I understand most of you reading this will think of the word “citation” in a different context. But I want to reshape that for a moment. Just a bit. This is not about the Bluebook system after all. In the context of marketing, a citation is the textual listing of a business (law firm in our case) name, address, and phone number. And they are crucially important in the ever-changing landscape of SEO for law firms and other businesses. Most people have no idea how these are generated, monitored, updated, and controlled. In this blog, we will show you how the sausage is made and explain why these are so important to accurately maintain.
There’s a good chance that if you’ve been researching SEO and/or working with a marketing agency, you’ve also heard the term citations. Now, citations are still a form of a backlink, but citations are really for businesses, like law firms, that have a physical location. Backlinks can be built from other websites containing no geographic information. As an example, Bestbuy.com can build a link from HP.com to one of their printers for sale. This obviously doesn’t contain any geography citation reference. A citation is a listing on various directory style websites that would normally contain your law firm’s Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP). Often a citation also contains a backlink to your website too. Commonly, the practice of claiming, cleaning, maintaining and growing citations for a law firm is referred to “Local SEO”; another term you should be familiar with.
How do I know what citations I have now?
If you’re asking this question, you’re asking the right one. In order to know where you need to go, you first need to understand where you are now. There are plenty of free tools out there that will run a report of your local citations. We are partial to ours which you can find here: CLICK
It’s fairly normal to see varying information on a report such as this. If you have moved locations at any point, changed a phone number or of course the ever-popular firm name change from partnership changes, you will see that reflected in your online listings. This is the very first thing you need to fix.
How Do I Go About Fixing Incorrect Citations?
Ah yes, back that sausage and how it’s made. This is where the rubber meets the road. We have a PowerPoint that directly describes our process for handling multiple facets of citation claiming. The process is the same for fixing listings.
Download the PDF here!
- Determine what sites you have credentials to access
There can be hundreds of citations out there that contain an incorrect NAP. In order to change this information, you need to be able to login to the sites themselves. Unless the citation was scraped (which is also highly likely), someone used an email address and password to set it up. Many times, this was a prior marketing person or agency.
- Petition the sites to change the information on your behalf
Often times citation sites like yelp and others will have a “suggest an edit” button. This will prompt you as a user to suggest edits and trigger a change.
- Re-claim the citation profile
Often you will be able to reclaim the citation profile for yourself, using your email address. I would recommend you use a non-firm email such as a Gmail or Yahoo email address so as to avoid spam issues.
How many citations should I have? What about setting up new ones?
As many as you can create or afford to have someone else create for you. There really is no limit. That said, we advise focusing on the most important first. What are those? We recommend using Bright Local’s list which you can sort through by category of business. The top legal site are also sites that sell services like Justia and FindLaw. While we recommend setting up listing citations at these top sites, we realize this may be somewhat expensive. But to start, set one attorney up at your firm with the least expensive listing option that contains a link to your website. This way you can affordably take advantage of the Domain Authority of the site without breaking the bank. Often times the free listing is just a citation. We recommend taking advantage of paid options when possible.
That said while we can’t endorse the website site or SEO services of these companies, the many products they offer in terms of paid profile promotion can also be valuable and should be examined if you have serious marketing ambitions.
Accuracy is the key to success
Something to keep in mind as you work to build your citations is maintaining an accurate presence. What we mean by this is that always ensure that everything is uniform across the internet – from the spelling of your law firm’s name to your firm’s phone number and address, etc. – consistency is key to ranking higher. Why? Because Google is all about ensuring an optimal user journey. And if they’re not sure which is the correct information because of multiple variations, there’s a good chance they’ll downrank your site or Google My Business Listing in search engine rankings to avoid any misinformation. Always remember it’s their job to provide the most accurate return they can for a particular search query.
Here’s the thing about those listings though… they are not all going to provide you with an authoritative backlink that will help to improve your authority; in fact, many will not. Most website providing directory or citation listings will only provide law firms and other business owners with a nofollow link. Though it’s important to keep in mind that they will not harm your SEO/link building efforts though either. Google has confirmed it looks at both types of links. What citations will do though, is help to give you a local boost. These listings help potential clients find your law firm and can also help to improve your law firm’s local search engine rankings.
Google’s Two Cents
In terms of accuracy, how does Google ensure that they’re displaying the most current and up to date information? (Because that’s a HUGE deal to them.) Remember that Google isn’t there to cater to law firms, other businesses or even advertisers. Their job is to ensure that they are providing the most relevant, timely and accurate information for the users of their Search engine.
So, how do they ensure accuracy? That’s a blog all to itself, but when it comes to showing a law firm in most search situations, citations will play a huge role. This is why they start by having you verify your company’s information on Google My Business, but it doesn’t end there. Their search bots will also crawl the other aforementioned directories to confirm the accuracy of your information and compare it to their own. The more complete and accurate that your data is across the web, the more trust Google places in your law firm and will therefore, grant your law firm more visibility on Google. However, should your law firm be missing key pieces of information – or have inaccuracies – this can harm your law firm’s online presence as Google will not give your firm as much visibility in Search results.
How does all of this play into SEO for my law firm?
Greater visibility means more potential to attract clients, which is why you want to work with a trusted SEO agency that can help you position your law firm for success. SEO is made of a great many things, but citations are a huge part of that. We have seen forms achieve rank success in some cases with the top citations verified and accurate and a healthy website (from an SEO perspective). What we haven’t seen much of is the opposite, where a firm has an unhealthy website and a terrible citation profile. Fix what you can, when you can, as you can afford it. Just like anything else, take care of the fundamentals and they will take care of you. Speaking of taking care of you…allow us to do just a bit of pandering:
Precision Legal Marketing has been helping law firms across the nation boost their online visibility and success. Are you ready to take the next step and gain greater visibility for your law firm? If so, get in touch with us today!