.
What is Local SEO?
Searcher intent is a large part of search engine optimization (SEO). You must understand what people are looking for as it relates to your business in order to optimize it. Search engines attempt to irganize information and serve it to users when they type a query. They’ve gotten very good at delivering results based on a variety of factors, one of which is user location. Local SEO is all about making your site accessible to local searchers and relevant for search engines looking to serve location-specific content to their users.
Why Should Attorneys Care?
As recently as December of 2011, Pew Research reported that some 55% of adults got news and information about local businesses from the internet and search. Personal computing has become extremely affordable and ubiquitous. Likewise, mobile device usage has rapidly increased in recent years.
With these trends taking place, businesses that rely on local markets (like many attorneys), need to find innovative ways to reach those markets on the platforms that they are using most. In this case, that means marketing online.
A more recent study from the Yelp Blog and performed by Search Engine Land reported that 85% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses. The survey conducted used local consumers in the U.S., Canada and U.K. There were over 2,800 respondents. The survey showed that only 15% of consumers had not used the internet to find a local business.
Benefits for Your Practice
Enhancing your presence in local search is an opportunity to market your business. By enhancing your site to perform well in search, you open the door for organic (non-paid) traffic to start flowing in over time.
Components of Local SEO
The following are some key components of optimizing a site for local traffic. They vary from more traditional and broader approaches to optimization because they leverage local resources and location relevant strategies, websites like www.seo-semantic-xhtml.com could help you to make the most of these strategies.
- Citations (business listings)
- Links from local websites
- Keyword + location name in pages
- Having a location-specific page
- Schema markup
- Attorney-specific directories
A citation is a listing of your law firm’s name, address and phone number among other information on a third party website. These listings can increase the chance that you will be seen by a searcher as opposed to only having a website in the search results. They are also a good source of links for your website. Users looking for phone numbers or address information are even more likely to jump on listings or other relevant information if they are on a mobile device.
Local links (or inbound links from other organizations that are close to yours geographically) are also part of the equation. Links from websites that are relevant to a user’s location are powerful indicators of relevance. For example, links from local chambers of commerce, local directories or from partner businesses are good indicators to search engines of relevance.
This is HTML markup that is placed on content to make it machine-understandable. Schema can be used on a variety of content but for local law firms it works best on phone number, address, name and other contact information.
Reviews help searchers make purchasing decisions and for local businesses, these can make or break an online presence. User generated content that has location information attached to it is great for local SEO. Google reviews are some of the most powerful because they are prominently displayed on the search engine for users. Having a good amount of positive reviews for your business on Google is key for success in local search. Reviews have also been shown to influence rankings and are frequently shown more prominently in services like Google Maps.
These are directories that have listings for attorneys in a specific geographic region. Directories are still a good source of links and traffic for attorneys. The trick is to submit your site to attorney-specific directories. You should also watch out for ones that provide little value. These are often easy to spot because they are shallow in terms of content and easy to submit your site to. More on attorney-specific directories later on.
On-Page Optimization with Location-Based Terms
The term “on-site” simply refers to changes made to a website itself as opposed on elements on other websites. Optimizing your pages for terms that searchers use related to location is a good way to make the page more relevant.
We’ll explain what all this means, but you’ll want to make sure you have the following elements squared away for your on-page optimization:
- Keyword + Location in meta description and title tag
- Keyword + Location in copy of page
- Your Business address
- Local Business schema on the page (more on this later)
- Keyword + Location in URL of page
- Keyword + Location as file name of images rendered on the page and in their alt attributes if appropriate
Keyword + Location
Each page of the site should be focused on a specific keyword. For location pages, there should be one page for each specific location or office that the attorney has. Then if a user searches for personal injury lawyer Detroit, a page optimized for that phrase (and if the practice is actually located in Detroit), it will rank very well for that localized query.
Keyword + Location in copy of page
The content on your page should have a target keyword phrase (for example “lawyers”) and the location your office is located in (i.e. Chicago). Your page would then be trying to rank for the phrase “lawyers Chicago.” Note that you could also rank for variations of this phrase like “Lawyers in Chicago,” “Philadelphia Chicago” or “find a lawyer in Chicago.”
Address relevant to location on page
This would simply be your business address. It should be located somewhere on your location-specific page. Having your phone number in a prominent location is also great for your practice as well as having it on every page.
If you aren’t familiar with schema, it is simply HTML markup that is used to make content machine-understandable. It enables search engines (not just Google) to understand what content on a page means and its relationship in the world. For example 1345 Nowhere Lane is simply four numbers and two words or a string of characters to a machine. To a human, this looks like the first line of an address. Schema markup in this instance would help a search engine understand that this is an address where something is located and not just a string of numbers and letters that has no meaning.
