Table of Contents
1. The Unique Challenge of Multi-Location Firms
2. Common Mistakes of Multi-Location Firms when Marketing
3. Ways to Improve and Start Growing
Discussing the unique marketing challenges and opportunities for multi-location law firms. We often see growing firms making serious investments to add locations, but often without a solid marketing plan. We’re going to examine some common mistakes and lay out the plan for how to do it correctly.
Introduction to Multi-Location Law Firms Marketing Challenges
[00:00:05.660] – Patrick Carver
Welcome to another episode of the Optimize Law Firm podcast, where we talk about how to run a more profitable and enjoyable law firm. My name is Patrick Carver, and I’m the owner of Constellation Marketing. We help hungry law firm owners transcend seven figures and gain total ROI clarity with their marketing. And today we’re going to be discussing a unique marketing challenge and also an opportunity. And the topic for today that we’re focusing on is multi location law firms. We’ve been working with more of these firms in the past year and a half, and we’ve noticed that there’s a little bit of a challenge associated with these firms. When they come to us, they’re often making some serious mistakes about how to set up their marketing so that they can be effective across multiple locations. We know that they’re making serious investments when it comes to this, but often without a solid marketing plan. We’re going to examine some of the common mistakes and lay out the plan for how to do it correctly. First off, let’s talk about some of the unique challenges that multi location law firms have. Just if anyone’s not clear what that might look like, typically we’re talking about the small law firm, maybe has multiple partners, and start out with one big location and spread out to satellite offices.
[00:01:46.420] – Patrick Carver
We’re located in Atlanta. We see folks fairly regularly start in Atlanta and then start to put satellite offices out either in suburbs or as far away as somewhere like Savannah, that’s 4 hours away. Idea being that they’ve gotten to a certain level of success and maybe that market is somewhat saturated and they can go to another area that’s maybe less saturated and take advantage of the operational success that they’ve had in their existing location. A couple of benefits come to mind with this strategy. Number one, there’s more visibility. Just by having a secondary or third location, you’re going to have more visibility. Even if you just popped down to another city, you stood up your Google business profile, you added that with your website, you are going to get some level of visibility when people open up their phone and search just based on proximity. If you do just the very, very basics correctly. Another benefit for those firms is you have more coverage for cases that come in outside of your normal location. What often happens is what we see is once you get to a certain level of visibility with your website, you’re going to start pulling in queries from outside of your specific geo grid.
Benefits and Challenges of Multi-Location Law Firms
[00:03:10.180] – Patrick Carver
Again, we’ll just stick with the Georgia example that in Georgia, you might have people searching for Atlanta, but you also might have people searching for Georgia personal injury lawyer or another location that’s maybe a suburb, it’s 30, 40 minutes away, and that gets pulled into the sphere of Atlanta search results. When you have those other locations, you start to get… You have the ability for not only more visibility, but also you can go and work on those cases a little bit easier. You have somebody that’s maybe closer with that secondary location. Now your map of your coverage, your approachable area, your market area has gotten better and bigger. The other opportunity as well, low hanging fruit, but you have more opportunities for local service advertising. Local service ads is one of the Google advertising products. Some folks call it advertising for dummies because it’s drop dead simple to get involved with it and utilize it. One of the challenges, though, is that we’ve had firms that we work with who get really great results from it and they want to scale it. But it’s not really possible just because of the way that Google has set this up.
[00:04:32.650] – Patrick Carver
They really made it in a way that law firms can’t get that same level of competitive advantage by having an expert come in and work on it compared to their flagship product, Google Pay per Click Advertising. You’re really limited by the number of locations that you have. So it works through your Google business profile and you need to have that location to utilize it. And so you are capped at the number of Google business profile locations that you have. So if you have found this to be successful, you can then set up additional Google business profiles in your other locations and utilize local service advertising. In markets where it’s going to be smaller, maybe there’s less competition, you are probably going to benefit substantially more than in a more competitive market like Atlanta because the barrier of entry to this type of advertising is really low. Where you can get some big advantages from this are these markets that maybe are not utilizing it as consistently or as competitively as your primary market. Now, we talked about the benefits, but there are some real challenges with this. I think the first and most important one that I see is that secondary locations are often overlooked compared to their main location.
