The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Local Search

Local Search
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As with any business, your ability to bring in new clients is a determining factor for your firm’s success. While there are countless ways to create exposure and introduce yourself to new prospects, few are as necessary as Local Search.

Whether you have a solid strategy in place, or if it’s on your 2019 to do list, I want to share a few reasons for embracing local search you might not have considered yet.

The Good

In 2018, 60% of Google search clicks were through mobile phones. This is nearly DOUBLE the 34% mobile search rate just five years ago. Of those mobile searches, roughly 50% are “near me” queries with local intent. In other words, prospects are pulling out their smartphones and actively searching top ranking local attorneys to assist them with their legal woes. By optimizing your local listing, you are essentially skipping to the front of the line when it comes to ranking on local search.

The Bad

Now that you understand just how valuable an optimized local listing can be, let’s discuss the missteps that can sabotage your success. For starters, citations can make or break you and details matter. As an example, if your firm is listed at 123 Law Street on one listing and 123 Law ST on the other you could be penalized by Google for having an inconsistent NAP (Name Address and Phone Number). For these reasons, it is best to perform a thorough audit of your citations and update any incorrect or inconsistent ones before implementing a citation building campaign.

The Ugly

While there are things you can control when it comes to your local listing such as crafting a compelling profile and auditing your citations regularly, it isn’t always that easy. As local search traffic has increased over the years, so has the number of unscrupulous companies that exploit loopholes in Google’s algorithm. These strategies aren’t “black hat” or even illegal, they’re simply easy money. A major loophole in Google’s algorithm is that it gives extra weight to listings that have the search query in the name.

For example, if you search “Immigration Lawyer in San Antonio” profiles with that query string will rank near the top, regardless of whether they have a website, complete profile or reviews. Often, when you search the listed address on Google to verify, you’ll find an empty office building or commercial space. So what happens when you call the number listed? A lead generation company will answer, collect the caller’s information and then attempt to sell that information to attorneys in that practice area.

As shady as this seems, it has become common practice in our world today. This model is exactly how Zillow dominated the real estate market. In that industry, a Realtor lists a home for sale, Zillow syndicates the listing to its website, buyers find the house online and Zillow sells the lead back to the Realtor. This strategy generated over $1.3 billion for Zillow in 2018 alone.

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Strategies to Remain Competitive

Now that we’ve discussed the good, the bad and the ugly of local search, here are some simple strategies to remain competitive.

Most importantly, make sure you “claim” and complete your profile on Google My Business. This means having a search term in your title, a detailed description, photos, and any other relevant media.

Secondly, encourage your past clients, colleagues, and partners to submit reviews on the platform. Regardless of whether you’re competing with a “ghost” profile or the attorney next door, a healthy number of 5 Star reviews will go a long way in helping you secure your next client.

And finally, do your research when hiring a marketing agency. As an agency owner myself, I can assure you they are not all created equal! A reputable marketing partner will rely on proven and ethical strategies, not loopholes to get you results. Heather Schuck

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