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2020 Local Pack SEO Ranking Factors for Law Firms

View profile for Chris Mundy
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When it comes to divining the hidden secrets of Google’s core search algorithm and how that affects ranking in the local search pack, there is no user manual with instructions to follow. Even if there were, it would become outdated almost as soon as it was published. The “art” of SEO is to notice trends and patterns in the data and rankings and to formulate strategies that are favourable to Google’s preferred ranking signals.

Because the algorithm is forever changing, what works at one time, might cause harm later on down the road. At the very least old knowledge could cause you to waste valuable time on unproductive efforts. There are a multitude of minutiae to consider, so it makes sense to combine the efforts and experience of as many local search practitioners’ observations as possible.

Whitespark recently collated the results of their semi-annual survey of local SEO practitioners. They asked respondents to rank how they believed Google weighted a number of factors relevant to local search. One question, in particular, focussed solely on the local 3 spot map pack found near the top of many search engine results pages (SERPs) as opposed to the local organic rankings in the 10 spots below that.

They were asked to rank the 2020 local pack ranking factors by weight of importance. The results can be seen in the chart below:

2020 local seo ranking factors

Google My Business (GMB) for Law Firms

GMB continues to rise in importance, accounting for a third of all ranking signals (33%) in 2020 (15% in 2015). Unsurprisingly this also corresponds to a steady rise in new GMB features and customer contact and ordering options over the past few years. Google favours a zero click search policy where a searcher can complete their journey on a Google SERPs page from your GMB listing without ever having to visit your site. Astonishingly, more than 50% of Google searches now end without a click through to further content.  Because Google is focussing on its flagship local GMB product, it makes sense for practitioners to spend time optimising their clients' listings too. Survey results listed the top 15 ranking factors/actions as:

top 15 local pack ranking factors

There are only three factors that are not actionable by the SEO practitioner:

  1. address in city of search;
  2. keywords in the business name; and
  3. proximity to point of search.

Everything else is open for potential optimisation. Removal of spam listings is a brand-new entry for 2020. This has come about due to the rise of importance of the second factor in the list above (keywords in GMB business title). You can refer to my previous blog post on GMB spam for Google’s rules regarding keyword spam. Suffice to say SEO practitioners are actively combatting and reporting this type of spam at a significant enough rate that it made the list for the first time.

Factors Influencing Conversions for Law Firms via Google My Business

When it comes to factors influencing conversions from your GMB listing, respondents to the Whitespark 2020 survey responded with the below results:

top 10 GMB conversion factors

Whether it pertains to rankings or conversions, a fully complete listing with a high number of keyword-rich positive reviews is going to have a beneficial effect on your bottom line.

Online Reviews of Law Firms

Reviews continue to rise in importance, accounting for 16% of local pack ranking and conversion factors. The quantity of native Google reviews, the quality of the review score, keywords in the actual review, and the positive sentiments expressed therein contribute to both rankings and conversions. Searchers are more likely to convert on a listing with a healthy aggregate of reviews over time.

On-Page SEO Tips for Law Firms

On-page signals include keyword targeting of content, meta data and alt text; file names, url structure, duplicate content, logical Headings, schema.org mark-up, page speed, SSL certificate. On-page signals accounted for 15% of total ranking signal. Fortunately, this is one area where webmasters have almost total control over the outcome. On-page SEO makes up a very large portion of any serious SEO campaign, regardless of whether it’s a local or even a national campaign.

Inbound Links

The quality and domain authority of inbound links remains important for any aspect of SEO and remains so for local map pack rankings. This signal accounted for 15% of total ranking factor. Keywords (and diversity) in anchor text of inbound links continues to be a positive signal.

Behavioural

Behavioural factors from your GMB listing account for 8% of local pack ranking signals. These include click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, requests for directions. A fully optimised listing is one of the only methods of influencing this signal. This means a fully complete listing packed with as many images, posts, Q&A’s and services as possible and applicable.

Citations

The importance of citations continues to drop, accounting for only 7% of local pack ranking signals in 2020. This is a considerable drop from 17% in 2015 (tied for second place). In practice this means that SEO practitioners are no longer obsessed with quantity of citations and now focus exclusively on the top directories and niche service directories only. NAP consistency remains important for your top directories but one can afford to ignore the many smaller directories for NAP consistency.

Personalisation

Personalisation is an element with limited potential for optimisation. It covers language, location, browsing history, demographics and interests.

Conclusion

This blog just scratches the surface detail of 2020 Local ranking factors and we have chosen to focus exclusively on just the local pack side of things. Going forwards we will continue to break down this data, as well as presenting a similar type blog focussing on local organic ranking factors rather than just the map pack. A main takeaway from the survey would surely be that nearly half of local map pack ranking factors are entirely Google related, i.e., associated with your GMB listing and the customer reviews posted there. Ignoring best-practice in this area is simply not advisable.

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