Personal Injury Lawyer Wants to Rank in Tons of Cities


katandmouse

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This is a great thread. Glad I posted it!

@Darren - do you mean you've actually seen businesses rank for stuff like "personal injury lawyer + city" organically using a city page? I see this work well in tons of industries but not Personal Injury Law because the directories are so dang competitive and good that it's almost impossible to beat them. FindLaw, Avvo, Lawyers.com, Yelp, and a few others just dominate the top organic for almost every city. Is your strategy just to go after long tail? Then there is the question of "what" long tail to go after that other PI lawyers have not already done.
@Darren if you can do that for PI attorneys in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, you're my hero.

I agree with you Joy. I work with quite a few PI attorneys and in competitive cities I wouldn't even try a simple city page because I know it would not work. Most of the competition have SEOs working for them, so you're essentially getting into a long distance race in which everyone else had a 10 year head start -- besides the fact that they are much more relevant than someone who is not really in that city. It would take much more than that. But if Darren can do it, then I stand corrected and will probably pass him some work.

The problem with going after the long tail is you're generally talking about top of the funnel informational queries that are not geo-specific and so your article is competing in the SERPS with similar ones throughout the nation. If you're talking about phrases like "boat accident attorney San Diego," those usually have been gobbled up by the real locals, and so those are hard to rank for as well.

My good buddy and great SEO, Ted Ives, likens rank to an oil shortage - there just isn't enough to go around, and there is no other industry than PI attorneys for which that is more true. I'm with PMmborgelt's recommendation that making them really strong in one area is better than limping by in 50 others.
 

JoshuaMackens

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A few things, basically echoing what everyone else has already said.

This guy has high expectations. Nothing wrong with that but it could lead to unrealistic expectations. If you do take him on, I would set hardline, realistic expectations and if he walks then you just saved yourself a huge headache. As he is walking, I would also mention that if anyone else tells him differently, they're after his wallet. Help him out a bit.

I think Adwords is an awesome idea.

I loved Phil's question about, "When you wake up one morning and all your GMB pages are gone from results, what will you want me to do?" Very real possibility and a conversation that protects you down the road .

Finally, city pages are awesome, especially because of the reduction of the 7 pack to the 3 pack. Website results obviously show up much higher now and there's more attention for those city pages. It doesn't sound like every market this guy wants to jump into is super competitive, so that strategy should work for a good amount of them. Just know that you will have to go super heavy on the linkbuilding for it to work of course.

Personally, I would try to work with the guy, mostly for the challenge. I probably would tell him no on the Regus offices (just because it could end up being a huge headache). I would go after city pages, depending on competition. And definitely propose Adwords.
 

cdawg2610

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Ahh the locations conversation - one we have all the time with clients.

We have clients do this all the time, wanting to rank for every city around them, or rank for a city they have no business going after (too far away).

I have always started the conversation by saying we're not smarter than Google, and something like the city pages targeting 10 places isn't going to get us converting traffic. Like others have said, I'm very willing to point out that if anyone tells you they can get you to rank for 10 different places is selling a damaged bill of goods.

I've worked a lot to perfect the "what to target" conversations, and the best way I've come to explain it is an analogy to paid search - while there's no bidding, we only have a finite space Google is going to give is to work in, so we need to go after the best kind of traffic possible.
 

chadkimball

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Personally, I would try to work with the guy
This ^^

I realize I'm in the minority here, being willing to wear both white and black hats. I don't thing google is all that great. They have a massive market share. They want to protect their own business interests. So of course they will try to get everyone to abide by their terms of service. Thats all it is.

Anyway.

If your speech doesn't work on the prospect and they're going to go find someone else, feel free to send them my way, I'll see if we can work with them.

And while I do not take all black hat clients, I do take some if they are the right kind of person.

For me it is mostly a matter of 2 things:

1. Client ROI

2. Does the client understand the risks and are they willing to assume those risks which factor into #1.
 

katandmouse

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I say put your money where it's going to work for you. SEO in cities where you do not have an office, especially for PI attorneys in competitive areas, is likely a waste of money.
Now that I reread this, it really needs a clarification as it can be read wrong. The discussion here is about PI attorneys and so this comment is about them only. And it is "especially" true for competitive areas.

I want to add that I have yet to work with a PI attorney that doesn't have competition that is not actively marketing and/or doing SEO. And if the city they are in isn't that competitive, a neighboring city is.
 