Schema will not cause your site to rank better in search but it will enhance the way results for your website appear in search. This can then make it more likely that a searcher will click on your SERP result.
There are different types of schema and within those types there are specific schemas for different people, places, things and concepts. For an in-depth education on schema, you can learn more at schema.org.
Attorney Specific Schema 
In this section we’ll talk about two ways to add schema to your site.
- Manually add HTML code to your content
- Use The Google Data Highlighter
Manually adding code to your website
If you are familiar with HTML, it’s pretty simple to add schema markup to your content. If you aren’t and you still want to add it that way, you can use one of the popular schema markup generators floating around out there. There are dozens of different kinds of content you can markup but we will only focus on adding it to contact information (name, address, phone number, etc), reviews, business or office hours and Geo Coorindates.
For all of the information you want a search engine to understand as being related to your law firm, it must be encased in markup defining the item type as attorney. The most common way to do that is with a
tag within which all of your other markup will go (i.e. address, phone number, office hours, etc).
It will look like this:
—Other markup goes in between these tags—
Your Firm Name and Address
Next put the firm’s name and address within the
Sam & Sam LLC
So far your markup should look like this:
Sam & Sam LLC
Next add the address item scope (note it should be in a new
Now your markup should look like this:
Sam & Sam LLC
Now you can add your address information. Each part of an address has its own property. They would be written as follows:
1234 Street Name Blvd.
Your finished attorney name and address markup should look like this:
Sam & Sam LLC
1234 Street Name Blvd.
Schema.org is an excellent resource for visual aids when marking up content. You can refer back to it as you go through your site.
Using Google’s Data Highlighter
If you don’t have a working knowledge of HTML, you can still markup content on your site. Google has an excellent tool called the Data Highlighter in the Webmaster Tools interface. Attorneys can use point and click functionality to highlight text, images and URLs on their site to help Google learn about their content.
The following are some directories (and their corresponding PageRank) specific to the legal profession:
PR7 – http://lawyers.justia.com/new-profile – requires fax
PR6 – http://www.avvo.com/free-lawyer-advertising – credit card confirmation
(Avvo law firm group claim: http://www.avvo.com/support/all-firm-claim)
PR5 – http://attorneydirectorydb.org/
PR5 – http://www.elocallawyers.com/
PR5 – http://lawyers.uslegal.com/
PR5 – http://www.legaldocs.com/
PR4 – http://lawlink.com/ – need years of school & bar #
PR4 – http://attorneypages.com/ – bar # and law school required
PR4 – http://attorneyfee.com/ – credit card confirmation
PR4 – http://www.leadcounsel.org/
PR4 – http://lawreferralconnect.com/
PR4 – http://targetlaw.com/
PR4 – http://www.lawyerratingz.com/
PR3 – http://www.lawyercentral.com/claim-my-attorney-profile.html – pic & bar verification
PR3 – http://www.lawqa.com/
PR3 – http://www.bestattorneysonline.com/
PR3 – http://www.alphalegal.com/
PR3 – http://www.dilawctory.com/
PR3 – http://www.ilawyerdirectory.com/ (GEO directory for Southern California law firms) – WARNING: Timed out.
PR2 – http://lawyers.lawyerlegion.com/create.php – requires bar #
PR2 – http://www.legalwebfinder.com/
PR1 – http://www.findlawyersbycity.com/
PR1 – http://www.mylegalpractice.com/
PR0 – indexlawyer.com
PR0 – http://www.list-lawyers.com/
PR0 – http://www.lawyerfreelist.com/ – No-follow link.
PR0 – http://usaattorneys.org/
PR0 – http://www.dwiduihelp.com/ – DWI/DUI practice area.
PR0 – http://attorney-online.info/dir – requires client assistance
PR* – http://www.legalfeefinancing.org/
PR* – http://whollylegal.com/
PR* – http://www.lawblogs.net/
It is estimated that more than 70% of internet users leverage a search engine to find what they are looking for online. The more opportunities attorneys can provide to show up in search results, the more traffic you are likely to receive. Local citations are simply mentions of your business name and information on some other website.
The primary goal should be to drive people to your website but you can increase the chances of that happening by making local citations. These are third party websites where you can list your business information. Common examples from listing sites include a Google Places Page, a Bing Business listing, Yahoo’s business directory, Yellowpages.com, etc. (see complete list in Appendix).
