I'm not big on obsessing over every change Google makes. However, Google's recent "Vicinity Update" seems to be having a significant impact on law firm search results.
Joy Hawkins has covered the update really well here and here, so I'm not going to regurgitate everything she's posted. You should also check Bright Local's Vicinity post. There are also more legal SERP before and afters in The Local Search Forum. Greg Gifford has also put this nice video together.
It looks like there are three things going on here:
The good news is that you've been stuck trying to rank in highly competitive and spammed markets, congratulations! The playing field just got leveled.
Here's my obligatory before and after for Chicago:
Before (November 10, 2021):
After (Jan 5, 2022)
In this particular example, not much seems to have changed from a proximity standpoint. The map and firms listed on the map are similar from a proximity standpoint (they're all essentially clustered in The Loop just south of the Chicago River).
The biggest obvious difference is that none of the "after firms" contain anything about "injury" in their business names.
You wouldn't be able to tell this from this example, but having lived these SERPs for, well, let's just say a long time, there are a few other notable firms that have historically appeared for this query that aren't here either. Those firms had many of the traditional signals we see for strong local pack listings (i.e. Meh, links).
I intentionally didn't publish much on this update to avoid the typical, OMG huge Google update only to be followed, meh, not much changed and reverted mostly reverted back to the mean. This is not the case here (at least as I sit here on Jan 5, 2022).
How did you fair?
Hopefully, if you're using UTM parameters in your Google Busines Profile (GBP, formerly GMB, getting ready to stop referencing the acronym), you can get a really clear picture of the impact of this update in your Google Search Console and Analytics reports.
Whether or not these results hold is still yet to be seen. After all, we're really still only a few weeks out and there have been plenty of examples where updates came, made big changes, and then seemed to fizzle out. If you asked me to predict whether this one will revert (you didn't, but I'll tell you anyway), my guess is that these changes are here to stay, which is a good thing.
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