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How firms with multiple locations can improve local rankings

How firms with multiple locations can improve local rankings

Law firms with multiple locations may find it more difficult to rank well in local search results than those with only a single location. Size, which can be advantageous when building authority, does not necessarily translate into better local visibility. Each office has unique business data associated with it, and citations corresponding to each location can easily proliferate to unhealthy levels without consistent oversight.

Law firms of all sizes benefit from good local search visibility. Most legal issues are handled on a local level; relatively few firms compete for large cases that span multiple jurisdictions. In addition, more people are using online searches (and mobile searches) to find local businesses. Google has reported that searches using the words “near me” have increased 34 times since 2011.

The practices that serve firms well in traditional, organic search marketing are not by themselves enough to ensure good local placement. Some additional attention must be paid to each location.

Here are three items firms with multiple locations should address to help improve their positions in local results.

1. Citation consistency. Each time your firm is mentioned online, that mention is considered to be one citation. The citation will likely contain some contact information, like a phone number or address. This data is your NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number), and it must be exactly the same on every citation. An accurate, consistent NAP is critical to local search rankings.

Your firm will not be able to control every instance in which a citation is created. Some directories crawl the web and scoop up business data to create citations. Older firms may have citations dating back several years that have been forgotten about with changes in staff or marketing companies. Firms may not even be aware some of these citations exist, but the damage they cause can be real.

For example, a firm with four locations, two name variations, four phone number variations and two address variations will have 16 possible NAP variations per location (2x4x2) and 64 possible NAP versions overall. Add incorrect web addresses to the mix, and the potential for error grows even further. As these inconsistencies proliferate, Google sees the business as less trustworthy, which can quickly harm local visibility.

Firms with multiple locations must actively manage citations. Here are some things to look for:

  • Partnership and name changes: If a firm has changed hands or simply rebranded and taken on a new name, this can cause discrepancies. A search should be done for all name versions to ensure older citations have been claimed and updated.
  • Phone numbers: Some locations may use more than one phone number. Each location should choose one number as the official contact number and use only that.
  • Changes of address: If a firm has moved at any time, this could create multiple address listings. Make sure the most current address is used on all citations. Also, ensure that details like suite numbers or zip code extensions are always used the same way.
  • Changes in url: Rebranding or acquisition can cause firms to update their website address. Make sure no citations still refer to the old address. URL inconsistencies will have negative consequences, since Google will not know which URL to trust.

2. Website consistency. Your website should be the starting point for good local data about your firm. Fortunately, Google provides tips on how to optimize websites for local search. These include:

  • Create a separate page for each location. Google wants visitors to easily be able to find location information for each office or branch of a business. According to Google, a good location page includes: an address, hours, phone number and services or departments available at that location. Your visitors may also find a map and directions helpful.
  • Make location pages accessible. Google's bot must be able to crawl location pages. Google recommends that each page has a unique URL and does not use complex Javascript. It also recommends that sites use internal linking and a clear sitemap to make it easy to find location pages.
  • Use commonly understood formatting. Use schema.org markup to help search engines understand what type of information (hours, reviews, phone number, etc) is being presented. Use standard 24 hour time for hours, specifying AM and PM, and do not abbreviate days of the week, if possible.
  • Focus on overall site quality. Google is still looking for some basic good habits. Location pages should contain unique content, not just the same text with keyword substitutions. Copy should be well-written and relevant. Spammy location pages can ultimately do more harm than good.

3. Google My Business. Setting up a Google My Business page is key to being listed in local results and map results. Be sure to follow Google's policy guidelines when setting up a business page. This means no spammy names or incomplete information.

  • 1. Your name should only include the name of your firm. No keywords. Just the exact firm name.
  • 2. You should have a unique phone number for each location. One phone number for all locations will not work.
  • 3. Your address must be listed exactly as it appears on your website.
  • 4. Consistently use the same firm name and categories across every location, varying only the address and phone number information.
  • 5. Cultivate local reviews. Good reviews help your listing stand out in local results and help you build your reputation.

Building strong local visibility is important for all firms, regardless of size or number of locations. Fortunately, some attention to detail and basic monitoring practices can make a difference in local search placement.

Kristen Friend
Kristen Friend holds two bachelors degrees from Indiana University and an associates degreee from the International Academy of Design. As Art Director for Custom Legal Marketing, her work has been awarded Webby Honorees, WebAwards, Davey Awards, Muse Awards, W3 Awards, and many others. She is also a contributor to Entrpreneur Magazine through the Entrepreneur Leadership Network.