Creating Your Business Listings
Whether you have filled out 1 or 100 citation profiles online, it is vital that you do it right. Therefore, here are some quick tips for filling out profiles correctly:
- NAP: This acronym stands for name, address and phone number. Make sure all profiles you fill out have at least your name, address and phone number (NAP)
- Keep the information consistent across all profiles
- Fill out listings completely
- Use keywords related to your practice
- Include your website and links to any social sites you are active on
- Remove duplicate listings
If you’ve been practicing for a while, chances are that there is already basic business information on many of these kinds of sites (i.e. business listing websites). Claiming your profile on these sites is all that is necessary instead of starting up new accounts.
If you are filling out profiles manually, make sure you search for your business name on a website first to see if a default profile already exists. If it does, follow the site’s instructions on how to claim the listing.
Filling Out Your Profiles Completely
This deserves some special attention because of its importance to the impact of your citation work. Each area of an online profile is an opportunity to be relevant for content your target audience might be searching for. When you don’t fill out a profile completely, these are missed opportunities.
- Add images and logos
- Add videos if you have them
- Fill out category information accurately and sub-category information as well. For example, if you are a an attorney select that, and if your practice area is available (such as personal injury), make sure that is selected as well
- Add keywords relevant to your practice if a space exists for that
- When you add images or video, make sure their file names, descriptions or other keyword fields associated with them have geo-specific keywords in them
- Make sure the description in a profile has your geo-specific location keywords inserted
It’s important to make sure your name, address and phone number are all consistent across your profiles. Inaccurate information can result in confusion among searchers and search engines as to which information is the correct information. That could also result in a listing not being shown to a user because it isn’t correct.
Aside from smaller business listing sites, there are much larger data aggregation companies. Smaller websites typically get their information from these larger data distributors. These are important because if you don’t have the right information with these entities, chances are the rest of the information across the web about your business will also be inaccurate.
The major data aggregators include (See appendix for a comprehensive list of smaller business listing sites):
- Neustar Localeze
If you don’t fill out business listing profiles on any other sites, you should still make sure your information is accurate with the larger organizations.
For local search, reviews are extremely important for your firm image, social proof and SEO. Getting reviews (especially good ones) can be a time consuming and tedious process, but if you stay consistent you can start to build up a good presence.
Reviews for any kind of business have become a very influential conversion factor in search results pages. Star ratings and user generated content make relevant search results even more appealing than they otherwise would be. Consumers tend to click on results that have better review ratings or review ratings at all as opposed to those with low or no ratings.
Methods for Getting Reviews
When you ask your clients for reviews, you have to keep it as simple as possible. If people have to work or muddle through something, they are less likely to do it. You can make leaving a review easier by providing multiple options for networks to leave it on as well as creating a basic template for them to follow.
For example, give them the option of leaving a review on Yelp, Google and/or Yahoo (if they want to do all three that’s even better). The idea here is that not everyone has a Google or Yahoo account (which you need to have in order to leave the review).
Next, outline your steps and questions. People sometimes feel reluctant to leave a review because they don’t know what to say. Provide questions that the person can answer as a part of their review.
Lastly, you have to find a way to deliver all of these instructions to them. Your clients undoubtedly get a lot of emails anyway so sending an email for the sole purpose of soliciting a review from them is probably overkill. Include it in a follow up email instead. For instance, when you send out a follow up email to see how they are doing after a case or any other services you provided to them, include your review template there.
Common Obstacles for Attorney Reviews
Legal services are (by nature) not always a service that people want the world knowing they used. For non-embarrassing or stigmatizing situations, you probably won’t have much trouble getting clients to agree to leave a review. For criminal, bankruptcy or divorce clients, you may have some trouble getting them on board.
For clients like these, you can have them leave anonymous reviews at sites like AVVO. You could also have client’s email you reviews and place them on your site under a fictional first name.
Avoid doing in-house reviews. That is, don’t have people write their reviews down and then later use fake accounts to submit the review online. You might get away with it for a while but you will eventually be flagged by the site where reviews are hosted.
Reviews on Yelp
If you can get clients to do it, Yelp is one of the more beneficial review sites out there. Yelp is one of the largest data sources online for reviews and information about local businesses. Yelp reviews are also prominently displayed in Siri searches (Apple’s proprietary voice search assistant).
Developing a Practice Area-Specific Page
Location-specific pages are good for businesses including law firms but practice area-specific pages are a unique task that attorneys can take advantage of. Building a practice area specific page is a lot like building a location specific page.
Structure of Your Page
This page should only be about your practice area. If you have more than one, make multiple pages. You should only use the keyword phrase (i.e. personal injury lawyers) along with its close variations. Density of the keyword isn’t as important as that the overall theme of the page is about the practice area.
Many attorneys serve local markets and their potential clients are using search engines and other online channels to do research related to their services. Having a strong presence in local search is important for lawyers to attract new business. If consumers can’t find you online, chances are they are finding your competitors instead.