The Secret to Solving Google Business Listing Problems

If you’ve ever had work out a kink in a Google business listing, you know it can be an exercise in aggravation. Fixing issues such as lost control over a listing, updating your business address, correcting a map marker, or removing duplicate listings can turn into a lengthy online process filled with steps like “trigger a verification postcard” and “pending approval by a Google editor”. Although Google is always changing and improving their process, for anyone who doesn’t do this stuff on a daily basis, it can be really frustrating.

Today I want to share a little secret that it seems very few people are in on. And that is as a business owner (or someone authorized to manage a business listing), you can get phone support from Google My Business, and it’s actually very helpful. All you need to do is make sure you call during their operating hours of 1 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Here’s how:

Go to Google My Business’s Help page at


Click on the “Contact Us” link in the top right corner. A pop-up will appear; the first option is “Request a call”. Click that.


You’ll get a form with the header “Talk to a Specialist “. Fill out the fields and click “Next”.


Fill out your contact details and click “Call me”. Voila — you’ll get a call from Google My Business shortly.


Here are a couple extra tips on GMB phone support from Greg Gifford at Search Engine Land:

Top Secret GMB Phone Support Pro Tip #1

GMB Phone Support has been available since 2013, but it seems that Google has recently outsourced some of its support staff. The outsourced staff is still incredibly helpful, but they’re more likely to follow a help script. If you’re lucky enough to catch someone in the California or Michigan call center, and it’s clear that you know what you’re doing, they’ll skip any script and you’ll solve your problem even faster.

In our experience, you’re more likely to get the U.S. call centers if you call between noon and 5pm Pacific Time (emphasis added). If you’re in the UK or Europe, you’re better off waiting until the evening to call, so that you’re calling during that magic window.

Top Secret GMB Phone Support Pro Tip #2

GMB Phone Support can help with almost anything related to your Google My Business listing. While you’re on the phone with a support agent, ask them if there are any duplicate listings. If any exist, they’ll be able to shut them down immediately. If you’re working with a business that set up a personal Google Plus page for their business, Phone Support can help you get it converted to a GMB listing.

You’ve got Google on the phone, and they’re willing to help — take advantage of the opportunity!

Technology is great, but often problems get solved far quicker when talking to a real person. So the next time an issue pops up with your GMB listing, don’t be afraid to trigger a call.

Stem Client Roundup for July 2015

Hello summer! Now that sunny days are really and truly here, we hope you’re enjoying all your favourite activities and taking a break from the hustle and bustle. Here’s a look at what our clients have been up to so far this summer:

Stay cool and enjoy a little downtime — we’ll be back next month with more client news to share.

Stop Saying That! 6 Phrases To Drop From Your Written Work

Mark Twain once wrote (no, really, he did): “One isn’t a printer ten years without setting up acres of good and bad literature, and learning — unconsciously at first, consciously later — to discriminate between the two, within his mental limitations.” Within my own mental limitations, I’ve read and written so much in the last couple of decades that I’ve learned, if not what constitutes great writing, then at least which phrases constantly recur in poor writing.

Specifically, I’ve now come across the following six terms so frequently, in articles written for, about, and by lawyers, that I’m finally compelled to write this post and ask everyone to please stop using them, and to explain why. Here they are:

1. “Let me explain.” Superfluous. Maybe the most pointless three words in regular use among writers. Take them out of any article in which they appear and re-read the piece: there’s no difference. You’ve lost nothing except the subtle insult you’ve been delivering to your reader: “Let me explain” = “You probably didn’t understand the complex and clever thing I just said, so let me restate it in terms you’re likelier to understand.” Remove this phrase and give the reader back three seconds of her life that she can put to better use, e.g., humming the first four notes of the theme to “The A-Team.”

2. “In other words.” A red flag for poor communication. Set your word processor to search for this phrase and scan the article you’ve just written. If you find “in other words,” go to the sentence directly previous, and either rewrite it completely or remove it altogether. “In other words” = “I don’t think the phrase I just used was very effective. I’m now going to restate it more clearly.” Take out the previous sentence and the “In other words,” and pick up the paragraph at the new phrasing: It gets across what you’re actually trying to say more clearly. (Unless that rephrasing is itself followed by “Put differently.”)

3. “Put differently.” See #2.

