Positioning of Top Legal Directories in 2023
**Updated January 15th, 2023**
The battle between Justia and FindLaw rages every year, but appears to be done now in 2023. Back in 2021, FindLaw was the successor, with roughly 29.63% of the first position searches we conducted in June of 2021. This seems like an extremely high number, and represents nearly a third of all major keywords. Back in 2019, Justia would be seen 37.04% of the time in the top spot. In 2018, it’s hard to believe even Avvo had 25% of 1st position search results.
And now? Justia has a bewildering 56.67% of all first ranking positions.
To reiterate what positions I’m referring to, they are in the following document you can access on Google Sheets:
You can reference the following study using the link below (though it may be somewhat dated):
It also looks like Expertise dropped like a rock, which would be the same fate as Thumbtack as a general directory a few years ago.
This is a testament to two things. First, how one particular website will never consistently dominate results because of the periodic, major Google changes that will continuously dethrone websites that were deemed otherwise immovable. It also shows that the end goal of those managing the SEO of these directories have the coveted number 1 spot in their scopes – anything below 3 to them may as well not even exist, and that’s the mentality we should have with our own websites –– If you’re not first, you’re last.
SuperLawyers is doing pretty well too, but it is clear that there’s only one that truly stands out. And this will be dissected for a follow up slew of SEO takeaways.
The rest of the content in this article outlines some of the trends that remain true throughout the past few years, along with the trajectory of the some of the main legal directories that have been through ups and downs for years.
Keep in mind that while a directory may be a good part of the marketing mix for geo-specific vanity keywords, there is a continuous distancing going on from geo-modified search terms as consumers get more accustomed to customized searches based on location and using long-tailed searches and voice search. We’d expect the overall search volume of directories to continuously dwindle slowly, but they seem to be doing just fine, with this Houston FindLaw subdirectory seeing the benefits correlative to its enhanced positioning:
Just like when Justia saw a boost in rankings the past couple years after a slew of backlinks were directed at the website, we see the exact same situation for FindLaw:
It is somewhat alarming to see the number of referring domains take a large hit. This is normally indicative of an eventual reversal of the ground the website has gained in the recent months, though the graph makes it seem more alarming than it is (the range is only between 116k and 124k, a variation of about 5%, where the variation in total links is much more significant, nearly double).
We’ve seen FindLaw’s directories remain on top for the past year because of their consistency with building links, even though they had already accomplished high rankings.
Even while FindLaw has had objective success as a whole due to striving for higher levels of authority, they don’t always dominate every market, and certainly not every single practice area. For example, websites are normally the powerhouse in the Personal Injury space because of how valuable cases are and how much more expensive directories tend to be for PI and numerous granular practice areas, such as motor vehicle accidents, dog bites, wrongful death, premises liability, and others. FindLaw lags behind on Bankruptcy, where Expertise and a new directory, “Upsolve” (which still rarely competes in the top 5), still compete specifically in that practice area space. SuperLawyers has made more of an effort on the Family law space along with Justia, and websites like Expertise and Avvo will still carve out parts of the first page in less competitive practice areas.
Many of the factors in the following article still carry over a year later:
Anyone Up and Coming?
If you’re in a directory that doesn’t have a single position anywhere on the chart, it is likely a waste of your money. There are well over 100 legal directories, with less than 10 that normally have any positioning. Even so, there are a few that may potentially be worth your attention if the cost is reasonable, and you could use the additional links for your own SEO:
- Attorney Law Magazine
Martindale’s directory and Lawyers.com receive an honorable mention for garnering a 9th position for one search. I didn’t expect to see them pop up at all.
Disclaimer for Directories You’re Still a Part of
If you’ve been on Avvo for years now, here’s a heads up that they’ve not likely ranked top 3 for any short-tailed keywords for a couple years now. It would be important to vet any marketing dollars you spend with them since there is strong documentation to suggest they haven’t been relevant since roughly 2018.
What Does it All Mean?
Traditionally, Justia has had a strong directory; but recently, they have swapped many 1st positions with 2nd positions as FindLaw has nudged them out of the way for nearly a year. I’d expect them to make a push for their link building again by the end of the year.
It’s still bizarre to me to see FindLaw start 2020 with less than 5% of the 1st positions we monitor, and to now jump to as high as almost 30%. Of course it is the link building, as we’ve established, but what kind of link building enables a website to have such a tremendous boost in authority without a correlative amount of referring domains to back it up? Typically, that’d suggest that they acquired many more links from the same places they had received them before. n addition, there has been more of an effort to acquire links on the page-level, meaning the specific pages that rank for quality keywords–– a very effective yet tedious approach to link building.
If you were to look at links specifically on the page level for, let’s say, https://lawyers.findlaw.com/lawyer/firm/motor-vehicle-accidents-plaintiff/houston/texas, you’d see links from Sitelinks.info, couponsale.in, world-history-education-resources.com, and all sorts of bizarre semi-spam links I’ve been seeing in link portfolios for the past 5 years. You’d think that massive directories would be above these types of links or would stay away from these links at all costs, but apparently it can work for just about anyone. Take a look here:
Goes to show Google’s algorithm is still ages away from discriminating poor links:
Accomplish a Complete Marketing Mix
In conclusion, directories are a part of many successful marketing mixes for law firms, but you should confirm which directories appear in your market before committing to one. You should also avoid being locked into a contract for too long because of the fluctuations that will inevitably occur. If you’re considering signing up for a directory as part of a larger marketing plan, we can guide you through the process and make sure all of important information is up to date. Click here for a free consultation.