If You Hang a Shingle Online, How Does it Help Someone Find Your Office?

People are looking for professional legal services online. If you own a small neighborhood law office or or operate a local bar association, then potential clients and members could be looking for you on the Internet. When they come looking, you need to make sure that you are easily found. To that end, create a local listing with a search engine. This listing will help to correlate your online presence with your actual brick and mortar location.

Location based service (by way of Venice)

Since 2000, with the development of the mobile location protocol, the trend in the smartphone and tablet market has been toward increased mobility. In 2012, Google launched a project code named “Venice” that further improved the ranking for local search results. Results based on a nearby location relative to the user now rank higher in the search provider’s pages.

The technology market has since thrived in regards to user-based geolocation with improved maps and apps. Location-based services include mobile applications for everything from simple navigation to store front locators. Savvy businesses and law firms continue to capture the local user as they improve their services with mobile-friendly websites.

Simply put, your geolocation combined with the preferred ranking of popular search engines creates an ideal condition for local businesses to get found.

Taking advantage of this trend

Since Google’s improvements, online search providers are now focused on local searches for businesses. You can create a local listing by completing a few simple steps with a search engine. For example, using Google Places for Business, you can log in using your Google account and verify that your are the business owner (or authorized representative). Once your listing is live, you can view the number of times the listing has appeared in a local search result. You can even track reviews from around the web and consider whether to start a paid AdWords campaign.

Listing your law practice

Whether you use a pay-per-click service or rely solely on an organic localized search, it is worth your time to learn how to can get your business listed with the more relevant search engines like Moz Local Business Listings, Google Places for Business, or Bing Places for Business, among others. A local listing is your point on a local map.

Local listings work well for people who may have heard about you through a personal referrals from a friend, relative, or former client. Your word-of-mouth campaign can be enhanced by reviews and easy-to-find directions to your office.

Engaging others within your own community

If you have created a local listing with a search provider, you may consider joining in a community with local colleagues. Traditionally, this has been done through membership with a local bar association. To stay relevant, many associations have created communities on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. However, given the numerous online communities available for lawyers using Google+, very few seem to operated by bar associations. I hope to see more bar associations create and nurture online communities.

Listing your local bar association

As an online community offers a platform for discussion and a shared experience, a membership organization can offer relevance to the business of law with opportunities for professional development, continuing legal education, and social networking. Like any business, it is important for a non-profit organization to connect better with members and find new ones. Organic, localized search works for non-profit and member organizations with limited resources.

Part of my role on staff at the local bar association is to engage our members in the group’s services, events, and more. I do this using a variety of communications platforms, from print to electronic. More recently, I have used both a Google+ page and Google Places for Business. I use Google+ to reach local attorneys and legal staff. Like other social media platforms, a Google+ page provides a place the local legal community to connect and share with others who are also on Google+.

However, the real value for our local non-profit has been the local listing I created with Google Places for Business. A person using Google search doesn’t have to have a Google account or use Google+ to find our local listing. The local listing provides a location, setting, and a road map for a local mobile user searching Google to find website, see our event calendar, find our office, and attend a seminar.

Sources & Resources:

Find places faster with quick access to local info on the go by Dan Zivkovic 5/25/12

Search quality highlights: 40 changes for February, 2/27/12, Inside Search: The official Google Search blog

Understand and Rock the Google Venice Update by Mike Ramsey, March 12, 2012 – The Moz Blog

Open Mobile Alliance, OMA Location Working Group, http://openmobilealliance.org/about-oma/work-program/location/

Moz Local Business Listings https://moz.com/local

Google Places for Business, http://www.google.com/business/placesforbusiness//

Bing Places for Business, https://www.bingplaces.com/

Yahoo Local Listings: Business Directory Listings, https://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/local-listings

7th Annual Local Search Study, a video slide presentation published by comScore.com, 15Miles, and Neustar

Resource Pages, ABA Division for Bar Services, April 19, 2014

Social Media and Your Legal Practice, a video streamed live on Mar 4, 2014 via via Google Hangouts by the American Bar Association

Google+ Communities for lawyers, https://plus.google.com/u/0/s/lawyer/communities, April 19, 2014

My Cat’s Lawyer Hates Me (feat. Amir Blumenfeld!), by The Indie Machines, posted on You Tube

Accessible Online Communities: Perspective of a Deaf Community Manager by Anne Reuss, April 8, 2014

Secrets of a Killer Blog Post: Images, WhoIsHostingThis? April 1, 2014

The Secrets to Writing an Attention-Grabbing Blog Post [Infographic] by Ginny Soskey, April 3, 2014, HubSpot.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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