March 01, 2019 March/April 2019

Using Google My Business and Ranking in Local Searches

Increase your local online results ranking with a few free steps.

Mike Ramsey

Twenty years ago being one of the top listings in the local phone book was the best way to get in front of potential clients. Today phone books are helpful for a variety of purposes, including holding open windows, helping vertically challenged drivers see above their vehicle’s dashboard, serving as emergency kindling for fires and, on an extremely rare occasion, assisting someone in finding a local service provider. More and more often, people are looking to Google and other search engines during their search for legal assistance.

The “local pack” is a common portion of Google search result pages that often features three to four local businesses that fit the search query. With the assistance of local packs and the local business listings that are found, potential clients can read reviews, view a business’s photos and even contact a business without ever visiting the business’s website. This is why the position of your business in the local pack is so important. (See the screenshot as an example.)

Google My Business (GMB) is Google’s platform for ranking businesses in a given locality. According to Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors, 25 percent of the overall factors that determine if your law firm will be found in these coveted three spots are directly influenced by GMB. Some factors may be out of your control, but there are several ranking factors that you can influence if you have claimed and verified your listing.

Factors Driving GMB Local Rankings

As with many things, Google withholds a lot of information about its ranking algorithm, but we can make fairly accurate assumptions about the factors that contribute to local pack rankings based on research search engine marketing companies have conducted.

Let’s begin with the factors out of your control.

Proximity to searcher. The top GMB-related ranking factor is proximity to the searcher. Therefore, if you want to rank highly in a particular local pack, all you have to do is move your business within yards of the searcher seconds before the search occurs. Simple.

Age of GMB listing. Age counts for a GMB listing, as older ones are ranked higher. If you haven’t created, claimed and verified your listing, now is the time to do so.

Then we have the factors you can influence.

Proper GMB business category. A correct business category is the third most influential local pack ranking factor. As an attorney, if your primary area of practice is personal injury, it makes sense that your primary GMB category would reflect that. In some instances law firms have jumped up in local packs overnight by simply changing the main business category.

Steadily add more reviews. The number of reviews top ranking attorneys have has increased by 65 percent. Moz’s research also confirms the importance of reviews on your GMB listing. Here’s what matters:

  • The number of reviews.
  • The rate at which you gain reviews.
  • The sentiment of those reviews.
  • The content of those reviews.

Some law firms that do well at adding new reviews keep a well-maintained list of clients that they use to solicit reviews. Some law firms add a review request to their matter closing process. Sometimes gratitude has a short shelf life, so it’s best to ask right after completing work with a client. Be sure to send your client the direct link to your GMB listing so they will know where to leave the review. Other great platforms on which former clients may leave reviews include Yelp, Avvo and Facebook.

Pay to play. Ranking in the local pack can be a challenge. One way to get into local search results could be through pay-per-click advertising. This could be a strong play since more local packs include ads above the other local listings. According to Moz, 35 percent of local searches have ads in the local pack. In the legal industry 82 percent of search engine result pages have ads in the local packs.

Important Non-GMB Ranking Factors

Get more links. Links continue to be a huge influencing factor when it comes to ranking in local search results and in local packs. Quality and authority of inbound links to a domain was the fourth most important factor. Diversity of links was 16th, and the quantity of links was 17th. Domain authority of the website, which is highly influenced by links as well, is sixth.

Write geographically targeted content. The world of search engine marketers used to buzz continually about content and the practice of editing your content in ways that improved rankings. Even though it may be less influential than it used to be, having geographically specific keywords in your content can help you perform well locally.

GMB Best Practices

Use a unique tracking phone number. Using a completely unique tracking number, like a phone number, which users won’t have access to in other places, is a great way to gain an understanding of how well your local search marketing is working.

In the GMB dashboard, add the tracking phone number as the primary phone number. Add an additional phone number and have that be the main business phone number you use for your citations.

Messaging. Having the ability to call from the local listings on a mobile device is nothing new. Having the ability to message or text a company is a relatively recent rollout. Most law firm websites have phone numbers listed but also have the option to use the contact form or live chat. Messaging provides Google searchers the same experience without ever visiting the website. In fact, many companies that offer live chat as a service also will offer it for GMB messaging.

Google Posts. Google Posts is another new ability that Google has recently added. Posts are short snippets of information that expire in about a week. These can include company news, upcoming events, new products or offers for appropriate businesses. Even though Google Posts are up and running, it’s clear Google is still testing how these posts are viewed, where they can be seen, etc. People within the local search industry claim that actively doing Google Posts increases engagement with GMB listings and can lead to increases in scheduled appointments of 11 percent.

GMB insights. GMB can provide some powerful insights that can help you measure the results of your local search marketing.

The How Customers Search for Your Business report can help you know how many queries brought up your listing in a defined time period. Your listing showing up in more searches can be an indication that your local search visibility is improving. If you’re showing up more often, that increases the possibility that potential clients will find you.

Queries used to find your business. People search for different legal services in a variety of ways. It can be helpful to know, however, which searches bring up your listing.

Customer actions. This report gives you an idea of how people are interacting with your listing—whether they are calling, going to the website or requesting directions to your office, for example. Keep in mind, this information isn’t 100 percent accurate. The Call You section only tracks users on mobile devices that click to call. Also keep in mind, this doesn’t necessarily represent unique callers. The figure above doesn’t tell the full story. This is why call tracking can be so beneficial.

Other insight reports. GMB also gives you insights into where your driving direction requests are coming from geographically, where your listing is being found (whether in map listings or in other types of searches), which days your listing receives the most calls and how many times your photos are viewed.

Conclusion

GMB listings are essentially the new home page of your website. People use these listings to get to know who you are, read reviews and contact you, all without potentially ever going to your website. You should claim, verify and optimize your listing to convert new potential clients into actual clients.

Mike Ramsey

Mike Ramsey is the president of NiftyLaw. He is the author of Winning At Local Search and a partner at Local U, which provides beginner and advanced seminars on local search marketing. In 2009 he founded Nifty, which has been recognized by Inc. as one of the fastest growing companies in America. mike@niftyventures.com

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