Online local directories (like Google+ Local, Yelp and Avvo) attract billions of searches a month combined. Those searching include potential qualified clients looking for a certain type of lawyer in a certain location. They are not shopping for information but for an actual professional, and are ready to fill out a form or call to speak to someone.
If you want to make sure the right prospects find you easily, you need to take control of how your firm’s information appears in the directory listings. The challenge is sifting through the sales calls and special offers to understand what your law firm absolutely needs and what you absolutely do not need.
First, though, it is crucial to understand how the “local directory ecosystem” works. Below is an amazing visualization by David Mihm at Moz that shows where most of the major directories get the business information that populates their listings. As you can see, Localeze, Infogroup and Acxiom are the big three companies pushing information to directories.
The core of the business information that is shared is the name, address and phone number of a business. We call this information the “N.A.P.”
Keeping Your N.A.P Consistent
No matter how much money you spend on marketing, or which directories’ listings you ultimately choose to claim, you must keep your business information consistent across all online directories. There are two major reasons why.
1. Google. In the ecosystem infographic above, you can see that almost every directory has a passive or active feed going to Google with business information. Google has direct relationships with some of these directories to gather information, while they simply crawl and scrape the information from the others. Google takes these mentions of your business name, address and phone number, or N.A.P., and creates a file or “cluster” for your business. The more consistent mentions, or “citations,” Google finds about a specific business, the more Google trusts that the business is prominent for the specific location. And that leads to higher rankings, meaning your firm shows up higher in Google search results.
For example, you don’t want to list your business name, address and phone number differently across the online ecosystem, as shown in the graphic below. If you do, it’s likely that Google will see three different companies and automatically create three different listings that compete against each other for page rankings. Or, Google will be confused about which information to share in their directory, and you could end up with a listing that has the wrong name, address or phone number.
2. Brand consistency. Do you want your clients to refer to you as ABC Co., Alfa Beta Cappa Co. or Alfa Beta Cappa? Do you want them to go to the correct address when they look for driving directions — or drive to an address that is 10 years old and on the other side of town? When a potential client calls a number they find in a directory, do you want it to be a disconnected call-tracking number that now forwards to a competitor? No one wants to lose a case to a competitor because of incorrect information found online.
Submitting to Local Directories
Most local search directories allow you to create or claim a basic listing for free, and that’s all I recommend you do at first. Here is a list of local search directories for lawyers. If you would like to obtain a paid listing, then make sure you are 100 percent clear about what you’ll get for your money. Ask if you will have a way to know how many people actually see a paid listing versus a free listing. In most cases, paid listings aren’t worth it.
The exceptions are the data aggregators: Acxiom, Infogroup and Localeze. I do recommend submitting your data to these services, because it will be fed to literally thousands of directories, GPS devices — and even print white pages. However, know that it can take anywhere from 60 to 120 days for the data you submit to these sites to spread to other sites. So I still recommend claiming the other sites one-by-one, if you have the time and means to do so.
When submitting to directories, here is a list of things you should always do:
- Use the exact same N.A.P. information.
- Fill out your profiles completely.
- Use professional images if listings allow them.
- List the same website URL.
- List a local landing page if you have more than one location.
- List your homepage URL if you have a single location.
And here is a list of things to never do:
- Never use a call-tracking number on a directory listing.
- Never stuff location information in your business name.
- Never stuff location information in your categories.
- Never spam your description field with all your keywords.
- Never use your personal email to create or claim listings.
There are plenty of directories that are not on our list of local search directories. If you find a solid directory for lawyers, or a directory for a specific city you practice in, then go ahead and list your business in it. The best way to find those directories is by simply searching Google for something like:
“Chicago”+“directory” or “DUI Attorney”+“directory”
Pro Tip: http://getlisted.org by Moz is an amazing (and free) tool you can use to walk through the process of finding where your business is currently listed, and what issues might exist. I highly recommend using it as an easy starting point.
Google Places for Business Listings
Most law firm marketers understand how important a Google Places listing can be for a law firm — and you want to make sure you get it right. Having trusted information out there in the ecosystem first can speed up the ranking process and make verification much easier. So, once you have submitted your business information to the data aggregators and directories, I recommend you wait at least one month before claiming or creating your Google Places for Business Listing, especially if you are a new business.
Your Google Places listing is by far the most important listing you will create. You will most likely have 3 to 10 times more traffic on this listing than all the other listings combined. Make sure it’s perfect. Here are a few tips that will help you create a great listing.
- Google allows 10 categories, and you must use their categories. There are no “lawyer” categories; all legal categories use the word “attorney.”
- If you visit clients at their location, then chose the “service area business” option.
- If you don’t have an address where you can accept walk-in traffic during business hours, then click the “hide your address” option.
- If you do not want to manage a social account, then do not upgrade your listing to the Google+ social page.
- If you have any problems creating or claiming a listing, visit this link.
Bonus Tip: Getting N.A.P. Mentions on the Web
The bottom line is that the more time your N.A.P information is listed online, the higher your search ranking, and the more likely potential clients are to find you. But directories are not the only places that mention a business’s name, address and phone number. For example, take a look at this snippet from a press release that was distributed for The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates:
The press release includes the lawyer’s new address at 1221 Studewood Street in Houston. And guess what? That counts as a mention (or citation) of his business name, address and phone number. So make it a habit when you sponsor events, or find yourself mentioned in the news, to include this information and try to get it listed. It just might be the difference between building your brand online or being buried.
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. You can follow him on Twitter @mikeramsey or +Mike Ramsey.
Catch Up With the Local Marketing Series
Read more from our series aimed at demystifying local search marketing for lawyers.
- Local Search Marketing Basics for Lawyers
- How to Get Online Reviews for Your Law Practice
- How to Design the Best Law Firm Website