For law firms looking to capture the attention of prospective clients, simply having an online presence is not enough. Being a successful law firm involves finding out who your local competitors are so that you can devise effective marketing strategies that will help you stand out.
With the diversification of Google’s search results, determining your true local competitors is no longer a straightforward exercise. Gone are the days of a single, unanimous number one that dominates all search rankings. The reality is that searchers are shown different results depending on multiple factors such as their query and location. For example, a searcher on the west side of a city may see an entirely different ranking of local businesses if they travel east or alter their search terms.
While there are many rank checking tools available on the market, they can yield inconsistent data about competitors. As a result, it becomes necessary to examine trends and patterns rather than taking rankings at face value.
Along with dedicating time and resources to boosting your law firm’s online search visibility, being creative in your approach to search engine optimization techniques can help set you apart from competitors in your area. In this vein, Moz offers a simple methodology that involves auditing your law firm’s competitive landscape in order to identify who its true local competitors are.
1) Understand local packs
Performing a basic Google search will help you understand what a local pack is. When you search for a business or service online, Google displays the most relevant results where your location is of key importance.
The search engine uses the accuracy and prominence of local citations to determine three businesses that get shown on its local pack, which is the map at the top of organic search results. The local pack displays three physical location listings for a particular search query based on what Google deems is most relevant to the keyword.
2) Create a spreadsheet
Law firms can start the local competitor research process by entering their top seven keyword phrases into a spreadsheet. For example, they can be “personal injury lawyer,” “personal injury lawyer near me,” “personal injury lawyer San Francisco.” Conduct searches for these phrases from a computer located at your law firm’s physical office. Fill out the spreadsheet with the names of the three local pack competitors you see for each of the seven phrases.
Google gives great consideration to the searcher’s proximity to a business when generating search results. Therefore, conducting these searches from your law firm office is the best way to determine what searchers in your area are likely to see among their local results.
3) Measure distances
For this part, lawyers will need to use Google’s directions feature. Enter your law firm’s address in one field and the address of the first competitor on your spreadsheet into the other. Note down the distance between them on the spreadsheet. Repeat this process for all the law firms listed in each of the seven local packs.
In the second column of the spreadsheet, enter the greatest distance of the three listings that Google appears to be going for each of the seven keyword phrases.
4) Identify competitors by strength
The final step involves ranking competing law firms by the number of times each one appears across all seven local packs so that you are left with one concise list. Going through this process will help you identify the dominant competitors in your market, depending on how many times they rank in the packs.
Using the methodology presented by Moz can help law firms find out who their direct local competitors are for their most desired searches. It also sheds a light on how far Google is willing to go to make up a local pack for each search term.
While the process is likely to be straightforward and quick for single-location law firms, it may be too time-consuming for practices that have multiple locations. Nevertheless, the takeaway is that instead of limiting their market research to a single local pack, law firms can use the methodology to observe a pattern of dominant market-wide competitors. The knowledge can then be applied to a marketing strategy to yield greater, focused success.