About a year ago, we spent a good amount of time seeing what different search results looked like in cities across the country for distinct practice areas. Excluding Adwords (almost entirely always made up of law firms) and local maps (always made up of law firms), we still have the coveted 10 positions that comprise the first page of Google results. If you want to reference what we found in February of 2018, check out that blog here.
Being that Google released documentation overhauling content standards in the summer of 2018 and major algorithm updates in September 2018, we would have thought that the new “EAT” standards (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) would have been heavily lost on directories. Even though the sites largely have significant authority, it would be logical to deduce that directories should take a hit because they don’t offer the content and trust on all the topics available the way that legal landing pages do. Oddly enough, plenty of directories, especially Justia, seemed to do better after the implementation of EAT.
Why is that so? Consider the FindLaw Directory below ranking high for an extremely valuable keyword like “Phoenix Car Accident Lawyer”:
The results focus heavily on the different lawyers, offering zero real value as far as content is concerned. The content on the side is about as basic and generic as you could imagine and thus lacks substance. It’s hard to believe this content is considered “expert” content, authoritative, or even trustworthy.
“Need Help With A Motor Vehicle Accident Matter? You’ve come to the right place.”
And you can bet that line has been used a few times, as in maybe 41,400 different times.
Legal Directories Satisfying Google’s New Content Standards
What is it about https://www.expertise.com/ga/savannah/personal-injury-attorney that serves its purpose? Justia, often ranking toward the top for plenty of great keywords, looks like this https://www.justia.com/lawyers/personal-injury/georgia/savannah
Any content having to prove trustworthiness and authority is practically absent until you get a snippet all the way at the bottom. The snippet (which takes a lot of scrolling down to get to) features generic legal lingo that is also shown on plenty of other websites. Why did a content-oriented Google algorithm update with so much emphasis on improving the quality of content itself benefit directories devoid of it?
The short answer is that link building is still king. The authority of these directories is far superior to any legal website anyone possesses now or ever. But is there something else to learn from these directories that we can apply to our own websites, besides ending at a fruitless rant with no takeaways? First, let’s look at how the results from last year compared to this year:
Above you can see what type of website takes each position. 40.74% of the time, the first legal search result is a website from a law firm rather than a legal directory. When you start glancing at the chart below, you’ll be able to see which directories found some more ground and which lost it. This information is immediately helpful in seeing if it is an impetus to re-evaluating if the directories you’re paying for are still trending in the right direction for market dominance. Most directories, on average, did gain more ground. Just because Justia averaged a 13.52% decline across visibility in our searches doesn’t mean that its ascension to number one spots can be dismissed — it’s quite impressive. The only directories that substantively lost some ground are FindLaw and Thumbtack.
Below we can also take a look at what directories seem to still be asserting dominance based off of practice areas:
Drawing Conclusions from Directory Performance
For some of my clients, it is seemingly plausible that their listings on legal directories have gotten a boost in recent months. Statistically, however, it seems that individual law firm websites are continuing to make strides, which is a good thing.
Now, how about that huge jump from Justia going from parts of the first page to the top spot so many times?
This can be the result of hundreds of variables, but when it is this clear, many other factors seem to take a step back. The zealousness of an aggressive link building campaign has, in turn, proved the trend considering that, if you look at the website, the content is not on the forefront nor does it convey the new virtues of EAT.
2019 – have your content in good EAT order, have a dynamic yet fast website, and have a solid link building plan in place or you’re dust.
It’s Time to Build an Aggressive Campaign
The effective marketing team at Market My Market has helped hundreds of law firms stay ahead of Google algorithm updates. Our goal is to help your law firm generate more revenue from quality leads. Find out how our methods can work for your legal practice through a free legal marketing consultation.