Earlier this year, Google rolled out a silent upgrade to the way local business pages can be edited in the Google+ social network. Since the company has exhibited ongoing efforts to tie in all its search and productivity tools and products to Google+, legal professionals who wish to increase their presence on SERPs should pay close attention to these changes.
Law offices that already have a Google+ profile can see the changes to the editor by visiting their local pages and clicking the “About” tab at the top, followed by “Edit Business Information.” Listings that have already been verified by Google will see any changes made on the editor reflected almost immediately on Google Maps. This is a very important feature for local and mobile search, and thus the following best practices should be followed:
Legal professionals who already have an old Google Local Places account will find it easier to migrate all their information to Google+. The best feature about the new editor is that changes are updated across all Google products within an hour as long as the business listing has been verified.
How meaningful or useful can users’ comments be for legal practitioners? According to social media commenting platform Disqus, more than 40 percent of Internet users who review online content will emphatically look for the comments section to read and maybe even leave a comment. Furthermore, Disqus believes that it can monetize those nuggets of wisdom or folly with targeted advertising.
According to Disqus, comments are significant units of user-generated content that are good for business, and it’s not just their own. Comments from readers are essentially social signals, something that major search engine providers Google and Bing have admitted applying to their secretive ranking algorithms. In this sense, comments can add value to the websites of law firms and sole practitioners. Comments are de rigueur when it comes to social media profiles, such as Facebook business timelines. This is why social media managers should consider a moderation strategy.
Disqus believes that fans of comment sections are power users who can also be attractive prospects for legal professionals. To this effect, the company is planning on promoting relevant advertising next to comments since users who are already in that section are likely to click on a related headline. This is where Disqus believes businesses can benefit.
Indeed, Internet users who read or write comments are already engaged. A December 2012 story in the Huffington Post about a bizarre workers compensation fraud case received 269 comments. A law firm that deals with workers compensation in Springfield could instruct Disqus to insert links to similar content on its website for local readers. That would be an example of native advertising that intends to attract engaged audiences.
Going back to the issue of legal professionals featuring comment sections on their websites, attorneys should always check the social media policies and local rules promulgated by their state bar association on those matters.
With the spread of Internet-enabled smartphones, many people are starting to make purchase decisions based on reviews. Consumers have several different ways to share an experience with other people by using services like Yelp and Google+ Local.
It can be tempting for a business to add manipulative reviews to Google+ Local or Yelp. While this may work for a short time, it can have detrimental effects.
Many consumers can identify when a review is spam. In many cases, spam-based reviews will be vague or overly positive. In addition, some of them may read like an advertisement for a certain product or service. One of the largest problems with fake reviews is that they can devalue legitimate ones. How? Positive reviews found with review spam may also be considered spam by a third party even if the positive review is genuine.
Google is actively pursuing different ways to eliminate review spam. For example, geolocation tools are used to determine where a Google+ Local review was submitted. If a business receives dozens of positive reviews from outside its geographic area, this may indicate that the reviews are spam.
Google also uses profiling to identify review spam. A very positive review from an account with no previous activity may indicate that the review was posted by a shill.
Small Business Search Engine Marketing and NGS Marketing have excellent guides on identifying and understanding review spam. In addition, both articles discuss how Google and Bing penalize websites that use review spam. So, while auto accident attorneys in Lee’s Summit can benefit from positive reviews, it’s important to make sure that they can obtain them through a legitimate source.
Google+ Local, Yelp and Foursquare allow individuals to share reviews with friends, family members and strangers. By maintaining a positive online presence, it’s possible to improve consumer brand perception and increase conversion rates for new clients.
On May 30, Google finally addressed the whispers regarding their plans regarding Google Places. They decided to merge Google+ and Google Places, resulting in the creation of Google+ Local.
According to Google+ expert Linda Buquet, most of the changes now are not currently affecting business owners on a large scale. Former Google Places profiles can still be accessed and managed from the old dashboard. There are, however, some changes in relation to reviews and ratings.
Google+ Local will use the Zagat rating system, a 30 point system, instead of the old five star system. For reviews, people must be logged into their Google+ account to contribute as the pages are part of the Google+ system. Prior reviews will show up as left by a Google user until the person decides to claim the reviews with a Google+ profile.
The merger is designed to make the experience better for users. According to Google, the design of Google+ Local should help users get accurate recommendations based on friends and past ratings. It will also help others find great places. For example, if an individual needed a Long Island personal injury attorney and had an excellent experience, they might give a strong rating on Google+ Local. If a connection on the networking site ever researched attorneys with this expertise, the review left on Google+ would automatically appear in their results.
Google+ Local is definitely going to require a little getting used to for business owners and users. It has strong potential to help businesses find new customers through positive review sharing. On the other hand, people without Google+ accounts may decide not to leave reviews. More changes are on the way, so we will see how well this gets integrated.
Due to the high volume of people who use search engines to find law firm information, it’s important that the local data on search engines is accurate. Otherwise, it can result in unnecessary road blocks for potential clients and lost leads. To get a better understanding of why this is true, let’s delve into more detail and discuss which search engines have the most accurate listings.
