For any business that is not a national company, it is important to rank well in the local search results. Studies show local internet seaches have grown more than 70% since 2008.
Google has recently redesigned its search results. Now, Google place accounts are highly prioritized.
If you do not have a Google+ places account, it is highly important to set one up as soon as possible. There is no reason not to have a Google+ places account - it is free, and it allows people to post reviews to your business listing. In your places account you can provide helpful information to potential visitors, such as the hours you are open, what services you offer, payment methods accepted, and even videos.
IMPORTANT UPDATE JUNE 1, 2012
Google has recently changed its system of listings to switch over to Google+ accounts. The 5 stars are no longer showing for the main search results, as Google has switched to a 30 point system. Additionally, it now appears 10 reviews are needed, instead of 5, in order to get the results to show on the main page.
This is what the new system looks like:
See our blog post: http://www.legalmarketingguru.com/Blog/google-places-phased-out-for-google.html for more details.
Google will also take into account where the user is searching from. For example, a search from a user in Texas might get different results than the same exact search phrase by someone in California.
According to Google:
Google Maps search results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. These factors are combined to help us find the best match for your search. For example, our search technology might decide that a business that's farther away from your location is more likely to have what you're looking for than a business that's closer. Here's more detail on what relevance, distance, and prominence mean:
Relevance: Relevance is how well a local listing matches what someone is searching for. A complete and detailed listing in Places can help us better understand your business and match you to relevant search results.
Distance: Just like it sounds -- how far is each potential search result from the location term used in a search? If you don't specify a location in your search, we'll calculate distance based on what we know about your location.
Prominence: This describes how well-known or prominent a listing can be. This is based on information we have about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and we try to reflect this online as well. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be more prominent in search results.
Google Maps and Google Places are free services, so there's no way to request or pay for a better ranking. In addition, we do our best to keep the details of the algorithm confidential in order to make the ranking system as fair as possible for everyone."
If you practice in a large geographic area, and have multiple office locations, it usually makes sense to have more than one Google+ places account. This not only helps clients find the nearest office, but it can help your business rank highly in both city locations.
Besides Google local places, it is important to get reviews from other websites. These reviews will often show up highly when someone searches for your name or law office.They can also help increase your google ranking.
Some of the top sites to work with are yelp, judy's book, and yahoo. You should set up your business listing on each of these sites so that your customers can leave you reviews.
Finally, it is important to have links to your website, or reviews from websites local to you, such as your local newspaper or other directory listings. Google appears to take into consideration where your links come from. So, links from places near you will be given more weight than links from India.