Local SEO is very important to the success of a lawyer’s online marketing efforts especially when the attorney serves clients near the law firm’s physical location. One reason why local SEO is important to law firms is because the volume of mobile search queries with “local intent” and “near me” searches continues to rise. In fact, approximately 50% of all search queries are conducted on a smartphone, and over 50% of those mobile search queries have local intent. Stated another way, nearly 100% of mobile users look up local information on their smartphones and the primary functions are calling or visiting a business. In this article, I explain the primary difference between Local SEO and SEO, what are local “citations,” other reasons why Local SEO is important to a law firm’s online marketing, and the best ways to take control of your law firm’s local listings.

How is Local SEO Different from SEO?

Generally, Local SEO requires the same basic techniques as SEO except that Local SEO focuses on providing search engine results that are relevant to the searcher’s location. For example, if you search for “divorce lawyers” or “divorce lawyers near me” on your smart phone, Google will provide you with the results that are closest to your physical location.

Local SEO includes the development of “citations” which are references on other webpages of your law firm’s name, address and phone number (NAP). Citations to your law firm aren’t the same thing as links to your firm website from other sites. Citations are merely mentions of your law firm’s NAP. To Google, these citations increase your law firm’s prominence in a specific city or region regardless of whether there is an actual link to your firm’s website.

Basically, there are 5 basic types of sites that are relevant to Local SEO:

Site Description
1. Data Aggregators Data aggregators collect and compile information from various sources and oftentimes offer results or access for resale. In the context of Local SEO, data aggregators include Factual, Neustar/LocalEze, Placable, BrightLocal, and Yext.
2. Horizontal Directories Horizontal directories include businesses of all types. Examples of horizontal directories include Yelp, Yellow Pages, Bing Local, and Yahoo!
3. Vertical Directories Vertical directories deal with a specific niche. Examples of vertical directories include Avvo,  Justia, Findlaw, and Martindale Hubbell
4. Regional Directories  Regional directories include businesses from a specific region or location. Examples include sites such as Atlanta.com.
5. Unstructured Sites  An unstructured site is any site other than horizontal, vertical, or regional directories. Examples include a newspaper website, a local blog, or a social media profile.

Why Are Local Citations Important to a Law Firm’s Online Marketing?

In the SEO world, Google uses directory listings and other citations to help determine which law firm websites have value, and consequently which law firm websites will rank higher than others. Assuming all other factors being equal, law firms with a greater number of citations will probably rank higher than businesses with fewer citations. However, Google also evaluates the quality of citations. For example, a citation to your law firm on whitehouse.gov is worth far more than a mention of your law firm on a spammy web directory.

Not only do local citations help with the rankings of your law firm’s website, but local citations also rank very well in search engines. Many times, local search engine results (SERPS) will include listings from local directory websites such as yellowpages.com. For example, if a potential client searches for “personal injury attorneys in City, State,” hopefully your firm site is visible. Having said that, a list of local directory links will also show up in the search. By claiming your local directory listings, you increase your search engine “real estate” thereby maximizing the potential for clients to find your firm online.

How to Claim and Control Your Law Firm’s Directory Listings

Google evaluates the consistency of your name, address, and phone (NAP) in citations. Essentially, part of the process of Local SEO includes not only ensuring that your law firm has quality citations online, but also to claim your listings in various local directories to ensure that your NAP is identical for all citations.

Many local directory websites will allow you to claim (or create) your law firm’s local listings. Some directories websites are free and some charge for a listing. One way to improve your local SEO is to hire a company like JustLegal to do all of the heavy lifting for you to claim and create listings and to continuously audit your listing. However, if you’re going to handled this process yourself, here’s what I recommend you do to get a good start:

  1. Use a Local Website Claiming Service: Claiming or manually creating every possible listing can take a LONG time. Claiming services allow you to pay to claim multiple citations at once. Some listings will show up within minutes whereas others may take weeks to appear. Examples include Moz Local, Yext, Universal Business Listings, Factual, and Yahoo Localworks. Personally, I am a fan of Moz Local which offers a good deal at $84 per year.
  2. Google, Bing, & Apple –  Claim or create listings on Google My Business (formerly Google Places), Bing Places for Business, and Apple Maps Connect.
  3. Claim Listing in Aggregators –  Some aggregators require owner-verification by telephone, so be ready to answer your law firm’s telephone line and enter in a PIN number with sites such as ExpressUpdate and Acxiom.
  4. Claim Listings in Lawyer Directory Sites – Some are free while others require payments. Examples include AvvoLawyers.com, Justia, Nolo, HG, LegalMatch, LawyerCentral, LawyerLegion, ELocalLawyers, LawReferralConnect, LawLink, LawyerRatingz, and many others that you can search for on Google.

When you are claiming or updating your law firm’s local listings, make sure you do the following:

  1. Make sure your law firm name, address, and phone number (NAP) are consistent on each listing.
  2. Remove any duplicate and near-duplicate listings you encounter.
  3. Don’t submit a listing to a site unless you’re sure you’re not already listed there.
  4. If the site allows you to pick categories (such as criminal lawyer or family lawyer), select as many relevant categories as you can on each site.
  5. Take advantage of filling out all details including photos, keywords, descriptions, and links to social media.

Final Thoughts on Local SEO for Lawyers & Law Firms

By increasing your search engine “real estate” through local SEO, attorneys and law firms can increase the chance that they will connect with potential clients. There are hundreds of different citation and business listing websites and more are being added each day. That being said, you should continue the process of Local SEO by claiming new listings and by regularly performing an audit of your citations so you know which ones are OK and which still need fixing.