In just three years, searches for “lawyers near me” in Australia have almost doubled with a 96% increase.
If we look at the search term “family lawyers near me” over the same period, searches have climbed a whopping 698%.
And what does Google show potential clients when they search for local searches like these?
The top of the first page results will show what we call the “local pack.”
Note that you’re seeing three results and a map.
The number of competitors in your local proximity will determine how tough it is to be visible in those top three results. And ranking for one of these spots is important because 56.7% of clicks on the page will go to one of these positions.
That’s what I want to help you with in this article. I want to help improve your legal clinic’s local SEO and increase the number of people looking for your services.
What is Local SEO?
As I noted, searches with local intent display a different SERP. When users are looking for a local business, they will be presented with what is referred to as the local pack.
Google has been known to make some changes to the layout of the local pack. In general, you have three organic listings, the local map, and sometimes a local services ad.
Aside from the local pack, you can also expect to see other Google features in the SERP including three traditional ads first, eight to ten organic listings below the pack mixed with a “People also ask” feature, and of course, more traditional ads.
But if you need more proof that you must be in the local pack, consider that for local searches, it ranks in the #1 position for 93% of Google searches.
Why Is Local SEO So Important for Law Firms and Lawyers?
We’ve already established that people are looking for convenience when searching for lawyers and law firms. If that’s one of their key considerations, then you should pay attention.
However, the benefit of local SEO is more than being able to leverage a growing trend to generate more traffic to your website. It’s about attracting high-quality leads.
“88% of searches for local businesses on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours.”
Curious what you’d find?
Try searching yourself—”Lawyers near me.”
5 Local SEO Tips for Law Firms
It’s important to note first that Google does not publicise specific details on how to rank highly in any of their search queries. Nevertheless, we can source local SEO advice from established thought leaders in the industry and from Google’s general local ranking guidelines.
One industry source for local SEO advice is BrightLocal. In particular, their insight into Local Search Ranking Factors is relevant for this article. It is an industry survey that compiles the most influential factors for improving local search presence.
The five prominent factors that improve both results in the local pack and local search results include:
- Google Business Profile
So let’s look at each of these in detail.
1. Optimising Your Google Business Profile (GBP)
Google suggests that “Providing and updating business information in Google Business Profile can help your business’s local ranking on Google and enhance your presence in Search and Maps.”
There are many facets to optimising your GBP listing. Here are five that Google communicates.
Enter complete data
The more information you provide, the more valuable your GBP listing is to people searching for a legal practice. So, go ahead and fill in as much as you can, including address, phone, email, payment types, and more.
Make sure your business details are accurate and consistent with your website and other prominent online listings!
Another important factor in GBP success is selecting the right category. There are a number of options:
- Law Firm
- Civil Law Attorney
- Divorce Lawyer
- Family Law Attorney
- Personal Injury Attorney
- Criminal Justice Attorney
- Elder Law Attorney
Verify your location(s)
Of course, Google doesn’t want to serve incorrect local information in their search results. The solution? Verify your location!
Some businesses can do this by phone and email. Otherwise, the process involves having a physical postcard sent to your business via snail mail.
Keep your hours accurate
When people search for your business, Google will indicate to the user that you are open or closed. If you don’t have accurate hours listed, you risk annoying clients who get to your business only to find out you’re closed.
Even worse, you might miss out on business because people think you’re closed when you’re not. The lesson here is to make sure to take advantage of the “special hours” feature too, so you can add public holiday hours, etc.
Manage and respond to reviews
We all value online reviews, and that’s why Google places great importance on them.
How do you build a portfolio of good, honest reviews? By encouraging reviews (but definitely not paying for them). Be sure to respond to both positive and negative reviews.
Keep in mind your response to negative reviews is just as likely to have an influence on others as the review itself is. Acknowledge negative client feedback and respond genuinely, even if you wholeheartedly disagree with what they said about your business.
Take this as an opportunity to display your professionalism and clarify why the customer left with a bad impression of your business, preventing prospective clients from being swayed by a single negative review.
Google knows that users find value in seeing images of your practice, so of course, photos will help. Add as many as you can, but make sure they’re great photos that portray your business in a positive light.
I would go one step further and hire a Google Trusted Photographer to create a virtual tour of your practice.
2. Link Signals
Links have long been considered a prominent factor in traditional search and local search results. But remember: not all links are equal.
