“With which business directories should I list my law practice?”
It’s a common question we hear at We Do Web Content, and one that requires more than a few words to answer. We’ve seen several services come and go, rise and fall, and within the abyss of Yext and Moz a few services have stuck out over time to make it on our top four list.
We’ve asked our resident local business listing manager, Lisa Melegari, to give us the inside scoop on her top 4 local business listings for attorneys. If you’re not on these directories, give We Do Web Content a call at 888-521-3880 and she can help you get started.
Google My Business
Google has been here since before I started doing local business listing optimization. It’s the juggernaut of web search and with good reason – Google is constantly revising and updating its services to provide the most user-friendly, relevant experience. That said, it’s also one of the most difficult local business listings to keep up with.
A Brief History: Google My Business is the blanket term for the majority of Google’s business-related marketing tools and services. It’s the current iteration of older services such as Google Maps and Google Places for Business. I remember the headache back in the late 2000s when Places gave way to Google+ pages and Local. That’s when the penalties for multiple listings for attorneys at the same firm came about, and Google really started cracking down on businesses that listed themselves in cities or states in which they didn’t have a physical address.
Tips & Tricks: Today, with Google+ more or less stabilized, it’s easy to add your listing as a local business as long as you have a physical office address. Rather than make individual listings for each partner, Google allows you to use your Google+ account to make a listing for your law firm as a whole, and then each attorney can use her Google+ account to make her own personal page that is connected to your office address.
The best part of Google My Business is that it connects with a lot of Google’s other services. By creating an account, you’ll start appearing in Google Maps searches for attorneys in your area. You can also link your YouTube account to show off your video library on your local listing page. Google+’s social features also allow Facebook-style posts, but in a much longer form, allowing you to increase your web search impact by syndicating your blog through your Google+ profile.
The Learning Curve: My most prevalent memory of working with Google’s local business listings is when we started working with a new client who had three partners and five listings, one for the law firm, three for the partners, and one for an attorney who was no longer with their firm. It took some creative problem solving to get all of the partners’ profiles merged into one business listing, and once that was done we re-created the partner-specific profiles.
As for the former attorney, getting rid of his account was a bit more of a challenge, since it was created using his personal email and we had no access to delete it. We eventually got him to change it, but the lesson here was to create business listing profiles with company emails rather than personal ones to ensure control if an employee leaves on negative terms.
Facebook Business Pages
Facebook is another service that’s evolved into an entirely different animal in the past 10 years. What started as a social network for college students has opened into an all-ages and all-entity social giant. There’s no doubt that Facebook is the most popular social network to date, and it’s constantly trying to market itself as a way for businesses to connect to clients.
A Brief History: Before Facebook allowed Pages for businesses, there were two ways for attorneys to create a business listing. They either made a personal profile and represented themselves as a solo attorney working at a law firm, or they rigged a personal profile to serve as a profile for their law firm, essentially making the law firm seem as if it were a person.
Eventually, Facebook caught on to businesses wanting to create a presence on its network and developed the Pages feature that we use today.
Tips and Tricks: Facebook has really made managing a law firm’s business page easy. All you need is one person with a Facebook account to establish the page. Then you can add as many administrators as you’d like and give them permission to interact as the page, update the page info, etc. However, make sure you trust admin powers to one person you trust (such as the lead partner). The admin role is the only one that can delete the page and add/remove people from having a role on the page.
When setting up your business page, make sure you fill in all the details such as hours of operation – local search listings are worthless if clients don’t know when you’re open. Also don’t forget that Facebook is a social medium, so if you have important events in your office like holiday parties, training classes, or charity events, this is the place to share them.
Did you know that your business page can “like” and “share” things just like your personal profile? Before you do, just make sure that the icon in the upper left shows your law firm’s page and not your personal one. You can also improve your local business networking by interacting with other local business pages on Facebook. Try things like “liking” your favorite coffee shop’s special of the day post or “sharing” information about local business expos or festivals from your Chamber of Commerce’s page.
The Learning Curve: Thankfully, it has been my experience that most attorneys didn’t get into the Facebook game until it was established as a social medium for businesses and not just individuals. I didn’t have to deal with re-creating a lot of attorneys’ profiles as business pages. But I remember in my days as an IT Intern at a local real estate company, we made every agent a Facebook profile that doubled as a profile for the real estate office. Let’s just say I’m glad I’m no longer working at that office because it must have been quite the task to recreate each agent’s profile as a business professional page and then create a business page for the real estate office.
I promise you, Yelp is NOT just for restaurants! Yelp is the true embodiment of what it means to be a “local business listings service”. All of Yelp’s functionality revolves around geo-location, whether you’ve typed your area into the search terms or you’re letting Yelp do the work for you by finding your location through your device’s GPS.
