The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Cirlce of Legal Trust.
- Google changes the rules yet again
- Attorneys must use a real, valid working business address
- Virtual offices have been nixed
- No more spamming your business name & title
- Must precisely choose appropriate business category
Google recently changed the local page quality guidelines for businesses in Google Maps. For lawyers this could have an impact on how listings are viewed by potential clients using maps to find legal services. In fact, it could mean whether or not you are found at all.
Change #1: No More Descriptors
Originally, businesses could include a descriptor to go along with their business name in maps. For instance, a lawyer in private practice whose law office was officially named “The Law Office of John Smith” could add a descriptor such as “Phoenix”, or “Criminal Defense Attorney” to the listing so that it would read “The Law Office of John Smith – Phoenix” or “The Law Office of John Smith – Criminal Defense Attorney”.
With the new change, only the actual business name can be included. The firm can no longer include phrases that are not a part of the legal business name.
Change #2: Two or More Attorneys That Share the Same Location Must Use One Name
For attorneys, this change could be cumbersome as lawyers often share office space to cut down on costs or simply because they don’t need a lot of space. However, I have not yet seen this enforced (so far). For example, I’ve seen [insert address] suite A and [insert address] suite B not be effected in local search, but this may change in the near future.
Change #3: No Virtual Offices
This isn’t really a surprise. Google has frowned on virtual locations for some time. For example, they will not let a business claim a business page without an actual, working physical address. You can no longer claim to have an office in another city just because you have an employee working remotely there.
This could be a challenge for attorneys who have virtual employees that help them practice law in other states. They might still be able to legally conduct business in those regions but they will not be able to leverage a presence on Google maps.
Change #4: Specific Business Categories
Lawyers should have been doing this all along. The more specific your category, the easier it is for Google to organize information about your practice. You’re also more likely to show up at the right times when people are searching for your legal services.
When you go to select a category, make sure you get as specific as possible. Don’t just choose ‘attorney’ as the primary category. If personal injury lawyer is available as a category (assuming that’s the type of law you practice), choose that. Otherwise, you may not appear in searches relevant to that category even though you should.
Google makes a lot of rules concerning content and its quality. Their changes are constantly evolving and changing, too. So, it isn’t clear at this point how much these new rules will be enforced or when they will be enforced. For example, I find it very hard to believe that virtual offices will discontinue. However, there is more emphasis on this not being allowed. Attorneys should always configure any account with Google using best practices and adhering to the rules as best as possible. That way they can ensure that their hard work isn’t erased and that they get the most out of Google’s maps services.
There is no doubt this policy change will impact many law firms. It’s important to stay abreast of the latest news coming out of Silicon Valley, because quite frankly, Google can and will update anything and everything they do when it comes to organic search. I’ll be sure to keep you posted right here on Circle of Legal Trust.
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