4. “Forget X; Y is what matters now.” This is more of a headline problem, but with the advent of Twitter and the drive for brevity above all, it’s become a text problem, too. This phrase undermines what might otherwise be a legitimate point with ludicrous overstatement. Did X somehow become irrelevant overnight? Has it disappeared, leaving us bereft and wandering the streets, forlornly seeking the comforts of Y? Unless you’re discussing Beta and VHS, and I really hope you’re not, the better approach is to say something like “In addition to X, we now need to consider Y,” or “Y has joined X as issues of concern.” In this vein, see also: “X is dead, so Y.” Unless X is “Babe Ruth” and Y is “throw strikes,” stop saying this.

5. “X, and Y, and Z, oh my!” I literally clench things (jaw, fists, rosaries) when I read this phrase. The original source is a movie released 76 years ago, so it’s maybe time to find a slightly more current pop-culture reference. This is the lazy standby for the headline or opening sentence of an article that talks about three separate phenomena related in some way not readily evident to the writer. What frequently makes it worse is the failure to even pretend we care about scan: “E-discovery and artificial intelligence and unauthorized practice of law rules, oh my!” Make it stop, please.

6. “Very.” I’ll leave this one, not to Mark Twain (to whom it’s often wrongly misattributed), but to its true originator, William Allen White: “Never use the word ‘very.’ It is the weakest word in the English language; it doesn’t mean anything. If you feel the urge of ‘very’ coming on, just write the word ‘damn’ in the place of ‘very.’ The editor will strike out the word ‘damn,’ and you will have a good sentence.”

Stem Client Roundup for June 2015

It’s official…2015 is halfway over! Between launching new practice areas, announcing scholarships, and welcoming new associates, our clients have had a busy June. Here’s a peek at what they’ve been up to:

We’ll be back at the end of July with more news to share, and hope your summer is off to a terrific start.

Stem Client Roundup for May 2015

Hard to believe that the year is almost halfway over –we’ve only just gotten used to writing 2015! Here’s a quick look at what May held for our clients:

As always, we’ll be back next month with more news to share.

Spring Additions to

Time for another installation of “What’s new at”! Since our last update, we’ve added several new (and new to us) blogs to our directory of Canadian law blogs. Take a look:

As always, if you have a blog that meets our submission guidelines, please let us know!

Invite Your Clients To Co-Author Your Firm’s Content

Most lawyers have long since figured out that writing articles showing off their expertise in their chosen field is a safe and productive way to market their services. Some lawyers choose to publish these articles in their firm newsletters, others on blogs, and others in legal profession periodicals. Quite a few lawyers, additionally or alternatively, have realized that the best place to publish content is where potential clients will read it: in client periodicals, business magazines, industry newsletters, and consumer websites.

This is often easier said than done, however. These client periodicals are swamped with submissions from lawyers, so they can afford to be choosy and might take greater editorial licence with the text than most lawyers would like. There are other barriers, too. One of the most noteworthy belongs to the ACC Docket, the highly regarded magazine of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

You can probably imagine the number of BigLaw partners who’d love to display their written know-how to more than 20,000 in-house counsel. The ACC Docket stems this tide effectively with a simple publishing rule: every submitted article must be authored or co-authored by a corporate counsel. It’s an editorial policy masterstroke, ensuring that (a) ACC members have the opportunity to promote themselves to their colleagues, (b) content is always relevant and on-point to in-house readers, and (c) law firm lawyers who want access to this audience must have the strong relationships with their in-house clients necessary to make such collaboration possible.

What I’d like to suggest here is that every lawyer, including those in smaller law firms, could take a lesson from the ACC Docket‘s policy. Why not make this your firm’s content publishing policy, too?

Make it a requirement that one or more articles in your firm’s newsletter or on your firm’s blog be at least co-authored by one of your clients. This is possible across almost every type of law practice, from family law to wrongful dismissal to bankruptcy to trademark litigation to M&A: get the client to tell his or her story as part of a practical guide to navigating similar matters in future. Base it on an actual legal experience by the client, or have the client share his or her first-hand perspective on a commonly occurring law-related matter.

This would have all sorts of benefits for your publishing program. The clients and potential clients who read your firm’s content would respond positively to stories “just like theirs” related by people “just like them.” They would identify more closely with the familiar co-protagonist of these articles than they would to a faceless stranger in some case comment from the Court of Appeal.