[00:06:04.290] – Patrick Carver
I don’t think that’s any real fault of the owner of the business. There’s a lot going on. It takes a lot of effort, capital, time to invest in that secondary market. You may just not have the bandwidth to really go in and treat it like your original market. That causes a big problem because ultimately, you are putting in a considerable amount of investment into rent, additional lawyers you might have to hire to fulfill that location. Ultimately, you’re competing against that other market’s main lawyers. And so you are really the secondary. It’s just a secondary market for you. And so you’re coming in as the outsider. And when you are building your assets, like your website, the section of your website that goes for that specific location, you’re probably going to do one page or maybe a couple of pages. But think about then how that contrasts to the person that has been in that town for 20 years. They’re going to have a website, they’ve got all of their social, they’ve got all of that stuff reinforcing this idea that that is their primary town. They’re talking about it. They probably have signals, whether it’s links from local organizations.
[00:07:39.640] – Patrick Carver
But all of that feeds into Google’s knowledge graph about that person, whoever your competitor is. And they’re really looking at that to determine who’s the authority in the area and thus who should be placed in search results. So your challenge is to overtake that person or at least get on a comparable level with them so that you can show Google you are equally as authoritative. And that’s the big challenge, right? Because often the idea is that, Well, we have such a great operation here. We’re getting a great amount of business, so we can just pop up a location in some smaller town where they’re not using all of our big city tactics and have our marketing presence and we’ll just clean up. And like I said, just by doing the basics of adding a Google business profile, you’re going to probably get some cases. You are going to show up, you’re going to get some of that visibility and you’re going to get some calls. But often what I see is that’s where the marketing stops. There’s a location page and maybe a Google business profile, but that’s pretty much it. That’s really the tip of the spear when it comes to the problems that I see with firms who are in these multi location set ups and ultimately how they can improve that or how they can fix it.
SEO Challenges and Common Mistakes in Multi-Location Law Firms Marketing
[00:09:13.360] – Patrick Carver
Today we’re going to focus on the SEO challenges specific to multi location firms that they face and some of the common mistakes that I see with this. We are an SEO centric company. We do SEO heavily and ads heavily. The biggest area of opportunity and challenge that I see for these firms is their SEO presence. When we get in with a firm that we’re working with, we’re going to analyze what are they doing on the ad side? What are they doing on the SEO side. Advertising is fairly straightforward in a secondary location. It is more… I often make this comparison that advertising is more like spear phishing versus SEO is net phishing. So you’re trying to cast a wide net. It’s more inaccurate, but the yield can be much better over time. Whereas with the sphere, obviously, very targeted. You can do that with advertising inside your Google pay per click campaign. You can limit it to a neighborhood, a zip code, a metropolitan area. You can really drill down into that area, put ads up, and for the most part, it’s not a big problem at all. There may be some downsides just in the fact that if you’re coming into a secondary location, you probably don’t have a lot of reviews, things like that that could influence what somebody sees in that ad.
[00:10:52.360] – Patrick Carver
But in general, we see at work where people are moving into new locations, you put up ads, and your average consumer is not going to be scrutinizing every aspect of that ad. So you’re able to make a good return on your investment. People are going to click. There’s not as much scrutiny as there might be with organic search results. Let’s talk about the big problem, which is lack of topical authority in your secondary locations. What do I mean with topical authority? I alluded to it a little while ago that Google has this concept of a knowledge graph. What that essentially means is an aggregated group of all of the information about an entity which could be a person like you, an attorney, a law firm, a celebrity, it could be anything. This is how they organize their search results. It’s all based on this idea of a knowledge graph that they will take a topic like law and then connect all of the individual parts that go into that overall topic. You’d have criminal law, personal injury, family, immigration, and then you’d have courts and jails and judges and everything that you would… If you had to jot down a list of, write everything that’s involved with law, go.
