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    How well does your firm actually rank in Google’s Local Pack results? And does it matter?

    Is your law firm ranking as well in local search results as it can be? This is an important subject that requires more attention than it’s getting.

    That’s because most people who work with SEO companies typically look at a report that shows an important keyword and a number next to the keyword which indicates where it’s ranking.

    The fact is that many law firm marketers have a poor understanding of how much visibility they actually have in a market because traditional local ranking reports can be highly misleading. This is also more common than you think with attorney SEO agencies.

    This is problematic for strategy development because firms often decide to pivot their marketing strategy to new geographic areas when they should instead focus on a strategy that allows their firm to rank in as many places possible within their current target city.

    In many cases, law firms could double, triple, or quadruple their leads just by focusing on strategies that help them dominate one geographic area instead of spreading out to new markets before they’ve reached their maximum potential.

    In this article, we are going to address how law firm ranking results in Google differ based on the searcher’s geographic location and other factors. In some industries, the proximity to searcher has a much bigger impact (for example restaurants). In this article, we will look at law firm examples only.

    Should I Care About Rank Tracking?

    The reality is that Google can rank a website in a different position on a mobile device, tablet, or computer plus that result can and commonly will change depending on the location where the searcher is searching.

    To put this in perspective if two people standing 100 feet apart type in “Personal Injury Lawyer” it’s possible that they could see different firms ranking in the #1 position.

    That is why ranking is misunderstood.

    But it’s also where people get hung up. Let me explain.

    See at the end of the day, the only metric you should judge your SEO by is probably market qualified leads or cases signed. There are so many factors that go into online marketing and SEO’s are notorious for using confusion jargon.

    But the reality is that if two competing websites are both getting 100 visits a month for a keyword and one is converting at 20% MQL’s while the other is converting at 1% MQL’s then running all of the rank tracking in the world is not going to help you get to the 10%. There are other factors at play such as brand messaging, conversion optimization and making sure potential clients know, like and trust you.

    So really you should not FOCUS on rank tracking, but… it is important to understand the implications to track overall progress and tie that MQL’s.

    Rank Tracking From SEO’s is Generally Misleading

    Over the years, search has become more and more localized. While years ago you could easily rank everywhere throughout an entire city for a keyword like “Car Accident Lawyer”, that’s not always the case anymore.

    This is why ranking reports can be so misleading. If your rank tracking software shows you ranking in the number one position for a keyword it’s probably only emulating the search from one specific geographic spot.

    But what if a potential client isn’t standing in that same location where your rank tracking software is when searching for your business?

    A potential client looking for a personal injury attorney doing a Google search from a hospital may see a different #1 ranking firm than someone searching a few blocks away.

    Rank Tracking Will Vary By The Physical Location of the Searcher

    To illustrate this point, let’s use a visual example.

    In the map below you will see I used a cool new tool by Local Falcon to see where The Sawaya Law Firm ranks in maps results for the keyword “Truck Accident Lawyer”.

    This is a competitive keyword in a competitive market, and the colored map icons with the number represent it’s ranking position if I was conducting the search from that specific geographic location.

    These map markers are 1 kilometer apart from each other, and the center represents where the business is located below.

    Localized Rankings for Sawaya Law Firm

    You will probably notice that a green map marker with the number one shows up where the office is.

    This means if I was searching for “truck accident lawyer” in Google from the law firm’s office, I would see the firm in the number one position.

    This may make you feel good, but it probably won’t generate much business if you’re not ranking well from the position where potential clients are looking.

    To Further Complicate Matters, Google Rankings Can Also Vary By Device & History

    To add another fun variable, it’s important to understand that the same search performed on a laptop computer and a phone from the same location may yield different ranking results.

    This is why it’s important to track your conversions (Phone Calls, Chat, Email, etc.) by device type to understand where you are seeing the highest return on investment.

    Ranking Position Also Relies on Searcher Intent

    Searcher intent has a lot to do with how Google decides to display results. While Google is going to serve local results for many law firm keywords, they also understand when a search should be even more localized.

    One example of this is if I searched for “Car Accident Lawyer” and “Car Accident Lawyer Near Me”.

    The “Near Me” search is explicitly telling Google that you’re looking for a car accident lawyer in close proximity to the location you’re searching from. Otherwise, they understand you’re probably just looking for a lawyer in the general area.

    There are many different keywords a potential client might type into Google. Let’s look at a few examples and see how they differ:

    Example Searches conducted from Glen Ellyn, Illinois from a single specific location:

    1. Car Accident Lawyer
    2. Car Accident Lawyer Near Me
    3. Car Accident Lawyer in Glen Ellyn

    Car Accident Lawyer Ranking Examples from Glen Ellyn IL

    In this example, the firm Schwartz Injury Firm maintains the #1 non-paid local position in all three of these searches above. All of these searches were conducted from the same place within the city on a Desktop computer.

    But what happens when we search from different locations throughout the city?

    When we used Local Falcon to search for “Car Accident Lawyer” we find that they do rank well around their business, but the further away they get they don’t rank as well (See below):

    Does Proximity Override Everything Else?

    In my experience, the answer to this is no. At least not for many important search terms that will drive a lot of new business to your law firm. The example below is for a competitive keyword in a competitive market. If you’re able to rank organically and locally for your important keywords you can get similar results.

    Proximity and local search results

    How You Can Use This To Grow Your Law Firm

    Having this knowledge is really powerful because you can use it to focus your marketing campaigns on searches that are going to drive the most business to your law firm.

    For example, let’s say that you’re a Family Lawyer who handles divorce cases for higher net worth clients. If you’re not pulling in the type of clients you’re looking for, perhaps you’re not ranking well enough in the higher net worth areas. You can develop strategies to create more relevance and authority in these areas where your ideal clients are.

    Other firms can use this knowledge do things like: 

    • Personal injury attorneys can rank well closer to hospitals
    • Bankruptcy lawyers can track rankings by important neighborhoods
    • Criminal attorneys can laser focus efforts based on where their best clients have come from previously

    How You Can Get A Better Idea of Your Overall Visibility

    Thankfully there are a lot of cool tools out there that will allow you to diversify how you track rankings. Ideally, you will be able to track mobile and desktop rankings by:

    • Using specific addresses across a city
    • Using all zip codes within a city to find strong and weak areas
    • Track rankings by cities

    There are a plethora of tools out there you can use to track rankings, but here are some that we and our clients use.

      • Whitespark – Shows ranking results from the city and postal code level.
      • BrightLocal.com – Shows rankings by city and postal code.

    • Mobile Moxie – Allows for geographic searches by address.
    • Local Falcon – Shows the geographic map view we covered above.
    • Stat – Zip Code, GPS Location, City, etc.
    • DBA Platform
    • My Local Market Share

    What Have You Seen In Your Market?

    There are a lot of nuances when it comes to tracking local search results. This article was intended to be a high level simplified version of understanding how law firms rank in Google’s local results.

    What have you seen in your area? Are you excelling or struggling? Please let me know in the comments below. The next article will focus on how you can dominate an entire area by doing things the right way.

    Casey Meraz Casey Meraz is an entrepreneur, SEO expert, investor, creator, husband, father, friend, and CEO of Juris Digital. Casey is a frequent speaker at industry events and the author of two books on digital marketing, including "Local Marketing for Personal Injury Lawyers" and “How to Perform the Ultimate Local SEO Audit”
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