Of all the offerings from internet giant Google, a robust Google My Business account should be one of the first goals for any company or law firm that wants to make sure they can be found online by the right audience.
Google My Business was launched in 2014 as a free online tool to help local and national businesses become more visible on the Google search engine. Google My Business is integrated with other Google products such as Google Search, Google Maps and YouTube to help further establish your firm’s “find-ability” across all Google platforms.
The information you provide on your Google My Business listing is used by Google along with other online information to create the “knowledge panel” that appears on the right side of a Google search results page when you search for a business name.
How to Set Up a Google My Business Account
Setting up a Google My Business page for your law firm is pretty simple. The first step is setting up a Google account if you don’t have one already. Once your Google account is established, then you can search for your law firm to make sure the account has not been claimed already by someone else.
There are many businesses, including law firms, that have existing Google My Business listings that were generated by Google or another party but do not yet have a verified owner or manager. If you find your law firm listing and it is not already owned or managed by someone else, then you can simply request to take ownership and verify the account. Google typically responds to requests for owner/manager access to unverified accounts within a day or so.
If your Google My Business account has been claimed by another party, then you can request ownership from whomever owns the listing by using an online form provided by Google. In most instances, there is a reasonable explanation for why someone whose email address you don’t recognize has claimed your Google My Business account. It could be a current or former employee, an outside marketer you have worked with previously, or even a well-meaning relative.
If you request ownership and the current owner does not respond to your request within seven days, then you may have to dispute the ownership through Google. One way to get an answer is to contact Google through the company’s Google My Business Twitter account (https://twitter.com/googlemybiz), which typically provides a quicker response than you’ll receive online or by phone. Another option includes the Google My Business Help Community.
Unfortunately, if someone refuses to relinquish the account, then it may fall into a category that Google describes as “not eligible to be transferred.” If that happens to you, then you may need to retain a Google expert who has experience dealing with representatives at Google My Business to keep the ball moving. Muse Communications has experience working with such experts to help clients gather all their Google properties under one roof.
Updating and Monitoring Your Google My Business Account
Once your Google My Business account has been set up and verified, the next step is to improve your local rankings by optimizing your account through the various methods provided by Google. Those include:
- Adding complete, updated information about your firm, including what you do, where you are, and when you’re open
- Verifying all your firm’s locations
- Providing accurate business operation hours
- Quickly responding to customer reviews
- Adding meaningful photos or videos
- Regularly publishing posts about firm news or events
Setting up a solid Google My Business account isn’t the end of the journey. Because customers can leave reviews about your law firm and because anyone can suggest an edit to your Google My Business account that may appear in your knowledge panel without any notification, it is crucial to regularly monitor your account for any new reviews or new information about your firm.
For example, it is not unheard of for a competitor to nefariously change a company’s address or phone number by suggesting an edit through Google My Business that purposely misdirects potential customers.
It also very important to keep a close eye on customer reviews and respond in a timely manner since Google provides no mechanism for erasing reviews that you may not like. In some instances, fake reviews can appear on a Google My Business page. Google maintains a way to flag inappropriate reviews although the company says it “doesn’t get involved when merchants and customers disagree about facts . . .” If a review violates Google’s policy on prohibited and restricted content, then it is much easier to get it removed.
In short, Google isn’t going anywhere, which is why it makes perfect sense to use the tools the company provides to increase your chances of being found by potential clients and referring lawyers. Setting up a Google account and establishing your presence on Google My Business are the first steps in helping your firm stand out among your competitors.
Bruce Vincent is an editor and writer who has helped lawyers and law firms improve their Google pedigrees since the search engine was first launched in 1998. He regularly guides clients in online public relations and marketing campaigns that get noticed by the media, Google and others. Contact Bruce directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how he can help your firm.