[00:12:32.360] – Patrick Carver
That’s what Google is looking at to determine what a topic is all about. If you take that mindset, you’re going to also apply it to individual law firms and attorneys in a specific area. So if the search query that someone was looking at was criminal lawyer Atlanta, it’s going to use that same methodology to understand the ecosystem or the landscape of criminal lawyers in Atlanta. So their number one goal with any search is to produce reliable, trustworthy results that ultimately satisfy the user’s need. If you were looking for a great taco in LA or Atlanta or Chicago, they are going to look at data like reviews, what people are saying, the amount of negative reviews they’re going to look at. Are people talking about it in other news magazines or local blogs like Eater or other things like that? Similar concept, exactly the same concept actually with lawyers. Having this topical authority for your law firm is essential. If you have benefited from a good presence on Google in your main location, that is a result of topical authority. Again, just like the taco example, Google is looking for reviews. They’re looking at, are you listed on prominent websites like legal directories?
[00:14:15.710] – Patrick Carver
Are you listed on the state’s bar website? Are you maybe talked about in news coverage? All of these things factor in. These are all independent little signals that go into this overall fabric of whether or not you are an authority on that topic in this specific area in this ecosystem. In practical terms, a big problem that we see is that when you set this up on your website and you create this secondary location or multiple secondary locations, you are really only giving your main city all of the love. Your website is going to be focused almost exclusively on your main city. Let’s go through an example with this. You are based in Seattle, but you are about to start a new location in Tacoma. If we were to look at your website, most likely your homepage, your practice areas, a lot of your blogs, all that stuff is going to reinforce this idea that you are in Seattle. You’re talking about being a Seattle criminal lawyer, Seattle DUI lawyer, Seattle MedMau, whatever the case is. Then what we typically see is, okay, we started a office location in Tacoma, we’re going to put one page up on the website that says Tacoma criminal lawyer.
[00:15:44.760] – Patrick Carver
That is problematic and is not going to really lead to success unless Tacoma is such an uncompetitive market that just having that one page and the inherited success or visibility of your website pushes that through and gives you that visibility. But think about the comparison I used earlier. If you’re moving into another city, you’re adding one page, it’s going to really be a tiny, minor amount of presence compared to the attorney in Tacoma that’s been there for 20 years, has 150 pages on their website all about Tacoma, all about the courts, all about the judges, yada yada yada. All of that stuff is going to be factored in when someone searches for a Tacoma criminal lawyer. Google is going to look at all of that and say, Huh, who should we add here? Who should we show at the top of the list in order to give people the best experience possible. This person with one page that doesn’t really seem to know much about Tacoma, doesn’t seem to be invested in it, or this person over here, that’s their life work. They’re all about it. When this one page is the entire presence for that city, for your firm, you’re not going to be able to really get the benefit from an SEO standpoint.
[00:17:12.410] – Patrick Carver
Another problem is that this approach effectively kills your chances to rank in these secondary cities because you’re not able to really show Google that you have any reason to rank in these cities. You have no depth of information about the secondary location. To Google, you’re essentially saying that we want to be known for Seattle. We want to be known for this main location, and that is really all we want to be known for. So the best way that you can show Google that you want to be known and generate presence in this secondary location is to talk about it, is to, in fact, talk about Tacoma. Talk about the same practice areas that you do in Seattle in Tacoma specifically, and you’re building up this case against the competition that you are just as credible, just as knowledgeable about that area. How do we get to that? What’s the best way to accomplish this with your traditional website? Instead of doing a one page city location? Well, the answer is to use a silo structure on your website. You might be asking, What is this? A silo is the idea that within a website, you have these organizational units that are going to be specific to that area or practice area that we’re talking about.