The articles themselves would be heavy on personal narratives, actual facts, real challenges and practical solutions (although of course, sensitive or confidential information would be omitted or anonymized). Accordingly, they would also be lighter on the jurisprudential detail in which lawyer-authored articles frequently get bogged down. These two changes alone would improve the quality and readability of most articles prepared by law firms for their clients.

Best of all, this policy would strengthen the relationship between the lawyer and the client. Even setting aside the positive feelings engendered for clients asked to tell their stories to the firm’s clientele, co-authoring any written work requires close collaboration, frequent conversation, and the friendly (when carefully administered) give-and-take of drafts and revisions between the writers. The lawyer will often learn things about the client’s interests and experiences that didn’t emerge during the actual matter itself; the client will get first-hand exposure to the lawyer’s expertise and experience in similar matters.

This wouldn’t have to be a permanent policy: there could be a special issue of the newsletter or month of blog posts featuring clients as co-authors, just to try it out. We’ve seen what lawyer-authored content looks like, and most people would agree it’s not usually Pulitzer material. Think about turning to your clients for an injection of first-hand experience and real-world relevance to your law firm’s publishing efforts.

Stem Client Roundup for April 2015

April is a busy month in the legal world, with both the ABA TECHSHOW and the Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Conference taking place. Our clients were busy as well, with cases, conferences, media mentions, and more. Here’s a look at what April held for them:

That’s it for this month’s roundup, but we’ll be back at the end of May with more news.

Beyond Lawyers: The Future Of Law Firm Branding

If you’re among those who enjoy the spectacle of “Battles of the Brands” among law firms, the Acritas Brand Indices provide unsurpassed grist for your mill.  The 2015 Brand Index For [large] Canadian Law Firms was released last month, showing that Norton Rose Fulbright has regained from Blake, Cassels & Graydon the crown it wore in 2013 and briefly surrendered in 2014.

I offered an analysis of this report, as well as a critique of law firm brand indices in general, in this article at Bloomberg Business of Law. Here at Law Firm Web Strategy, however, I’d like to talk more generally about the idea of a law firm’s “brand,” and to suggest that lawyers who spend time and money pursuing strong brand recognition for their firms might be hamstrung by an unseen but critical flaw in their firms’ service delivery model.

You can find many definitions of “brand” in the legal context, most portraying brand as a complex amalgam of myriad interconnecting factors. For myself, I tend towards a simpler definition: a brand is what it’s like to deal with someone. How your customers or clients feel following one or more interactions with your business, the impression they’ve gained and the likelihood that they’ll want to deal with you again, is your brand. It has little to do with tag lines, advertisements, or the colour scheme on your website. It has to do with the user experience of your firm.

This, at first blush, is not an encouraging thought for law firms: most clients experience a law firm through its lawyers, and many lawyers do not rank stratospherically high on measures like emotional intelligence and customer service. But even in firms whose lawyers are natural communicators (or who are carefully trained to appear that way), there’s a larger challenge: the inconsistency of the user experience across multiple points of contact. Clients’ experience with a law firm frequently varies according to the person, and especially the lawyer, with whom they’re dealing.

Now, if a client only ever deals with a single lawyer at the firm, then this isn’t much of a problem. But in that situation, it isn’t really the firm that the client is experiencing, but the lawyer: we’re really talking about an individual lawyer brand. A firm brand comes into play when many different people interact with a client, a far more likely occurrence for an institutional client or a complex matter. In those situations, the client is much more likely to experience a range of personalities, behaviours, and procedures, to such an extent that the client may sometimes wonder whether she’s really dealing with a single firm. When asked to describe the law firm brand she’s experienced, she might well respond, “Which one?”

Very few law firms train their personnel to deliver a consistent client experience, and few of those that do could claim great success in enforcing such consistency, especially among their lawyers. Never mind consistency of work quality and client communication: today, in some of the most esteemed law firms in the country, you could find two partners who don’t even bill their work to the same client the same way. To add to the challenge, law firms undergo an unusual amount of churn, through entrenched associate attrition and growing partner mobility, such that the lawyer who served you today might be gone tomorrow — and might even be calling you to see if you’d like to follow him to his new place of business.

This is why I think that in the near future, the brand champions among law firms will be those that can ensure a high degree of consistency in the client experience. And what will set those firms apart will be the degree to which they rely heavily on automated systems, predictable processes, and dedicated client liaisons to deliver their services more so than on lawyers. These firms will figure out that decision trees don’t bolt the firm for greener pastures, that intelligent systems deliver the same experience regardless of practice group and billing rate, and that client protocols don’t vary according to how many hours they’ve docketed so far this month.

