Starting today, Mike Ramsey begins his new eight-part series aimed at demystifying local search marketing for lawyers. Mike, a Google Local SEO expert and President of Nifty Marketing, has plenty of good ideas to share to boost your online business development efforts.
Every attorney I talk with likes to reminisce on the glory days of local search marketing, when doing well in “local search” was as simple as a full-size phone book ad, a call-tracking number — and maybe a few refrigerator magnets. While the ’90s were great, times have seriously changed.
Today, local search marketing refers to the practice of gaining visibility for a business in a specific geographic area through search engines and online directories. Even the Yellow Pages Industry Association has changed its name to the Local Search Association to represent the move from print to online directories, reviews, links and websites.
Why Is Local Search Marketing Important for Lawyers?
Chris Silver Smith put together a wonderful graph on SearchEngineLand.com showing the decline in print Yellow Pages usage last year.
If we follow this trend line, by 2014 there will be only 6 billion searches with print Yellow Pages, down from over 15 billion in 2002. While Google is pretty tight-lipped with its data, there is good reason to believe that roughly 30 percent of searches, between mobile and desktop, have local intent. According to ComScore, there were 20 billion searches on Google in the United States in May alone. That would mean 6 billion local searches. Using that data, we can build a comparison between print Yellow Pages and Google for 2014. This doesn’t even include total annual searches on Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Avvo or the other local search directories for lawyers.
Even though the online world is complex, the opportunity for local search marketing for lawyers is growing day by day.
What Are the Components of a Local Search Marketing Plan?
If your plan combines these five things effectively, you’ll find yourself well positioned for long-lasting visibility in local search (without the need for fridge magnets):
- Creating local directory listings
- Getting online reviews
- Building a unique website
- Earning links, likes and shares
- Leveraging paid advertising
Focus! Three Rules
I’ll dive into local search tactics in future posts, so stay tuned. First, though, it’s important to focus your plan. Here are three underlying rules to keep in mind at the start:
1. Focus on quick wins. I see a lot of lawyers go through three firm websites when they still only have one review online about their practice. Or, I see lawyers with tons of amazing reviews and ratings, but who have websites that make them look so unprofessional their ratings and reviews look faked. Look at where you are lacking the most — that is where you usually have the quickest wins.
- If you don’t have a website, or are ashamed of the site you have, a fresh start can make a huge difference fast.
- If you have never claimed or created any local directory listings, here’s a list that you could submit to on a slow day. Doing this can lead to instant traffic back to your main website or contact pages.
- If you have clients who sing your praises from the rooftops, asking them to post reviews on your local listings will help your rankings and lead to more clicks.
- If you sponsor local events in your community, you can easily get some quick links to your website.
The key is to find the place where you can move the needle far and fast.
2. Focus on where the clients are. If you live in Seattle, then Yelp might be a wonderful place to put a ton of focus. If you live in Burley, Idaho, then Yelp is a sound a dog makes and not a place where people find lawyers. The best way to find out where your clients search online for local businesses is simply to ask them through a survey or casual conversation.
3. Focus on something you understand. Abraham Lincoln said, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe.” If there’s one piece of advice that will save you hours and thousands of dollars in your local search marketing, it’s this: Don’t start the work until you understand how and why you are doing it.
Many lawyers get burned by smooth salespeople who have the latest and greatest shiny new marketing toy to sell. If you haven’t taken time to learn the basics of how local search marketing works and flows together, then I can promise that you will be chopping down a tree for days with a dull spoon.
My hope is that this series will arm you with a sharp axe. With enough knowledge, you should feel comfortable doing the basics of local search marketing for yourself, or have the confidence to choose a reputable company to help you.
Mike Ramsey is President of Nifty Marketing, a local search marketing company in Burley, Idaho. Mike is passionate about helping good people and good businesses grow, and recently launched NiftyLaw as a place to learn how to handle online marketing. He takes part in the local search ranking factors study and speaks on the GetListed.org Local University tour. Outside of search, Mike moonlights as the publisher of The Voice, a weekly newspaper in Southern Idaho. You can follow him on Twitter @mikeramsey or +Mike Ramsey.