[00:18:48.440] – Patrick Carver
You can zoom out of this and just think about it like any topic that you would want to cover and be seen as an authority on Google, you need to develop a very specific set of content about that topic to show that you have the authority that you’re filling out that knowledge graph we talked about. A silo really is just the, not personification, but manifestation of what a knowledge graph should look like. Go back to that example I talked about with law. A silo would be all about law. It’s all of those individual parts that go into it. Then we might have another silo on the website about insurance, or I don’t know what this website would be that has both, but you can then reduce that down into more specificity to show that you’re an authority on micro topics associated within that bigger topic. It’s almost like a Russian doll where you’re stacking them inside of each other. At the top level might be law, but maybe you are a personal injury lawyer, and so your top level container would be personal injury law. Then you want to have space to develop topical authority for your practice areas and also your location.
[00:20:22.160] – Patrick Carver
You can apply this to either one. Let’s go with the location example to build this out so you can see it or think about it in practical terms. Each location is going to need its own silo and what I would call own space to develop that topical authority. You want to think about these as mini websites inside the main website. You should really treat these each as an individual entity. Think about it like this. Each should have the look and feel the trappings of its own website within that specific location. Now, you don’t need to have three About pages or something like that. But just think about it as much as you want to add as much context as possible. Let’s go back to the Seattle and Tacoma example. If we were getting ready to launch a second location in Tacoma, what we would want to do is map out what Google is going to look at or what somebody would want to know about us in Tacoma. We’d want to have a homepage, essentially. It’d be like Mr. Lawyer, Mr. Lawyer. Com Tacoma. We’re thinking about that as the hub. That page would want to occupy your number 1 keyword target for that area.
[00:21:57.330] – Patrick Carver
If it’s personal injury, it would be like personal injury lawyer Tacoma. That would just be the start, though. On that page, we’d want to have location details. We’d want to talk about the specific attorney that is maybe located there. You could also have a separate page for that attorney that talks about Tacoma lawyer, personal injury lawyer, stuff like that. You could also have the location. You could talk about details of Tacoma, these little signals that are going to show that you know the area, talk about things that are close to your law firm or your physical location. That’s the start. That’s where a lot of people stop. But what you really want to do is then build that out with as many pages as makes sense. The ones that make the most sense right away are going to be building practice pages for that specific location. A big mistake I see is that they will, if a firm will create a secondary location, but then they’ll have only one set of practice pages on their website. With personal injury, you’d have an accident, auto accident, MedM al, product liability, and each of those is going to be Seattle MedM al lawyer, Seattle, auto accident lawyer, Seattle, and so on.
[00:23:34.250] – Patrick Carver
Then you only have one Tacoma page. What is that telling Google? That you only want Seattle visitors. You are appealing to the Seattle consumer. To stand out and get on a similar trajectory or similar presence level as that attorney in Tacoma who’s been there their whole life, you need to build out separate practice pages for each of your practice areas like MedMal and Auto, but do it for Tacoma. So within that hub, you have sub pages for all of those individual practice areas. You can also then continue that to the extent of talking about the courts in Tacoma, the jails in Tacoma, any specifics about local ordinances or anything that might affect traffic accidents in Tacoma, traffic accident rates, all of this stuff is going on to this tapestry of Tacoma that you know the ins and outs of that area. You’re talking about it. It gives you more opportunities for Google to look and in that knowledge graph, identify that you’re talking about this location, this practice area in a lot of detail. And thus from that, they feel more confident to show you as an authority in that location. That’s the big one.
[00:25:04.860] – Patrick Carver
And if you just do that, you’ll be in much better shape than 90 % of other firms out there who are applying this strategy. The other big mistake that I see is optimizing your homepage for a city. The example here is, let’s keep riding with Seattle. Your main homepage is going to be Seattle Personal Injury Lawyer, and then you build this Tacoma site or Tacoma page, you set that up, but you leave your homepage as Seattle personal injury lawyer. That’s a problem. There’s not a hard rule on this, right? You’re not going to get a Google penalty or something like this. But I’ll just give you our practical experience of how we have made this work better. The problem that I see with this is that it gives your site a narrow focus to Google. And it’s ultimately going to make it harder to rank for individual cities. If you plaster Seattle on your homepage, your homepage is the most important page on your website. It’s really that top level signal. Think about it as the biggest Russian container doll. Whatever you see at the top, that’s really going to set the tone for the rest of the website.
