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How Proximity Impacts Localized Google Organic Results for Law Firms

Two Keywords, One City, 72 Postal Codes, Five Different Law Firms

Earlier this year Juris Digital released a great case study on How Proximity Impacts Law Firm Rankings in Google’s Local Pack. This was one of the most insightful studies that came out in 2018 and totally changed how we analyzed our clients rankings moving forward.

We wanted to do a case study in the spirit of the Juris Digital study but focusing on the localized organic results instead of the 3-Pack results. Given that the localized organic algorithm is separate from the local pack algorithm we hypothesized that we would see a much different result than what Juris Digital discovered. That is exactly what happened.

What We Analyzed

  • We analyzed 144 searches (72 searches for “Personal Injury Lawyer” and 72 searches for “Personal Injury Lawyer Toronto”)
  • We performed the search with and without the city modifier across 72 postal codes, in one city, Toronto
  • We analyzed the top three localized organic results

Key Takeaways

  • Only 5 different law firms appeared in the top three localized organic results across 144 searches
  • One of the law firms appeared in the top three results 100% of the time
  • Because you can dominate the localized organic search results across a city and multiple zip codes, a top organic spot has the potential to drive more traffic than Google My Business when you only rank in a few zip codes.
  • When the city modifier was added, Yelp appeared in the top three results 90% of the time. Without the city modifier, Yelp appeared 0% of the time.
  • The Wikipedia page for “Personal Injury Lawyer” appeared in the search results nine times when the city modifier was added.
  • When the city modifier was removed the Wikipedia page would appear as a mini knowledge panel 100% of the time.

Localized Organic Rankings for “Personal Injury Lawyer” and “Personal Injury Lawyer Toronto” Across 72 Postal Codes

Law Firm Name% of searches they appeared in top three local organic
Neinstein Firm100% of the time
Preszler Injury Lawyers94% of the time
Mazin & Associates43% of the time
Grillo Law5% of the time
Diamond & Diamond2% of the time

Do the five law firms that dominate the localized organic results exhibit characteristics identified in the Local Search Ranking Factors?

Just last week Darren Shaw and Moz published the 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors study results. Since the localized organic results for “Personal Injury Lawyer” and “Personal Injury Lawyer Toronto” are so heavily dominated by five law firms across the entire city of Toronto I thought it would be insightful to see how they stack up against a few of the “Localized Organic Ranking Factors”.


Firm NameDomain Authority of Website (using ahrefs)Quantity of Inbound Links to DomainMobile-friendly/Responsive Website
Geographic (City/Neighborhood) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content
Neinstein Firm3716,200YesYes
Preszler Injury Lawyers349,800YesYes
Mazin & Associates341,490YesYes
Grillo Law265,530YesYes
Diamond & Diamond4815,600YesYes

All five firms are strong in the ranking factors identified in the LSRF study. This is what I was expecting to see.

What’s really insightful to me after analyzing the localized organic results across the entire city of Toronto is that it is possible to dominate the search results which is the opposite result when Juris Digital analyzed the three pack results. So if you are a law firm in a big city you can dominate the local organic results but don’t expect the same results for your three pack rankings.

If you or any of your clients are also in a big city in the personal injury space here are some things that I would actively be doing, based on the results of this analysis:

  1. Check your main keywords across all the zip or postal codes in your city. Pay attention to your competitors who dominate the top three localized organic. After the first three positions the businesses that show up tend to be less consistent so there is something special about the top three results.
  2. Cross reference what you can be doing in relation to the local organic section of the 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors survey. What factors are the top three competitors crushing you at?  Prioritize the tasks that will help you catch up.

Questions?  Please leave them in the comments.





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Colan Nielsen

Colan started in the local SEO world back in 2010 and is also deemed a product expert by Google as a Top Contributor on the Google My Business Forum. He is a contributor to Moz’s famous Local Search Ranking Factors survey and is a former Google MapMaker Regional Lead. Read Colan's full bio here.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Thanks for this helpful study!
    I’ve also noticed, in Orlando, the local pack is much, much more varied than the organic search results. I’ve noticed that my local pack changes frequently over time, geographic search area and with minor variations in the KWs. However, my organic SERP ranking has stayed virtually the same for months. After reading your article, I tried out about 10 Orlando zip code KW searches and my results were similar to your study.

  2. I think the biggest takeaway is definitely the quantity of incoming links shown. To have over (or near) 10K in links is a very notable piece of this puzzle. The other piece is definitely geo-location. A search for “Personal Injury Lawyer Toronto” here in Atlanta shows Neinstein in position 1, Grillo barristers in position 3, and a Rogers Thomas in position 2, which didn’t show up for ANY of your research.

    Google continually changes their story on what they claim to assess when making decisions on their ranking algorithms, but for organic listings it has always primarily narrowed its focus to authority and content quantity. The other pieces are only applicable to their other properties outside of their standard Google SERP. Elements such as social signals (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are applicable to their news and trends areas, geo is applicable to their mapping areas, etc. There are some pieces that get cross pollinated such as reviews (used in maps and knowledge boxes, ads, etc.), photos and other pieces.

    Business should do everything to make sure that they are utilizing everything that Google offers since they are actively optimizing how those elements are used to enhance their engine literally every day. Give them the resources they’re asking for and win.

    1. I couldn’t agree more about giving Google the resources they are asking for. So many businesses aren’t even aware of half the features available to them by the big G.

      That’s very insightful regarding what you are seeing in your search from Atlanta. I’ve been doing some searches from outside the city and I am seeing some very interesting results too.

      Thank you for weighing in.

  3. Very informative.
    Where do you recommend someone fairly new to all of this begins?
    Do you have a list of SEO, AdWords etc providers you recommend?

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