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Ever wondered why we recommend utilizing lawyer and law firm directory profiles as a key part of your comprehensive legal marketing strategy? Check this post out for answers, plus some tips for getting the most benefit from these profiles.
Justia recommends that lawyers leverage various digital directories to improve online visibility, better manage their reputation, and brand their practice. Recently, we published a list of (mostly) free lawyer and law firm directories to offer lawyers and legal marketing professionals a comprehensive resource for locating directories to improve their legal marketing efforts. You should implement a systematic approach to claiming these profiles.
However, you may have wondered why Justia gives lawyers this advice. Further, you may wonder how to ensure you are getting the maximum benefits from the time you invest in claiming your profiles. If you have ever considered either (or both) of these things, then this post is for you.
Types of Digital Directories & Online Profiles
First and foremost, it is important to understand that there are various types of online directories that lawyers and law firms should have on their radar to maximize their digital footprint. Each of these directory types may have its own profile features and benefits, but all of them have the potential to help legal professionals increase exposure, reach more leads, and boost their reputations.
In general, the most common directory types are:
- Legal Directories (Lawyers/Law Firms): These are the directories specifically designed with legal professionals in mind. These are essentially catalogs of lawyers and firms that allow users to search for the right lawyer for their legal matters. Some directories you may be familiar with in this category are our own Justia Lawyer Directory, Avvo, FindLaw, Lawyers.com, and Martindale. When you begin incorporating directories into your marketing strategy, this is where you should start.
- Bar Association & Lawyer Association Member Directories: These directories are essentially membership lists maintained by state bar associations and other legal organizations. Some examples of this type of directory include the State Bar of California Attorney Search, Florida Bar Member Directory, and Louisiana State Bar Association Membership Directory.
- Popular Consumer Directories: Apple Maps, Bing Places (Microsoft), Facebook Business Pages, and Google My Business are directories commonly used by potential clients that all lawyers need to be on. Of these, Google My Business is the most important online directory for consumer law firms looking for contacts by way of search.
- Business Directories: Business directories are not specific to the legal industry. Instead, they accept all types of businesses, including law firms. Some, but not all of these directories have law firms categorized by their practice areas. Directories commonly considered general business directories include YP, Yelp, Citysearch, eLocal, and DexKnows.
- Social Profiles: Profiles created on social media networks are also a form of directory. For example, sites like Facebook and Instagram also function as a local business directory and can help law firms leverage social proof and interactions with clients for marketing purposes.
- Other Directories: Not every directory fits into one of these categories. For example, there are directories for expert witnesses, legal forms, referral services, and even specific practice areas, such as employment law. Lawyers and law firms should also create profiles in these directories as applicable.
In the future, you will see more from Justia Onward discussing and listing directories in these various categories to help you build a comprehensive strategy.
Why Should Lawyers and Law Firms Get Online Profiles?
Many directories and directory profiles rank well in search results. When someone searches for the name of a particular lawyer or law firm, directory profiles from legal, business, and other directories will likely be in the top results. This increases the lawyer’s footprint in Google search results, where visibility is a competitive process.
Utilizing directory profiles also allows lawyers and law firms to engage in a process commonly known as Barnacle SEO. This strategy is designed to increase exposure by allowing the lawyer/law firm to attach themselves to another site that ranks well for the lawyer’s desired keywords or related topics, ultimately increasing that lawyer’s exposure and potentially increasing leads.
Profiles can often rank for the lawyer or law firm name in search engines. Fully completing these profiles can help the profiles themselves rank higher and improve your online visibility, thus helping you better command your namespace and effectively manage your reputation. Likewise, because you have control of your messaging and visuals (to an extent) on these various directory listings, you can use them to reinforce your brand with potential clients and the general public.
In addition, directories can often help lawyers be discovered by new clients. For example, if you are a Michigan medical malpractice lawyer, having a profile in directories that rank well for those keywords (and related keywords) increases the odds that a potential client will find you as a result of their Google search. This increased visibility may result in more leads from clients that may not have found you but for your profile in this well-ranking directory.
Directory profiles often also offer the option to include links to other websites related to the lawyer, such as a law firm website or legal blog. Non-paid, editorial backlinks can be a critical part of a strong SEO (search engine optimization) strategy for those properties. Thus, the benefits of online directory profiles reach beyond a lawyer’s visibility in a particular directory and even beyond the search visibility of the directory profile itself.