[00:26:37.190] – Patrick Carver
If you say Seattle, you are going to get largely labeled as a Seattle website. You’re talking to it, you’re going for it. What we see as a better option in this case is to adjust the website so that you are changing your homepage targeting to the entire state, or in some cases, the entire nation, and going for a keyword like personal injury lawyer, Washington personal injury lawyer, hard stop. That would be the national version of it. In this case, we would have likely this suggestion that I would have is your homepage is Washington personal injury lawyer. Then you have a silo for Seattle, for Tacoma, and then potentially if you want to get into other markets like Olympia or Spokane, whatever you’d want to do. The way that you can adjust this without really doing any damage is just manipulating the site to bring in all of your Seattle content into that one location and your global pages that someone would see when just straight coming to the website from your home page would be Washington specific. Your practice area pages would be Washington specific. Then you click on locations, you would have Seattle. That’s where you’re really going to shoot for Seattle personal injury lawyer.
[00:28:12.730] – Patrick Carver
Then below that, you’ve got your practice sub pages for each of those individual areas of personal injury law. By doing that, you are telling Google, Okay, we are giving equal weight to these other locations. Just to preempt this, yes, there will likely be some level of temporary, not damage, but just adjustment for Google’s indexing to crawl and understand how you’re adjusting your website, what you want to rank for now. But in the long run, this is, in my opinion, the absolute best way to do it because we have struggled with this with firms that we worked with who target one specific page, even had the city in their URL. That made it extremely hard, if not impossible, to rank for their secondary locations because it was like their URL at the beginning was seattle personal injury lawyer. Com. As Google looks at that, they’re looking at the domain as a really powerful ranking signal because, presumably, your URL is going to be exactly what your website is about. It’s going to speak to what your website is about. They look at that and they’re going to give a lot of precedent to that and really factor that into your knowledge graph, identify you as that Seattle attorney.
[00:29:49.120] – Patrick Carver
Instead of only having one group of practice pages labeled as Seattle, you want to have multiple practice sets of practice pages that are narrowly focused on the main city that you are trying to rank for. When you only have this one location or one set of practice pages, it just compounds that problem of lacking location topical authority. You only have that group of pages for Seattle, thus eliminating your chances to rank for Tacoma. I think I’ve probably covered that in-depth. I wanted to really paint the picture, even though I think in practice, when you break it down like that, it’s not an extraordinarily complex concept. It makes sense that, okay, we want to rank and perform in this secondary location, so we need to give it thought, give it attention. I think part of the problem with it is that we have unrealistic expectations, and then there’s part of it just in terms of strategy that folks don’t have real experience doing this on multiple websites to know the trial and error to understand it. Then it’s also just a lot of work, too. It’s resources, and that’s not that does not go unnoticed with someone like myself because SEO can be slow.
[00:31:23.030] – Patrick Carver
It can be expensive. You’re paying an SEO company a bunch to optimize your website and they’re like, Hey, we want to basically double your budget because we need extra resources to go after this secondary location. I see the trade off there. But if you’re really looking to expand, really looking to make that city as good or 70 %, 50 % as good as your main location, then you really want to put in that extra time and effort to build those resources that’s going to give you that level of topical authority in the city. What does this approach yield in a practical sense? Let’s talk about some of the results here. We’ve done this a few times. I’m going to talk about one example of this that has been very productive for us, where we went from one location, this is in the personal injury space, it was in a smaller town, about 50,000 people in this town, and their secondary location was in the biggest city in the state. More like 3 million people in that secondary location. The original URL and presence of the firm was based on city personal injury lawyer. Com. So it was really heavily focused on that one single area, helped them get rankings originally in that area.
