Local SEO 101: What You Need To Know To Dominate the Listings

Local Search, SEO

Chances are, you’ve heard of SEO. SEO is short for search engine optimization, and it’s the practice of doing everything you can to get as high up in the search engine results page (SERP, for short) as possible.

You see, landing on the first page of Google (or Bing) is not an accident. It takes deliberate effort to catapult your lawyer website (and by extension, your law firm) to the first few results, and there’s a lot of stiff competition vying for that coveted spot.

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Being on the first page of Google (or Bing) is absolutely crucial to grabbing potential clients. These people are on the Internet right now looking for the very legal services you offer, but studies show that most people never click beyond the first page of the search results. If you want to reach them, you’ve got to be on that first page, too.

What is local seo?

Local SEO is slightly different from normal SEO. Local SEO is about getting your website to hit the front page for a specific location, i.e. your city or state.

For example, the results that pop up when someone searches for “law firms Tucson” have all been optimized for a local search.

Local SEO is important for businesses with physical locations. When Internet users search for a law firm online, they usually want to make contact immediately. They’re not going to spend an hour searching through hundreds of listings to find your contact information that’s nestled somewhere on page seven. They’ll likely go with one of the first few listings on the first page.

So, how do you dominate the local results? Let’s take a look at a few proven strategies.

A Word About Keywords

Before we go any further, let’s talk about keywords.

Keywords are words that you type into a search box to call up a particular topic.

To dominate local results, you need to use relevant and local keywords on your website. If your law firm specializes in family law in Birmingham, AL that’s exactly what phrase you should use to describe yourself on your website. An example of this would be in your About Us page where you describe your practice as “family law Birmingham, AL.”

This small effort makes it much more likely for you to show up in the search results when someone searches in Google for that very phrase.

key-words

Image Courtesy of Google

It would be a mistake to overlook your city name here and go generic. There are hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other websites that could turn up for a generic keyword like “legal advice.”

While Google can put together a list of local law firms, if you haven’t optimized your content to indicate that you’re local to that specific area, you’ll get overlooked in favor of your competitors.

The moral of the story? Make all of your websites optimized for local keyword search inquiries by adding your city name.

By the way, don’t go crazy with keywords. Your site’s ranking on the search engine won’t improve from keyword stuffing.

Keyword stuffing is when you list a whole bunch of keywords (usually at the bottom of your page) in hopes that the search engine will select your site when a specific keyword is searched for. While this was a common practice once upon a time, you can’t trick the search engine crawlers this way anymore.

The good news is there are plenty of ways to still optimize your online presence, and we’re going to delve directly into them right now.

Pay for Ads

You need a paid ad strategy if you’d like to dominate local search engine results. That’s because the very first search results on Google happen to be advertisements.

The ads look similar to regular listings except for the telltale orange “ad” icon. They get a lot of clicks. These ads compete with regular “organic” search results and usually win.

A round of ads are also displayed near the bottom of the page, too.

Paid advertising doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Here’s a simple overview of how Google’s paid advertising works:

  • You choose a keyword phrase you’d like to rank for. This means when someone types in this phrase in the search bar, your ad will return along with the search results, hopefully at the top of the page.
  • You decide how much you’re willing to pay. Google ads are pay per click. Every time someone clicks on your ad, your account will be debited the specific amount you agreed to pay.
  • You can determine how much you’re willing to pay each day. If your limit is $5.00 per day, your ad will disappear after meeting that quota until the next day.
  • You create an ad, paying special attention to making it relevant for the keyword phrase you’re bidding on. Be sure you link to a relevant page on your website that discusses that very keyword, or else visitors will feel like you’ve tricked them. (This will negatively impact your ad campaign and cause your ad to disappear from search results.)
  • You then bid on the ad. You’re not guaranteed to win the bid. Sometimes, other competitors are also bidding for that same keyword phrase. Google doesn’t automatically choose the highest bidder, either. Instead, Google uses a quality score to decide who should receive the coveted spot.

Bing works similarly to Google.

While you’re never guaranteed a spot in the top results, optimizing your content and making sure the ad links to a relevant location will increase your chances.

Utilize Google My Business

We’ve talked extensively about Google My Business in this post: Pick Me! Your Beginner’s Guide on How to Attract Local Clients via the Internet. If you’d like to really understand how to list your law firm with Google, definitely check it out.

While I won’t rehash what we discussed there, I will say that getting listed on Google My Business is one of the smartest things you can do to influence where you land in the local search results.

Studies show that clients are more likely to visit a business with a completed Google My Business page.

google-my-business

Image Courtesy of Greg Gifford, DealerOn

Make it a priority to list your business on Google My Business today. In fact, you can do it right now. I’ll wait. It’s that important.

Get Reviewed

In that previous post on attracting local clients, we also talked about the importance of getting reviews, with heavy emphasis on Yelp. Be sure to check that post out, too.

While reviews on third party sites like Yelp are important, you should also actively seek reviews on Google.

These reviews help Google determine whether to display your listing in its Google My Business local results. Because an initial trio of listings feature prominently on the search results page (it’s located right underneath the ads and before the organic search results), you need to do whatever it takes to get a spot on this list.

get-reviewed

Image Courtesy of Google

Encourage your clients to leave a review of your law firm with Google. Unfortunately, there isn’t a straight link you can give them, but you can provide a series of short instructions along with a visual reference like this:

get-reviewd2

Image Courtesy of Google

Create a Blog

If you don’t have a blog already, consider creating one. Websites with active blogs rank higher in search results. Why?

Search engines love to see a freshly updated website. While you’re probably not going to change the core information on your website very often (this includes the content on your About page, your Contact Us page, and your Services page), you can provide fresh content on a blog.

This is also another opportunity to appear in local search results for a specific keyword phrase. You can write about topics that your potential clients are likely to search for. An example of this may be “applying for a K-1 visa in Portland, Oregon.” Your blog post can rank near the top because it contains relevant keywords.

create-a-blog

Image Courtesy of Google

This is the most important thing to remember when writing your blog:

Focus on local keywords (i.e. city, state) everywhere especially in:

  • Your blog post title
  • Your meta description
  • The alt tags on your images

Final Thoughts

Local SEO sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Your law firm can totally dominate the local search results if you follow this advice. Ask any questions you have in the comments below and we’ll be sure to help you.

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