In this podcast we discuss how Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) pages rank in Google’s three pack, also known as the “local pack”.
Recent, good reviews, organic rankings and user proximity are major factors. Of course, there is a bit more to it than that.
See all episodes or subscribe to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute here: https://optimizemyfirm.com/podcasts/.
Welcome to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute where we quickly cover the hot topics in the legal marketing world. I’m your host, Lindsey Busfield.
When someone searches personal injury attorney near me, there are a few types of results that pop up. You have the ads at the top. Below that is a map with a few firms’ names. Lots of users click those and are directed to a nearby attorney. Getting listed in that spot is a huge benefit, but it can be a challenge. Today’s podcast is all about getting your Google Business Page to show up there. Len, the founder of Optimize My Firm, is joining us today to talk about how to boost your odds of showing up in the Local Pack.
What’s your experience with Google My Business, now Google Business Page?
Google Local started around 2004. It was about the same time I had opened my IT firm/computer repair store that was sold in 2012, and it helped drive a ton of business to our business. I remember, in about 2008, they went to the Local 10-Pack. It used to be A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K lists, so it was really easy to game. Back then, all somebody had to do was be in the center of the city. The big trick then was to just rent a UPS Store mailbox which would give you a full address, and people would show up at the top there. It was really frustrating to see certain people there, and Google was really bad about removing spam, so I was personally affected by all of Google Local’s results for many years before we started doing it for other lawyers.
As for other experience, I occasionally participate in the Google Business Page product forum. I’m not there a lot, but I recently became a bronze member there. After you help enough people, it keeps you sharp staying on top of everybody’s problems. If I were to spend another 500 hours there, they’d make me an expert. They call it a silver expert or something like that.
We all have to have goals.
Yeah. I do lurk it from time to time and stay on top of everything that’s impacting Google My Business. I’m going to actually call it Google My Business several times because it recently became Google Business Page. I don’t know why they keep renaming it. It’s like the seventh time they’ve renamed it. By the time everybody gets used to one, they change it again, but I stay on top of there. Locksmith, air-conditioning people, electricians, garage door repairmen, lawyers, they all have their own challenges, and it’s just good to stay sharp.
Absolutely. They’re all competing for those positions in the Local Pack, that section that’s right below the ads and next to the map.
Does the Local Pack drive a lot of calls?
Yes. It’s amazing how many calls it can drive. It’s funny. For personal injury lawyers specifically, we’ve got a couple of different case studies.
- We have somebody in Southern California. They’re not in Los Angeles, but they’re in a city near it, in Los Angeles County. Even though they rank really well, they probably only get about 20 calls a month out of it.
- We have other lawyers in other areas. Maybe they’re in a city of about 500,000 people and there’s not nearly as much competition. In Southern California, there’s a lawyer in every block. They might have less competition. They might get 200 calls a month out of it.
It’s always really surprised me that people call right from the Local Pack. I mean, I know if you’re looking for pizza or coffee, you might call the first thing that pops up, but I was always surprised that people didn’t do more research and at least click on the website, take a look at this person’s reviews, see what kind of practice areas they’re in, maybe some of their past cases.
It’s shocking. In a lot of cases, about half of attorneys’ calls come right from Local Pack. When somebody sees Google’s personal injury and they see the law firm, they see the stars and then they click call. I’ll never get over that.
Well, sometimes, just seeing the stars and having a lot of reviews can be enough information for somebody to make a decision especially when they call and the law firm actually answers the phone. If they have been in a car accident and they need immediate help, they want to make sure that whoever they’re reaching out to is convenient and is going to easily be able to contact and help them out. Again, showing up there can be a challenge, and so what does Google say works, and are they right?
What Google says impacts rankings:
Yeah. What Google says works and what actually works are often two very different things, but they’re pretty close. They just worded it funny. On their site, they have three things they say you need. They call it relevance, distance, and prominence. Those are very, very, very vague at first.
Relevance: Google actually says relevance refers to how well a local business profile matches what somebody is searching for, and they say, “Adding complete, detailed business information to Google will help better understand your business and match profile to relevant searches.”
After thinking about that and digesting it, a big thing lawyers do wrong there is they’ll list their primary business type as law firm where there’s actually a category called personal injury attorney, which they should be using so, and then there’s a family lawyer, criminal defense. Some people pick law firm as their top category. Basically, filling out everything as correctly as possible in your Google Business profile, to me, helps impact the relevance category. For me, it’s something I never think about because I’ve done it so many times, but it is a common mistake that people will set it up wrong. In an extreme example, you don’t want to look up Jeeps for sale and get a pizza shop. That would be a very irrelevant response. If you’re a personal injury lawyer, having the correct categories in place will help fulfill the relevant section.
Distance is a big one. That didn’t use to be as big especially for law firms until December 2021. It was the first big update Google had in several years, and they just changed the Local Pack algorithm a little bit and, the proximity of a user to a business, that factor gained a lot more weight. We will talk about that more in a second, but the distance you are from a location does change how the 3-Pack looks.
The final one is prominence. If you ask me, that’s your Google review count in your review score, and that can be interpreted a lot of different ways, but, basically, you’re always going to want to keep getting as many Google reviews as possible. Obviously, you want positive reviews. If people happen to mention that you’re a lawyer, I’m against keyword stuffing, but if they mention a few of the things that you do, the service that you provide in the reviews, that’s going to help a little bit, too. That’s what Google says helps.
Right. Obviously, those things are going to be the key factors that Google is looking forward in their primary goal to connect users with the most relevant, helpful information, but what additionally can lawyers do that really works for them?
