Google My Business Update and What It Means to Law Firms
While the announcement came in November 2021 that Google My Business was being retired, it wasn’t the first time such an announcement had occurred. Google Places and Google Local are predecessors of the same platform that had gone through similar rebranding and now Google Business Profile has gone live to users in place of the beloved GMB. While these are iterations of the same platform, they all had a different purpose in the eyes of Google and another change is coming yet again and it could have a meaningful impact on law firms in particular.
There are 4,069 Google Business Profile categories, 24 of which are attorney or law firm-specific as options for legal practices. For years, Google My Business had been lauded by many marketers as a savior to law firms, specifically small practices, as a way to excel in the competitive search space with little investment. Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land though reported, “Google said it that the existing Google My Business web experience will transition to primarily support larger businesses with multiple locations, and will be renamed ‘Business Profile Manager.’” So what does this mean for law firms and how can they continue to leverage the platform?
What Is Changing With Google My Business?
Do not fret, at this time there are no functional changes happening. Besides the name change, there is only one change that will affect how one might be currently using the platform.
Access: The GMB app will be retired in 2022 with business managers encouraged to access their profiles directly through Google Search or Google Maps. Users will need to be logged in and can search for the name of their law firm or business and click on their profile that appears. If you have multiple locations, the Google Business Profile Manager will continue to serve as your primary point of access.
It seems likely that many of the features from the old Google My Business web interface will be brought into Google Search and Google Maps providing the same functionality for users, they will just be in new places.
What Does This Mean for Law Firms?
There has been a lot of speculation on the future and Google’s vision for Business Profile Manager. Some believe that Google may shift focus from small businesses, but to me, that seems unlikely as they are the users who receive the greatest value from the platform. Unless Google announces some meaningful change in the future, Google Business Profile should still be a platform law firms use and focus on.
How Should Law Firms Use Google Business Profile?
At the very least, every law firm should claim their free Google Business Profile and take the time to accurately and thoughtfully setup the Info section. Focusing on the Categories and selecting the most relevant, or universal, primary category to their practice area then including a few additional supporting categories related to your core services.
Speaking of services, there are two related fields worth your attention. Service areas should include your primary location of doing business but consider the surrounding cities and suburbs as well. If you handle cases throughout your state, you can even include the state.
Next, under Services, you should see your Categories but you will also have a long list of specific service offerings to choose from. Not only that, Google will review your account to add or remove services based on feedback from customers and other Google sources. This section should read like a menu of everything your law firm offers to clients. Not only that, you can add descriptions to these services. Although this may be time-consuming, it is time well spent. With only 300 characters available in the text field, they don’t have to be long descriptions. Price is also an option but unless a flat-fee service, we recommend leaving blank.
The most powerful and influential feature to both your local ranking and prospective client evaluation is the Reviews section. Owning and working with divorce and family law firms we know that it isn’t necessarily easy to get clients to put personal and potentially private information out for the world to see but when they do, that sells your practice and services for you. Nearly nine out of ten consumers read reviews before a purchase. Google knows this which is why law firms with more reviews generally rank higher in the local map pack. Commit to asking your clients for reviews. Google makes it easy with a dedicated and shareable link to your Google Business Profile.
Finally, Photos. Consumers like to see who they’re working with. While seemingly superficial, this is another metric Google actually reports on, you vs. business like you. The more photos the better so consider hiring a photographer for proprietary photography. This is a great investment many law firms overlook because of the time and price, but let us tell you, the dividends make it absolutely worth it. These photos can be used on your website, social media, Google Business Profile, and any other advertising outlets.
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