Google’s First Page Results for Lawyers Explained: The 2021 Guide
Google’s search result pages (SERPs) are changing daily and whether your law firm is focusing on paid ads or organic is helpful to know what is “truly” on the first page as well as making sure your taking every advantage for your site to rank. Your location, search history, as well as a number of other personal factors will always mean that these results vary from person to person – the results below should be accurate enough in your locale.
We’re going to be covering a number of common questions about the first page SERPs for lawyers:
- How can I tell which areas in Google’s search results are paid or organic?
- What are the newest paid or PPC listings available to lawyers?
- How do I get my photo and star ranking at the top of Google’s search results?
- Why doesn’t my site’s organic listing show reviews, sitelinks, or FAQs?
- What are the People Also Ask section and how can I get my law firm in them?
The search results of 2021 are a much different sight than even just 2-3 years ago.
So what’s the big picture here?
Don’t bore us – get to the chorus. Here are a few different results pages for some various practice and location search phrases. It’s worth mentioning these are fairly high with regards to search intent – so you’ll notice that these search terms that could potentially be from an audience ready to contact a lawyer garner a lot of ads in the SERPs.
The results below are for your standard “State” + “Practice Area” result – in this case Ohio personal injury attorney. This is a snapshot of the entire first page of search results before you even hit the standard organic results. For this combination of search terms I labeled the different paid and organic sections with the letters A through D.
How can I tell which areas in Google’s search results are paid or organic?
To either the immediate left (for text ads) or to the immediate right (for local service ads) you can see either the words “Ad” or “Sponsored” next to your paid listings. The remaining SERP features are organic including the Map Pack, People Also Ask section, as well as the core organic listings.
The screenshot below shows a typical SERPs page:
A standard “state” + “practice area” search result for 2021 – in this case Ohio personal injury attorney.
Section A: Google Screened Local Services (PAID)
This is a fairly new section, and only enabled in select US verticals – lucky for us lawyers are included in that mix. You can find a full mix of the services that can use this feature here.
While this is a paid service, the initial offers look as if you are paying per lead from these ads as opposed to the often inflated CPC prices of standard text ads. As these listings are tied into your Google MyBusiness page – you’ll need to not only make sure your physical location is covered, but also look into the sometimes extensive screening process that this involves.
Make no mistake though – there’s a reason why these are now at the top of attorney search results, and paying per lead can mean big savings when you are working with a smaller PPC budget.
Section B: Standard Pay Per Click Text Ads (PAID)
Now that the exciting new attorney local service ads are through we can move onto the bread and butter of SERPs the text ads.
The tried and true (and blue) Google text ads.
While the text ads have certainly changed over the years (think phone numbers, reviews, sitelinks) the text ads still is a permanent presence in the search results, especially for attorneys.
While you’ll be paying some of the highest CPC rates in the US for these personal injury ads the potentially large payoffs make them a risk worth taking.
Section C: Google MyBusiness Listings (Organic)
As we enter the organic portions of Google 1st page SERPs for lawyers we finally find some opportunity for without the PPC budget to start making some headway. The trade-off here is that you can’t fake your way up the MyBusiness listings.
Reviews and Local Citations drive your ranks in this section (amongst other factors)
The competitiveness of the local SEO in your MyBusiness locale is going to vary depending on how close you are to larger cities, as well as what practice area you focus on. Generally you’ll find smaller towns easier to rank in but that tradeoff comes with less search volume.
To grow your listings here, you’ll at a very high level need to:
- fully flesh out and claim your Google MyBusiness profile with your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP)
- claim and fill out any and all local citations with the same NAP (the number and quality depends on your locale)
- drive real reviews to those MyBusiness profiles
The journey to the top here is longer the larger the city you’re in, but a huge driver for qualified traffic.
Section D: The People Also Ask Questions (ORGANIC)
This section is a really great way for content marketing focused firms to jump their way to the top results without needing the (in some cases) years of backlinking.
These results drop down and give you an excerpt (and link) to a page that gives the best description of the query. These questions are great fodder for blog posts and FAQ sections, as they typically come from a database of the most searched and relevant who/what/where/when/why/how type questions that uses searching for your query are using.
The organic traffic potential from these results is incredibly large and driving users to your site when they are searching for these informational queries can help you build brand awareness as they move deeper down the sales funnel.
Section E: Finally The Pure Organic Results (Organic)
Now that we’ve slogged through the plethora of paid and geographic and FAQ based features we can finally reach the “real” organic results everyone is making such a big deal of.
While these results lack the flashiness of the paid and local results, they remain some of the highest converting and highly coveted spots – especially for your standard “state + practice” type legal query.
The example results here in particular display a nice mix of different rich snippets that you can (with effort) make sure your site is ready to display at a technical level. These are typically reserved for the 1st and 2nd page results, so just because your site is full of markup doesn’t guarantee a review snippet or FAQ drop down.
Below are these organic features explained in more detail:
Section E1: Your Standard Organic Result
The first result in our example is a no-frill organic result devoid of all the bells and whistles you see on this SERP. Surprisingly they rank first organically without the extensive mark-up you need to trigger some of our other snippets below.
This standard organic result has (from the top down) your:
- Shortened URL / Breadcrumb Tree
- Page Title or Google Choice of Page Title
- Meta Description
Section E2: The Review Rich Snippet
The organic listing below happens to have both the review snippet, as well as the drop down FAQs. Together they bring a huge amount of attention to the listing in the SERPs which would potentially increase the CTR to your website from Google, but in this case the review snippet is what we’re focusing on here.
Getting this result to show (as with most rich snippets) is not automatic once implemented – you’re still at the mercy of Google as to whether that shows up or not.
Implementing schema markup (preferably via JSON) on your pages will allow you setup this feature at the very least on your side.
Section E3: The FAQ Drop Down Rich Snippet
This is one of the newer organic snippets that we’re seeing in search results and a close cousin of the People Also Ask section. Again you can optimize your pages to show these types of results, but having the markup and seeing in the search results are two different beasts.
These commonly asked questions appear on the page that’s showing in these search results, and typically you’ll see these marked up with FAQ schema. Focusing your on-page efforts on these page-specific questions (mine your search results for ideas) is going to be something that pleases both the People Also Ask section, and gives you this rich snippet potential.
Section E4: The Sitelinks Rich Snippet
Not to be left behind the fancier organic rich snippets is the sitelinks organic snippet. Sitelinks used to be designated through Google Webmaster Tools (pre Search Console) but now primarily depend on your site hierarchy and Google’s discretion as to when they show up.
These snippets will typically show up when a site’s homepage is ranking (as is present in this case) compared to an internal practice area page.
Very clearly navigable sub-practice pages can also enable this snippet on a standard practice page.
Does your law firm has these snippets covered?
A core component of any legal SEO strategy is to make sure your site is technically able to trigger these kind of rich snippet results. They make huge increases to your CTR from search results when active, and once they are setup there’s very little upkeep.
If you’re having some trouble triggering your snippets or want to learn more about how we can help you don’t hesitate to reach out or call us directly at 215.621.6436.
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