Must you rent an office in the most prestigious building downtown? Should you buy a storefront close to a busy intersection? Do clients even care? Work-life balance and value per square foot matter, but the most important factor will always be:
The lead generation potential of your office space.
Here’s how to choose an office location that will help you rank well in the Google Map Pack, reach your target demographic, and ultimately make more money.
How Your Office Location Affects Local SEO
Every local business should be competing for a spot in Google’s map pack; local search drives high quality leads for local businesses, and you don’t have to pay for them. That said, Google uses your address as a ranking factor in local search, and you’ll have to take this into consideration when choosing your location.
Careful: Don’t Rent an Office Right Next To Established Competitors
Let’s say there’s an office building in your city stocked with established personal injury firms. If you move your address to a suite in that building, you may get “filtered” out of Google Maps for a significant period of time. We are writing this out of experience.
When there is a high density of established, relevant businesses for Google to list in the Map Pack when people search for “lawyers near me,” Google will choose those, and you will rank very, very low.
If you must rent space right next to your competitors, you will have to build a significant amount of authority through backlinks and citations before you can outrank them.
Local Search Is Partially Proximity Based
If a potential client searches for “car accident attorney near me,” and your location is one mile away from their location while your competitor is three miles away, you have a great chance of ranking first in the map pack for that search, even if you don’t rank in the traditional search engine results page (SERP) at all. That’s because Google’s local algorithm weighs proximity into its ranking criteria.
That said, you’ll want your office location to be close to your prospective clients if possible. If you prefer car accident cases, try to identify a zip code with lots of traffic; if you serve Spanish-speaking residents, find neighborhoods with a high concentration of Spanish-speakers. And if you’re a business attorney, you’ll want to stay near business hubs in your city. More importantly, try to locate your office near a significant population center – a rural location, while inexpensive, will significantly reduce the reach of your local SEO work.
“Near Me” Searches Are At an All-Time High
Smartphone users (in other words, just about everyone), favor “near me” syntax when searching for services more each year. That’s just further evidence that your office should be located near your potential clients.
You don’t have to have 1,000 backlinks to rank well for proximity-based searches, and you needn’t have invested thousands of dollars in law firm SEO strategy – you simply need to have a good Google My Business listing and a nearby address.
Look For Population Density
We’ve already established two important things:
- A huge number of potential leads are searching for “attorneys near me”
- Your proximity to those users helps you rank better in local search
Therefore, you’ll want your address to be in a densely populated ZIP code if at all possible. Remember that you won’t want an office suite in a building packed with competing lawyers, but if an area has a lot of people, that means it has a lot of potential leads – and you’ll want an office right in the thick of it.
How To Research Demographics
Spanish-speaking workers’ compensation lawyers will want an address near an immigrant-heavy neighborhood, estate planning attorneys will need to be located in affluent areas, and so forth. There are many web tools for researching demographics, but it’s easy enough to use neighborhood scout or movoto. You can also use census data of course.
For criminal defense, you may get more leads if you’re close to a courthouse – many potential clients search for a lawyer near the courthouse instead of the town where they live.
Are Home Or Co-working Office Spaces Any Good For Lawyers?
Why bother with a storefront or formal office when you can hold Zoom consultations or chat with clients on Skype? It turns out there are SEO ramifications for working at home or in a virtual office.
Running Your Solo Law Practice Out of a Home Office
You should know that it’s against Google’s business listing rules for an attorney to list his or her home office as the business address for your firm. In less competitive niches, you can get away with breaking that rule, but in law, your listing will get removed (very quickly) if you try to list your home as a business address.
Renting Virtual or Co-working Office Space
Shared office spaces seem legitimate since you have a kitchen, conference room hours at your disposal, and a receptionist, but using these addresses is against Google’s guidelines as well. Your competitors will notice that you have a virtual office listed in Google My Business, and your listing will be taken down.
What About Service Area Businesses (SABs)? Can’t You Rent a Virtual Office In That Case?
Google My Business allows you to set up a listing and hide your address – you then specify in your account the ZIP codes that your business serves. Google still uses the address associated with your account to rank your in searches even though it is hidden from public view. This feature is intended for use by plumbers, contractors, and other professionals who work at client locations, but anyone can hide their address in GMB.
Example: let’s say a law firm’s address is in Hoboken, NJ. But they hide their address in Google My Business and set their service area as Brooklyn. If someone in Brooklyn searches for a “car accident lawyer near me,” they are still going to see law firms with addresses in Brooklyn – not the firm in Hoboken listing its service area in Brooklyn. So this is generally an ineffective strategy for lawyers.
A potential workaround: In theory, you could follow these steps:
- Rent a virtual office or locate your home office in a desirable, densely populated area
- Create a Google My Business listing using that address, but then hide it in the listing
- Set your service area as desired
Google should still use the address associated with the account to rank you in local searches, but your address won’t be visible, so competitors can’t flag your listing as spam.
Note: this is not a recommended practice, and we have not actually tested this workaround. Please don’t interpret this workaround as a recommendation.
Conclusion: Focus On Getting More Leads, Not Cutting Costs
Could you save $500-$1500 per month by renting an office in a ZIP code where nobody lives or works? Is it cheaper to work from home? Sure, that goes without saying.
But saving $1,000 per month in rent at the expense of 1-2 additional good leads per month is a poor tradeoff. Pay what you need to pay to have a desirable (albeit reasonable) office location that will help you get leads – if you focus on growing your firm and not pinching pennies, you will end up being more successful. And no, you do not have to pay a premium for an executive suite in a Manhattan high rise, but you do need to find a spot with good population density nearby your desired clientele.