[00:33:01.480] – Patrick Carver
But as you go into these other markets, not only does it create a problem in the technical sense on the SEO perspective, but also just think about if you’re trying to get into a larger market or just a different market and your website’s URL is specifically calling out that other location. Apple’s to Apple’s, you are probably not going to get that business when compared to another attorney in the specific area that you’re trying to target. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe not, maybe consumers are not as picky about that. But just anecdotally, if you are looking for a lawyer and this lawyer pops up that’s 250 miles away, how are they going to know that you have a secondary location, you are perfectly capable of helping them in that city that they’re located? It presents a big challenge. Prior to us adopting this new strategy, parceling out and creating these silos for individual locations, they were averaging about 750 users per month from organic search, so all from SEO. They had these secondary locations, but they were utilizing that same structure that I’ve been railing against this entire time. So basically one page per location. The secondary location was a fiscal burden, really.
Silo Structure Strategy
[00:34:34.910] – Patrick Carver
They were largely existing off of cases that were coming from that primary location, but they weren’t creating any new business in that location. You’ve got rent, you’ve got an additional attorney. It’s not really living up to its potential for that location. As there’s no new business generating from it, it’s essentially just a secondary office of that original location. But you wouldn’t even really need to be in that second location. You could just be at the main office. What did we do? We changed the homepage. We moved them to a different URL that was more inclusive of the name of the firm. We didn’t highlight a specific city with the URL. Then we adopted the silo structure. At the top level on the homepage, we talk about the state, the practice areas all synced up with statewide terminology. Then we have individual hubs for the second, third, and now fourth locations. Then in each of those, they are basically many homepage sites. It’s slash city. Then you have slash city slash auto accident, MedM al, dog bites, so on and so on. That has been super effective. Fast forward, a year after making this change, it was slow going in the first three or so months, and then things started to pick up.
[00:36:13.170] – Patrick Carver
Now, this firm averages over 3,000 users per month from SEO. The big driver of this new traffic is this really competitive secondary market that had previously been a fiscal burden, but now they’re getting multiple cases per month coming from each secondary location. These locations are steadily turning a profit instead of being a burden. The other cool part of this whole thing is that they’ve added a pipeline of new statewide cases. And so by setting it up in this way, not only are they able to capture cases from their original market, so they’re still dominating there, they are now cracking a lot of first page positions in the secondary market that’s very competitive, increasingly getting more and more of these top level type of really lucrative money keywords starting to get in there and win those cases as well. But they’ve also got this nice pipeline of cases that are coming in from people searching state personal injury lawyer. From that, a certain amount of people, it’s not an enormous amount, of people are searching by state as opposed to individual city location. Now they pop up, have this statewide presence, and then anyone who comes through who’s maybe not in one of those two locations gets a sense that, Okay, this firm is really statewide and they can handle my case.
Statewide Presence and Pipeline of Cases
[00:37:52.810] – Patrick Carver
So they’re getting these cases from outside of the locations, which they never would have gotten before just by focusing on those individual areas and only talking about the individual cities. In practice, it’s time intensive. It can be difficult to organize, but ultimately the rewards are massive, especially when you’ve already put so much money into rent, adding additional attorneys, any other types of financial investment you’ve put in to try and make this location work. If you have a location, multiple locations, and you’re not adopting this silo strategy, give me a shout, let’s talk about it. I can show you in practice how this actually works. If you’re thinking about moving to a second location, then plan ahead and start thinking about how you can adopt this for that secondary location. Start early, start small, add a couple of practice areas under that secondary location, and then continue to build it out. Talk about it, really build out that fabric. It’s rich, it’s rich. It’s got all of those components that are going to show Google that you are an authority in that area. So that’s it for today. Thank you so much for tuning in. I hope this provides some value.
We will be back with another episode soon. And thank you again for your time and best of luck taking your law firm to the next level.