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Yes, you read it correctly. Google Searches for Businesses “Near Me” rose 500% in the last several years, according to recent stats. And the stats keep going up. This isn’t just huge for restaurants and retail stores. It’s big news for any business, including law firms. If you are a law firm owner and want to dominate your market, this latest data is almost – and in some cases, MORE important than amassing Online Reviews. In fact, I’d say this dramatic increase means that digital domination now requires a two-punch Strategy. 

We all KNOW that 5-star Google Reviews mean visibility and credibility for your business and enhances chances of landing your place on the coveted Google 3-pack. 

The more online reviews you amass, the more trust consumers have that your firm is the “right” firm – the “Best” firm – the firm they should hire. Getting a decent number of reviews is necessary to even make the first cut in consumer considerations these days and posting the most online Reviews means you’ll likely be able to DOMINATE your market. At least, that’s what we thought, right? 

But recent studies show a particularly important new development in the world of legal marketingIt’s the Google “Near Me” Search Factor. Law Firm Owners who are serious about their firm’s marketing need to be aware of this factor and leverage it in 2022. Recent studies show an unbelievably high surge in consumers looking for goods, services, and businesses “near me.” Some data suggest it’s increased 150%. But other studies show even higher numbers – a 500% or even 700% increase in “Near Me” searches by consumers in the last few years. Even if we can’t be certain of the exact percentage point of the increase, what we know for sure is that consumers searching for businesses “near me” is on the RISE.  

This consumer trend is vitally important if you want to stay ahead of the curve, reach more consumers, and sign more cases in 2022. Online Consumers are NO longer just looking at how many 5-star reviews a business has. Not now. What real consumers are searching for, in massive numbers, is what business or service is “near” them. This phenomenon is a prime example of what is now being referred to in marketing terms as the “Micro-Moment.” Micro-Moment Marketing means recognizing and then leveraging the micro-moments where consumers take an impulsive action. 

According to Google, the micro-moment is that moment when a consumer turns to a device, like their tablet or smartphone, to immediately or impulsively act on a specific need.   

Going Somewhere.

Knowing Something.

Doing Something.

Finding Something. 

Buying Something.

The Micro-moment is rich in intention and reflex and where many Consumer decisions are made. “Near me” searches are quintessential Micro-Moment Marketing opportunities for law firm owners who recognize their opportunities in 2022. When they type in that magic query, such as “Personal Injury Lawyer near me” or “Car Accident lawyers near me,” the law firm with the most reviews is NOT what comes up first. Let me repeat this: When someone types in a Lawyer near me search, the firm with the most google online reviews is NOT the first firm that pops up. Instead, in an organic “—— near me” search, the businesses that are closest and have claimed their GMB pages, come up first on the consumer’s screen. 

What happens next, for many consumers, will be the proverbial scroll through to see how many 5 star reviews the firm has. So, Online Reviews STILL matter and will likely be the differentiator of the firms that are geographically the closest. But you won’t even make the initial running if you aren’t geographically closest to the consumer. This is some big drumroll and game-changing data. It’s like my mentor, Ken Hardison – the founder and president of PILMMA (Personal Injury Lawyers Marketing & Management Association) has often said: “Staying on top of Digital Marketing Trends is like trying to paint a moving train.

But if you don’t want to get left in the dust – losing valuable standing, rank, and cases – then you’ve got to be willing to keep your eyes peeled for the important consumer shifts like these. It’s PIVOT or Perish. Well, that might be a tad of an overstatement, but you get the idea. It’s no longer all about the Online Reviews. The thing is this is a moving train you can do something about. Let’s approach this new data methodically. If we know that the search queries for law firms “near me” have increased dramatically, then the next question is: What can we do about it? What can we, as law firm owners, do to get ourselves out there? To take advantage of this surge in “near me” consumer searches? 

Most Marketers and SEO Gurus will tell you that what you need to do is create and maintain a robust local SEO if you want to reach more consumers in “Near Me” searches. And they’re right. You do. In fact, when you finish reading this article, I encourage you to reach out to your SEO company and make sure they are doing everything they can for you on that front. Tell them you want to make sure they are putting local SEO measures in place. BUT there’s something else to consider, and it’s a strategy that most “marketers” aren’t talking about, but that can make you jump to the Near-Me 3-pack where it counts!

Recently I sat down with Ken Hardison to discuss this new strategy. While Ken is certainly a marketing guru in his own right, he’s also a real lawyer – who built and sold two law firms himself and mentor’s lawyers all across the country, helping them leverage the ever-changing digital marketing landscape. I wanted Ken’s input on how lawyers could use this huge increase in near me searches to their advantage. (It’s the kind of Strategic Thinking that he and the members of the PILMMA Mastermind Groups do all the time in their meetings). For more information on joining a PILMMA Mastermind Group, go to www.pilmma.org/join

In a “Near Me” search, Google uses the searcher’s present location to make sure they give the user the results nearest to them. It is geographically based. Factual. Literal. So, in addition to upping your Local SEO game, you’ve got to do something else if you want to capture more Consumers in your market. You have to become that firm that is literally “near” them. If you’re thinking of more satellite offices, then you are right. Bullseye. Now, be careful here – Google is one savvy operator. Their algorithms can sniff out the fake stuff.

So that means you should be thinking about establishing small but genuine satellite offices in various additional places in your market. They don’t have to be Taj Mahal establishments. Far from it. They can be small, legitimate operations. Even a rented business suite with a shared receptionist will work. BUT Ken gave me an even better suggestion and one I hadn’t even considered: Once you have critically studied your market and determined the most strategic location for a satellite office (selecting a location that is nearest to the segment of consumers you most want to reach), then reach out to an existing non-competing law firm and see about renting office space in their firm. 

For example, if you are a domestic lawyer, then reach out to a PI firm or estate planning firm; If you are a personal injury firm, then reach out to a firm in the new location that doesn’t practice the same kind of law that you do. Ask them if you can rent space in their building, with the ability to hang your own small shingle, of course. You can even build referral relationships, making the arrangement mutually beneficial. Once you’ve secured your satellite location, then make SURE you create a robust Google My Business (GMB) account for each satellite office. This is an extremely important detail. If you want to show up in Google searches, you need to have claimed and maximized your GMB.

Piggybacking won’t count, btw: You must set up a separate GMB for every business location. Make each one robust, with unique photos, unique Online reviews, Q&A sections, etc., and showing the specific address of the satellite office. I wish I could tell you that all those Online Reviews you’ve already amassed can be counted in the new satellite office’s GMB, but they can’t. Google’s algorithms can be brutal. SO, you’ll need to set about gathering online reviews for each satellite office. When it comes to your firm’s website – each location needs its own dedicated landing pages, showing the specific location address. 

Make sure your SEO company uses location in the title of the pages and H1 tags. (It’s code that tells Google the topic of the web page is and info that Google indexes when it comes to “near me” searches.) Google’s specific algorithm for “Near Me” Search results may be a mystery, but one thing is clear – Geographical Location (i.e., miles from the user) and a Relevant claimed GMB are the prerequisites for making the grade. Keeping up with the latest trends in Digital Marketing can feel like painting a moving train, but at least in this particular case, you’ve got some clear opportunities for leveraging this new development to your law firm’s advantage. 

For more Strategies to keep your law firm ahead of the CURVE, join PILMMA’s Mastermind Groups. Click here for more information.