6 Ranking Factors for Local Service Ads and How to Dominate Them
When it comes to Local Service Ads (LSA), it is not just about how much you spend that determines if and how often you will appear in the top three. Google considers several factors to determine if you will show up or not and whether you will appear on the first page of the search result or the 30th page.
If you feel like you are not getting enough out of your Local Service Ads spend or you constantly have an LSA budget surplus, it is probably because you are not showing up in the top Local Service Ads results.
The following six ranking factors have the most significant impact on whether you or your competition will show up in the LSAs on page one of Google search results:
The Importance of Star Ratings
Google looks at your Google Business Profile reviews (formerly Google My Business), and it looks at the reviews that you have received specifically through the LSA system.
More reviews are always better, but your average star rating may be more important. If you have a star rating of 4.1, but you have 90 competitors with a perfect 5-star average, those competitors will appear more often on the first page results than you. You will still show up, but it will be on page two of the results or maybe even on pages three, four, or five.
When was the last time you went five pages deep in the search results? Exactly!
Compensating for a Less Than Perfect Star Rating
Having a 5-star rating is great, but you really don’t have much control over your average rating.
Even if you always provide excellent legal representation for your clients and serve fresh baked cookies in your waiting room, a competing attorney or disgruntled employee can go to your Google Business Profile and give you a blank 1-star review. Instantly you go from 5.0 to 4.9.
But don’t despair because Google weighs the reviews by star rating and number. This means that you can have a less than perfect star rating and still be considered first page LSA worthy if the number of 5-star reviews greatly exceeds the number of 1-star reviews.
For example, if you have fifty 5-star reviews and three 1-star reviews that are bringing down your average, you may still be able to beat out a competing law firm that has a perfect 5-star rating but only has ten reviews.
So, it is important to pursue reviews aggressively, especially if you have less than a 5-star rating.
What’s the Difference Between Google Business Profile Reviews and LSA Reviews?
You can get reviews by sending happy clients to your Google Business Profile or Maps page. Those reviews are counted and averaged into what is shown in your LSA ads, so they do help you rank better.
However, the GBP reviews themselves do not appear in your Local Service Ads. Google only displays reviews in your ads submitted through the LSA system.
If you only have reviews on your Google Business Profile, people will not see any reviews if they try to find them by clicking on your Local Service Ad, 5-star or not. So, if you are going to do LSAs, use the LSA review system. Conversely, reviews created in the LSA system will appear in your Google Business Profile.
Google Gives More Weight to Reviews Submitted Through LSAs
Another significant difference between Google Business Profile reviews and Local Service Ads review is Google gives more weight to the Local Service Ads review for ranking purposes. Why? For example, reviews that are left on your Maps page can easily be gamed. Anyone with a Gmail email address can visit your GBP and leave you a 1-star review or a 5-star review. This makes those reviews less reliable than those submitted through the LSA system.
The LSA reviews are more reliable than ones left elsewhere because, when you send out a review request through the LSA dashboard, you can only send them to people who booked an appointment or at least came to you through an LSA.
Google captures relevant data from the lead when they contact you through the LSA. This means Google can more accurately confirm that the lead had some interaction with your law office and verify that the person who submitted the review matches the data captured when they became a lead. Doing this makes it difficult to game the system.
Assuming everything matches, the review is marked “Verified by Google,” and it is placed in the review feed for your LSAs. This process is why reviews submitted through the LSA system are given more weight than those submitted elsewhere.
Fresh Reviews Carry More Weight than Older Ones
Finally, the age of the reviews is also a factor. Older reviews from either your Google Maps page or the LSA system are weighted by freshness. New reviews carry a little more weight than those left years ago.
A constant stream of fresh reviews will give you an edge over law firm competitors that are not aggressively chasing down the reviews. So, use the review system in the LSA dashboard and use it often!
#2. Your Responsiveness
Local Service Ads leads all come through the LSA system. Google monitors every LSA call and email submission from beginning to end as leads come in. Google looks at things like:
- Were the calls answered by a human or machine?
- How many rings (or seconds) did it take to answer the phone?
- Did the call go to voicemail?
- How long did it take for you to respond to an email submission?
- How long was it from the time a lead was received to when you performed a related action on the LSA dashboard?
- And just about every other measurable statistic related to your LSA leads.
Google is constantly crunching these numbers and assigning a “responsiveness” rating. If calls from your LSA leads are consistently going to voicemail or hanging up because they cannot speak to a human or because they were on hold for too long, your responsiveness rating will reflect that.
Slow responders garner less favor from Google, and it will be more challenging to get that first page LSA spot.
So, if your phones are messed up, or you don’t have the staff to be responsive to LSA leads, it would be better to take a break from them until you get your house in order.
If you will spend the money on LSAs, spend the money necessary to respond to them quickly and follow up on them until they are dead or they hire you.
