Most people looking for a lawyer in the search engines are smart enough to key in their city, metro or state in addition the type of matter for which they need a lawyer. When someone in Los Angeles looks for an employment lawyer they are not going to key in – employment lawyers – they are going to type in – Los Angeles employment lawyers.

Two things you must keep in mind because of this. One, lawyer Web sites and blogs must be optimized for your locale. This can be by area cities, the metro area and/or your state. This will get your site, when optimized otherwise to appear higher in the organic search results.

Second, search engines are experimenting with local search results that are displayed near the top of the search results page. This means lawyer Web sites and blogs must be optimized by address. It's this second point, I am covering in this post.

What is 'local search' for lawyers?

It is hard to know how things are going to shake out over time. What we know now is that if you type in – Topeka lawyer – on Google, you will get a listing on the top of the page for three local Topeka lawyers who did not pay anything to show up at the top of the page. Heck, they do not even know they are appearing like this. If one does a search for – Topeka bankruptcy lawyer – the local search results do not show up.

When you click on one of the lawyer's names listed in the above three, you receive a local map to their office. When you click on the heading 'Local results for lawyers near Topeka, KS' above the three law firms' names, you get a list of Topeka lawyers. This list is accompanied by a link to the lawyer's Web site or blog, if they have one.

I expect we are going to see local search expanded – both to include practice areas and by allowing lawyers to buy sponsored links at the top of the local searches. Expect to see it at Google and at Yahoo, through its subsidiary, Overture.

In addition, I do not see the value to users being just a list of lawyer names coming from a yellow page directory as it appears now or another directory like Martindale-Hubbell. The value will be the accompanying links next to the law firm's name taking users to a lawyer Web site or blog that includes helpful information on the legal issue facing the user.

Search engine optimization for local searches

To serve local search results, the search engines crawl lawyer Web sites and blogs to collect and analyze data on the physical location of the lawyer and then matches that data to specified queries and their designated addresses.

Similarly, Web users can search by street address or ZIP code to find very limited local results for a category like lawyer. Google says their goal is “[T]o connect users to the information they need, whether it's half way around the world or just around the corner.”

To get your lawyer Web site or blog included in local and regional searches you need to design your site with local searches in mind. The easiest way to do this is to use the local keywords in the header or footer of your lawyer Web site or blog.

On lawyer blogs this is a piece of cake. Footer and header templates are easy to set up and include in the lawyer blog design. They then appear at the top and bottom of the main page, the category pages and each of the individual entry pages.

For example include Smith and Jones Bankruptcy Lawyers, 83 Jackson Street, Seattle, Washington, 98114. Telephone: 206 865 4367. If you are in a smaller community outside Seattle, include the name of the city in the address and add – located near Seattle, WA.

Do these things and you'll improve your chance of getting a first page listing on a localized search. As local searches increase in importance, this is going to be a big deal.