Did you know that Google made an update (called “Vicinity” by Sterling Sky) the last few months of 2021? As a result, many law firms have seen fluctuations in their local search rankings. Vicinity is the biggest change to the local algorithm since Possum in 2016.
What did Vicinity Change?
The name for the update was chosen because it targets proximity as a ranking factor. While proximity has been essential for local search results, businesses have also been able to optimize to rank highly far from the actual location of their law firm. Vicinity makes this more difficult. As a result, local search results are move relevant to the user.
For your law firm, it means you will not only rank higher in relevant local searches, but it also reduces competition with law firms located further away. This can be a huge advantage if you have numerous competitors located further away from your geographic target.
Another change made by Vicinity is it decreases any advantage of law firms adding keywords to their Google Business Profile (GBP) listing. The inappropriate use of keywords on GBP will now drop a firm’s search rankings. Law firms who follow Google’s guidelines and refrained from keyword stuffing in business names will now see the benefit.
Google’s Possum Update
Prior to Vicinity, the 2016 Possum update was the last big revision to the local search algorithm. Possum improved the filter for results in the Local Pack and Local Finder, which meant that is numerous law firms operated out of the same building, they could be filtered out of the results.
Changes to Local Pack
Google made design improvements to the Local Pack around the same time the Vicinity update rolled out. The redesign of the Local Pack now returns a list of three law firm results on the left (instead of at the bottom) with a map to the right.
The redesign of the Local Pack resulted in some law firms seeing changes to their rankings and traffic. Whether or not this is a direct result of the redesign or not is still unclear.
How will the Vicinity Update Impact You?
Google has stated that businesses should continue to follow the same guidelines for improving their local rankings. To improve rankings, the algorithm still looks at relevance, distance and prominence of your law firm. Additionally, Google recommends you:
- Verify your locations
- Enter complete data
- Maintain accurate business hours
- Manage and reply to reviews
- Add images
You can expect Google to continue to develop and improve the local search algorithm with the goal of improving the user experience. However, your law firm should continue to closely follow the guidelines and adapt to changes in order to achieve ranking success.
SEO strategy seems to be ever-changing and evolving. It is easy to get frustrated, but this most recent change by Google should not impact you too much as long as you are following the guidelines and continue to provide valuable information to users.
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