If a firm’s brand is fundamentally rooted in its clients’ experience with the firm, then every unnecessary variance in that experience is going to shake clients’ confidence in and undermine the brand itself. Lawyers are, by nature, deeply resistant to conformist behaviour: if they’re the ones delivering your front-line service, you can count on your clients receiving mixed messages (and on remembering the negative ones far more than the positives). To improve your brand, start thinking about ways to solidify and upgrade the client experience — and to what extent your lawyers should or can play a critical role therein.

Stem Client Roundup for March 2015

The American newspaper columnist Doug Larson said, “Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”  That pretty accurately sums up this awkward in-between time of year, though we hope there’s more whistling than slush in your life these days. As March gives way to April, let’s have a look at what our clients were up to this past month:

We’ll be back next month with more client news to share. (And with any luck, the slush will be completely gone by then!)

Mobilegeddon: The Countdown Is On

“Make it mobile-friendly” has been the mantra in web development for the last many years, but now Google is making it official. The search engine has announced that as of April 21 (a.k.a. Mobilegeddon), they’ll use mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in their search algorithms. Translation: if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it will suffer in the search rankings on mobile devices. In fact, one Google engineer said it would have more of an effect on rankings than Panda or Penguin did — and those were two of the most significant algorithm updates Google has ever made.

Before we get into this, however, let’s outline what we know:

  • Google has been tinkering with giving mobile friendly websites an advantage in the search results since last fall. You may even have seen a “mobile friendly” tag next to your own site in recent months. (This notation only appears in mobile search results; you won’t see it during a desktop or tablet search.)
  • When we say “mobile”, we’re talking about mobile phones. Google is very clear about treating iPads & tablets as separate devices.
  • According to everything released, the search ranking impact will only be felt on mobile phone driven traffic. The warning letter that Google is sending out to webmasters even states: “These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.”  (emphasis added)
  • The amount of smartphone traffic received by each firm varies. Subsequently, the impact of this algorithm change will also vary “firm-to-firm”.
  • Having a fully responsive design is not required to be “mobile friendly”. (more discussion below)

Here’s a quick guide to assessing your site’s mobile-friendliness and what to do if it doesn’t meet Google’s mobile-friendly criteria. And don’t worry, it’s actually pretty easy to update your site, especially if you’re on WordPress.

Take the test

Go to and plunk in your site’s URL. After a quick analysis, you’ll get your results. If your site is mobile-friendly, you’re golden.

Identify your needs

If not, visit the “Getting started” section of Google’s Mobile guide. It’s likely that you just want to learn how to tweak your site yourself; if this is the case, click “Customize your website software for mobile users”. (There are also options for getting technical or working with a developer).

The Customize Your Website Software guide gives a rundown of all the major website software: WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, Blogger, Tumbler, and others. Choose the software you’re using. For this post, we’re going to use the example of WordPress since it’s the most popular (and the CMS choice we recommend to all our clients).

A note: if you’re using (i.e., you have a URL such as, you’re in luck – these sites are automatically mobile-friendly.

Make the required changes

There are different steps to follow depending on what your situation is. They might be:

  • Updating your version of WordPress
  • Updating your theme to its newest version
  • Choosing a different theme that is mobile friendly (look for one with the tag “responsive layout“)
  • Implementing an additional plugin to add mobile-friendly functionality to an existing theme
  • Doing custom edits to make your theme mobile-friendly

The WordPress section of the Google Webmaster’s Mobile Guide helps you figure out what steps you need to take, and points you to the resources you need.

Some troubleshooting advice

Let’s say your firm has a custom theme. Maybe you laboured over it, or you paid someone to make it for you. Either way, you made an investment and you’d like to keep using it, but it’s not passing the mobile-friendly test. What to do?

In this case, installing a plugin is probably the easiest way to fix the mobile-unfriendly problem. We’re fans of the WPTouch plugin (other Google-approved plugin options are Jetpack and WP Mobile Detector). From the WPTouch description:

WPtouch is a mobile plugin for WordPress that automatically enables a simple and elegant mobile theme for mobile visitors of your WordPress website.

The administration panel allows you to customize many aspects of its appearance, and deliver a fast, user-friendly and stylish version of your site to your mobile visitors, without modifying a single bit of code (or affecting) your regular desktop theme.

