Since the recent shift in the local maps from 7, to 3 – there is a much larger emphasis on how to rank well in google places. Many lawyers who we speak to, nowadays, ask us about ranking in local places in the same breath as ranking in places. It seems that the recent shakeup, has awakened many lawyers to the significance of ranking well in Google places. By no means is this article supposed to be the final-verdict on what’s important, when ranking in Google places. The question is very difficult to answer. In some cases, it may be impossible for a law firm to rank well in places depending on their past history.
The Pigeon update and the recent shift from 7, to 3, listings, has greatly changed how local places are decided. Before, pigeon – ranking in Google places felt like an accomplishment. Ranking in places was hard, and very uncontrollable. Often, business would rank that had no organic presence, or very limited organic presence. Frankly, it felt illogical at times. Very often, websites would disappear from Google places for no reason, yet rank very strongly in organics.
commentary: I think this was because before, the algorithm for google places relied more heavily on reviews (quality + quantity). google would occasionally crawl your reviews on other websites. obviously google isn’t crawling your yelp profile every day, it might crawl it once every 1-2 months. but when it did crawl those other review websites, a huge shift would happen. this is probably due to the over-reliance on reviews, and reviews on other website.Â
With Pigeon, google shifted it’s algorithm to take into greater consideration organic signals. This means, frankly, that they started looking at variables that were traditionally only looked at for organic rankings: number of backlinks, quality of backlinks, domain age, etc. This changed the game. Almost miraculously, you started seeing websites who ranked well in Organics start dominating local Places as well. After this algorithm update, when a lawyer asked, “how can my law firm rank well in places,” the overwhelming answer was always – do better SEO.
With very few, and rare instances, did a firm ever rank in Google places and yet not rank in Organics. In situations where this was the case, the firm didn’t stay there very long.
The first thing to take into consideration when trying to rank in Local places as a lawyer, is your SEO. If you are in a Google penalty, don’t even expect ranking in places. It doesn’t matter how good your reviews are – Pigeon has changed the game. This means unless you have superior SEO – you will not rank.
Here’s a screenshot of two lawyers, ranking for keyword: Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer/s, who have no reviews.
This set of keywords is one of the most competitive keywords in the country for personal injury. Notice letters A and B? They have no reviews, period. In the case of “Accident Lawyers PLC,” there’s no website even attached to the local listing. In the case of Scott J. Corwin, and Kenmore Law Group, both firms have a website that ranks on page 1 of Google for the keywords in question (at the time we took the screenshot on 9/22/2015).
Bottom line, you can repeat this process for all sorts of legal keywords, and you’ll see the same consistent trend.
Many lawyers we speak to often neglect the most basic local elements. For example, they don’t know if they have a Google places account. Before you speak to a consultant, and hire someone – make sure you do everything you can on your own. Verify your places account. Make sure you add your websites URL to the places account.
tip: if you do not add the URL to the local places account, you will not rank, even if you have 100 5 star reviews! if you do not list a url in the places account, how will Google know which website to rank in local places?Â
In addition to claiming and verifying the profile, make sure to populate it with content, such as pictures, content about your firm, etc.
tip: who do you think google will rank higher? an incomplete profile, or a fully branded profile? it’s common sense!
Another element to take into consideration is creation of local listings on other directories, such as: yelp, yellow pages, white pages, and other “citations.” Google relies on third party website data, in order to verify you do truly exist. In addition, there are backlinks on these different websites back to your website – which improves your rankings in search engines.