By Steve Erlich, COO & Director of Search at Digital Law Marketing, Inc.
The search results have been evolving very quickly over the last few years, and it has become more important than ever before to keep track of all the updates and changes. The features reviewed in this article will make your law firm stand out in the search results like never before. Some of these, such as featured snippets, can increase your search traffic to the linked pages exponentially. Most of the features discussed are free to use with the exception of Local Service Ads, which is a pay-per-lead service provided by Google. But first, the freebies.
One of the more obvious changes over the last few years is Google inserting a box of content above the search results to directly answer your question. You may have seen these when asking Google a question. (One of the early adoptions of this provided song lyrics.) This is Google’s attempt to immediately answer a query and show the user a portion of the answer.
Law firms can get featured snippets, too! In addition to positioning your law firm above the search results, this is a good way to start optimizing for voice search as well. When you ask Google a question via your phone or Google Home device, the answer you receive is often from a featured snippet.
You can’t control exactly what portion of content Google determines to use for a featured snippet, but there is a formula if you want to have a shot at the featured snippet. Some of the simpler tips are to answer the question as directly as possible and pay close attention to the format of whoever holds the featured snippet. If a bullet list is currently showing, such as for the query shown above, there’s a good chance Google is looking for a list. If the answer is in paragraph form, Google believes this is the best response. Keep track of your featured snippets as Google may change their preferred format at a moment’s notice.
FAQ results are a great free search feature that really make a listing stand out in the search results. Much like the featured snippets discussed earlier, these are an attempt by Google to answer users’ queries immediately. Like featured snippets, they are very query specific, and they will not always show up. FAQs only appear on page one of the search results.
One distinct difference between featured snippets and FAQ results is that you can control exactly what text shows up in an FAQ result, as long as that text is also represented on the page. An additional link can be added as well that calls the user to the page for more information.
Jump links are a really great feature, especially when you have a long piece of content. Keep in mind that Google will not show FAQ results and jump links like these at the same time, but if your page isn’t built for FAQ or you’re just not seeing the FAQ show up as often as you like, jump links are a good replacement. Clicking any of the jump links will take the user directly to the section of the page they are requesting, saving them from reading the entire page.
Getting into this section is not easy. The formula is similar to featured snippets, but it does tend to be dominated by larger legal websites. The “people also ask” section provides questions that are similar to the query, in this case “Most Dangerous Roads in Tennessee?”
When users click a question, the questions expand to show the result. Then the section expands to provide additional related queries within the responses.
Gone are the days where you could give your website 5-stars just above your description without violating Google’s guidelines, but independent review sites as well as Google knowledge panels still show stars. It is important to monitor your reviews at places like Yelp and Avvo because someone may be seeing very basic search results or even a 1-star instead of a 5-star review from a source you weren’t monitoring. This happens all the time.
Keeping tabs on your name and brand and how you appear in the search results is very important for your law firm’s online reputation.
Pay-per-click has been around a long time and its appearance has evolved throughout the years. Pay-per-click ads are the ads at the top and bottom of the search results, marked with the little “Ad” box. Those are not what we are discussing today.
The Local Service Ads (or LSAs) are found at the very top of the search results, above even the pay-per-click ads, and are marked “sponsored.” There is a screening process to get listed here which takes a few weeks; screening includes a background check, so it does take some time to setup. However, the screening process is free, and once they are approved LSAs are a great way to gain top positions in the search results. Unlike the pay-per-click model, calls are recorded by Google and you are only charged if the type of call falls under your practice area. Some practice areas are broken down more granularly than others. This is more a traditional pay-per-lead model offered directly by Google. Remember, too, to keep tabs on your Google My Business reviews, as those will pull into the LSA results as well and have a strong impact on visibility and conversions.
The search results, especially organically outside of the 3 pack, can be dull and blend together. So these opportunities make a really big difference, from improving brand recognition to driving a lot of additional leads to your law firm. The search engine optimization team at Digital Law Marketing has extensive experience helping firms obtain and keep track of all these search features that give you an edge on the competition. Give us a call now and experience the difference.