One of the largest influencing factors on gaining local visibility on Google is the verification and optimization of your Google My Business listing. When people search for a lawyer near them they’re usually looking to hire someone, so it’s important the information about your business that shows up on Google is as accurate and optimized as possible.
What is Google My Business?
GMB is a free tool that allows you to manage your business information and lets you connect with customers across Google Search and Maps. GMB listings allow you to:
- Add your contact information
- Upload photos
- Create a compelling business description to entice customers to contact your law firm
- Display your hours of operation
- Answer frequently asked questions
- Monitor and reply to reviews that customers leave on Google for your business
These functions allow you to exert some control over what appears when potential clients search for your firm.
Why You Need a Google My Business Listing
If you are interested in boosting your local online presence, Google My Business is a great place to start. According to Search Engine RoundTable, Google has reported that 46% of all searches have local intent. If someone is looking to hire a lawyer, they may do a search for a “personal injury lawyer near me” or “Austin car accident attorney.” Focusing your efforts on the free-to-use Google My Business platform will not only allow potential customers to find your business online, but it will ensure that the information they see is correct.
In addition, Moz’s list of local search ranking factors shows Google My Business as one of the top-ranking factors in local map search and in local organic search.
How to Verify Your Google My Business Listing
Create a Google My Business Listing
- Log in to the Google Account you want associated with your business (or create a Google Account if you don’t already have one).
- Visit google.com/business and select “Manage now” in the top right-hand corner.
- Enter your business’s name.
- Enter your business address.
- Select a business category. Try to choose the most accurate category possible. For the legal field, you can choose categories like Personal Injury Attorney, Criminal Justice Attorney, Employment Attorney, Bankruptcy Attorney, etc.
- Input your phone number and website.
- Select a verification option.
There are several ways to verify your GMB listing. Here are the different options:
- Instant verification
- Bulk verification
For this verification option, you will want to make sure your address is listed correctly. You can add a contact name that the postcard will be addressed to. The postcard will be mailed to the business location and will typically arrive within 5 days. Once you receive the postcard, log back into your Google My Business account and select “Verify now”. In the code field, enter the five-digit verification code that is listed on your postcard and click “Submit”.
If you don’t receive the postcard, you can request a new code by signing into GMB and clicking the “Request another code” button.
Some businesses are able to verify their location by phone. If you are eligible, you will see the option when you start the verification process. Make sure the phone number is correct before you verify the listing. You will be given a code through an automated message. Enter the code into your GMB dashboard.
Some businesses are able to verify their location by email. If you’re eligible, you will see the option when you start the verification process. Make sure the email is correct before you verify the listing. You will need to sign in to the email address that the verification was sent to and click the verification button in the email from GMB.
If you have already verified your business using the Google Search Console, you may be eligible for instant verification under the same email address. All you need to do is sign into GMB with the same email that you used to verify your business in Google Search Console. If you are eligible, you will see the notification for instant verification. If you don’t, it means that the category for your business isn’t eligible at this time.
If you have more than 10 locations for the same business, you may be eligible for bulk verification. To do this, sign in to your GMB account, select one of your locations and click “Get verified”. You will then click “Chain” and fill out the verification form with your business name country where you operate, all contact names who will be using the GMB account, phone number, business manager email (someone at the business who can verify you’re a representative of that business), and the email address of your Google Account Manager. You will submit this verification form and it can take up to a week for it to be reviewed and processed by Google.
How to Optimize Your GMB Listing
Once you have verified your business listing, you will need to optimize it by filling it out completely.
One thing to note is that anyone can suggest an edit to your business listing, even your competitors. When a searcher clicks on your business listing, there will be a “Suggest an edit” button. This will allow them to not only suggest edits to your listing, but the changes can actually be made live without you being notified. It is very important that you sign in to your GMB dashboard on a regular basis to ensure no one has made any unwanted changes.
Here are the different areas of the profile that you should fill out:
Make sure your business name is consistent with how it listed on your website and across all online directories.
