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Google Local Vicinity Update

Jon Robinson (00:00):
Happy new year, everyone. This is our first SEO video of the year at CAMG. My name is Jon Robinson, vice president of SEO here at Consumer Attorney Marketing Group. And everybody right now is going through a lot of change. We’ve got Omicron that is running rampant across the country. In the legal SEO world, everybody is feeling the impact of the recently released Google Vicinity Update. The Google Vicinity Update was released somewhere between November 30th and December 8th. Google tweeted on December 16th that the algorithm update was completed.

Jon Robinson (00:42):
The November ’21 local search update began on the 30th, ran through December 8th, and they said in their tweet it involved a rebalancing of various factors we consider in generating local search results. That is the extent of what they said. The ramifications were far-felt. It actually followed an expanded local map pack debut on desktop. For those of you who search local results on desktop versus on your phone, you may have noticed that the map pack got bigger visibility. And that happened just a few days before the announcement of this local search algorithm update.

Jon Robinson (01:21):
What actually happened here? Google had… They said they rebalanced various factors. It could mean a number of different things, but the local search community has done their research, looked at the effects and what has happened is really two main things. Proximity is now more important than ever. This is something that local search has always focused on. Proximity has always been relevant. The belief is that they shifted the weight more towards proximity. If they’re shifting more towards one thing, well, they have to be reducing the weight towards something else.

Jon Robinson (01:56):
What did they do? They reduce the weight and value of keywords in your brand name in your Google My Business. This is something that has long been taken advantage of by spammers who would keyword stuff words into their Google My Business name. Brooklyn dentist or dentist in Brooklyn, those keywords would just get stuffed directly into the brand name in the hope that when someone is searching for dentist in Brooklyn, that their Google My Business would show up. What is the actual impact of this? Well, now keyword spammers are not able to rank highly outside of their actual location.

Jon Robinson (02:41):
This is really important because many of the law firms that we work with have just been seeing these either law firms that are keyword stuffing in accident injury attorney or car accident attorney at the end of their brand name into their Google My Business show up within their local vicinity when they really shouldn’t. And then you also were seeing a lot of lead aggregators that were creating fake Google My Business profiles, didn’t have real business names and were just using car accident attorneys in New York as their actual brand name. These Google My Businesses would come and go.

Jon Robinson (03:21):
You would see them last for a few months and then Google would find them. Enough people would report them. They would be removed. We are seeing a reduction in keyword spammers’ ability to rank highly outside of their defined location. Also, properly use keywords and brand names may have actually lost some local visibility. Firms that are not doing anything wrong who actually have accident injury attorney or injury lawyer as part of their brand name… Like officially, right? These are part of their actual corporate name or DBA.

Jon Robinson (04:00):
Those keywords now have a lesser effect and therefore are seeing a reduction in local visibility. Not that they’re doing anything wrong. But because those weights have shifted, you’re now seeing that be a little bit less effective. I’ve heard a lot of rumors using brand names now in your GMB actually is hurting you and you’re being penalized for it. I do not believe that to be the case. If that was the case, Starbucks Coffee would no longer rank for coffee shop, or Dunkin Donuts would no longer rank for donuts, or dentists would no longer rank for dental keywords. It’s just not the case.

Jon Robinson (04:44):
I can’t imagine that that is what’s happening. There’s a reduction in the weight of those keywords, but it is not something that is penalizing you. What can you do with regards to this actual impact of the vicinity update? Our recommendation is continue doing things the right way. Keep your Google My Business up to date. Make sure you’re always entering complete data. Leave nothing empty. Constantly go back to Google My Business and look at the things that the Google local guides are suggesting for your Google My Business and make sure at the fields are all filled out to the greatest extent that you can.

Jon Robinson (05:27):
Leave nothing empty. Leave nothing unoptimized. This includes keeping your opening hours accurate, adding photos, your business description, all of the attributes, veteran owned, minority owned, et cetera. Also, manage and respond to views. Very, very important not only from a conversion perspective, as you are seeing people who actually go to your Google My Business to decide whether or not they want to work with your law firm. It helps there, but it also helps from a ranking perspective. You always want to respond to the reviews that are coming through. Expand your citations and build real back links.

Jon Robinson (06:05):
This is something that is not actually happening on your Google My Business profile. For those of you that aren’t aware, citations are mentions of your law firm, the name, address, and phone number elsewhere on the internet. Back links actually links back to your website. Those do have very strong correlation to your rankings. Continue to expand citations and identify other places where you can get your law firm listed. And then back links. That’s just a matter of creating really great content, doing natural outreach, getting websites to link back to your site.

Jon Robinson (06:38):
Something that we do here as a cornerstone of our SEO here at CAMG. Regarding your content, you want to make sure it is locally enhanced as possible. When you’re writing a page about car accidents in Miami, that page about car accidents in Miami is going to be very different than a page that you may have for your office in Tampa about car accidents in Tampa. You need to include local businesses, local intersections, hospitals, mentions of accidents that have happened, testimonials from clients you have in those areas. These pages need to be actually about the area and not just about car accidents.

Jon Robinson (07:15):
Just make sure your content is as unique and local enhanced as possible. And then something that you may want to consider, it is somewhat of a stretch, it obviously requires an investment, but consider where your office is and where your clients or where your prospective desired clients come from or you want them to come from. Consider expanding your office to another location to get expanded visibility. It doesn’t just help with Google. It helps with your brand recognition. You may get foot traffic. The price per square foot may be less expensive. Maybe move some employees there.

Jon Robinson (07:51):
This is something that just as your business grows, as your law firm grows, you may want to consider and get the added benefit of more Google My Business visibility with a second location. As always, if you have questions, feel free to reach out. If you were hit by the Google vicinity update and impacted and you want some advice, we’re here to help. You can email me, jonr@camginc.com. Go to camginc.com and you can reach out to us there. You can always find me on LinkedIn. Until the next update, I hope that you were not impacted negatively and you continue to do great things at your law firm. Have a great day and stay safe.

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