JoyHawkins

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"I have yet to work with a PI attorney that doesn't have competition that is not actively marketing and/or doing SEO"

@Kathy - yep, that's been my experience as well. Almost every one has an SEO company. There are no "random" ones just ranking b/c they're naturally awesome.
 

katandmouse

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If you check your webmaster tools though, you may find that your client is ranking quite a bit of the time and getting clicks on phrases you never dreamed possible with phrases you never see them rank for. So Google apparently thinks they're "awesome" some of the time for some of the people. Personalized search is a PI attorney's best friend. :)
 

SumoLeap

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I recently had a client (different industry) say something similar. They wanted to rank in specific cities and zip codes when they only have one true location. I asked what they did in those given communities (e.g. sponsorships, events, etc.) that would make them relevant. I then suggested AdWords. :p
 

Scott ClientClicks

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I was formerly the in-house marketing guy at a criminal defense law firm called Summit Defense. Criminal defense is almost as competitive as personal injury and the lawyers at that firm also wanted to rank all over Northern California.

Their situation was a little different in that they did have more than one "real location". They used a combination of full time and virtual offices. Over a 9 year period, I was pretty successful in getting the firm to rank in multiple local packs for different cities all around the San Francisco area such as San Jose, San Francisco, Pleasanton and Burlingame.

This firm has one-attorney full-time offices at most of their locations and also has a few virtual locations. I think determining whether an office is virtual or full time is a fuzzy area for Google because both type of tenants share the same address and suite number.

One key that helped us rank was using individual office pages as the GMB landing pages for each location. Another change that helped was appending the location name to the end of each office's business title. That naming convention was allowed by G's guidelines when we made that change.

If I was helping your client and they had a sufficient budget, I'd recommend that they look into inexpensive full-time office space in their outlying markets.

By the way, I'm not encouraging anyone to append city names to their listings or pretend that part time offices are full time. I just wanted to share that ranking in multiple city local packs can be done.
 

JoyHawkins

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Scott,

Great feedback. Did you notice the listings' ranking tank after Pigeon last year (July 2014)? That's what we saw with the PI lawyer in CA who had similar strategies.

Do you see any of them still ranking today in the 3-pack?
 

Scott ClientClicks

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Hi Joy -

SummitDefense was pretty lucky. They didn't tank after pigeon probably because they had a strong domain authority and were ranking well for both organic search and local search. We were very apprehensive about using Regus locations, but that also hasn't been a problem yet.

The firm still ranks well in the local packs for "criminal attorney san jose", "criminal attorney san francisco", "criminal attorney pleasanton" and others.

-Scott
 

danieljc

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The question Joy originally had was, what do you say to them.

That depends on what your business model as an SEO is.

While I applaud the high road adherence to TOS, being a top contributor / advisor is a different IM business model than what most of us SEO's have.

I handle personal injury lawyers. That's my bread and butter. I've ranked city pages plenty of times on page one for personal injury lawyer [city]. I've also had 3 pack rankings with Regus locations. The disclaimer is that PI city pages rank in suburbs. Homepages rank in major city names. At least for that primary keyword.

The way I approach things is as the attorney's advocate in IM. I want their phone to ring and attribute it to me but I also want them to take me seriously when I caution them against something that could be damaging in the long run.

I concern myself on knowing what should shouldn't be done, what the upside reward vs. the downside risk is in anything in SEO. That means that if a lawyer asks me to rank multi cities for him, I say, hell yes, let's do it. I don't read between the lines and take it as an indicator of a bad client. I take it as an indicator that a lawyer knows the power of spending money on online visibility and wants to push whatever envelope he can! But then I say, but before you make the decision to do it this way, lets talk about the risk. Here's the risk, now can you handle that risk and if the worst happens, can you afford changing course and what that entails? Many time the upside just plain outweighs the down. Business is business.

Now I have an attorney looking to expand into St. Louis with a Regus office. The marketing budget for this expansion is very limited and doesn't include renting a private, staffed location. Am I going to warn him about this? Of course! Am I going to rank him? hell yes!

The role someone like Joy or Linda or Phil plays in a situation like this, at least from my perspective is - you guys are the people that help us measure the risk and potential downside. Without that professional Google TOS based perspective, we'd never be able to measure our options. That's one way your expertise provides MASSIVE value to someone like me.
 

chadkimball

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Daniel, I agree with almost everything you said, except this:

Now I have an attorney looking to expand into St. Louis with a Regus office.
Stay away from Regus, much better to get him an "office" in a smaller name provider or even just a one on one agreement with a landlord who lets you use a box off the record. Regus is a big bullseye to google.
 

Linda Buquet

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Regus is a big bullseye to google.
Especially for attorneys.

I've seen Google close down atty accounts with 10 locations due to having Regus offices AND they closed down the main valid office listing as well. Everything went poof.
 