Make sure the Primary Category is as specific as possible.You can list additional categories that apply under the primary category. For instance, if you are a personal injury lawyer, you will want to put Personal Injury Attorney as the primary category. You can list Law Firm, Lawyer, Legal Services, etc under it.
Make sure your address is correct. If you are in a suite, you can include the suite number on the Address 2 line. If you are located in the same building as other attorneys, this can help differentiate your law firm from the rest.
Enter your business hours, including special hours for holidays, to let potential customers know when they can reach you and when they can visit your location.
Your primary number should be a local business number. You can add a toll-free number as a secondary phone number.
TIP: If you are using a tracking number for your GMB listing, make sure it has a local area code and is listed as the primary number. You will list your actual office phone number as the second number so that Google can still crawl it and see that it is consistent with the phone number on your website and other online directories.
Enter the URL for your business website.
TIP: If you have a multi-location business, you can enter the location page on your website if one exists. You will want to send visitors to the most relevant page on the site for each specific location.
Enter a full list of services your company provides. This will tell Google and anyone who sees the listing what your business does.
GMB allows 750 characters in the business description, but only 250 characters will show up when someone views your business listing in the Knowledge Panel.
TIP: Because of this, you will want to make sure that you put the most important information at the top. This would include priority keywords and your city. Make sure to follow these business description guidelines provided by Google.
Add the opening date so that searchers know how long you have been in business.
Photos & Videos
One thing you don’t want to forget to do is to add photos and videos to your GMB listing. It will make the listing more engaging and will allow the searcher to learn more about your business. According to Google, businesses that have photos on their listing see 35% more clicks to their website. There are various types of photos you can add such as your logo, cover photo, interior and exterior photos, team photos, and more.
Photos should be at least 720 pixels wide by 720 pixels high and JPG or PNG files. Videos can be up to 30 seconds long, up to a 100 MB file size, and a resolution of 720p or higher. Videos should be taken at the business location, include people who work at the business, or directly pertain to the business.
Google Posts are social media posts that show up in the Knowledge Panel when someone searches for your business. You can take advantage of making the post more engaging by adding a photo, call-to-action, and a link to your website. Google Posts are live for 7 days and then you must post a new one. This is a great way to stand out from your competitors, drive traffic to your website, and inform potential customers of company events, special promos, events, and additional information about your business.
Q & A
Questions & Answers is a great feature on GMB that allows people to ask questions about your business that you can answer.
If you want to be proactive, you can create a list of frequently asked questions with the appropriate answers. Keep in mind that anyone can answer the questions posted by users about your business. You will want to make sure you closely monitor new questions that are posted and answer them as quickly as possible. If someone else answers a question and it isn’t accurate, you can reach out to the Google My Business support forums.
Online reviews are extremely important and can help you stand out from your competitors. They appear on your business listing, so it is vital that you are continuously working towards getting a larger number of positive reviews. In addition to obtaining reviews, it’s important to reply to all of your reviews. Not only does this show appreciation for the customer who left the review, but it also shows others that you are actively engaging with your listing and influences others to leave a review.
Online reviews have been known to impact local search rankings, click-through-rates, and consumer trust levels. In a study conducted by BrightLocal, they found the following key statistics:
- 86% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses
- Consumers read an average of 10 reviews before trusting a local business
- 91% of 18-34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 57% of consumers will only use a local business if it has 4 or more stars
- 89% of consumers read the responses to reviews left by the business owner
The Importance of Google My Business
On Google My Business, you can control how your business information is displayed on Google and Google Maps, so don’t miss out on this free business tool in order to gain more local visibility. Remember that Google is always looking at the business owner engagement and the engagement of searchers on your GMB listing, so it is important to continually interact with it.
Shea Benedict. President of Operations, The Search Engine Guys (A Division of Cloud 8 Sixteen, Inc.)
The Search Engine Guys is a leader in the Digital Marketing Space for the past 12 years.