#3. Your Hours
Google will prioritize Local Service Ads that are open when the user is searching. For example, if your business hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, you may not show up in the LSA results at 9:00 pm if most of your competitors are open 24 hours. Google likes to send leads to law firms that can actively handle the lead when it comes in and not respond to it the next day.
This does not mean that you will not show up in after-hours search results, but it makes it less likely.
Of course, this may not matter to you. You may not want to receive leads after hours if you do not have the staff or a service to handle them. In that case, go into the LSA settings, tell Google not to send you leads after business hours, and then you will not appear in the search visible search results.
If you do not change this setting, you may show up in the LSA results, but your ad will have a big red CLOSED. You may still get leads, but you won’t be able to follow up with them until the next day (remember responsiveness).
If, however, your goal is to get the most possible leads, you will want your hours to be 24/7, and you will want to have the infrastructure to handle leads coming in at all hours.
#4. Your Budget
I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me up in a panic because they weren’t showing up in the LSAs, or they found themselves hidden in the “More lawyers” button, and their “Google Screened” badge had suddenly disappeared.
Most commonly, you get sent to the land of the lost or “More lawyers” section of the LSA results if it is after hours and you have asked Google not to send you leads after hours or because you have exhausted your budget.
Once your budget is gone, you will not appear in the visible LSA search results. Want more leads from LSAs? Increase your budget!
Google is becoming more and more local-centric. It tries to match the searcher up with businesses closest to them. Statistically, people are 80% more likely to hire a lawyer within 10 miles of them than one that is more than 10 miles.
It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, especially in more rural areas, but all else being equal, if the lead is closer to your competition than they are to you, they will probably hire the other guy.
Google knows this, and there is plenty of data to back it up. Even when it comes to the Google 3 Pack, being closer to the searcher will give you an edge over a law firm that is further away.
LSAs are the same way, if you are close to the searcher, you stand a better chance of showing up in their LSA search results, but also like the three-pack results, proximity is not the only factor so if you are killing it everywhere else in these six ranking factors, you still may show up.
#6. Do You Suck?
Google monitors several factors across the internet to determine how good you are, but it also knows when you have been bad. If Google feels that you are slipping to the dark side, or it has received a number of complaints about your law firm, you are going to have a hard time showing up in the top LSA search results.
One too many complaints and Google will kick you out of the LSAs forever. Honestly, if you just conduct yourself as an honest professional, this will never be a problem.
When it comes to LSA rankings, where is your time and money best spent?
So let’s work backward here:
- #6. Do you suck? Just don’t suck and you don’t need to worry about it.
- #5. Proximity. If your office is far away from your client base, move or open another location. Your location is probably fine in most cases, providing you have the next four factors dialed in. So, this one you may not need to worry about.
- #4. Your Budget. LSAs have proven to be effective if you do them right, but they are not cheap for many practice areas. You need to set your budget to a comfortable level, but try to push it as far as your infrastructure can handle the leads well. If you are priced right and work the leads properly, you will have a positive ROI. Simply adjust your budget to keep the lead flow where you want it.
- #3. Your Hours. Consider changing your hours on the LSAs and Google Business Profile to 24/7 if you have a way to get the calls answered after hours. There is nothing wrong with 8 to 5 if you are getting all the leads you need, but you will get more of them if you accept 24/7. Just remember the responsiveness factor.
- #2. Responsiveness. If you cannot respond to the leads within an hour or two at the most, you are probably losing business and paying for LSA leads that never pan out. Your competitors are hungry and they will fight like two stray dogs over a turkey leg to get your business. If you don’t answer your phone, the law firm next door will. Responsiveness is in your direct control. It will help you rank better in LSA search results and result in more hires. So do this!
- #1. Reviews. This is the most controllable LSA ranking factor and the simplest to execute. There is no excuse for not asking for a review through the LSA dashboard. If you want your LSA campaign to generate more leads, do this!
Last but not least, if you find that you cannot spend all of the money you have allocated for LSAs and the LSAs are not generating enough leads, the problem is likely found in one of these six LSA ranking factors.
There is plenty of room in the LSA search results. There are plenty of clients out there looking for help, and Google wants to spend your money. So, examine each ranking factor within your operation honestly and objectively, and you will find the problem.
Let us know how we can help you!
If you need help with your Local Service Ads, let us know. We will walk you through the six LSA ranking factors and perform a complete analysis of your LSAs. We will give you actionable insights that will make a difference, and we will do it at no charge. No obligation and no sales pitch.
New to LSAs and don’t know where to start?
Local Services Ads can seem overwhelming and confusing, but LSAs are really easy to do. However, to avoid wasting a lot of time and money, it is important to set your LSAs correctly from the start.
We will help you set up your LSAs, give you a one-hour training on how to successfully manage your LSA campaigns, and provide you with our guide to LSA success to refer to if you get stuck later. This is completely free for all attorneys. There is no obligation, tricks, catches, gimmicks, or sales pitches. We just want to use this as an opportunity to get to know you.
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