When it comes to improving a legal website’s rankings for local search terms (specifically on Google+ Local), citation building is one of the most important factors. A citation source is a trusted website directory which Google+ Local pulls data from, and the more citation sources that your business is listed on, the better chance it will have of ranking well.
According to David Mihm’s 2012 Local Search Ranking Factors, the quality and quantity of structured citations is the eighth most important overall ranking factor. When it comes to identifying potential citation sites which will improve your law firm’s rankings on Google+ Local, there are a number of resources which will offer some value, such as:
But there is more to citation building than just throwing up your business information on a few sites, sitting back, and watching the phone ring.
Here are the Top 5 Mistakes That Law Firms Make When Performing Citation Building:
5- Incorrect Phone Number
It’s common for most law firms have multiple phone numbers. Whether it’s a catchy 1-800 number that they can advertise on television, radio, Yellow Pages, and the top of their website and/or landing pages, trackable phone numbers that allow them to collect data on which advertising campaigns and web pages are generating the most/highest quality leads, or local numbers for a number of different locations, it’s not uncommon for there to be some mix-ups when it comes to which phone number is listed on which citation sources.
You want to make sure that you have a local number dedicated to each of your locations, and that those local phone numbers are listed on the appropriate office’s listing on all of your citation sources. This should go without saying, but the correct phone number should also be listed on that particular location’s Google+ Local/Google Places profile, as well as on your website (in schema.org format if possible).
Let’s say that you’re a Maryland law firm, and that you have locations in Annapolis, Baltimore, and Columbia, MD. If the yp.com profile for the Annapolis location lists the Columbia phone #, or if the Manta profile for the Baltimore location lists the 1-800 number instead of the correct local phone number, than you’ll want to make the necessary adjustments.
If you have satellite offices or “By Appointment Only” locations where you pay a couple hundred bucks a month to be able to use an address, you should still have a dedicated number for those locations, even if it simply forwards to your main law firm’s secretary or answering service. But be forewarned, there’s a chance that someone at Google will call the number and quiz the person who answers on things like “what’s outside of your front door right now” and other questions to see if that person is actually on-site, so make sure you plan accordingly.
Tip- You can also find duplicate Google+ Local profiles by searching for your phone number(s) under the “maps” tab of Google. It’s important to claim any profiles that you find, and to suspend any duplicate Google+ Local profiles.
Common Citation Building Mistake # 4- Wrong/Incomplete Address
If your law firm has multiple physical addresses, it’s common for there to be some mix-ups when it comes to some of your citation sources listing incorrect and/or incomplete addresses.
The most common mistake that we see when performing citation building, or when looking at competitors’ citation sources, is the missing or incorrect suite number.
Your business information needs to be the same across the board. That means that the address that is listed on your website and Google+ Local profile should also be listed on a number of quality citation sources, and if the suite number is missing or incorrect, it can cause you a lot of issues and cause your Google+ Local rankings to drop. Make sure your addresses are correct on all of your citation sources. That sounds easy enough, but you’d be surprised how many times we’ve seen address discrepancies while performing citation building for law firms and attorneys.
Tip- Gestlisted.org is a good resource to utilize. Simply put in your business name and zip code, and click on the “accuracy” tab on the left to see how your business information appears on some of the major citation sources.
Common Citation Building Mistake # 3- Duplicate Profiles
If you have multiple profiles on the same citation source, you’ll want to make sure you claim them all and delete/suspend the appropriate listing(s). It’s important for your business location’s information to be the same across the board, and if Google+ Local realizes that you have duplicate profiles on certain citation sources, it could negatively affect your Google+ Local rankings. Claiming every profile on all of the citation sources that are out there can be EXTREMELY time consuming and tedious, but the law firms that spend time claiming and suspending/deleting duplicate profiles are the ones whose Google+ Local impressions are probably continuing to increase, while other law firms sit around hoping and wishing. Also be sure to include as much information as you can (hours of operation, videos, photos, unique descriptions, etc.) on the citation profiles that you don’t suspend.
Tip- Search for your phone number and firm name/address on each citation source to see what’s out there, and claim any profiles that you find. Some might require verification, but taking the extra time is worth it. You can also utilize the site: Google search (ie site:citysearch.com “Jones and Murphy Maryland”) to see what’s on a particular site, all while putting your ninja skills to good use.
Common Citation Building Mistake # 2- Attorney Name Vs. Law Firm Name
It’s extremely common for there to be duplicate citation profiles out there, some of them having the attorneys’ names listed in place of the law firm name.
You may be thinking to yourself “hmm, if I create a listing for the law firm AND each attorney in my office, I could quadruple the number of citation sources and conquer the world!”. Easy there, killer.
Setting up attorney-specific Google+ Local and citation profiles isn’t something that is recommended, since your website is most likely being branded as the firm’s website. If I had a dollar for every time I have a law firm who asks us why their Google+ Local rankings aren’t where they’d like for them to be, only to find that hey tried some common “black-hat” citation building methods like creating a listing for the firm AND every attorney in their office.
If you find individual attorney profiles on citation sources, I would highly recommend claiming and suspending those listings. They can cause duplicate profile issues which can negatively affect Google+ Local rankings for the law firm, and with reviews being an important ranking factor, they can also add unnecessary additional resources where past clients can leave reviews.
Common Citation Building Mistake # 1- Law Firm Name Discrepancies
The most common and overlooked mistake that I see when looking at Law Firm’s Google+ Local citation sources is the number of variations of the law firm’s name that are out there on different citation sources.
Common law firm suffixes include PLLC, P.A, ESQ, etc.
If the name of your law firm is Johnson and Murphy, PLLC, here are some variations of the law firm name that could be listed on Google+ Local citation sources:
Johnson & Murphy, PLLC
Johnson & Murphy PLLC
Johnson And Murphy, PLLC
Johnson And Murphy PLLC
Johnson & Murphy, P.L.L.C.
Johnson And Murphy, P.L.L.C.
Johnson And Murphy P.L.L.C.
Johnson & Murphy P.L.L.C.
Making sure that your business name appears on all citation sites EXACTLY as it appears on your website and Google+ Profile can make a huge difference, and if you think that we’re exaggerating and that a simple “,”can cause your Google+ Local rankings to suffer, think again.
When it comes to Google+ Local, the main ranking factor is “consistency”. Your information should be consistent on all citation sources, profiles, and websites, and little discrepancies like a missing comma or “&” instead of “and” can actually make a huge difference.
Tip: Citation building for law firms and improving Google+ Local rankings/ impressions is something that we specialize in. It can be time-consuming, annoying, and down-right frustrating, so if you’d like to find out more about your current Google+ Local presence or overall local SEO efforts, click here for a free in-depth Local SEO analysis, click here to contact us, or feel free to call us at 410-929-5610.