Google Business Profiles (GBP), are free tools that allow you to optimize the way you and your firm appear on Google Search and Maps. With a Business Profile, you can connect with potential clients, display your reputation for excellent service, post updates, list your services, and more.
GBP also powers Google’s organic local pack results. When someone searches for a lawyer or law firm, they’ll likely be delivered localized results in search and maps. To improve your local ranking, you will need to find ways to maximize your GBP’s relevance, distance, and prominence factors.
Relevance factors into account how well your GBP matches the search query. The best practice is to add very complete and detailed information. This gives Google a better understanding of your practice and professional services. It uses this information to match profiles to searches. Complete every field with as much detail as possible. Don’t forget to add services.
Distance measures how far a search result is from the location term in the query. If the searcher doesn’t enter a location modifier (i.e. a city), Google attempts to calculate distance based on information they have about the searcher’s location. Obviously, you can’t do much about distance without moving your office. However, if you’re opening a new office location, or are considering a move, you should consider the strategic advantages in the context of local search (hint: be where your prospective clients are and are looking).
Prominence is where we have the most influence. According to Google:
“Prominence refers to how well known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands are also likely to be prominent in local search results.
Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business, from across the web, like links, articles, and directories. Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business’ local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so search engine optimization (SEO) best practices apply.”
Notice the competitive advantage well-known lawyers and “law firm brands” have in the context of prominence. However, in my experience, many firms are able to compete in local search without having established a significant “offline brand.” Here are the key components:
- Links – Relevant (topically and geographically) links from other pages around the web to your pages.
- Directories – Major business and legal directory sites.
- Reviews – Review count and score (positive sentiment).
- Traditional SEO – On-page and off-page signals relating to content, technical optimization, and links.
It’s also worth noting that ranking isn’t enough. To maximize the value of your GBP you have to convert searchers to clients. How can you demonstrate that you’re worth hiring over the competition? Here are some of the main conversion considerations:
- Reviews – Probably the most important factor in motivating a potential client to contact you.
- Primary Category – Make sure you’re using the right primary category in your GBP.
- Hours – Maximize the hours in which an intake can be performed (hint: 24/7).
- Images and Videos – Use imagery and video content to position your expertise.
- Q&A – Seed the Q&A section with questions and answers that are frequently asked by your audience.
- Updates – Provide updates that demonstrate your reputation, knowledge, and experience.
If permissible in your jurisdiction, include client testimonials in GBP imagery and video. You should also document their consent. Including professional honors, awards, publishing, speaking, and community service in GBP content are also all particularly effective.
Use Google Marketing Kit to convert text reviews to images.
In addition to a primary category, it’s also beneficial to include additional relevant categories. Historically, some SEO consultants believe that additional categories might “dilute” visibility for primary category searches. This has been largely debunked and I would venture to suggest that most now recommend additional categories as a best practice. Of course, you should only add additional categories that are relevant to your practice.
I also encourage you to implement UTM parameters on all of your GBP URLs, including your website, appointments, and updates. This way, you can track visibility and performance of your GBP in Google Search Console. You can use Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder, or find a variety of URL builder tools online. Of course, you can also add UTM parameters manually.
Google Business Profiles for Lawyer Brand Search
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of Google Business Profiles is in the context of branded search queries. These searches include queries of your name, firm name, and legal modifier (i.e. lawyer, attorney, law firm, etc).
Example of One Box panel for a search on lawyer Steven Gursten’s name
As you can see in the example above, a search for lawyer Steve Gursten generates this very large One Box knowledge panel with a variety of useful information. No matter how someone gets your name, they’re likely to use Google to find more information about you. What they find (or don’t find), will likely play a significant role in their decision to contact and hire you.
Google Business Profiles for Lawyer Non-Brand Search
In addition to their value in branded search results, Google Business Profiles also power Google’s local pack results for non-branded search queries. Here’s an example for a search on “car accident lawyer near Detroit Mi”:
Example of non-brand search local pack result
As previously discussed, these results are generated algorithmically, including the Relevance, Distance, and Prominence factors.
Because of their location, size, and richness, these local pack results command a lot of attention. For many non-brand queries, these results can command the most engagement on the page (excluding ads). In fact, in many instances, potential clients will contact firms directly from the search engine result page without clicking-through to the firm’s website at all. This is particularly true on mobile searches where GBP includes a click-to-call button.
Example of click-to-call buttons on mobile search
We typically encourage our clients to include a call tracking number as their primary number, and their true local telephone number as an alternative. We have found this to be an extremely valuable way of tracking GBP call performance while maintaining name, address, and phone (NAP) consistency. With a dedicated call tracking number, you can measure how many calls are being generated directly from GBP.
Google Local Pack Justifications for Lawyers
Local justifications are snippets shown in the local pack to provide information to “justify” why they’re listed for the query. Several types of justifications are relevant to lawyers, including:
- Website mentions
While justifications don’t generally impact rankings, they certainly help listings stand out. Find ways to guide clients to include relevant keywords in reviews. Be sure to include keywords in your GBP services. However, be mindful of how you describe services. We’ve seen some rather cringeworthy results. Use relevant keywords and traditional SEO best practices on your website. This can influence website mentions.
Example of “provides” type justification generated from GBP services
It’s important to note that the “online services” and “online appointment” attributes may block justifications from showing. You’ll have to decide which you believe to be more important to motivating potential clients to contact you. You should also test your own data. If you have multiple offices and practitioner profiles, test different settings and measure their impact. If you don’t see a significant difference, you may even choose to keep some GBPs to include justifications and others that have the blocking justification attributes.
Finally, be sure to regularly add new posts in GBP. In addition to triggering “post” type justifications, GBP posts can also appear prominently in One Box results. Posts are a fantastic way to position your reputation and experience. They’re also valuable for highlighting your contributions to your local community.
About the Author
Gyi Tsakalakis founded AttorneySync, a digital legal marketing agency. As a non-practicing lawyer, he is familiar with the unique considerations of ethically and effectively marketing a law practice. Gyi is co-chair of the ABA TECHSHOW 2023 Planning Board and Co-Host of the Lunch Hour Legal Marketing podcast.