Peter BoydGoogle Places for Law Firms: Why does a Law Firm Rank High?

Update: Check out our updated list of Google Places Factors.

Ever wondered why a law firm ranks high on a Google Places map?  We did too.
PaperStreet’s study of Google places for law firms is now complete. We selected five cities and reviewed what law firms rank high for a specific phrase in the first seven slots (A-G).

Quick Findings & Recommendations

In no particular order:

  • Every listing was claimed.  So claim yours today.  It is easy and quick.
  • Most listings had videos.  Create a video, upload to YouTube and upload to your listing.
  • Most listings had photos.  Again, upload photos to your listings.
  • The top spots had a lot of reviews.  Moreover, most of the listings had reviews.  Get clients to review you on Google.
  • At a Glance should contain your keyword phrases.  Most used a direct match and practice area terms such as:  “criminal defense lawyer”, “criminal defense attorney”, “defense attorneys” and other practice areas.
  • Headlines, for the most part, were the firm name.  But some split in a keyword phrase too (although I think that is against Google’s guidelines).
  • Categories should contain keyword phrases.  Definitely have “attorney” as your category, along with “criminal justice attorney,” “criminal attorney,”  “criminal lawyer,” and some of your specific practice areas.
  • Website addresses were either firm name or keyword phrases.  Since it was a mix, this is not a critical factor.  However, we personally recommend clients to select keyword phrase domains.
  • Top search results tended to include the keyword phrase in the title tag. Make sure your website is SEO’d.
  • Page Authority for all the sites was high for law firms and the top site was generally the highest. Make sure your website has a program in place to gain authority online.  This can be through manual link building, directory registration, social media, blogging, writing articles, getting press, or ideally becoming the best resource online in your area.  Top sites have a Page Authority of 40 (Denver) to 60 (Miami).  Most were in the 50s.  The greater the Page Authority, the higher your site tends to rank.  Very few sites had a Page Authority lower than 40.
  • Root Domains and Total Links were also very high for top ranked sites.  Again, make sure you are getting inbound links from your website from a wide variety of other top-ranked and trusted websites.  One website had 7,932 total links and 1,376 root domains (although it was not the highest slot).  Most top ranked sites had several hundred root domains and three to five times that in total links.
  • Location. Location. Location.  Overall, most listings in the first seven slots were within the city center in those areas.  Some were on the outskirts of the city (Atlanta and Miami), but for the most part they were within the downtown core.  Make sure you have an office address within your city, however, as that is basically a requirement.


The cities selected for our study were:  Boston, Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and Denver.  This is a good mix of mid-size to large cities.
The term selected for each was Criminal Lawyer.  For instance, we used “Miami Criminal Lawyer”, “Denver Criminal Lawyer”, “Atlanta Criminal Lawyer”, “Boston Criminal Lawyer” and “Orlando Criminal Lawyer”.


In each area we measured the following areas:

  • Rank on Google Places
  • Name
  • Website Address
  • Reviews
  • Whether Claimed by the Owner
  • Categories
  • Headlines
  • At a Glance
  • Paragraph
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Page Authority (as reported by SEOMoz & OSE)
  • Root Domains (as reported by SEOMoz & OSE)
  • Total Links (as reported by SEOMoz & OSE)
  • Citation Search of Address & Number of Citations

Want to check our data?  Download the Excel file here.  Note that the data was from early March 2012, so the results may have changed since this time.

Update: Check out our updated list of Google Places Factors.

Comments? Let us know your thoughts.

4 Responses to Google Places for Law Firms: Why does a Law Firm Rank High?

  1. Jonathon Monk
    2:54 am on May 1st, 2012

    Very good post, backs up my experience that a top Google Places listing in a competative market is just as much about overall site SEO.

    Like you say, I have also found that getting lots of reviews is very helpfull. The issue though that I’ve experienced and I know many other businesses have as well is incentivising clients to actually give the Google review, for if a client is not already signed up with a Google account this can take a little time.

    Some of my clients have used vouchers with special offers to help incentivise their clients along with a guide as to what they are to do. Is there anything you’ve done to help the actual Google Review process?

  2. Matthew Hunt
    7:53 am on May 3rd, 2012

    nice work guys! no real surprises but always good to have some data to back things up.

  3. Neil Ferree
    2:15 pm on May 5th, 2012

    This is a good case study and while your niche was “legal” your methodology applies to the majority of the SMBs that want their GP listing to compete in their specific niche.

  4. Cullen Powell
    1:02 pm on November 16th, 2012

    Ranking high in Google Places can make a huge impact on your business, that’s for certain. Just be careful if you hire a marketing company to increase your rankings, because a lot of them use blackhat methods that can do a lot of damage to your rankings in the long run. – Cullen Powell, Grizzly Internet Marketing

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