How Proximity Impacts Law Firm Rankings in Google’s Local Pack

[Mini Case Study] One Keyword, One City, 138 Zip Codes…
82 Different Law Firms


Example of a local pack result.

Proximity to the searcher is one of the most important factors in Google’s local pack rankings.

Technology has advanced to the point where Google almost always knows exactly where you’re searching from. This means Google can use your location to serve up local businesses that not only match your keyword search, but that are as physically close to you as possible.

This reliance on proximity makes sense for many types of businesses – dry cleaners, coffee shops, liquor stores, pet groomers, etc. – but it doesn’t make nearly as much sense for law firms and other legal service providers.

Simply put, if I want a cup of coffee I don’t want to drive across town to get it. I just want to know if there’s a decent spot close-by. On the flip side, if I’m getting a divorce, the proximity of the attorney I hire makes little difference to me. I want the best possible divorce lawyer, and I’m happy to drive across town if that’s where the best lawyer is.

Nevertheless, Google relies heavily on user proximity to serve up local results for keywords related to lawyers and legal services. The anecdotal case study below paints a clear picture of how fundamental proximity is Google’s ranking of law firms in local search results, and raises new questions as to whether it is still possible for law firms in competitive markets to “dominate” in local search.

Law Firm Local Ranking Case Study

I wanted to understand the extent to which proximity to the searcher impacts how Google ranks law firms in the local pack, so I searched the keyword “car accident lawyers” from 138 zip codes in the Houston-metro area, one of the most competitive markets for personal injury in the United States.

To replicate searches from each zip code I used Bright Local’s local search result checker tool. I searched “car accident lawyers” from each and every Houston zip code, and documented the three firms in the local pack for each. Here’s an overview of my findings:


For interactive chart click here

Key Takeaways

What does this mean, and what should law firms do about it?

I want to stress that this is nothing more than an anecdotal case study. The results are highly specific to this particular market (Houston) and keyword (car accident lawyers).

However, I do think it provides an essential truth about ranking in Google’s local results, which is: The closer your firm is to the searcher, the more likely it is that Google will show your business in the local pack.

Here’s my best attempt at a list of takeaways for legal marketers based on this information:

Thanks for reading, and hat tip to Joy Hawkins whose insight sparked my curiosity on this subject. I’d love to discuss your thoughts and questions in the comments below.


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Matt Green

Hi, I'm Matt. I'm the lead strategist here at Juris Digital. Since 2011, I've spent the majority of my one life on this earth helping lawyers sign more cases with organic search, and I've loved every freakin' second of it. If you have specific topics you'd like to discuss with me, please feel free to email me or tweet me.