Scott ClientClicks

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Linda -

Thanks for the words of warning. I wonder whether Google might distinguish between Regus virtual tenants and Regus full time tenants.

I work with attorneys as well and many are solo practitioners. For these attorneys, having a full time Regus or other "executive office suite" setup makes perfect sense for reasons other than fooling Google. They like to take advantage of the shared receptionist who can help them seat waiting clients and take their calls. They also get a nice furnished office, internet and phone and use of a conference room.

Having worked myself in an executive office situation, I can tell you first hand that many of the tenants are there every day full time. These people meet Google's guidelines for GMB listings. It would be unfair of Google to discriminate against these full-time tenants just because they happen to share an address with the virtual plan scofflaws.

For the attorney who lost their GMB rankings, is there any procedure to submit a reconsideration request? I figure I better be prepared in case I have to deal with this situation some day!
 

katandmouse

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I'll add a little tip here for what is working for me.

I'm working with a PI attorney in one of the most competitive geo areas in the country. When he came to me he was nowhere to be found online - at least that I could find. Rank reports showed him in the hundreds. My first step was to optimize the website. He then took a big leap forward with some queries knocking on heaven's door. I then cleaned up his citations which were the worst I had ever seen (duplicate listings, wrong NAP all over the place). He climbed again. But then we leveled out so I started SMART, strategic blogging plan that includes topic relevant, intelligent and interesting blogs (not content for content sake), along with social media distribution with our goal to get backlinks as well as traffic.

This more than anything is making a difference and what's surprising to me is it's positively affecting his local listings more than I can see his organic. On some keywords he is right there with the top dogs. We're still not there for the "personal injury +city" phrase - at least consistently, but I'm hoping this approach will eventually get him there and that he doesn't have to resort to what his competition is doing, namely manipulating (not earning) rank.

I will add that for attorneys in less competitive areas, local pages work really well - even for one attorney who does not have virtual offices! In areas that are moderately competitive, a city page supported by city related blogs also works well (again no virtual office).
 

Linda Buquet

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Linda -

Thanks for the words of warning. I wonder whether Google might distinguish between Regus virtual tenants and Regus full time tenants.

I work with attorneys as well and many are solo practitioners. For these attorneys, having a full time Regus or other "executive office suite" setup makes perfect sense for reasons other than fooling Google. They like to take advantage of the shared receptionist who can help them seat waiting clients and take their calls. They also get a nice furnished office, internet and phone and use of a conference room.

Having worked myself in an executive office situation, I can tell you first hand that many of the tenants are there every day full time. These people meet Google's guidelines for GMB listings. It would be unfair of Google to discriminate against these full-time tenants just because they happen to share an address with the virtual plan scofflaws.

For the attorney who lost their GMB rankings, is there any procedure to submit a reconsideration request? I figure I better be prepared in case I have to deal with this situation some day!
Yep Scott I get that. I had a "real" Regus office many moons ago in a totally different industry - not local or SEO related or anything. So I get that. Lots of Mom and Pops do Regus too as full-time office and it makes sense on so many levels.

I'm not sure how Google would know you are really at that office or mainly using it as a virtual office. I would hope they would be fair BUT they operate at scale and in an automated fashion and therefore often paints with a broad brush. So I'm sure sometimes babies get thrown out with the bathwater.

"For the attorney who lost their GMB rankings, is there any procedure to submit a reconsideration request?"

Well in his case he was in the wrong. But yes there is a reconsideration path to use if Google gets it wrong. BUT wait and ask when/if you need it. Cuz I'd have to take time to go find it and by the time you need it, it will likely change or be gone. :rolleyes:
 

danieljc

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I want to reopen this topic again.

I've now had an attorney with multiple locations get a DaVinci location suspended for the reasons discussed in this thread - not a staffed location / virtual location.

They setup these locations years before I came on board so they didn't have anyone like me to council them against using a virtual office.

Problem is, this particular location is very important to business. I'm trying to lay out the options and their upsides and downsides to properly advise.

The Google notice states that we can appeal the suspension and it will be lifted if we convert the location to a SAB. So I see the options as:

1. Convert it to SAB but don't hide address (based on this thread: http://www.localsearchforum.com/google-local-important/26873-hide-your-address-google-local-new-warning-service-area-businesses.html)

2. Convert it to SAB AND hide address since that's what they seem to want when a location is appointment only(?)

3. Start over with new location

Questions:

- Which option is best and why?

- I see in other threads that the consensus is that SAB's don't have a ranking disadvantage but what about in industries (such as law) where none of the ranking competition are standard physical locations?

Thanks in advance for any input
 

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