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Keeping up to date with Google’s core search algorithm is a notoriously difficult task – just as you get a hang of the latest trends, you’ll find things have changed once again. Which was why it was so amazing to get David Gilroy (of Conscious Solutions fame – and frankly the only orange person worth knowing)’s email the other week, with an amazing article in it

Twice a year Whitespark conducts a survey of local SEO practitioners, and have recently collated the results. Respondents were asked to rank the way in which they believed Google weighted different factors relevant to local search. Specifically, one question focused on the local three spot map pack found near the top of a number of search engine results pages, rather than to the local organic rankings in the ten spots below that. 

When asked to rank the 2020 local pack ranking factors by weight of importance, the results showed that: 

Google My Business (GMB) for Law Firms

As can be seen from the chart above, Google My Business (BMB) is becoming ever more important, and accounts for a third (33%) of all the ranking signals in 2020, as opposed to just 15% in 2015. An increase in new GMB features, along with customer contact and more ordering options, is an important factor in this increase over the past five years. It’s become clear that Google favours a zero click search policy, with more than 50% of Google searches ending without a click to other content. This means that a searcher can complete their journey on a Google search page from your GMB listing without a single visit to your website. Since Google is focussing on its new local GMB product, then it follows that practitioners should optimise their clients’ listings too. 

Survey results show that the top 15 ranking factors/actions are:

Only three factors are not actionable by the SEO practitioner, and these are: 

  1. Address in city of search,
  2. Keywords in the business name, and
  3. Proximity to point of search. 

This means that all other factors can, potentially, be optimised. A particularly interesting find is the removal of spam listings entering for the first time. The importance of ‘keywords in GMB business title’, the second factor in the list, has been key. Clearly, SEO practitioners are combating and reporting this type of spam at a rate significant enough for this to have made the list in 2020. 

 

Factors Influencing Conversions for Law Firms via Google My Business

As far as factors influencing conversions from you GMB listing, those that completed the Whitespark 2020 survey responded as below: 

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 positive impact on your profits. 

Online Reviews of Law Firms

Another factor rising in importance is reviews, which now account for 16% of local pack rankings and conversion factors. Searchers are more likely to convert on a listing with a healthy aggregate of reviews over time, and so the quantity of native Google reviews, the quality of the review score, keywords in the actual review, and the positive sentiments expressed in them contribute to both rankings and conversions.

 

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, and SSL certificate. Whilst these on-page signals account for only 15% of the total ranking signal, it is an area where webmasters have near total control over the results, and on-page SEO should be a key factor in any serious SEO campaign. 

 

Inbound Links

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

 

Behavioural

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

 

Citations 

Citations now only account for 7% of local pack ranking signals in 2020, as opposed to 17% in 2015. It seems that this considerable drop is down to SEO practitioners no longer being fixated on quantity of citations, instead focusing on the top directories and niche service directories only.  Whilst NAP consistency is still important for your top directories, smaller directories can be ignored for NAP consistency. 

 

Personalisation

Covering language, location, browsing history, demographics and interests, personalisation is still limited in its potential for optimisation. 

We’ve decided to focus solely on the local pack side of things here, but the main takeaway point from the survey should 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.

Thank you Conscious Solutions for the great (and more extensive) write-up!