Everyone knows Google is the ruler of the roost when it comes to search. In this guide, we’ll take you through the steps to make sure your firm’s Google setup is a firm foundation for the rest of your marketing efforts.
What a lot of small law firms miss out on is the fact that Google provides a number of free tools to help site owners (that’s you) adhere to best practices that can help Google better understand what your content is about. And when you make Google’s job easier, it can only help your prospects of ranking for important search keywords.
We’re going to walk through the setup of each of these tools to make sure you’re taking advantage of all the free stuff.
Your Google Account
First thing’s first. You need to have a Google account. If you use gmail, you’re probably familiar with all of this, but I would highly recommend setting up a separate Google account specifically for your firm. It’ll make things much easier down the road.
If you use Google Apps for your firm’s email, awesome, you already have a Google account, and you can use that email and password to sign in.
If you don’t use Google Apps, you can still create a Google account using your business email address, just use this form.
Google analytics is a tool that keeps track of who’s visiting your site and when. It’s a very powerful tool that we’ll get into in more detail at a later time, but for now, let’s just get your site set up and verified.
First, log into google analytics by going to http://www.google.com/analytics. Once there, you’re going to create an account by clicking on the “create an account” link in the top right corner.
Google analytics is structured by accounts and then by property. Accounts act as a grouping of websites (properties). For most firms, you’ll only have one property, but if you have a law blog on a separate domain, like blog.myfirm.com, or myfirmblog.blogger.com, you may want to manage multiple sites.
Let’s start by following Google’s instructions for setting up your firm’s account.
Click on the ‘Admin’ link at the top of the page. From here you should be able to create a new account. Fill it out as follows (let’s assume your firm is called AmazeLaw Firm and your website is amazelawfirm.com):
Account Name: AmazeLaw Firm
Website Name: Main Website
Website URL: http://amazelawfirm.com
Industry Category: “Law and Government”
Reporting Timezone: Select your timezone
Data Sharing Settings: It’s ok to leave the defaults here, but for the paranoid, you can uncheck “Anonymously with Google and others” and “Account specialists”.
When you’re ready, click ‘Get Tracking ID’ and accept Google’s Terms & Conditions.
Congratulations, you’re now staring at a rather techy looking page that contains the code you need to add to your website in order to get tracking up and running.
If you use a content management system like WordPress, Drupal, or AmazeLaw, all you need to do is authenticate with Google Analytics and it will suck the code in for you. For example, on WordPress, if you go to Plugins > Add New and search for “Yoast Google Analytics” you can install a plugin that will allow you do suck in your code. There’s even a nifty video over here that will show you exactly how to set it up.
If you use AmazeLaw, just log in and go to your dashboard, there should be a giant button asking you to authenticate. Clicking that will automatically suck in your tracking code.
Now if you don’t use WordPress or AmazeLaw or if you need a developer to add the code for you, here’s a sample email you can send your developer that will instruct them on how to add it to your site. By the way, this should be an amazingly simple task for any competent developer so don’t let them charge you for more than an hour’s time to do it (it’ll likely take less than 10 minutes depending on how they’ve set up your site.)
I would like to add google analytics to my site. The following code needs to be added to the <head> tag on every page on my site.
<Copy and Paste the tracking code here>
That’s it! You can verify whether the tracking is installed by going to Admin > Choosing your account and property, and then .js Tracking Info > Tracking Code. Next to your Tracking ID, you should see “Waiting for Data” or “Tracking Installed”.
Google Webmaster Tools
Google doesn’t provide much direct control when it comes to how your site appears in search, but what little control it does give you is controlled from webmaster tools.
In order to log in to Webmaster Tools, just visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home. From there, you’ll be able to add your site and verify ownership.
When you log in, if you don’t have any sites set up, you’ll see a welcome video and a simple text field where you can put your domain to add your site. Simply enter your domain, and click ‘Add Site’.
If you followed the steps in the Google Analytics section above your site should already be verified. If not, follow one of the procedures Google outlines in order to verify your ownership of the site. Unfortunately, it may require help from your developer.
Google+ may not be poised to take over Facebook any time soon, but it’s generally accepted that having a Google+ profile set up (if not actively updated) is a best practice for SEO. Google has indicated that going through the process of verifying the authors of content on your site will act as a quality signal in search algorithms. In other words, set up a Google+ account for yourself, and link it to your website.
If your email uses the same domain as your website (it does right!?) then the process is simple. Just log into Google+ using your firm email address and then go to this link and submit your website.
If you don’t have an email address for your domain, something like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, then it requires a bit of effort to get authorship set up, and honestly, your time would be better spent signing up for Google Apps for business and moving your email over there. After all, firstname.lastname@example.org is a lot more professional than email@example.com.
And finally, it’s time to get you on the map. This is absolutely key to making sure your firm is available for Google to list at the top of localized searches. You know, the ones that show a map and a list of 5-10 businesses.
Signing up for Google Places is quick and easy as well. Go to the Google Places signup page and click “Get on Google”.
In the map that appears, search for your business, either using the name or your office address if you have one. If it appears in the search box, click on the business to claim it. If not, just select the “None of these match. Add your business” link at the bottom of the search results to create yours in the system. Now, if you don’t have a Google+ page for your firm, this will go ahead and create the page for you as well.
There are a few fields worth noting when you get to the point that you need to enter your address information. The first is, well, the actual address. Many solo’s don’t actually have a physical office, and even if you do, it’s likely that you want to serve an area larger than the city in which you live. If you don’t have an actual office, enter your home address (you’ll be able to hide the address later). But whether you have an office or not, make sure you check the box that says “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location.”
And finally for the “Category” field, you could put the general “Legal Services” or if you have a specialty try that. Search along the lines of “Family Law Attorney” or “Employment Attorney” to select your specialty.
Once you have filled out that information, it’s time to let Google know where you operate. If you checked the box above, you’ll be given the option to list out cities, or choose a radius around your office. I would suggest a radius, but that’s entirely up to you. If you want your office to also appear on the map, just check the box “I also serve customers at my business address”.
When that’s done, you’ll be prompted to create a Google+ page for the business and sign Google Terms of Service.
You’ll be asked to verify your business by mail, and you can then go ahead and edit your Google+ business page.
That’s it! Take a break. Now you can edit your site knowing that you’re all set with Google.
Was that too much? Want help?
This stuff can get super hard to keep track of. That’s one thing we pride ourselves on here, is our ability to stay on top of best practices on the web, and then building it into our system so that you don’t have to worry about it.
If you want to spend more time being a lawyer, and less time tinkering in HTML…