One of the most powerful tools in a law firm’s digital marketing arsenal is a Google My Business (GMB) account. GMB is the tool that powers both your firm’s Google Maps listing and your Google+ page. Although Google+ has become less important in recent months, Google Maps is still hugely important for allowing local businesses to stand out from huge websites like Avvo and FindLaw. Without a listing on Google Maps, your firm won’t have the ability to rank in local pack results like this one:
So it’s important to claim and optimize your GMB so that you have the best opportunity to rank here. Let’s take a look at how it’s done. Generally, we don’t recommend creating listings for individual attorneys at your firm, but if you find that listings already exist, you can’t have them removed, so your best course of action is to claim and update them as well.
Visit Google My Business and sign in with whichever account you’d like to use to manage your GMB. Now let’s get started.
Step 1: Creating Your Business
Google My Business creates listings by location, so you’ll need to make a listing for each physical office location that you have. If this is your first time ever signing into GMB, you’ll be taken to a map with a form to enter your business details.
However, if you already have your business or another one set up, you’ll be taken to the page to manage it. If the location you see there is the correct one, you can skip this step. Otherwise, just click “Add location” in the left sidebar menu, and you’ll be taken to the map.
Let’s do a quick duplicate check before we move forward. Begin by typing any variation of your firm name that has ever been used in the past, reserving the current, most accurate one for last. As you type, Google will make suggestions. If any of those suggestions represent one of your business locations (you can ignore listings for individual attorneys unless you’re following this tutorial specifically to set up a listing for that attorney), click the suggestion, and then click continue. Follow the prompts to move on to verification (which we’ll discuss in the next step). If you see more than one, take note of all of them and then choose the most accurate one. We’ll come back to the others later.
If you didn’t run into any existing listings, continue to fill in all of your business details and click “Continue”
Note: It is important to make sure you choose the most appropriate category for your business (Personal Injury Attorney, Social Security Attorney, etc.), and that you actually visit your website and copy and paste the URL from the address bar to make sure that it is entered exactly the way it exists to avoid redirects.
If Google finds any existing listing that even comes close, it will suggest that you try claiming that listing instead. If this is another of your office locations or an individual attorney, you can ignore it and click “Keep the information I entered.”
Next, you’ll be taken to a page that will ask you to verify that you are authorized to manage this location. Check the box and click “Continue.” Now you’ll be taken to the verification page.
Step 2: Verify Your Google My Business Location
Unless there was an existing listing on Google Maps, your location won’t appear until it’s been verified. Even if it is appearing, any changes you make won’t be reflected on Google Maps until you verify. If you were setting up your location for the first time and followed Step 1 above, you should already be at the verification page. If you already had the location in your account, you’ll see a big red message at the top of the management page prompting you to verify. Click the “Verify Now” button to be taken to the verification page.
For most, you’ll only see one option here. You’ll have to have a postcard mailed to your location. Some will be given the option to verify by phone or text message, but that is less common, and even then, you can still choose the postcard. Unless you’re given those options, just click the “Mail” button. The next page gives you the option to set an “Attn:” line, which is optional. Just click “Send postcard” and you’re set.
Now sit back, twiddle your thumbs, and check the mail regularly. Your postcard should arrive within a week with a code on it. If you miss the postcard or wait until the code expires, you’ll have to start over. Once it arrives, log in to manage your location, click the notification at the top to verify your listing, and enter your code on the next page. Then click “Submit”
Congratulations! Your location is now verified. Now we get to optimize.
Step 3: Optimizing Your Locations
We’ll be optimizing several aspects of your listing here, and I’ll go over them one-by-one. They may have slightly different considerations depending on your situation. Log in and visit the management section of the location you’d like to optimize, and click “Edit.”
In most cases, you’ll want your business name to exactly match what is written on the website. Modifiers, like “Doe & Doe, Personal Injury Lawyers” are not technically allowed by Google unless they are actually a part of your official business name.
If you are the only attorney at your firm, you are eligible for a solo practitioner listing, which is formatted “Horizon Law Firm: John Doe,” but if your name is actually in the firm name, I would opt out of that formatting because it’s redundant.
If you are optimizing for individual attorneys instead of the law firm itself, the business name can only be the attorney’s name. Do not include the firm name as you would with the solo practitioner format, e.g. “John Doe.”
Note: Each practitioner (attorney) at the firm owns his or her own listing. If they leave the firm, they can take the listing and all associated reviews with them.
