The only way to grow your law firm is to attract new, highly-qualified clients. Attorneys have a different conversion cycle than most businesses because you can’t serve every client who wants your services–they also have to pass your screening process. Are the services they need in your practice area? Are they in need of your services right now (or in the near future)? Are they located in the state(s) in which you are licensed/the city where you practice law?
Increasing your visibility in local search results can help you find new clients who check “yes” on all of these questions. When we talk about google marketing for lawyers, we always suggest building your presence locally before attempting to spread out and cover the whole state, or a multi-state area.
Localizing your digital marketing strategies increases your firm’s brand awareness while building name-recognition and trust. It also focuses on engaging your community so that if and when they do need your services, your firm is their first thought! But to gain these advantages, we first have to focus on how to increase your law firm’s local search rankings.
In this article, we will learn:
- Breakdown the sections of a Google local search results page
- How to build your law firm’s digital footprint
- The 5 pillars of online visibility
- Strategies and tips to increase your law firm’s visibility in local search results
Let’s dive in!
What Are the Tiers of a Google Local Search Results Page?
When you open your web browser and type your question or search term in the search bar, the page that’s returned is called a search results page. In the early days of the internet, there used to be just a list of links to click on. But as search engine algorithms have become more sophisticated and advertisers have found ways to get involved, the search results page has evolved.
There are now four main tiers of information shown on a Google search results page:
- Tier 1 – Google Local Service Ads
- Tier 2 – Google Ads
- Tier 3 – Local Map Pack
- Tier 4 – Organic
When we talk about full-scale Google marketing for lawyers, this is a large part of that strategy. You want to ensure that you show up in as many tiers as possible–preferably all four. It’s basic psychology–the more times your law firm’s name shows up in different tiers, the more authority people assign to your firm, and the more likely they are to call you or click through to your site.
But each tier has its own purpose and, therefore, its own digital marketing strategy. So let’s walk through the tiers with an example.
Let’s say that you were in a car wreck caused by a semi. The medical bills are piling up and the trucking company is claiming they were not at fault. Time to look for a lawyer!
You type in “personal injury attorney near me”, and your results pop up. The first thing you’ll see is:
Tier 1 – Google Local Service Ads
When people use local modifiers in their searches like “near me” or “in [your city]”, Google shows them a relatively newer option within Google Ads called Google Local Service Ads. They appear in a row of boxes that contain the law firm’s name, Google star-rating, phone number, and a “Closed” or “Open” indicator based on your firm’s hours.
These ads appear right at the top of the page and they allow people to reach you instantly, at the exact moment they need your services. This is an excellent tool in localized Google marketing for lawyers to take advantage of.
And if you keep scrolling to continue your research?
Tier 2 – Google Ads
Next, you’ll see Google Ads. You should recognize these from years of Googling–a little “Ad” indicator in the top left corner, followed by what looks like a regular Google listing (URL, title, meta description, etc.).
There are no boxes to contain your information, so you have room for a lot more information in these ads. And when people see your law firm in both places, it adds subconscious legitimacy to your brand, making them more likely to remember and contact you.
But if you’re like many savvy users, you’ll scroll down past the ads on purpose. And that brings us to:
Tier 3 – Local Map Pack
The Map Pack is exactly what it sounds like. When you use modifiers like “near me” or “in [city name]”, you will always see the Google map section with alphabetized pins, followed by a list of those pinned companies. The Map Pack is also automatically shown when a user is searching for a service or business (with or without local modifiers) and they have their location turned on in Google settings.
Usually, only the top three law firms are listed in the map pack. This is determined by the proximity of location, star rating, and how complete your Google My Business profile is. You cannot pay to get into the Map Pack.
Remember, Google’s number one goal is always to provide accurate and helpful information in as few clicks as possible. So you need to optimize your online presence in a way that aligns with that goal. We’ll discuss how to optimize your Google My Business info further down in the article.
