The Thing Google Still Doesn’t Get About Law Firms

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By Omnizant Team
Law Firm Marketing Agency

Google tries to connect searchers with the services they want. But when you want a lawyer and not a cheeseburger, Google doesn’t always do what it’s supposed to do.

Lawyers don’t just serve clients in their backyards. Unfortunately, Google’s algorithms favor businesses that have physical proximity to the searcher, especially when it comes to ranking well in Google Maps. 

For most local businesses this makes sense, but for law firms this means relevant businesses may not show up because they aren’t proximate to their prospective customer. The local bias in Google’s algorithm isn’t going to change any time soon. So, lawyers need to get savvy. 

Google wears the crown, but we can get you into the throne room.

Here’s what you need to know about how Google views law firms, how local searches work with law firms and how to improve your visibility in service areas beyond your backyard.

Google’s local bias and its impact on law firms

Google’s algorithm tends to categorize law firms as local businesses.(A related note for those interested in technical SEO: which Google uses to understand businesses, has “LegalService” schema categorized under “LocalBusiness” as well.) Unlike traditional local businesses like salons and restaurants, however, law firms may operate on a regional, national or even international scale.

Law firms tend to serve a larger geographic area than the zone with close proximity to their physical office address.

This creates trouble because Google doesn’t view a law firm as “relevant” for local searches in areas that might be within your service area but outside what Google considers “local.” What if your firm has case types that take you into other states or parts of the country?

Google’s oversimplification poses a real challenge for firms that aim to rank well across larger geographic areas. Without remediation, Google can actually hinder a firm’s online visibility and client acquisition efforts.

Navigating geographic challenges for law firm rankings

Law firms face unique hurdles in optimizing their online presence—especially firms with broad geographic clientele.

Federal vs. state practices: Law firms often handle cases that transcend state boundaries, such as federal practices or multi-state representation. Google’s local bias fails to differentiate between firms serving local communities and those with broader jurisdictional reach, and this impacts their ranking potential.

Multi-state licensing: Attorneys are licensed state-wide and may hold licenses in multiple states, complicating Google’s local ranking algorithms.

The good news is that you can mitigate these challenges ethically and strategically to improve your rankings.

Strategies to overcome Google’s bias

There are three main strategies you can use to help your law firm teach Google about your relevance for local searches. 

1. Content strategy with a local focus

Craft pages and content that incorporate regional keywords and focus on practice areas relevant to your target jurisdictions. Create location-specific landing pages or content hubs to address the unique needs and concerns of diverse geographic audiences. 

You should also focus on acquiring authoritative links and citations from reputable sources within your target areas. This might include local directories, legal associations and regional publications

Finally, you can implement structured data markup to provide search engines with clarity regarding your firm’s geographic focus. You can highlight the scope of your practice, multi-state or federal areas, attorney licensing details and regional office locations.

Drawback: It’s still challenging to rank in other areas because you’re competing with local businesses who actually have an office in that location. 

2. Consider opening another office—in your target area

Opening a new office is a major investment. But the payoff can be worth it. 

If you are struggling to rank in a city where you don’t have an office, you should seriously consider opening one there. That’s because having a Google listing in that city shows you’re relevant and it helps your website rank in local searches as well as on Maps. 

Complement your new office with a locally-focused website strategy and you’re suddenly a lot more competitive.

3. Use paid ads to get initial visibility

You can use paid ads to get some initial visibility in your target geographic markets where you do not already have an office. 

Paid ads can give you two things: 1) visibility and relevance to Google in those areas, and 2) insights into whether or not you actually want to open an office there.

Cringing? We get it—but realize that your competitors are also subject to this challenge. It’s hard to rank in state and national searches!

If you want to compete and beat out your rivals in some markets, paid ads can be a good tool in your kit. This is especially true if you’re considering markets that have firms with a long SEO history and high domain authority in their metropolitan areas. Geofencing is another nifty tool.

Review and next steps

Google’s local bias is a major challenge for law firms that want to expand their online visibility in markets beyond their immediate geographic area. 

Targeted strategies like locally-focused content can help firms overcome Google’s geographic limitations.

If you’re struggling to break into a new market and get the visibility you need, please reach out

Omnizant can help you mitigate the impact of Google’s local bias, navigate the complexities of marketing legal practices in the face of changing algorithms and position your firm for greater online success.

About the Author
Since 2006, Omnizant's team of digital marketing experts, designers, developers and writers has helped over 2,000 law firms develop powerful websites that drive business growth.