What Can Cause Poor Local SEO for Law Firms?

| July 06, 2015

google-placesDozens of factors can contribute to why your law firm might be showing low or not showing up at all in Google local rankings1. Aside from possible manual actions2 that could be applied to a business listing, the reasons potential clients cannot find you in the SERPs are often an easy fix.

Note that it is often beneficial to check low-hanging fruit first. Look for simple things that could be causing the problem. Often, the issue is something simple that will not take a lot of effort to check for or to resolve.

Duplicate Listings

duplicate-google-places-listingsHere is an example of a common and easily uncovered issue with low rankings on a Google local listing. Duplicate law firm listings can cause Google to mistrust data that it has aggregated about a business. This can be a common issue because attorneys may outsource creation of their listings to an agency and simply overlook the fact that a listing has already been created in their name.  Other times the task may have been given to an intern or office staff person and no one remembered that it had already been done.

Removing duplicate listings can be a simple process as long as you know the steps to take. Even though a company might have multiple locations or departments (or in an attorney’s case, multiple partners) it is Google’s policy that each business entity only have one local listing.

You can find duplicate listings by:

• Searching for your business name or address on Google
• Use variations of your business name or its address
• Look for your business name under former addresses
• Search for your business using other phone numbers you may have used
• Reach out to any marketing companies you may have interacted with to see if they have records of creating a listing for you

Again, you may not have a duplicate listing out there, and even if you do, it may not be the cause of your issue. It is, however, one of the simplest things to check for.

qualityWebsite Quality Concerns

Just because you have a Google local listing does not mean you are guaranteed high rankings. You have to be relevant to user queries, and a Google local listing helps that happen. However, you still have to provide visitors with a good experience on your site.

Check to make sure the following is true about your site:

• Googlebot can crawl your site without impediment
• Your site is not over-optimized
• You have a clear keyword content architecture
• Content on your pages is well written and free from error
• Keyword placement in title tags, meta descriptions and other elements is optimized
• There are no penalties from the past
• The website has a natural looking backlink profile

Some of these factors can be ambiguous such as over-optimization3 or even something broader like having high-quality content4 on the site. One tip is to get an outsider to review the site and see what they think. Even having a subset of client opinions of your site’s content can be helpful.

Aged Wine BottlesAge of Your Local Listing

If you are a law firm that has only recently set up a business listing in Google, the age of the listing could be the reason you aren’t ranking well (or at all). Setting aside the notion that a listing must be verified before it’s published, even after you enter your pin from Google, there is a lag in time before you start showing up.

So, your listing will take time to rank well, but it will also take some authority. Spend some time making your listing informative. Make sure your site is well optimized for local search and useful to local searchers. Build up social signals on your brand and website. All of these things will help down the road.

Verification Problems

In the beginning of 2014, Google had some changes to maps and as a result, many business owners had to re-verify their Google Places listings5.  An email was sent out to effected businesses and those that did not re-verify risked having their listing deleted.  With all the spam we receive in our inboxes these days, it is easy to understand if this correspondence from Google was overlooked.

If you do not have a presence in local results with a Google places listing, re-verification may be the issue.  Check your inbox for any emails from Google on this matter and if you search for your business in Google and see it as unclaimed, that could also be an indication that you missed the re-verification.

Consistency of Business Information

All listings of your business on the web are called a citation. Whether you did it or not, there are multiple citations all over that contain your business’s information. When Google finds and indexes this data, it could potentially see that it is wrong if another source has inconsistent information.

For example, maybe you have an old firm phone number floating around out there. Perhaps you have an old office address or maybe even an old domain that is associated with otherwise correct business information. Here again, Google begins to mistrust data that isn’t consistent.

yextMake sure you have a consistent presence across the web. You can search manually for instances of your brand name and related information, but that can be tedious if there are a lot of listings to change.

Alternatively, you could use one of the following services to do the job for you. Note that prices vary for services, and you have to think of your own opportunity costs before deciding to go with one.

Moz Local7
Bright Local Citation Tracker8
Universal Business Listings9 (UBL)

Inconsistent information does not just confuse search engines. Users also have trouble seeing which information is correct. At the very least, you might be missing out on potential business or looking unprofessional in the process.

Additional Causes of Poor Local SEO:

• No reviews – Reviews are very important in order to rank well locally. Typically law firms with a lot of reviews rank well locally. Read about how to get more reviews by clicking here10.
• Centroid Bias11 – Law firms within the geographical location they are trying to rank for will always have a better chance of ranking locally.

Most attorneys count on local business for their livelihood. If you are not showing up in local results because of a simple issue with a business listing, you could be missing opportunities.