On Friday the Thirteenth, March 2020, I walked down the aisle of my local grocery store to the sight of empty shelves and panicked faces. The following Monday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey told everyone in my state to go home and quarantine. Many did and similar scenes occurred throughout the world.
Figuring Out the New Normal
I operate a 27-person IT outsourcing business based in Phoenix. My employees could easily work from home, though a skeleton crew remained to be able to receive packages and other things that would have been difficult to do without a physical office. Many of my clients operated in a similar fashion, opting to maintain a physical office presence, but with a higher percentage of remote workers than ever before.
I personally look forward to the day when all my employees are vaccinated, and my office will no longer be a ghost town. But a few of my employees have always worked remotely. And I expect that at least one additional employee will now continue to do so post-COVID. Some businesses were already “virtual” with no physical office prior to the pandemic. And it seems likely that this approach will be more popular than ever following COVID.
Let Google Know
Whatever you decide to do, please be sure to tell Google about it by updating you Google My Business (GMB) record. As the world’s primary source of information, Google maintains THE listing of the world’s businesses. And each business must keep their record up to date. I have explained the importance of GMB maintenance in previous articles. This is where you manage your reviews. It is also how people find your business and navigate to your office.
It is not uncommon for some firms to maintain small satellite offices to be closer to potential clients that are searching for their services. Having these additional sites in GMB may help increase business and will likely result in better treatment in local search results on Google. But what if you no longer have an office whatsoever?
Complying with Google Policy
GMB is intended to be used for:
- Physical Locations (where customers visit your location)
- Service Areas
- Hybrid of Physical and Service Area
The most common type of GMB record is for physical locations. These records are what allow you to navigate to places using your phone. Items in the GMB record, such as hours of operation, are critically important to a good experience for travelers. Google checks the GMB record and will warn you that you are navigating to a place that is closed or will be closed before you arrive, so you do not have a wasted journey.
Although it is against Google’s stated policy, some businesses have attempted, and historically succeeded, in using “fake” physical office locations such as a UPS Store mailbox to make it appear like they have a physical office location. Google is apparently cracking down on these GMB listings and has begun to suspend these fake listings.
The Info section of GMB offers a place to record your street address and it indicates “You can leave this empty if you don’t have a location such as a storefront or office.” Underneath the address, you can specify Service Areas, such as Phoenix, AZ. If you do not have a physical office, you are supposed to leave the address blank and use Service Areas to specify geographic areas that you service. For offices with a physical office, Google also supports specifying Service Areas. I have seen this referred to as a “hybrid” GMB record.
Google’s New Plan for Lawyers
In mid-2020, Google expanded the use of Local Service Advertisements to include lawyers. This is something that all law firms seeking more business should seriously consider. Google will vet you and your practice before authorizing you to publish Local Service Advertisements. They will perform basic background checks on the firm and firm ownership, will confirm that you are licensed to practice law in the location where ads will be shown and will review your proof of your legal malpractice insurance. Additionally, you must have at least one Google My Business review and a rating of at least three stars.
As of the time I wrote this article, local service ads were available for the following legal practice areas: Bankruptcy, Business Law, Contract Law, Criminal Defense, Disability Law, DUI, Estate Planning, Family Law, Immigration Law, Labor Law, Litigation, Malpractice, Personal Injury Law, Real Estate, Tax Law, and Traffic Law. Because these advertisements are displayed so prominently in searches, these ads are a tremendous opportunity to drive additional business to your firm.