Lawyers' Real SEO Competition

Gyi Tsakalakis
November 5, 2014

If part of your firm's marketing plan includes earning new clients from organic search, you probably track things like your sites' traffic, rankings and inquiries. You might also track your online competitors. After all, competitive analysis can be a very effective way to identify what other people are doing that is working. But, if you're like many lawyers and legal marketers, you probably focus on other law firms. But here's the thing, your greatest competition online is probably not other law firms. No, your biggest online competition probably comes from online legal directories.

Here's a snapshot of sites that have the most coverage for a group of 32 personal injury related terms across both desktops and smartphones in four major markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.

  • 7.19%
  • 6.25%
  • 5.94%
  • 4.69%
  • 4.69%
  • 3.75%

For this group of 32 personal injury terms, in these markets, for the 320 SERPs that were analyzed, has a top-ten ranking in Google 7.19% of the time. This is the highest for any site. In aggregate these sites, none of them law firm sites, have a top-ten ranking in Google 32.51% of the time.

Obviously, this is a limited data set and your results may be much different for your target keywords and locations. However, my guess is that these sites dominate your SERPs too. And this trend is likely to continue until Google fixes Pigeon and dials back the impact of domain authority.

So, what can be done. Can you compete with these sites in organic search? Generally, at a very high-level, probably not. The resources invested into getting these sites to appear prominently in search results easily eclipses those of the overwhelming majority of law firms. However, on a hyper-local level, you can even the playing field.

The first advantage law firms have over these sites is Google My Business. This is why it should be on your firm's short SEO Checklist. Major legal directory sites can't create Google My Business pages. And notice that is one of the domains listed above. This is largely attributable to Google Maps visibility on smartphones:

Search Tracking   Analytics Tools

The second advantage that law firms have is that they're local. While legal directory sites want to appear "everywhere," most law firms only really need to be visible to their local target audience. So, they can target more local terms on their most authoritative pages (like their home pages). Notice that in the above example three of the top-ten results belong to actual law firms and the page that ranks is the firm's home page. In contrast, the directory sites are ranking internal location + practice area pages. In other words, the firms only need to "beat" the relevant directory pages which are likely to have less authority.

Finally, if you can't beat them, join them. Get your profile listed prominently on the specific legal directory pages that appear prominently for your target terms. This might mean optimizing your profiles within these sites. It might also mean advertising on the sites. While many law firms complain that legal directory advertising is largely ineffective, it's usually because they haven't been strategic about their advertising and aren't closely tracking results (i.e return on ad spend, etc). If ranks prominently for your target keywords, you should probably investigate whether a highly-visible ad on that page would convert for your firm.

The next time you perform a competitive analysis of your target SERPs, make sure you include all of the sites that appear prominently for your target terms, not just other law firms.

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Susan Staupe
Susan Staupe
9 years ago

Great Post GYI! It seems like common sense to have your profile on these properties but i often still get push back! Crazy.

Gyi Tsakalakis
9 years ago
Reply to  Susan Staupe

Thanks for stopping in Susan. I feel your pain. I think a lot of the negative sentiment has been earned from lawyers' historical experiences with directories. And there are plenty of instances where paying for a directory listings / advertisement is a complete waste. But there's little doubt, especially post-pigeon, that directories attract eyeballs from search. And in at least some cases, for some firms, they can generate ROAS.

Joseph Dang
Joseph Dang
9 years ago

The gray font on a white background is hard to read Gyi.

But good article.

Gyi Tsakalakis
9 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Dang

Thanks @josephdang:disqus. Appreciate the feedback too! CSS updated.

Joseph Dang
Joseph Dang
9 years ago
Reply to  Gyi Tsakalakis

No problem.

On a side note, I tried to like your comment. Facebook'itis!

Let's Discuss Your Growth

Helping law firms grow profitably with digital marketing and can prove it.

Barry Conybeare

We are so impressed with AttorneySync and their digital marketing services. We started with an audit of our digital presence and hired them thereafter. Fixes to the website and other platforms quickly followed and we have seen a substantial increase in online traffic, new client calls, and new client contracts. Strongly recommend AttorneySync!

Let's Talk

How can we help?

More From Our Blog

June 8, 2023
On Local Law Firm SEO Rank Tracking and Reporting

Over the years, law firm prospects have sent us reports from just about all of our competitors. Unfortunately, even today, some law firm marketing agencies still mislead their clients via "reporting." One particularly egregious example comes in the form of ranking reports. Which prompted this LinkedIn post. To my surprise, I received a lot of […]

Read More
June 7, 2023
On Attribution

John Wanamaker supposedly said "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." In an an effort to figure out "what half is working," attribution was born. Coupled with a transition from traditional, offline ads to digital media, attribution became the holy grail for analyzing advertising spends. But […]

Read More
March 22, 2023
I asked ChatGPT to Recommend a Personal Injury Law Firm

I recently asked ChatGPT, "What are some of the top personal injury law firms in Chicago?? Actually, first I ask "who are some of the top personal injury lawyers in Chicago?" ChatGPT couldn't handle that one, so I modified the prompt. ChatGPT listed five very well-known firms downtown. Can you guess the other four? That's […]

Read More
February 17, 2023
My Take on Google Search's Guidance on AI-Generated Content & Law Firm SEO

If you're like me, you have some degree of AI, ChatGBT, Bard, exhaustion. Now don't get me wrong, this is stuff is remarkable and is changing, well, a lot. But before you hook up the ChatGPT API to your WordPress API and crank out 10,000 pages, here are a few things to think about. Let's […]

Read More
February 16, 2023
Google Adds New SEO Best Practices for Links

If you know me, you know my opinions about links and SEO advice from Google. If you don't, here's the TL;DR: Meh, links! Meaning, all things being equal, links still remain a competitive difference maker for ranking. Take Google's SEO advice with several grains of salt. Google has no economic incentive to help your site […]

Read More
February 1, 2023
Authenticity & Engagement

The best marketing advice I can give you is to be authentic. Of course, you don't find that very helpful in terms of meeting your growth goals. So, you might decide to game the system. As I'm writing this, one of the more popular ways to gain the system is to pay for engagement. This […]

Read More
January 19, 2023
ChatGPT for Legal Marketing

The following post was written by ChatGPT. ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is a state-of-the-art language model that can generate human-like text based on a given prompt or context. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way that businesses, including law firms, market themselves to potential clients. One way that a law firm could use […]

Read More
May 26, 2022
SEO Expectations for Law Firms

How long does SEO take? When can I expect to see results? What results should I expect to see? These are all reasonable questions that we field from lawyers every day. And, like many legal answers, the answer is: It depends. Yes, I know that's not the answer you wanted. But it's the most honest […]

Read More
May 6, 2022
Who Should Do Marketing?

And how much time should they spend doing it? I recently had the privilege of chatting with Tyson, Jim, and Conrad for an upcoming episode of The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. If you're not familiar with The Maximum Lawyer community, you should definitely check it out. Jim asked a really great question about who should do […]

Read More

Let's Discuss

Questions or comments? Let's discuss on social!
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram