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Google Places is now Google My Business: Why that matters to your law firm

AndroidAs you may have heard, Google Places is now Google My Business. Billed as a versatile tool for small businesses, My Business is a repository for a large number of other Google services.

In short, it simplifies the communications components of marketing your law firm. Your firm no longer needs to go back and forth from one website to another to manage its business.

With this change, Google is entering into direct competition with Facebook's business services. With Google My Business, the search giant hopes to get more businesses using their products. Google My Business isn't anything new, its more of a suite consisting of existing or upgraded Google services.

What’s included:

  • Hangouts – Video chat with customers.
  • Reviews – Rate businesses according to their reviews.
  • Google Analytics – See your law firm’s website statistics immediately.
  • Maps – Manage your law firm’s location and information, and respond as owner on Maps on mobile.
  • Insights – Determine market trends, your engagement and your visibility
  • Google+ – Share links, videos, messages and more on this social networking platform (yes, it's still in place).

Among the options, Reviews can take the most effort to maximize, but the effort is well worth it. My Business's combined features allow you (as the managing partner at your firm) to see how clients are reviewing your firm, respond immediately and check analytics to find out how and where customers are assessing the firm.

Google does, under certain circumstances, move or remove reviews. Those circumstances may include, but are not limited to: a change of ownership of your law firm; a change of name by adding new counsel; a significant change in branding; detaching reviews of a partner who left your firm; and a complete name change due to a merger or revamp of legal services.

Features worth noting:

  • Google Places for Business and Google+ Dashboards upgrade to Google My Business automatically.
  • The Google My Business platform is available anywhere in the world.
  • The redesigned system improves management for businesses with multiple locations.
  • Similarly, My Business creates a management hub for your firm. You can manage your online storefront, brand and services in one synchronized place and format.
  • Potential clients now see your combined information in Google search results and when they visit your website via Google.

Features still to come:

  • The Android version is complete and ready for use, but the iOS adaptation is still in development. It should arrive soon.
  • A full mobile platform is also in the works.

If you're wondering how all these new and not-so-new features are going to help your law firm, consider some hypothetical scenarios:

  • Let's say your law firm received some negative reviews on its profile. My Business allows you to check on your reviews, respond to them directly as a senior partner or owner, research how the comments have affected traffic on your firm’s site, and even host a Hangout with a dissatisfied client to resolve his or her issue personally.
  • If your firm is just starting out, your online presence may not be as cohesive as you would like it to be. You have enough to do without the work of enhancing your social media communications tools. Google My Business integrates your various profiles, allowing you to pull many types of information together into one platform -- including review, social media, location, information and brand pages.
  • What about that marketing campaign you are considering to garner new clients? Google My Business has a feature called Insights that provides all the necessary information for an educated, efficient campaign. Insights can determine where your clients are coming from, who interacts with your firm most often, and where you will need to focus your advertising. With that information, you can build a Google+ profile and begin with confidence.

Google My Business is intriguing and easy to use. The new platform may make managing your law firm’s online presence a more meaningful endeavor.