Remember: you should never pay for editorial or follow links. This goes against Google’s webmaster guidelines.
Directory profiles will also allow you to add your firm name, address, and phone number (NAP) to your listing. This allows you to increase your NAP consistency on the Internet, which can help with Google My Business performance.
Tips for Getting the Most From Your Profiles
While simply having a claimed profile in many of these directories is a good start, lawyers and law firms need to optimize their profiles to get the maximum benefit. Here are a few tips to help you get ahead of the game:
- Focus on Completeness: You want to take advantage of all of the available sections on these profiles. If a section applies to you or your firm, then you should complete it. More complete profiles are more likely to see increased visibility, more leads, and a better conversion rate. Thus, complete profiles are more beneficial for your marketing goals.
- Consistent and Accurate NAP: In the SEO world, NAP refers to your name, address, and phone number. You need consistent NAP across the Internet for multiple reasons. First and foremost, you do not want a potential client finding a disconnected phone number or old office address. However, consistency is also important for visibility and ranking purposes of your Google My Business listing (if your office location is eligible and you have a listing set up). Make sure you use the same NAP on these profiles as you do on Google My Business.
- Avoid Tracking Numbers: For local citation directories, you generally should avoid using call tracking numbers because they can interfere with your NAP consistency. As discussed above, NAP consistency is important for SEO. Additionally, it is best to use your primary office number in light of the effort it takes to set up different tracking numbers for local citations directories and the hurdles you may face if you need to stop tracking in the future, especially when compared to the limited benefits you may receive.
- Original, High-Quality Content: On each of your profiles that allow a freeform description or other substantive content, make sure you are creating high-quality and original text for each profile. Profiles with original, well-written content are more likely to have a positive impact on your overall digital reputation and are more likely to rank well on searches for your name or law firm name. Moreover, duplicative content across multiple sites can also negatively impact rankings, so you do not want to simply copy-paste text.
- Describe Key Practice Areas: If there are certain practice areas or services you want to target in your marketing efforts, then you should make sure you emphasize those as much as possible on your profiles and, when possible, describe them in more detail.
- Prioritize Reviews: Reviews matter. Statistics repeatedly show that consumers online care about reviews and they have a big impact on your overall digital reputation. As such, you want to take advantage of directory listings that accept client reviews and focus mainly on those that rank best in search results when searching for the attorney’s or law firm’s name.
- Request Reviews: When permitted by a directory’s policies (more on that later), you should take care to request reviews from your clients. As mentioned above, reviews are very important to today’s Internet users, and having positive reviews can make a big difference in your law firm’s long-term growth trajectory.
- Promote Your Web Properties: You want to make sure you are promoting your other web properties, like your website or blog, by linking to them from these directory profiles when possible. You can use website URL fields to do this.
- Leverage Enhanced Visibility Offerings: Many high-quality directories, particularly legal directories, offer enhanced visibility opportunities that can allow you to place the spotlight on your listing. For example, at Justia we offer Justia Premium Placements in the Justia Lawyer Directory that offer attorneys the opportunity to increase their visibility on our site, as well as receive an enhanced profile and access to traffic statistics.
The biggest exception to this rule is Google My Business. You can use a call tracking number as the primary phone on your Google My Business listing, as long as you use your law firm’s primary number as an additional number. Also, it is safe to use a tracking number in connection with an ad or sponsored listing if the site you are working with accounts for it. For instance, it is safe to utilize a tracking number in connection with your Justia Premium Placement ads, but not in your standard Justia Lawyer Directory profile.
Some law firms worry about the potential impact of a negative review. However, the positive impacts of good reviews mitigate this risk. Additionally, you can monitor your reviews, report fraudulent or improper reviews, and develop a plan for responding to negative reviews. Check out this article to learn more about managing your reviews.
Final Thoughts: Why Do You Care?
We cannot reiterate enough that online directories can play a strong role in helping you reach your law firm’s growth goals in the digital age. Lawyer and Law Firm directories (as well as the other types of directories) help expand your digital reach. You can boost your visibility in search results and on individual websites while also better controlling your law firm’s namespace and managing your reputation.
Develop a system for claiming these profiles, starting with your free profiles in the leading lawyer and legal directories. Once you have claimed and optimized these profiles, move on to other types of directories. Before you know it, you will have taken your legal marketing strategy up a notch solely through your directory efforts.