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Since launching their local business profile features in 2004, Google has changed and rebranded the platform a handful of times. The most recent restructuring happened in November 2021, when they switched from Google My Business to the new Google Business Profile.
The changes that Google made are more than just semantics, however, and as a business owner it is important to keep up to date on how the new Google Business Profile impacts your law firm. But what exactly is different between the former Google My Business and the new (and potentially improved) Google Business Profile?
First Things First – Why Is Google Business Profile Important?
Google Business Profile allows businesses to manage their online presence across the entire Google platform, an expansive network of apps and tools that serves as a default source of information for billions of people per day. The importance of this is clear, especially considering that Google sites were ranked as the most popular multi-platform web property in the United States, hosting millions of Americans on a daily basis.
The Findlaw 2014 United States Consumer Legal Needs Survey reports that 74% of individuals begin the search for a lawyer online, typically contacting a law firm via telephone. Even more importantly, 85% of consumers look for legal services on online maps. For this reason, leveraging online marketing trends is a game changer for small law firms and solo practitioners. Check out this article for a deep dive into what Google Business is and how it can be used to generate business for your practice.
Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business) is a quick way for potential clients to see an overview of your practice and directly communicate with you or your team before opting into your service. With the new changes that are being made to Google Business Profile, this becomes easier than ever.
To be competitive in the market, maintaining an online presence is incredibly important. This is why Google Business Profile is valuable. It acts as a one-stop shop for marketing your services to potential clients who, more and more, are using Google to find a lawyer.
Out With The Old, In With The New
Occasionally, Google will release updated versions of their platforms. In some circumstances these changes are minor and nothing to fuss over, but other times they stand to impact your business greatly. Google’s rebranding of Google My Business to the new Google Business Profile involves more than a mere change of name, however, so it is important to understand what to expect.
If used correctly, the new Google Business Profile can be a highly valuable asset to your business. But, for a lawyer with a busy schedule, finding the time to research and understand all the new tools is nearly impossible. Fortunately, we’ve done all the heavy lifting and have compiled all these new tools and changes in one place. Let’s dive into the nitty gritty.
Goodbye, Google My Business App
One of the biggest changes that Google has announced is the retiring of the Google My Business mobile app. Although the official ending date for the Google My Business app still has not been announced, Google has decided to remove the app completely in 2022.
While the mobile app is being phased out, the existing Google My Business web experience will remain available, but it will be rebranded as Business Profile Manager. The Business Profile Manager will focus on large businesses with multiple locations, while smaller or single-location firms are urged to manage their profile directly through Google Search and Maps.
Now, small businesses can manage their online presence by signing into Google Maps or Search, instead of using the Google My Business app or console. The logic is that by removing a secondary platform, Google can simplify the way businesses operate online.
Streamlined Google Maps and Search Capabilities
In launching the new Google Business Profile, Google aims to streamline the process of claiming and maintaining a business profile. For this reason, Google is beginning to increase the capabilities of Google Maps and Search. The new Google Business Profile system allows business owners to verify and claim their profile directly through Maps and Search. Google will outline precisely how business owners can verify and claim their profile in the coming months. This shift to direct management is specifically important for law firms who have not yet verified their profile.
The call history tool in Google Business Profile allows you to keep track of phone calls that are made through Google Search or Maps. While it is currently an experimental feature, the new call history feature makes it easier to gauge how many potential clients are finding your business through Google.
In practice, you can expect a short message at the start of all calls coming from your Google Business Profile, stating that the caller is coming from Google. Also, when a potential client hits the “Call” button on your Google Business Profile, that call will be recorded in the relevant tab of your profile. Thus, you will be able to view all recent, missed, and answered calls in one, organized location. Note that calls are kept for 45 days in the tab and you have to opt in to the call history tool in order to benefit from this change.
If your practice is based in the United States or Canada, the new call history feature applies to you. If you are based outside of the United States or Canada, however, you will not be impacted by this feature. At least not yet. If Google deems it a success, however, they may extend it to businesses outside of these two countries.
Business Messaging Through Google Search or Maps
An interesting feature that Google has implemented in their new Google Business Profile rollout is a chat feature. This allows you to correspond with potential clients directly through Google Search or Maps, fostering quicker, more personal, and more efficient communication.
Through business messaging, you are able to answer questions, provide clarity, and attract more clients. You can also create an automated welcome message that gets sent to clients who message you, which is fully customizable. Google wants to see messages answered within 24 hours and they may deactivate any chat account that regularly goes beyond the allotted time frame. When potential clients view your Google Business Profile, they are able to see your average response time, which is calculated and summed up as one of the following:
- Usually responds within a few minutes
- Usually responds within a few hours
- Usually responds in a day
- Usually responds within a few days
The chat feature is exciting, as it opens new avenues for communication with customers. This is particularly important for lawyers, as trust and rapport are both deeply important to potential clients.
Performance Planner Tool
This tool is particularly useful if you utilize Google Ads to advertise your services. In essence, the performance planner tool will allow you to plan local advertisement campaigns based on your budget. The tool also helps you see how changes to a campaign will affect key metrics and overall performance. The performance planner tool is quite valuable to law firms who wish to attract more clients through targeted advertisements. Utilizing Google Ad campaigns can be daunting at first, especially if you have never employed them in your marketing strategy. Thankfully, the performance planner tool will generate suggestions for how to improve the campaign while still remaining in your allotted budget. Because the tool updates every 24 hours based on the billions of search queries that happen per day, the suggestions account for variables like seasonality, competitor activity, and landing page.
Why Should You Care?
The rollout of Google Business Profile stands to impact your law firm’s Google visibility and online presence. Claiming and optimizing your Google Business Profile is incredibly important for local SEO (check out the Ultimate Guide To Law Firm SEO here). The features implemented in the new Google Business Profile can, and should, be leveraged to rank higher in local SEO for businesses.
Moreover, these changes present new methods for you to engage with potential clients and reach a wider audience through Google. A strong, regularly updated Google Business Profile can be a powerful way to market your services and find clients in your area.
Do I Need To Do Anything To Prepare For These Changes?
Google will slowly incorporate these changes, so you do not need to worry about any immediate upsets. If you are a frequent user of the Google My Business backend or mobile app, you may want to practice editing your profile directly in Google Search and Maps. This will help you adapt when these platforms are retired in 2022. Overall, the announcement of Google Business Profile is more indicative of incremental changes and improvements rather than anything you need to react to right now. So while you may want to consider how you will implement the new chat feature into your workload, for example, you do not need to take any immediate action.
How Law Quill Can Help
It can take a lot of research and planning to optimize your website for Google, and you can not always be sure you will see results. Fortunately, our digital marketing professionals can help.
We are here to help and would welcome the opportunity to visit with you for free regarding your law firm website’s content, and how we can take these tasks off your plate! Schedule a free visit with us by scheduling a quick phone or zoom call at your convenience on our calendar today. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.