In short, yes, your search rankings will be impacted if you move your office. This is true whether you move next door or to a whole new community. Further, just changing your law firm name or phone number will also impact rankings. So, if you rely on your website to generate new clients, it’s critical that you notify, plan and coordinate your physical move with the people that handle your digital presence.
In Google there are three types of search results that typically display when looking for a lawyer. You have paid advertising along the top and right column, local business/map search results in the middle of the main page, and organic search results below the local listings. Moving your law office will impact the local and organic results in the following ways.
In the local results, Google relies heavily on the information it can find online about your physical presence. In particular, it’s looking for the consistent and frequent publication of your law firm name, address and phone number on other websites. This is referred to as a NAP or Citations and they are published on local business and law firm directory websites like Yelp, AVVO, YellowPages, 411, Lawyers.com, etc. Whenever the NAP information changes it disrupts the consistency that Google is looking for because, until it gets corrected across all of the third party business directory websites, it’s going to have new information on some websites and old information on others.
Right or wrong, Google treats law firms like local businesses, so it puts some emphasis on the proximity of a law firm’s office to the user doing the search. And with advances in GPS and other tracking, Google knows with increasing detail exactly where the user is located. Google can also determine the centroid of the industry. So if most of the lawyers in town have offices near the courthouse, it can give preference to lawyers located there instead of lawyers located in offices that have easy parking on the outskirts of town. So, if you move your office away from the population center, and away from where the bulk of lawyers are located, this can negatively impact your placement in local search results.
Moving a law firm to a new community, i.e. from the Minneapolis suburb of Edina to the suburb of Bloomington, magnifies the challenge. Not only will moving communities disrupt the data consistency of the NAP Citations, but now the focus of the content on the website needs to be changed to reflect the new city. This means that whatever organic rankings existed that were tied to the old community are going diminish, because references to that community in the text of the website will be replaced by the new community. You’ll now be competing with the lawyers in the new community which, depending on the population and quantity of lawyers, could mean an entirely different competitive landscape.
An additional challenge when dealing with all of this data is that many of these third party business directories aggregate information from multiple sources, even one another. So it’s possible that you may fix a listing in one place only to have it revert to old information when they receive conflicting data from an alternative “trusted” source. It can start to feel like a game of whack-a-mole.
If you need assistance with the digital side of your offline move The Modern Firm is here to help. We offer a flat fee moving service as well as our monthly Local Marketing Fundamentals program to make moving your firm, changing your name or updating phone numbers and growing your NAP citations a breeze. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org.