The GNGF office just moved this past weekend, and we are immensely excited! After lugging heavy furniture, packing then unpacking box after box, falling over in exhaustion, and vowing to never do that again (at least for a while), the new office is really starting to take shape.
But unfortunately, the move does not stop there. Over the next week, the team will be painstakingly updating all of the key local search signals about our company and our new address. The move and this effort reminded us of a few grains of wisdom that are important to share with you regarding moving your office and local search.
As a law firm, local search is extremely important for you. Having a properly established presence online, with a highly ranked website on Google, helps people who were referred to you or other potential clients in your area find, contact, and hire you. To get to the top of the rankings in your area and stay there, a lot of work is involved. You need an optimized website with good content, a Google+ Local page, a steady blog, frequent press releases, videos, numerous citations, etc.
When you move offices, you unfortunately throw a wrench in all of the work that you’ve done to establish yourself online in a particular location. It used to be that moving your business was easier: along with the details of the move, you just needed to update your business cards and letterhead, tell the post office to forward the mail, and call it a day. Then, you only needed to make sure people knew where your new office was. Today, however, moving your business’ location is a veritable quagmire. Information that you’ve put online about your business (or, very likely is on a plethora of online directory sites without your knowledge) stays there and proliferates, even if it is outdated or completely wrong.
Failing to fix any outdated information can seriously harm your law firm’s online presence and jeopardize your ranking. We’ve talked before about how citations (any mention of your firm’s name, address, and phone number) are an important part of Google’s ranking algorithm. In order to benefit you, your citations have to be not only correct but also consistent. Having half of your citations point to your old address will only serve to confuse Google’s algorithm and cause it to drop you in ranking. And your citations should be correct and consistent not only for search engines but also for the people that find you online. You certainly don’t want potential clients looking for you online to be directed to the wrong address or unable to call you because they have the wrong phone number.
How do you fix your citations and preserve the online presence that you’ve so carefully and thoroughly built up?
First, you should make sure that your address change is reflected on your website on the “Contact” page and any other pages that have your address. Ask your webmaster to be sure your new address and phone number is programmatically marked-up on your website using a Rich Snippet language like HCARD Microformat or Schema. If that made no sense to you, that’s ok. Just be sure to copy and paste it into an email to your webmaster. (If they don’t understand it, you might need a new webmaster.)
Then, you should access all of the citations that you’ve created. These could be your Google+ Local page, your Yelp page, your AVVO profile, etc. Update your address on these citations, and make sure they all match. Note that some of the directory listing services will make you re-verify your citation via phone call or postcard if you change the address.
When you’ve updated the citations you control, there is still more to do. Information about you online tends to spread: there will be citations on directory websites and review sites that you did not create, and these sites will have gotten their information from other sources on the web. To find these sites, search for your old address in quotation marks (ex. “100 Main Street, Cincinnati, OH”) on Google. If you see any search results that have a listing of your firm with the old address, click on the link to the site and follow the site-specific directions for claiming and editing that citation. If you also changed phone numbers during the move, search for your old phone number with the area code, in quotes, and edit any citations that feature your old phone number. There are some tools that can help with this (see link below), but we still recommend double-checking things right in the search engines.
While working on this blog post, a colleague mentioned that renowned local search expert David Mihm just wrote a piece a few weeks ago about this very topic on the SEOMoz Blog. I was about to put up detailed screenshots and examples, but it looks like David did such a great job that I will be a good Internet citizen and just recommend you get the details there.
Moving your office is just a bump in the road: it may cause more work for you, but it does not have to undo all of your efforts in local search. Simply make sure that your address is up-to-date on your website, Google+ Local, and other citations. In fact, moving into a new office is a great idea for a press release, which is extremely beneficial for your online presence—so take this opportunity to make the most of your move!
If you have moved in the past couple of years, it might be worthwhile to perform some of these checks on your old addresses just in case.
Oh yeah, and if you need to reach us, our new address is 1776 Mentor Avenue, Suite 179, Cincinnati, OH 45212 – same phone number, though: 513-444-2016