Perhaps the biggest reason for accurate local data is that it helps with the acquisition of new clients. For example, let’s say a potential client has found your firm’s website through a search engine but gets incorrect contact information. This simple error could cost you short-term business and reduce your long-term client base.
Inaccurate data can also convey a sense a lack of professionalism and instability. If insurance lawyers in San Francisco have multiple addresses pop up on a search engine, it might hurt their image in the eyes of potential clients. People might think the firm is constantly moving and therefore unstable. Consequently, it should be your law firm’s prerogative to get your firm listed in the most accurate local search engines.
Thanks to a research performed by a company called Implied Intelligence, there is clear information regarding which local search engines are the most accurate. At the top are Yellowbook, Superpages and Bing Local with all three receiving an average score of 3.8. While they aren’t completely free from flaws and could be improved, these three tend to be highly accurate. —
Just behind them is Google Maps with an average score of 3.6 and Yellow Pages with a score of 3.5. In addition, Whitepages and Yahoo both have a score of 3.1. As a result, these local search engines are ones that you want your law firm to be listed on.
Regular Google users have been seeing design changes that give many of Google’s products—including Gmail and Maps—a unified, streamlined look. In that spirit, Google Places has also gotten a redesign, and even if you don’t use Google’s other offerings, you should be aware of the changes to this valuable business tool.
Information in this post gathered in association with a Palm Beach personal injury lawyer
Search Engine Watch’s Rob D. Young discusses these changes in Google Revamps Places Design, Removes Off-Site Reviews. As the title suggests, the biggest change is that Google is no longer importing reviews from outside sites.
This move has likely upset many small businesses that have a lot of good reviews spread across multiple review sites. Google provided a valuable service in aggregating those reviews onto a business’ Places page. Those reviews are, of course, still listed on the original site, but any business that relied heavily on its Places page to showcase its happy customers may have “lost” hundreds of reviews.
Individual review sites, on the other hand, probably welcome the change. They’ve been unhappy with Google, as a competitor, using their sites to improve its own business. In fact, several large review sites had already blocked Google from streaming their data, so a lot of data had disappeared from Places pages even before the new policy on reviews took effect.
It’s possible the Google Places redesign was, as least partly, a response to calls for an antitrust investigation into the company. But, as Young points out, Google’s statement about wanting to integrate “information that’s been buried on Place pages into your web search experience across all Google platforms” sounds more like a unification strategy rather than concern for what the FTC might do.
In either case, the new look is cleaner and displays better on mobile devices, so it’s likely to be another win for Google.
Creating and optimizing a Google Places page is only one small part of your overall SEO strategy. It’s unlikely to give you huge ranking benefits on its own, but few online activities do. You still need to do them. The important thing is to link your various online activities together, creating a cohesive presence.
Palm Beach personal injury lawyer with Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather, Keen & Littky-Rubin have contributed resources for the development of this content.
In Improve Your Organic Rankings With Google Places, Part 3, Dave Davies discusses how much effect you can reasonably expect from your page, and which components may have the biggest impact. He also cautions that the boost supplied by a Places page may depend partly on your industry. In a highly competitive space, it may not do much, other than help you build a strong foundation for continuing SEO efforts. If you have little competition, it could make a big difference.
A few things to remember:
Google Places is still a relatively new addition to your SEO toolbox, but one worth investing in. Get your page and optimize it now, so you’re ready no matter how much weight Google gives it in the future. Just be sure you update it as needed. An outdated Places page could be worse than no Places page.
So, you’ve claimed your Places page and filled in your business name and location. What’s next? Making your law firm’s listing as complete as possible comes next, in order to help Google determine your page’s relevance. Many of the basic information fields are required, so you can’t skip them, but make sure you fill them in correctly, along with all the optional fields.
A Kentucky auto accident attorney with Bullock & Coffman has assisted the CaseDetails editorial team in identifying topics of importance to readers of this blog.
Dave Davies does a good job of explaining what Google wants in Improve Your Organic Rankings With Google Places, Part 2.
Location: Either include your full address, so customers can find you, or specify a service area where you’re willing to travel.
Description: Use as many relevant keywords as possible while keeping it readable.
Hours: Customers need to know your office hours. If you change your hours, such as extending them for a holiday, make sure you update your Places page.
Payment options: Let potential customers know what to expect before they retain your services.
Photos and videos: Remember, pictures can entice searchers to click on your listing. Just make sure they’re appealing and relevant. As your click-through rate increases, so will Google’s trust in your business. You might also consider creating a YouTube channel for your business and linking to it from your Places page. People love video, and it often ranks well in the search engines, too.
Your website: Yes, your business website is an important part of your Places page. The field isn’t required, but why wouldn’t you want to send visitors to your website for even more useful information? Make sure your site is as optimized as your Places listing, or the discrepancy could lower your ranking.
Your Places page is just as important as your other online activities. The larger your presence on the Internet, the higher you’re likely to rank in the search engines.