Schema Markup vs. Citations – Dueling Marketing Tactics?

In a recent webcast, the question was asked, “What is the benefit of schema markups vs. citations on a firm’s website?”

It’s an important topic, but this is not an either/or situation. Both of these tactical elements contribute to your local search program in different ways.

SOME BACKGROUND

Schema.org markup is valuable for helping search engines understand the content of your website and it is uniformly recognized by all three major search engines.

Prior to the formation of schema.org, search engines would examine keywords like “san Francisco car accident attorney” to determine relevance and search rankings. But there was no distinction in types of words. Search engines didn’t know that “San Francisco” was a geographic area or that “attorney” was a service. They only saw blocks of text that matched other blocks of text used by searchers.

THINGS ARE MUCH BETTER NOW

Today, with structured data markup, search engines can see that “San Francisco car accident attorney” references a specific type of service in a specific geography. It can even recognize a specific need – car accidents.

In fact, this works even without the exact same phrasing or search terms. You can test this by searching for, “I was just in a car accident” on your mobile phone. Google will use location data from your device, along with the perceived need from your search term (car accident) to infer the need for an attorney. It’s exciting to realize and it’s a boon for your business.

CITATIONS STILL MATTER

Citations are not as flashy, but they still provide another stream of information about your law firm. They occur whenever your firm’s name, address or phone number appears on the Internet. Regardless of whether or not it is on your website, or even linked to it. And they act as a “confidence vote” for your business. The logic being, if your firm name has a citation, there must be a reason.

Citations can also help validate legitimate businesses. After all, it’s hard for a phony business to get real reviews or mentions in an online newspaper. Genuine citations indicate genuine businesses.

ONLINE LEGAL MARKETING IS RARELY BLACK OR WHITE

Like so many other aspects of Internet marketing these two items are not at-odds, they’re simply different. Search engines have an immense challenge ahead of them. The more you can do to increase their understanding of and confidence in your law firm business, the better your chances of being found by legal consumers.

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