In an online world, legal consumers need to be able to find your law firm. Google My Business (GMB) plays an essential – and often overlooked – part in that.
What is it? GMB is a free online listing in Google’s business directory. It is available for businesses and organizations to manage across Google’s services like Search and Maps. What is important is that Google uses GMB listings in the local search results it presents. A well-organized entry in GMB therefore results in a better ranking in Google’s local organic search results, making it easier for people to find your firm. (‘Organic’ search results are the ones that are not paid for).
GMB offers other benefits as well. It allows you to manage your own information: you can specify areas of expertise, address, opening hours, your website and how you can be contacted. GMB also offers you several ways to interact with your target audience (see the overview of features below). Lastly, GMB offers metrics, called insights that allow you to better understand and expand your online presence (see below).
Google My Business offers several useful features.
Messages: people can use GMB to leave you private messages that you can reply to.
Questions and Answers are similar to messages, except that they are public, so people can see them in the ‘Knowledge panel’ of your law firm. (The knowledge panel offers a summary of your GMB listing and is what is shown in the local search results).
Posts are short announcements you make that have a limited life span. You can use them, e.g., for promotions, or to wish people a happy new year, to announce days with different opening hours, to announce new staff, etc.
Bookings allow people to directly make an appointment with your law firm.
A GMB listing also offers Reviews from your clients. Google has de facto become the largest review site.
Insights is the name Google gave to the metrics it provides with regard to your GMB listing. You can discover how people found your firm (e.g. what key words they used), where they came from, how many people directly clicked on the link to your website, or on the telephone link, etc.
So, how do you start using your GMB listing? Stacey Burke describes the process in four steps: claim the listing, have Google verify it, optimize it, and keep it active.
Step 1: Claim your listing. To be eligible for a GMB listing, you must be able to meet clients in person, either at your law firm’s physical address, or at their premises. If you haven’t claimed your listing yet, perform a search on your law firm’s name and address. If a knowledge panel appears with information on your law firm, it is already listed. If there is no knowledge panel (area in the rectangle) then you will want to create a listing following these steps from Google. To claim the listing, you will need a Google account.
Step 2: Verify your listing. To make sure not just anybody claims your law firm listing, Google will have to verify it first. This step is required in order for your law firm’s listing to be eligible to appear on Maps, Search, and other Google properties. Once you’re verified, it also means Google deems your law firm a legitimate business, providing third party verification of your company’s credibility when people search for your law firm online. To verify your listing, sign into your Google My Business account where you will see a “Verify Now” option. As part of the verification process, Google will contact your business to ensure your contact information is correct and legitimate.
Step 3. Optimize your listing. Once you’ve claimed your listing, you want to optimize it for the best search engine results. First, you have to add the basic information like the name of your firm, the phone number and other contact modalities, as well as the business category and location, the service area (=geographical area your law firm mainly serves), and opening hours. Optimizing your listing is an art in itself, and these two articles will greatly assist you in the process.
Step 4. Keep your listing active. In its search results, Google tends to favour law firm that remain active: make posts (e.g. to announce blog posts), answer questions, make sure to get reviews and respond to them, etc. Burke recommends checking your GMB listing once or twice a week.