The SEO team at NiftyLaw.com participated in a two month long study of legal websites. We looked at over 1200 legal websites across 100 top cities. In the coming months I will be taking a closer look at each section of our study in a multi-part blog series.
Part one of this series will be dedicated to our take-aways around “Citations” and citation consistency. Welcome to part one! I’m excited to share our findings with you.
A Quick Look at Citations:
What the heck is a “citation”? These words are often what I hear from the attorneys I work with, so let me start there. A “citation” in the simplest form, is any mention of your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) across the internet with or without a link back to your website.
The Meat & Potatoes of Our Study:
We looked at a slew of information for each law firm, including reviews, citations, NAP consistency, Google+ profiles and an analysis of their link profiles.
We focused on both the local listings, the organic listings, the top 3 positions on page one and the bottom 3 positions on page one and what we found was very interesting.
Of the 1200+ websites we studied, those that ranked in the top 3 spots on page one had an average of 44 citations. Of those that ranked in the bottom 3 spots of page one had an average of 37 citations. Only 12% had local specific citations and 21% had niche specific. We saw an incredibly low number of law firms with low quantity and quality of citations. While there are many items that contribute to local rank and website value, these findings show there is an enormous opportunity for attorneys to jump ahead of the pack in this specific area.
Quotes from the NiftyLaw SEO Nerdery:
I spoke with several Nifty team members, including our “captain”, Mike Ramsey and here’s what a couple of them had to say.
Mike Ramsey, Owner/CEO (not sure of his title) “I thought it was interesting that consistency trumped quantity. We talk often about how important it is to have you NAP information correct but it seems the industry has been spending more time on finding ways to scale the building of new citations and needs to focus more on cleaning up what is already there.”
Dax Greener, Nifty Law’s Director of Operations stated, “The biggest takeaway for me in regards to citations was consistency over quantity. Some firms that had a lot more citations than others weren’t ranking as well because of inconsistencies. This reiterated the importance of being as clean as possible when it comes to a firms’ local listings. This should be a priority for any firm.”
I also spoke with Chad Henkel, Nifty Law’s Director of Marketing and he stated, “The most interesting takeaway with citations for me is how much opportunity law offices have to create distance between themselves and competitors. Many firms had incomplete, duplicate, and unclaimed listings that another firm with a legitimate local strategy could come in and really shake things up. Even in large metro markets.”
A special thanks to Mike, Dax and Chad for sharing their thoughts with me about their findings. Do you see the common denominator? Consistency, Consistency, Consistency! Instead of focusing on quantity – consistency is playing a bigger role than ever! Quantity is the total number of citations you have and while it’s important to have a large number of citations, it’s even more important that the listings you do have match and are consistent across the web.
What is “Consistency” and what does it mean in relation to Citations?
Let me show you three samples of three different listings for one company:
123 My Road, #117
Salt Lake City, Utah
Alfa Beta Cappa Company
123 My Rd Ste 117
Alfa Beta Cappa
#117 123 My Road
Salt Lake City, UT
Note how different each of the listings are – can YOU tell that they are the same business? Then try to imagine how the search engines see these listings?
Can you read this? I didn’t think so. But THIS is how Google and other search engines are seeing your listings if they have inconsistencies. Did you just let out a huge “Sigh”? Great, then we are on the same page with the importance of consistent citations. So now you are probably asking yourself “where do I go from here” . . . keep reading my friend.
(Special thanks to Mike Ramsey for letting me borrow his analogy from his Lawyernomics presentation!)
Next Steps: Citation Work in a Nutshell:
Unfortunately, building good quality, consistent citations takes time and cleaning up old citations with outdated information takes even more. It’s tedious and tiring work but the law firm that focuses its efforts here will be one step (or many) ahead of their competition. Sounds easy, huh? It’s not.
How To Get Started:
The best way to get started is to start a spreadsheet. Then go to www.Moz.com/local. Once there go to “Check My Listing Score” enter your Business name and zip and click on “Check My Listing”.
These results will show you the current condition of your citation health, which top tier citations are complete, incomplete, percentage of inconsistencies and which have duplicate listings.
Next, you will want to cross-compare those results with the results from www.Yext.com. This will show you specific items that need to be addressed such as wrong phone numbers, addresses or differing business names, etc.
Both of these tools are free but also offer paid versions. I recommend starting here to see where you are at. Using these two free tools will help you to 1) configure your spreadsheet, 2) keep your login credentials straight and 3) track what needs attention.
Our biggest take away is that consistency is playing a much bigger factor in 2014 than in 2008. Remember when simply claiming your business on Google would get you in the top three spots on page one? In 2014, consistency is going to continue to play an increased role in the trust and value of your site in the search engine’s eyes. You must have quantity AND consistency!
If you getting nothing else from this blog post, remember this point: Number of citations is not nearly as important as the quality of each citation. The less is more rule definitely applies here and will continue to grow more important in 2014 and beyond.