There are hundreds of reasons you might want to change offices, and in the span of a law firm’s lifetime, it’s almost expected that you may end up packing up and setting sail for a different location. If you think that the biggest hurdle you have to face in a move is gathering all of your belongings and getting them from point A to B, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you: that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If your firm’s established any sort of online presence whatsoever, chances are good that it’s been done through hard work and a solid SEO campaign, among other things. Unfortunately, failing to take proper action on the web when changing offices has the potential to completely undue any and all of that hard work if you don’t do it right.
So, how do you do it right? Glad you asked.
Learn your exact new address
Before you even jump into the nitty gritty, do some research.
Is the office you’re in a standalone building, or is it a commercial building you’ll be sharing with other businesses? If it’s the latter, make sure that you can get a unique suite number to accompany your address. This is important because Google wants to make sure they’re serving up the most accurate and relevant information possible. Consider this:
1234 Dallas Street is a commercial building that houses 2 offices.
Office 1: Your Personal Injury Attorney, LLP
Office 2: Family, Law & Attorney
If both of these astutely-named firms listed their address as 1234 Dallas Street and somebody did a search for “Dallas Street Attorneys,” Google could potentially see these two businesses inhabiting the same address, assume one is wrong (because how can two places have an identical address?), and either 1) merge the two businesses, or 2) neglect to show one or the other. Neither of these are obviously ideal.
In comes the suite number to the rescue.
1234 Dallas Street Suite A and 1234 Dallas Street Suite B are two entirely different addresses to Google, and thus avoids the potentially problematic issue of mixing the two up. This same idea applies to room numbers, floors, and generally whatever designation you may have in that building to differentiate your address from the other businesses that share the building with you.
The bottom line: make sure you know your exact address, and make sure it’s one that’s unique and not shared with anyone else.
The importance of a good NAP
NAP is an industry acronym used to describe the trifecta of local search: name, address, and phone number.
These three things are some of the most important facets of your business listings that need to be consistent across the web, period. If one source says that your phone number ends in 8554 when it actually ends in 8553, not only will you be sending potentially-paying calls to a dead end, but Google will sometimes elect to throw in the towel and simply show no number at all if they aren’t convinced the one they have is the accurate one.
Just like with your address and phone number, your name must be consistent, too. Take a look at these fictitious names:
Your Friendly Attorney
Your Friendly Attorney, LLP
Your Friendly Attorney LLP
What do these have in common? If you guessed that Google will view each of them as entirely different businesses, you’re correct! Even something as little as a misplaced comma can send confusion signals to the search engine algorithms, so make sure that you’re consistent across the board.
While your NAP consistency may be one of the many ranking factors that play a role in where you’ll be showing up in Google’s search results page, Moz recently conducted a survey among SEO experts to find the following top negative factors for local SEO:
Notice how the very first, largest negative factor has to do with a wrong address? We rest our case.
Sharing an office has the potential to make things just a bit trickier. As seen in the negative factors picture above, this is a factor that can weigh against you if both businesses in said office fall into the same business category. The most effective course of action against this type of situation is simply to be proactive in your research when location shopping; if you find a spot that has a firm with a similar name and practice area specialization that you’ll be sharing an office with, it may be best to continue your search.
In the event that it’s unavoidable, it’s important — more now than ever before — to be sure that your NAP is flawless across all fronts. A quick call with the owners of the building could potentially help you here, too, to append a letter to your suite/room number. This simple action could potentially make all the difference it takes to provide two different addresses so that Google won’t run into any issues processing your address.
After all of that’s been sorted …
Start with Google, and get verified
If you’ve already had a listing on Google before your move (which you should have), you likely had the listing verified. If you didn’t, well, there’s no better time than now.
From your Google My Business dashboard, you’ll see your business location in the list. If you were previously verified, click “Manage Location” and update your business information (as accurately as you possibly can), then go through the verification process again. If you weren’t verified before, under “Manage Location” you should instead see an option that says “Get Verified” — do that.
A postcard will get sent to your location with a pin number on it that you’ll then hand back to Google to prove that you do indeed have access to mail at that address.
This process offers more than just a nifty little verified badge on your Google+ page; it also signals to Google that you’ve gone through the process of verifying that you are indeed at the location you say you are, and that the information that you’ve submitted in your profile is correct.
Why does this matter? Well, you’ll get some insurance that way from Google in that they’ll weigh your information a bit more heavily than they would if you didn’t. Seeing as there are (hopefully) dozens of citations out there with your old information on them, you want Google to know as best they can that the information you gave yourself is to be trusted over whatever else is floating around out there.
Once you’re finished up with Google, it’s time to get to work with the big ones.
The Big 4
You bought yourself some time by getting your Google listing updated and verified, but the changes aren’t exactly indefinite there. Next you’ll want to move onto the big four: Infogroup, Acxiom, Localeze, and Factual.
These are some of the largest citation sources out there, and over time they’ve gathered enough street cred to be regarded as the go-to sources. Information from these four places gets pushed downstream toward the smaller citation sources, so if these all report different addresses than what the address actually is, you’ll find yourself starting to decline in rankings.
The interaction here between these is pretty complicated:
… and can often intertwine between sources, as you can see. This is why these citations should be tackled quickly, before wrong information has the opportunity to be dispersed further through the web of local search sources.
After you’ve tackled the big four, feel free to jump into some of your other data sources you have access to. The actual act of processing this information through can take weeks, if not months, so you’ll want to make sure that your industry-specific sources of acquisition are as up-to-date as you can possibly have them.
For attorneys specifically, Moz has been generous enough to compile the top 10 industry citations you should be focusing on first — after you’ve finished the big four, that is:
Finally, be patient
Just like changing offices might disrupt workflow for a bit as everyone gets accustomed to it, your rankings and organic traffic may fluctuate for a little while as everything gets updated. While this can absolutely be minimized by staying on top of making sure everything gets updated in a timely manner, it’s by and large normal, especially if you’ve developed a presence in a particular area.
If you’d been running a local SEO campaign, chances are your local terms will now be shifting. You’ll have meta titles to be updating, and keyword usage to be adjusting and sometimes establishing from the ground up again. This all takes time, in addition to the time it takes for the big citation sources to actually process through and publish your information.
It can be a headache, and we get it, but be persistent with your work and you’ll have no trouble whatsoever. Alternatively, if chasing down big companies and scrutinizing the smallest details of your firm’s spelling isn’t quite your thing, we could do it for you. We’ve helped companies ease their way through office transitions without a hitch.
Taylor is a digital strategist at JSO Digital. He graduated from Millersville University, and currently resides in rural Pennsylvania.