6 Local SEO Factors to Watch in 2019

Search is constantly changing so attorneys should never sit back and think their rankings are safe.  Google updates its algorithm pretty much every day and there are always competitors nipping at your heels.  An attorney’s SEO strategy needs to be a living, breathing thing that is nurtured over time.

Local SEO is a space crucial for lawyers to remain competitive in.  With that being said, here are some areas to keep an eye on this year as you work on your overall strategy for ranking well in Google search.  

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Local Search: Leveraging a DBA Strategy

 

I hate to be the person that takes a more aggressive stance on GMB listings however I want to call attention to the loophole that exists in Google My Business. Currently Google has not made any move to devalue business entity names that incorporate primary keywords in their GMB listing title as long as that name represents their real-world business name (as outlined here in Google’s help article on GMB listings – Link here)  

Several years ago it was known that exact match domains (EMDs) had positive results in the SERPs before being devalued by Google (as reported by former head of web spam Matt Cutts here on Twitter

Now, DBAs and legal business names that incorporate keywords have a distinct advantage in search results with no clear stance on the topic from Google.  This has remained unchecked for years and up until google changes its mind which leaves business owners who do not have their primary keywords in their real-world business name at a disadvantage when it comes to being found in local search.

All that is to say that local businesses could leverage this strategy by including their primary keyword phrase in their real-world business name (at least temporarily) in order to use it in a GMB listing.

This is a very prevalent phenomenon in the legal vertical. Check out these high volume searches in competitive GEO’s (search performed in Chrome Incognito).  Take note of some of the top ranking GMB results and how they have the keyword phrase in their business name.

Michigan auto accident attorney – Link here

 

Los angeles personal injury attorney – Link here

 

Chicago injury attorney – Link here

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Reputation Management

 

Reviews for local businesses have always been important and they are only getting stronger.  This is true both as a source for consumers to get feedback before they buy as well as for search engines to use in their algorithms to rank businesses in search or for Google in GMB results.

Moz’s annual study of local ranking factors consistently has reviews in its top ten elements that influence local search rankings. https://moz.com/local-search-ranking-factors

Local businesses should make it a priority to get a review generation campaign underway and focus on getting as many great reviews as they can on several different platforms.  That means reviews on GMB, Facebook, and Yelp as well as any industry specific sites (i.e. home services professionals should get reviews on Houzz and Angie’s List).

If you’re proactive about building up a positive reputation, then when someone eventually doesn’t have something nice to say about you, it will get drowned out in a see of positive voices.  

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Email Marketing / Messaging

 

As both a business owner marketing to an audience and a consumer, I’ve seen that there are two basic ways businesses utilize email marketing.  Those that are interruptive and annoying, and those that are helpful and nurturing.

I think most businesses that embark on an email marketing strategy start out without a fundamental understanding of how email can be used in an inbound fashion to deliberately nurture leads through a journey to a conversion.  These are lessons learned in our business through trial, error, coaching, and a lot of testing.

Whether you are already marketing through email or thinking about it, the strategy must start before a customer ever gives you their email.  You have to entice people to join your list, then offer content that resonates with them and is helpful. While doing that, there should always be a constant drum of pushing them to convert whether it’s to buy a product or use your service.  

This will obviously vary based on your industry but in general, there needs to be a reason (in their mind) that you’re showing up in their inbox and the messaging you deliver needs to have a clear intent such as prompting people to buy, engage with your business, or complete some action.  Email messaging needs to do this in a way that is subtle yet consistent and deliberate.

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Organic Social Media

 

This isn’t a new thing but I see businesses struggle with it all the time and that is the ratio of promotional to non-promotional content they share through social channels.

There’s no question that social media is an excellent channel for marketing a business but those companies that are constantly tooting their own horn are not doing themselves any favors.  Consumers are smart. They care less about your services, your content, and your accomplishments and more about the personality your company has.

In other words, engagement is the name of the game on social and you aren’t going to get a ton of that by posting links to products and services.  Receptivity to blog content can even be sort of dismal if that’s all you’re sharing.

Follow the 80/20 rule and make most of what you share (the 80%) non-promotional and the other 20% your promotional or content marketing based posts.  Make your brand be the person at the party that people want to talk to (and people usually don’t want to continue talking to people that only care about themselves).

The other thing about social is that it’s a two-way conversation.  Your brand needs to be engaging with other individuals and brands by joining in conversations and engaging on other levels.  Not just creating posts every day.

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Online Advertising

 

Pay Per Click advertising or PPC is an excellent method for generating leads but attorneys need to know the caveats that come along with using it.  Otherwise it’s really easy to burn through cash with no results. Here are some broad tips for using platforms like AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or less well-known programmatic ad platforms.

Make sure you have an audience that the channel will be effective on:  For example B2B organizations like accountants or tax preparers may not have as much luck using paid search text ads in AdWords because their audience may not be searching as much for their services on Google.  By contrast, plumbing companies, real estate brokers, attorneys, or toy stores are prime candidates to benefit from paid search. The same considerations should be made for social platforms. While many of the leading sites have billions of users, that’s not a guarantee that the people you want to reach will be there.

Google and some of the other leading networks also have display advertising options that allow business owners to choose where their ads get placed online so those are viable alternatives to paid search.

Define a conversion action before you start: Make sure it’s obvious what visitors should do when they click on your ad and come to your site.  Whether it’s to make a phone call, fill out a form, perform a download, make a purchase, or donation,  make it obvious and easy to complete.

Build, test, repeat: Even professional PPC managers don’t get it right the first time.  One of the keys to success in any paid search campaign is to constantly monitor and tweak your strategies to try and improve your results.  Never use the set it and forget it approach. That is a recipe for failure and low ROI.

Keep in mind that a holistic approach to marketing a law firm is best.  Only focusing on one channel won’t get you the caliber of results that a multi- or omni-channel approach will.

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Your Site’s Content Architecture

 

The way you build and layout your site will depend on your business but there are some things that apply to pretty much all businesses.

  • Organize your site so it’s easy to navigate, there’s an over-arching theme, and users can intuitively find what they’re looking for.
  • Make sure all of your pages load quickly.
  • Produce helpful content that enhances your visitors’ experience on your site
  • If you can, avoid website builder services.  These are ok if you’re just starting out but they don’t always look professional and they can be limiting once you start to scale.  
  • Set up free tracking like Google Analytics so you can measure your success with any marketing campaigns or other activities.  Even if you don’t use it right away, it’s nice to have the data in the account when you do get around to analyzing it.

Final Thoughts

These areas of digital marketing are key to focus on in the coming year.  The growth in online commerce is only growing stronger and consumers are increasingly found in a variety of channels throughout any given day.  Having a comprehensive presence across the internet ensures attorneys have a wide enough net to capture Internet users’ attention.