When Google first began offering Local Service Ads (LSAs), many home service companies benefited from improved search rankings. The program was so successful that Google later expanded LSAs to a few law firms in select practices and in limited geographic areas in a pilot program called Google Screened. In August 2020, Google expanded Google Screened to include law firms nationwide and even more practice areas. Since this service is just taking off nationwide, it presents an excellent opportunity to boost your law firm to the top of Google search results.
Read on to learn how using Google Screened can help you achieve higher rankings in search results, plus a few tips on how you can use it to generate more qualified leads for your law firm.
What is Google Screened?
Google Screened signifies that there is evidence businesses in the covered category are trustworthy. It is a designation businesses must earn before they can advertise in LSAs. Once qualified, the ads for these companies carry the Google Screened icon (a checkmark).
Google awards the Google Screened badge to businesses that go through comprehensive licensing and background investigations. In order to earn the Google Screened badge, law firms must maintain a three-star or higher Google rating and pass the following:
- Business background check
- Business owner check
- State bar license check for each lawyer working for the firm
- Malpractice insurance check
When Google first offered Google Screened to law firms in 2019, the service limited its application to law firms engaged in certain practices (immigration and estate planning) and only in limited geographic areas. In August 2020, Google expanded Google Screened to law firms nationally in the U.S. and expanded the service to 17 practice groups.
How Does Google Screened Help with Local Services Ads (LSAs)?
LSAs are a type of digital, pay-per-lead ad service originally offered to local businesses for the home (electricians, plumbers, etc.), known previously as Google Home Service Ads. The badge for home service professionals is the Google Guaranteed badge which provides a money-back guarantee for satisfactory work.
The LSA badge for lawyers and other service professionals is called the Google Screened badge. Because Google Screened LSAs appear above both the Google unpaid search results and paid Google Ads, they provide increased visibility and the potential for more qualified leads. Google Screened badges do not provide a money-back guarantee for satisfactory work.
The Google Screened badge now applies to more practice groups, including bankruptcy, criminal law, estate planning, IP, malpractice, tax, business, disability, family law, labor law, personal injury, traffic, contracts, DUI, immigration, litigation and real estate.
How Do I Get My Law Firm to Appear in Search Results?
There are four key factors that help law firms rank higher in a web search:
- Reviews. To be qualified for the Google Screened badge, a law firm must have at least one review and an average of 3 out of 5 stars. A business's reputation matters at every point in a buyer's journey. Research shows that consumers consider a law firm's reputation as a major deciding factor in hiring an attorney. And 90% of modern consumers consider reviews as important as personal recommendations. There are different types of reviews:
- First-party reviews are the ones your clients provide directly to you and which you may publish to your website. Firms find they are valuable in other ways, too, like management assessment and quality control. You can collect the information in letters, completed forms, or even telephone conversations.
- Third-party recommendations are those garnered through services like Google My Business, Facebook Reviews, or Yelp. Bear in mind that it is important to pay attention to what people are saying about you and your firm on these third-party sites. If someone posts something negative, you want to know about it immediately and take steps to contact the unhappy former client.
- Business hours. Being available 24/7/365 is the best way to get the maximum benefit from the maximum potential traffic. Having around-the-clock phone coverage means never missing a phone call from a potential qualified lead. The service hours you provide are also critical within the Google Screened application context. Provide your service hours accurately because Google will only show your LSA during the hours you say are your operational hours. So if your intake capability ends at 5 pm, your LSA will also end at 5 pm. On the other hand, you do not want to increase your operational hours on the Google application if no one will be there to answer the phones. That will earn you bad reviews.
- Responsiveness. When it comes to Google ad rankings, the time and quality of your response matters. It is one of several factors that Google says it uses when deciding which service providers to show in the results to a search inquiry. It's a calculation that estimates the rate at which customers will contact your firm.
- Proximity to the searcher's location. Another factor in determining Google ad rankings is the closeness of your business to potential customers' locations. It is relevant because customers search for local businesses to help satisfy their needs.
How Can Alert Help?
Alert Communications helps law firms leverage the demands of Google Screened Ads. Alert partners law firms to provide 24/7/365 call, intake and retainer services. Our legal intake specialists ensure there is always someone to answer calls and web leads, whether they come in during normal business hours, on your lunch break, after-hours, on weekends or holidays. Additionally, if your firm does not have competent and quick help for Spanish-speaking callers, our bilingual intake experts can mean the difference between signing a client and losing a qualified lead to your competition. We train our intake specialists to understand the legal terms used in your practice area; their attitudes are professional, and they are skilled in providing an empathetic ear to your potential clients.
Get Ahead of the Game
Google Screened was very successful in its trial run so it is safe to assume it is here to stay. The sooner you apply and qualify for the badge, the sooner you will boost your practice to the top of Google search results. A professional legal intake staff can help improve your firm's responsiveness to potential leads which, in turn, will help you rank higher in search results and generate more qualified leads for your firm.