The current primary category will be listed directly below the name. Click the pencil to see the full category list. The first category listed will be your primary category. If you followed Step 1 of this tutorial, you should have already chosen the appropriate primary category. If not, choose it now, using the most specific one that completely encompasses what your firm does. Now, you have the ability to fill in several more categories.
It isn’t necessary to use all of the slots, but make sure to include anything that describes your firm accurately. Just click “Add another category” and search the available categories. Repeat as needed, up to 10 categories. When you’re finished, click “Apply.”
If you are optimizing individual practitioners for the same location as the office, try to avoid using the same primary category. Instead, see if you can find something that they specialize in that is unique to them at the firm.
This one is pretty straightforward. Use the address exactly as it appears on your website. While Google is pretty good at sorting out different formats, I avoid leaving anything to chance. Make sure to format it as exactly as possible.
If you have a suite number, you’ll need to click “add line” below the address to have a place to put it. Here, we assume that you have a physical office, so check “No” on “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location.”
If you chose “Yes” here, it would hide your address, so people would have a harder time finding your office. Some attorneys choose to do this because it allows you to target multiple cities.
Don’t be fooled; this will not make you rank better in cities where your office is not located, but actually could hurt your rankings in the city where you are located.
The main thing to note here is that Google intends for your business hours to reflect times when a client could walk into your office and speak directly with a person affiliated with your firm. So even if you answer calls 24/7, you aren’t supposed to set your hours that way.
There is also a section for special hours. One might think that this would allow you to say that you take calls 24/7, but unfortunately, that is not the case. This is only meant for things like holiday hours. Unless you have a special reason to change your hours for a short time, you can ignore this for now.
The phone number you use is best if it is a local number (not an 800 number) that is specific to that office. Avoid using the same number for multiple offices. You should use the same number that you use on your website for that office. If you are setting up practitioner listings for individual attorneys, make sure that they use the same number as the main office listing that they are being associated with.
This one can be a little trickier than it seems. If you are a single-location firm, or if you do not have a page for each location on your site, you can just link to your home page. Other situations require more care.
- Single-location firms: Should link to the home page.
- Multi-location firms: Each location should link to the location page (local landing page) on your website if they exist.
- Practitioner listings: Should link to the attorney’s bio page or the practice area page that the attorney specializes in.
- Solo practitioners: Acts just like office pages. Should link to the homepage for a single-location, or to the local landing page for a multi-location.
Be sure to use the correct format (http vs. https; www or non-www). The best way to ensure this is to copy and paste from your address bar when visiting the website.
This section allows you to tell users that you have certain attributes, such as wheelchair accessibility or unisex restrooms. If those apply to you, go ahead and choose them. If not, you can ignore this section.
Now, click the “Add Photos” button. If you have several pictures, it’s a good idea to go ahead and fill them in. At the minimum, make sure you have a profile photo and a cover photo. While there is no official word from Google that this helps your rankings, it certainly doesn’t hurt to rename the files before you upload them to include keywords, e.g. “doe-and-doe-illinois-personal-injury-lawyers.jpg.”
Step 4: Duplicate GMB’s Are a Problem
Remember how I asked you to make note of all of the duplicate listings you found in Step 1? Now let’s put those to use. Go to Google Maps and search for all of your correct listings. Write down their URL’s somewhere. Now search for all of the duplicate listings. Write those URL’s down underneath the correct ones so that you have a list of all duplicates along with the correct listing that is being duplicated.
Now, you’ll need to contact Google support to have the duplicates merged with the correct listings. There are several ways to contact support, but the very best support is provided by the GMB Twitter account. Send them a direct message, explaining that you’ve found a duplicate (insert URL(s)) that you’d like to have merged with the correct listing (insert URL).
They will likely ask you to fill out a form and they will get back to you after a few days to let you know what action has been taken. Repeat this process with each of the correct listings, including all duplicates at one time for each one.
Note: Practitioner listings are never considered duplicates of office listings and vice-versa unless you are a solo practitioner (if you are, make sure to explain that to support.
Step 5: Garnering Reviews
Often, it is not enough to have a well-optimized GMB and website. Reviews play a major role in the local landscape today, and can often be the deciding factor in determining who makes it into the local pack. You’ll want to reach out to your clients and ask them to leave a positive review on your Google Maps listing. You’ll have the greatest success if you send them the direct URL as soon as they leave your office, or by calling them and requesting it personally. Here are a few tips for getting more reviews on Google.
Bonus: Fight Your Competition
Many of your competitors are probably using tactics that do not follow Google’s guidelines to outrank you. The good news is that you can report them. Here is a case study that walks you through how to remove competitor spam from Google Maps.