A Brief History: Yelp broke the Yellow Pages-style formula for business directories when it hit the scene with a customer-based rating system. Unlike the business directories that came before it, Yelp was based more on how popular and well-liked the business was, rather than how much a business was willing to spend on advertising.
Popular at first with restaurants, Yelp’s become a crowd favorite for local searches of all kinds. Pretty much any law firm practicing in any legal field can be listed on Yelp, and it even works internationally!
Tips and Tricks: The absolute worst thing you can do is to fail to claim your Yelp account and fill it out completely. Part of the power of Yelp is that you can control all the info the searcher sees so you can make certain you have the right business hours listed, show off your practice areas, and give details on special promotions and events.
Even if you’re just starting out and you don’t have enough clients to start giving reviews, claim the profile, and just sit on it until you’re ready to go live. This way no one else can claim it and misrepresent your business – that can cause a serious headache when you have to prove to Yelp that you’re the rightful business owner. And chances are if someone tries to claim your profile before you do, they’re itching to leave a nasty review.
The Learning Curve: Yelp isn’t really useful unless you have a handful of satisfied clients ready to review your law firm. While your listing will still show up in search results, it’ll look less appealing against other listings with reviews and stars. Therefore, I wait until our clients have a good amount of positive reviews and testimonials on other services (Facebook, Google, etc.) before I set them up on Yelp. Once I launch a Yelp listing, I ask former clients to visit the new profile and leave feedback on their experience with the firm, giving the Yelp profile a solid start on a site ruled by star ratings.
MerchantCircle gets a special mention from me for its expansive categories for niche businesses. It’s not just your standard business address, phone number, website, hours of operation, etc. It allows you to create menus, staff profiles, and special offers or coupons. Perhaps my favorite and the most useful feature is the profile’s blog, which works as a great place to extend your web content’s reach.
A Brief History: Over the years, MerchantCircle hasn’t changed as much in functionality as the other services I’ve mentioned so far. What has changed is the user friendliness and simplicity of setting up an aesthetically-pleasing profile. A fact I am truly thankful for, as I used to have to hand-code a lot of basic design elements.
Tips and Tricks: Fill in as much information as is applicable to your business; this helps your “Merchant Score” go up. Merchant Score is an algorithm-ranking created by assessing your business listing’s completeness, activity (blogging, answering questions, interacting with posts), client ratings, and social influence with other services.
Blogging on MerchantCircle is a great way to add another venue to showcase your web content. You can re-use topics you’ve discussed on your website’s blog; just re-write them to avoid plagiarism or duplicate content penalties. Another great way to increase your content exposure and promote yourself as an expert is to take on some of the user-submitted questions in the MerchantCircle Answers area.
Also, don’t be shy about making friends with other businesses. MerchantCircle has a quirky little section in your profile setup that asks for your favorite local businesses, so here’s your chance to show some love to your favorite lunch spots around your office or the best place for a cup of coffee any time of day.
The Learning Curve: Thankfully, there isn’t a lot to learn now that my biggest issue has been resolved. For years the site struggled with its blogging platform and to get it to work decently on multiple browsers. Currently, I use MerchantCircle for blogging on Firefox and it works perfectly, allowing copy-paste directly from Microsoft Word without losing simple formatting. Prior to the site working out the usability issues, I used to strip all formatting and hand-code HTML to create bold, bullet lists, and proper spacing into our clients’ blog posts. Glad that era is over! Still, it’s always a good idea to look at your posted blogs to make sure your formatting looks good.
Lisa’s Final Thoughts on Local Business Listings
There’s no single best answer if you’re wondering what the best place to list your business is because everyone wants to target different types of clients. While Google is a safe bet, there are still some people dead set on using Yahoo or Bing or MapQuest for location-based searching.
The best thing to do is start with the big ones like Google and work on adding one or two more listings each month until you’ve covered all the big names. Plenty of cities have their own local directories, some run by neighborhood associations or chambers of commerce, and those are definitely worth looking into.
If you really want to cover a large number of listing services without too much work, Yext is a great service for ensuring your business info is the same across the board on nearly 100 local business listings. There is a trade off in that you can’t always fill out the entire profile with the Yext forms, and you don’t have as much personalization control as you would f you natively set up the profile. Also, there’s a hefty cost, but when you think of the time and effort it’d take to set up and manage all those profiles, it can be worth it, especially if your business info changes frequently.
My final piece of advice is to be thorough when completing your local business listing profiles. Add pictures that make it easier for clients to find your office, draw maps to show them best places to park, etc. Include as much info as possible to give them an idea of what to expect at your law firm before physically meeting them face to face.
If all this sounds like too much to handle, no sweat! We Do Web Content knows that attorneys have a lot more important items to handle before they’re worrying about completing their local business listings. Fill out our contact form or call us at 888-521-3880 to get the scoop on our local business listing optimization services.