What actually works:
What really helps is organic rankings. If you’re not on the first or sometimes on the second page, you’re just not going to show up in the Local Pack. You have to have local organic rankings. You need links to your site. If you’re not performing on page one or two, you’re just not going to show up in the Local Pack, unless you’re in some random, tiny town in North Dakota or something. If you’re in any competitive niche at all, you have to rank organically to show up in the Local Pack.
The second thing is the proximity, so the user distance. It’s really important. I think a lot of people don’t understand that there is no ranking in a city anymore. There’s no 3-Pack ranking for a Sacramento personal injury lawyer. What somebody gets on the east side of the city versus the results someone sees on the west side of the city are going to be two totally different results. The distance matters. Sometimes, when lawyers are setting up a new law firm or new location, they’ll ask us where they should go. At the moment, we’ll look at the map, and there’s usually a cluster of law firms for whatever reason. They’re near a hospital or a courthouse or something. All the lawyers end up in one area, and so many times we’ve seen a part of the city where there’s no other attorneys. If you can set up there, then you’ll show up better in that specific area.
Yeah, that’s absolutely right. A lot of attorneys tend to cluster together in the major cities thinking that’s going to be where the highest population density is and the most clients are, but if they’re setting themselves up to compete against the most law firms, their ability to compete effectively is going to be hindered.
Yep. Yep. The other things that work are reviews. As I kind of mentioned earlier, you need recent, relevant, positive reviews, but keep that review score as close to five stars as possible.
The name, the name is a big one. I’ve got a funny story about that. I think it was around 2014 or 2015. Google introduced the 3-Pack and, shortly or right around that time, a company was born, and it was called Cell Phone Repair, and they just ranked well in the Local Pack all over the country in every city. I quickly figured out that it’s because their name was Cell Phone Repair. This was a known thing; people would stuff keywords into their business title, and Google would remove it. That’s a direct violation of their policy. If you have a keyword in the title, they will remove your listing until you change it.
I think I was the first one to do this in the personal injury world. I think we were. I’m not sure. I’m not sure, but I haven’t seen it anywhere else first. In August 2018, a San Diego personal injury lawyer asked us (I wrote an article about the Cell Phone Repair) and he said, “Hey, if I change the name of my law firm, can I then use all these keywords in the title?” I’m like, “Yeah. Yeah. Go get a DBA. They’re like $25,” so that’s what they did. They got a DBA. About three months later, if you looked at San Diego personal injury lawyer, and even to this day, they’re all called San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer. It’s like San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer Joe, San Diego Personal Injury and Expert Lawyer Smith. It’s crazy. Of course that spread all over the country.
The name was a big factor. Unfortunately, everybody else started changing their name, too, and Google had to do something about it. In their December 2021 update, they did reduce the weight that a name has, but it still is a factor. Keywords in the name are still a factor that works.
The final thing I would say would be just, as I mentioned earlier, filling out the Google Business Page entirely. There’s all kinds of stuff in there you can fill out, the phone number, if you’ve got public bathrooms, what services you provide, if it’s wheelchair accessible. You want to fill out everything and give Google all the information possible, upload pictures.
What can you upload pictures of?
There’s the inside, the outside of the business, the teams, the staff, the staff working and a couple other categories. I always upload everything possible that way.
Then there’s one final thing. If you have people in your area with fake listings, you can usually get that spam removed. That’s a way that you can help. If you’re number four and you’re not making it to the top three, you can get rid of one of the competitors’ listings, then, boom, you’re in the Local Pack. That’s one other thing that works. Basically, in a nutshell, you want to rank well. You want to get good reviews and you want to have good location.
Google Local Pack ranking myths:
As you mentioned before, a lot of things change over time, and things that used to work don’t necessarily work anymore. What are some things that people keep trying to do that don’t necessarily work?
There’s some myth that won’t die. I’m looking at the list right now. These are actually things that never worked. I still see it. The lawyers forward me emails that, yeah, there are still people trying to sell these services.
- Geotagged photos: The first big one is geotagged photos. I don’t know where this began, but some idiot somewhere said, “If you geotag your photo and upload it to your Google My Business profile, your Google Business Page, it will help somehow.” I don’t know why that would help or change any. Google knows where the business is. You can use an EXIF editor and go into an image and change the coordinates of it. I don’t know. It does not help. It’s been proven four or five times with some very good studies out there. That does not help.
- Keyword stuffing the business description: There’s a business description you can fill out. It’s been proven you can’t manipulate your rankings by stuffing keywords into that business description. I see it all the time like, “Hey, we’re the Los Angeles car accident lawyers. If you’re in a car accident in Los Angeles, call your Los Angeles car accident lawyer.” It doesn’t matter. That’s just garbage. You just want to fill that out with good information.
- Keyword stuffing review replies: Replying to reviews with keywords has been proven not to work. A lot of people are worried about call tracking. This is big. It’s been pushed way too far. People say your phone number has to match everywhere. Google knows people use call tracking. You can totally use a different phone number in there if you need to. There’s actually a proper way to set that up, but if you have a lead generation, a lead… If you’re tracking leads with a call tracking number, you can use that.
- Paying Google Ads: People ask all the time, if you pay Google Ads, AdWords, PPC if you do LSAs, will that help your organic rankings? No, it doesn’t. Totally different part of Google. There’s a service area you can add to your listing. That doesn’t help, and then this other one’s very bizarre. I’ve seen it a thousand times. If you embed your Google map onto your website, that doesn’t change anything. Google doesn’t care what you’re doing in your site. Sometimes, people even put the map on other websites. It does not help at all.
That’s funny. The there’s a lot of bad information that’s being circulated out there. Well, if our listeners want to have some additional support configuring and optimizing their Google Business profiles, how can they get in touch?
Great. Thank you so much for sharing all this great information with us today. We hope that our listeners are able to go and optimize their Google Business profiles and work their way up to the Local 3-Pack.