The theme also includes the ability for visitors to switch between the theme on your mobile WordPress website and your website’s regular theme.

Once you’ve installed WPTouch, you’ll see it appear as its own item in the left-hand menu in WordPress. Go into Core Settings and confirm the default settings. At the bottom of the screen, you can click “Preview theme” to see what your site will look like on a mobile device. Click “Save Changes” and voila – your site is mobile-friendly.

After you’ve made your changes, run your URL through the Mobile-Friendly Test again, just to confirm Google registers your improvements.

And now you’re set for Mobilegeddon! Breaks 500!

Since our last update we’ve now hit a pretty major milestone — there are now slightly over 500 blogs listed in the Canadian Law Blogs Directory! Some of these blogs are relatively new, while others are just new to us. Two of them won Clawbies this past December and others came onto our radar by being nominated or nominating others for the awards. And so in no particular order, here are some of the latest additions to

We also have a site update to mention: we have added a category for podcasts, which applies to both exclusive podcasts and blogs with occasional podcasts. At present there are three listed in that category, but we suspect there’ll be more to come. If you’re aware of a legal podcaster or blogger we’ve missed, please let us know!


Stem Client Roundup for February 2015

February is short, yet somehow our clients manage to pack as much into it as any other month! Here’s a look at what Stem clients were up to this past month:

We’ll be back next month with more client news to share.

7 Quick Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn has long been the preferred choice for lawyers as a social business tool. There’s lots of studies to support that, and it likely doesn’t come as a surprise to many.

Given this importance that many lawyers claim to have regarding LinkedIn, though, I remain a bit surprised that some of the most basic profile elements are often MIA.

Take a look at the pieces below. If you’ve been on LinkedIn for a while — or a decade — you probably have taken advantage of these. That said, a simple comb through of your profile (or a colleagues) is probably worth your time. Chances are there are a few areas that could be improved upon with relative ease.

1. Snag a custom URL

It’s easy to clean up the look of your profile’s web address.  Change this: into something like this:

(Learn how here)

2. Add websites to the Links area

Take a minute and add links to your firm website, your blog, any other relevant sites you contribute to or are involved with in some way. Don’t forget to include your lawyer profile page on the firm website.

(Learn how here – and be sure to choose “other” and label your websites with their actual names rather than “my website” or “my blog”)

3. Clarify your professional headline

Include a description of what you do, not just your position. For example, change your headline from “Senior Partner at ABC LLP” to “Corporate Finance & Securities Lawyer, Senior Partner at ABC LLP”.

(Learn how here)

4. Prioritize your past positions

If you’ve held a lot of positions throughout your career, consider trimming the descriptions of any that are more than 10 years old. Eliminating older jobs might not be doable, as it’s a big part of who you are; but reducing the descriptions will help make sure the jobs section doesn’t completely dominate the profile page.

5. Add contacts strategically

Consider the contacts that send you work directly or by referral, and their common characteristics. What position/title do they hold, for example. Use that title or characteristic and do a search on LinkedIn for other people from your past, or potential future contacts. If you’re not mining for potential new business via contact demographics, you’re missing one of LinkedIn’s most powerful tools.

The LinkedIn search feature can be helpful in this regard — triggering memories of your past experiences, or getting ‘the right people’ on your radar who are within x degrees of separation.

6. Add a recent presentation or publication

Have you recently written an article (think CLE, firm newsletter, etc.) or given a presentation? Get more mileage from it by posting it on LinkedIn. As a bonus, adding text or new sections makes your profile eligible to be included in LinkedIn’s email alerts to other members. When your colleagues receive their roundup of profile news, your profile is included in that message. Just make sure the change is somewhat substantive.

(Learn how here)

7. Ask for some recommendations

This isn’t a volume exercise, but acquiring a couple of impressive testimonials from very close contacts rarely hurts. Not everyone uses the “Recommendations” area, but it can be a nice touch. This also isn’t an exercise in strict reciprocity, but while you’re at it, don’t be afraid to write a few recommendations for some of your key contacts.

Any other ‘basics’ for lawyers to improve their LinkedIn profiles? Chime in with a comment.

Stem Client Roundup for January 2015

Hello, 2015! The new year is off to a terrific start, with lots of projects keeping Stem’s clients busy. Here’s a look at what they’ve been up to in January:

We’ll be back again next month with more news and accomplishments.