In this instance, you want to focus on quality signals such as inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, and linking domain quantity.
Let me explain.
When you’re looking to improve your link signals to boost your local SEO, you want to look for links that:
- Use relevant, contextual anchor texts. When someone links to your site you don’t want them to use “Click here,” for example. A better one would be, “Brisbane-based divorce lawyer,” for instance.
- Come from authoritative websites. A link from a tiny blog that has little to do with law is not authoritative. A link from a major media publication such as The Guardian along with other authoritative websites such as Smart Company will bring more credibility to your business. Context is also an important factor.
- Are unique linking domains. A linking domain differs from your typical inbound link because 10 inbound links from the same website only counts as one linking domain. Three great links is a good start but won’t be the signal to Google that your website is prominent.
3. Citation Signals
Often confused with links, citations are simply mentions of your law firm’s name, address, and phone on another website. They don’t necessarily need to include a link.
It’s just another signal to Google of your firm’s prominence. With that said, we’re wanting to improve your local prominence, so these citations should be local.
There are several important factors in a local citation:
- Location data
- NAP consistency
- Citation volume
In a nutshell, you want to grow the number of mentions of your business in the local area while maintaining data consistency (address and phone) and relevance.
Look to your local council directory and chamber of commerce, and get involved in your local community to acquire online mentions from other local businesses.
4. Improve Your Online Reputation (Reviews)
Again, reviews are super-important for the user, and Google knows it. That’s why you want to be actively encouraging them to boost your SEO efforts.
We conducted our own study into local search results in Australia and found that in terms of online reviews for law firms, there is plenty of opportunity for improvement.
“It may not come as a surprise to some, but law firms had the lowest Google Business Profile review rating and the lowest number of total reviews.”
Reviews’ importance to the local pack has also been identified in another study by BrightLocal.
“Going from a 3-star rating to a 5-star rating gets a business 25% more clicks from Google Local Pack.”
Where to Get Reviews
Asking for reviews on your GPB listing is a no-brainer. Enough quality reviews will encourage people searching for a local clinic to contact you directly from Google ahead of your competitors.
If you have a Facebook Business page, ask for reviews there, too. Facebook is one of the most dominant players on the web. The “2020 Yellow Social Media Report” highlighted that the average Australian is on Facebook a whopping 29 times a week.
Aside from GBP and Facebook, do a search of your own for something you expect your potential clients/patients might search. For example, “family law firm Melbourne.”
You’re looking for third-party sites that rank well. Aim to gain reviews on these, too.
5. Local Website (On-Page) Signals
While considered less influential than your GBP listing, the presence of local factors and the overall quality of content on your website should not be overlooked.
Specifically, BrightLocal’s study looked at several elements:
- NAP (Name, Address, Phone). You need to display contact details from your GBP on your website.
- Titles on your website that demonstrate you have a local presence. A unique contact page for the specific local area is perfect for this.
- Topical keyword relevance across the entire site.
- Using location-specific keywords in your meta titles and descriptions.
- Domain Authority. The number of referring domains is a big factor.
Also consider creating locally-focused blog content. If you’re publishing content that discusses state-by-state legislation, then a sensible approach is to focus more on advice for your state.
Not only are you showing Google your content is more relevant to local people, but your audience is more likely to click on your result because they recognise it will likely be more relevant. You could take it a step further, even if it’s not all that logical, and talk about law matters specific to the city you are in.
Although not mentioned in survey results from BrightLocal, I strongly suggest adding Schema markup to your website. Schema is a markup language (code) that you can add to your website to structure your business’ data so search engines can better understand your content.
In particular, there is a “LocalBusiness” markup that I believe is a great opportunity to improve your local SEO efforts.
LocalBusiness > LegalService > Attorney
I recommend applying the markup to your home page.
There’s no doubt that there is an emerging opportunity to generate new leads for your law firm by tapping into Google’s local search results.
The good news is that it’s not all that technical.
- Optimise your Google Business Profile.
- List your business in the local and legal directories.
- Get involved in the community (online and offline).
- Deliver the type of client experience that deserves 5-star reviews, and give your clients a process that encourages reviews.
Funnel your efforts into these steps, and you’ll work your way into the local pack. Your reward? You’ll generate plenty of high-quality leads to your website or calls to the office directly from your GBP listing.