Welcome to the beginning of a three-part series wherein we discuss Google’s Screened feature, part of their local services advertisements. Google is a powerful force in almost every profession, and, of course, the legal world is no different.
Understanding Google’s workings and offerings are important to running any business nowadays. Lawyers come out of law school well prepared for their future as practitioners, but don’t exactly get a lot of experience with legal marketing. Luckily, in this blog, we’ll demystify Google’s algorithms and explain how Google Screened works.
If you’re just starting out with research into what Google Screened can do for lawyers, this is the blog for you. Later on, we’ll discuss the benefits law firms can get out of investing in the program and what an answering service can do to capitalize on that investment. For now, however, we’ll get into the basics: what is Google Screened, and how does it work?
What Is Google Screened?
Google Screened began a few years ago as an extension of Google’s local services advertisements. Local services are ads businesses use to attract Google users searching for services in their area. They’re displayed at the top of the search page, above the organic results, and are priced per click, meaning you pay out of your advertising budget anytime someone clicks on your ad.
Similarly, Google Screened advertisements appear in the same place on the page. Each Google Screened ad, however, has an accompanying badge showing that the business has been verified and background checked. It’s a way for Google to verify service providers, so that searchers can feel confident they aren’t contacting a scammer.
When you invest in a Screened advertisement, your photo and the name of your firm will appear in a carousel at the top of the search results, along with your availability and a rating out of five stars. This makes it easy for new leads to discover your firm and instantly know you are a trustworthy source of legal help.
First extended to home service providers like landscapers and electricians, Google Screened was expanded to lawyers a few years later, first in a beta test and now for good. Much like search results, there’s a ranking system we’ll explain later. And, finally, Google Screened ads are priced per lead. Money is deducted from your budget when a lead calls your firm, so while the ad is more expensive, the return on your investment is much higher.
How Do Google Screened Ads Work?
If you’re interested in Google Screened, the first thing you need to do is sign up for local services ads. As part of that process, Google will determine your eligibility for their Screened badge. The service is only available to certain practice areas, but Google is constantly expanding that list because Screened has proven successful. Currently, seventeen different legal disciplines are represented.
You’ll also need five or more customer reviews with an average score above 3.0, which you can link retroactively to your Google Business Profile. As long as you’ve been accruing online reviews, you should be able to meet that requirement.
Other professionals have to pass a background check before they can bear the Screened badge. Lawyers, however, have to pass a background check in order to be licensed to practice law in their state. Therefore, Google only checks the validity of your license and that of any other practitioners in your firm. Once all the above steps have been completed, your firm’s ad will start appearing in the carousel above search results in your area.
How Does Google Rank Screened Ads?
As of right now, only the top three firms are listed on the first page of results, though searchers can click a link to take a look at additional options. As nice as that option is, most leads will go with one of the top three results. That means you want to be in the top three to get the most out of your investment.
But how does Google determine which ads end up in the front? As with everything else Google does, the answer is a complicated algorithm with many variables and factors. But we can break down the ranking system Google Screened uses for lawyers into three main factors: proximity, review score, and responsiveness.
Proximity is simple: Google uses the searcher’s IP address and location data to show them attorneys whose offices are closest to their current location. This levels the playing field, since it’s a neutral factor that no one can influence.
As for reviews, you need at least a 3.0 average, as mentioned before. But, obviously, you want to shoot higher. Clients connected to you via Google Screened are already encouraged to leave a review, which, in aggregate, will affect your ranking.
Possibly the most important factor for determining your ad’s rank is your response time. Your firm’s availability is listed on your advertisement. The wider your available hours, the greater an advantage over your competition you’ll have. If calling leads don’t get a timely response, your ad’s ranking will go down. Of course, the opposite is true; the sooner your Google Screened leads get in touch with you, the more visible your ad will become.
Google Screened represents an opportunity for smaller firms to stand out in a crowded legal market. Up next in our series, we explore the reasons why attorneys might consider Google Screened advertising. And, in our third entry, we’ll discuss how we here at Answering Legal have optimized our service to help you capitalize on your investment. Stay tuned to the Answering Legal blog to catch these next entries as they’re posted.
And if you’re interested in Answering Legal and what answering services can do for attorneys, we invite you to check out our service and explore our blog. We’ve covered everything from legal intake to lawyer wellness.