If you scroll past the map results, you’ll see the final section of the local results page:
Tier 4 – Organic
The organic listings are where we can find personal injury attorney websites, directory listings, social media profiles, etc. Since you used “near me,” the results should be mostly for your city, state, or general area. If your location permissions are turned off, you may get a few outliers.
In many cases–especially with law firms–these listings will be dominated not by individual firms, but by directories and sites that list many law firms. FindLaw, Justia, Thervo, HG, Super Layers, Thumbtack, and Yelp all show up before individual law firms (unless your SEO game is on point). These are business listings sites, or directory sites.
It’s so important that you claim your firm on these sites and actively monitor them and update with new information. If you don’t take these sites seriously, people won’t find your law firm on these sites. And since 92% of people would rather type in a new search than go to page two of Google results, your competitors who are listed on these sites will get the click.
What’s the Key to Building a Digital Footprint that Gets Your Law Firm Visibility Across All Tiers?
According to Google itself, local search results are based on a combination of distance, relevance, and prominence. At Surefire Local, we also add in recency and availability. So the five pillars of online visibility are:
Let’s take a closer look at what each of these pillars means.
How long ago your listing was updated relative to a person’s search.
Recency is not listed by Google, but we added it because it’s psychologically important. When people see that the last time you posted was a year ago, it creates an assumption that you are either closed, or you don’t care enough to keep up with it. Either way–not a good look.
How well your listing matches the search.
This is perhaps the most important of the pillars. While you need all five, without relevancy, there is no point. Google’s number one goal is to answer people’s questions in as few clicks as possible. Offering relevant answers and information across as many platforms as possible is the number one way to show up in every section of the Google results page.
How far your listing is from the searcher’s location.
When you’re looking for a service, Google assumes you want something close by rather than far away. In most cases this is true, but in your case, people are more willing to travel 20 extra minutes for the best legal services in the area. The more listings you have, the more proximity signals your firm puts out. This increases your odds of appearing to nearby searchers.
How well-known your business is in both the offline and online worlds.
Whether or not your business is open at the time of someone searching and how easy it is to contact you.
Quick Strategies and Tips to Improve Your Presence at Every Tier of Local Results
Local Service Ads
Once you’re signed up and have passed the background check for your “Google Guaranteed” badge, follow these best practices to get the most out of Local Service Ads:
- Add every service types for which you’d like to generate leads
- Increase your reach by adding every applicable zip code
- Closely monitor your weekly ad budget
- Increase your star rating by asking clients to leave reviews
- Respond to messages and phone calls immediately to avoid damaging your ranking
Google Ads are an excellent way to reach a large number of potential clients, increase brand awareness, and increase conversions. But managing Google Ads properly is a full-time job all on its own. Make sure that you’re making the most of it and not wasting your spend by following these best practices:
- Define your target audience by looking at what characteristics, behaviors, and devices your ideal customers have in common.
- Make sure your keywords match your clients’ queries.
- Stay top of mind with remarketing ads.
Local Map Pack
- Claim your Google My Business listings and make sure you fully fill out your profile–use photos, videos, etc.
- Create Google Posts and share content such as offers, blog articles, and announcements directly on Google as part of your firm’s Knowledge Panel.
- Request reviews from happy clients and respond to every review as it comes in to build your star rating!
Your organic results are directly tied to your overall SEO efforts on your site and across your digital presence. There are hundreds of ways to improve your SEO and rankings, but here are a few easy places to start:
- Add structured data and local schema into your website’s code.
- Create location-based pages on your website (i.e. “Areas Served” pages).
- Consistently create and publish relevant, helpful content.
- Claim and add your firm to as many law firm directory sites as possible.
- Solicit reviews for your website.
Surefire Local can help you implement and elevate all of these strategies for your law firm. Our all-in-one local marketing platform brings everything together on one comprehensive dashboard so you can easily control your online presence. From reputation management to Google Ads to responding to questions and reviews – you can do it all with Surefire Local!
Have more questions about Google marketing for lawyers? Find out more and schedule a demo for your law firm today.