Google Completely Changed Local Attorney Marketing

Google Completely Changed Local Attorney Marketing

I launched the Attorney Marketing Profits blog this week, and little did I know that Google would drop a colossal shift in local attorney marketing into my lap only 3 days into this.

So what did Google do? It scrapped the old Google Places pages and replaced them with Google+ Local.

So What Is (or Was) Google Places?

If you have a basic knowledge of the internet and have done any searches for local businesses on Google, you should be familiar with Google Places.

Whenever you searched the internet using a local keyword like “criminal attorney austin” or “tree service austin”, you should have seen approximately 7 Google Places page listings as some of the first search results on the page.  The Google Places pages are easy to spot because they show up with the little red balloons containing letters in them, and there is usually a map of the balloons to the right of the search results.

Here is an example so you can see exactly what I’m talking about.

Attorney Marketing Google Places SERP - 05_30_12_opt

When you clicked on one of Google’s little red balloons, you used to see a Google Places page.

If you’ve done any search engine optimization to get your law firm or practice ranked highly for local search terms, then you’ve most likely put a lot of time and effort into optimizing your Google Places page to ensure you’re in the “A” position within Google Places because that’s like the pot of gold when it comes to getting the maximum number of leads to your law firm for your targeted keyword term.

Well buckle up tight and get ready for a new ride because yesterday Google scrapped Google Places and replaced it with Google+ Local.

You should consider yourself fortunate that Attorney Marketing Profits has researched these changes for you, and we’re sharing the ‘inside scoop’ with you here.

So What Is Google+ Local?

Let’s take a step back first and make sure you know about Google+.  Google+ is a relatively new social media channel (comparatively speaking), but Google has done a great job incorporating all of the best attributes of other channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube into Google+.  Google+ allows status updates (like Facebook and Twitter), has Google+ Pages for business (like Facebook), and even has video chatting through its ‘hangout’ feature (like YouTube).

I believe the most unique feature about Google+, however, is that it allows a user to create ‘circles’ within his or her group of contacts on Google+.  By creating circles, a Google+ user can separate personal contacts from business contacts, if necessary, and then choose the appropriate circle to publish content to when posting updates on Google+.

Now about this big change that everyone’s fussing about.  Yesterday, Google rolled out Google+ Local, and Google describes this on the Google official blog as “a simple way to discover and share local information featuring Zagat scores and recommendations from people you trust in Google+. […] It’s integrated into Search, Maps and mobile and available as a new tab in Google+—creating one simple experience across Google.”

You will find the Google+ Local tab on the left-hand side of your Google+ profile page.

Attorney Marketing Google+ Profile Page_opt

When you click on the Google+ Local tab you will be taken immediately to a page where you are presented with local business recommendations based on your Google+ circles, previous reviews you have made, and Zagat ratings.

Attorney Marketing Blog Google+ Local Recommendations_opt

When you click on a business listing, you will now be presented with a Google+ Local business page like this (assuming the business has one).

Attorney Marketing Blog Google+ Local Business Page_opt

So What Does This Mean For Attorney Marketing?

This shift by Google to Google+ Local means 3 Major Changes for your local attorney marketing or law firm marketing:

(1) Google+ Local pages will completely replace Google Places pages.  Google states in its official business blog that business owners can continue to manage their local business pages via Google Places for business, but you should monitor your business listing closely to make sure the information you loaded and optimized into your Google Places page translates to your new  Google+ Local page and conveys the exact marketing message you want communicated about your firm.

Google will utilize these Google+ Local pages across all of its sites (search, Maps and mobile), so get familiar with the layout and information listed in the pages.  You will see that the Google+ Local pages are more visually appealing than the Google Places pages, and they also allow businesses to develop followers and interact with those followers through posts or messaging.  This is similar to the interactions currently available on Facebook and Twitter, so it’s definitely an improvement from a law firm marketing standpoint in my opinion.

(2) Google is doing away with the old 5-Star rating scale that was utilized in Google Reviews (which was eerily similar to Yelp’s rating system).  In its place Google is implementing the Zagat 30-point scale for reviews and making the entire database of Zagat reviews available across all business categories for free.

The joinder of Google and Zagat in local search is not surprising if you knew about Google’s acquisition of Zagat last fall, so now they will be implementing Zagat’s rating scale for each place in Google+ Local.  Google states that using the Zagat scale will translate better for reviews of local business because it will separate out factors like service or decor from the actual food or product that is being purchased.  Only time will tell, so I’ll withhold judgment on what is the better review system until a later date.

(3) The use of Google+ Local will increase Google’s recent emphasis on recommendations and reviews from people you know and trust – such as the people in your Google+ circles – when selecting pages for you to view.

Earlier this year Google implemented greater emphasis on recommendations and reviews from people you know into the search results it returns on your searches, so incorporating a tab into Google+ that pulls up local businesses Google thinks you will like is in line with its previous search algorithm revisions.

Google is clear in its intent by explaining reviews in Google+ Local as follows: “You can also share your opinions and upload photos. These reviews and photos will help your friends when they’re checking out a place, and are also integrated into the aggregate score that other people see. The more you contribute, the more helpful Google+ Local will be for your friends, family and everyone else.”

So What Should I Do?

With regard to your attorney marketing or law firm marketing plan (or any local business marketing for that matter), these major changes from Google mean that your law firm and practice will be dropped into the interactive world of social media whether you like it or not because Google is making reviews and social interaction a much bigger part of local search.

You need to understand that some attorneys and law firms already utilize Google+ in their marketing, so they’re ahead of the game when it comes to using Google’s changes to promote their law firm more effectively.  Therefore, you should be doing all you can to learn how to integrate Google+ into your marketing so you can take advantage of all the benefits Google is offering local businesses.

If you don’t incorporate Google+ Local into your attorney marketing, your competition will.

Google Completely Changed Local Attorney Marketing

Be Sociable, Share!
Written by Richard Martindale - About the Author: Richard Martindale is a practicing attorney and the President/CEO of an internet marketing company in Austin called Clockwork Social Media. Richard also publishes the Attorney Marketing Profits Blog. Naturally this article is connected to Richard’s profile, Twitter, Facebook and to LinkedIn so check him out in all these places.
About Richard Martindale

Speak Your Mind