Study Shows that Online Reviews Might Impact Local Rankings

Recent research has revealed that your law firm’s online reviews might have impact on your place in local search rankings.

Local SEO: A Refresher

Recall that search engines use data from each individual searcher to create a results page that are unique, adapting to satisfy a user’s intent as accurately as possible. In concrete English, this means that, every time you search for something online, Google and other search engines make note of, collect, and use as much information as they can on the following issues:

  • Your location while conducting the search
  • Your past internet history, including what you have searched for and what websites you have clicked through to, on the search engine results page (SERP)
  • Your age
  • Your gender
  • What type of device you’re using, including whether it’s a mobile phone or desktop computer

There are plenty of other topics that search engines pay attention to, but we’re focused on the first one: Your location.

By noting your location, Google can provide unique results that are based on where you are searching from. This is especially important to people who run a business that pulls most of its business from the surrounding area, as many brick-and-mortar businesses do.

Including law firms.

The “Local Box”

Using your location, Google creates the “local box” in searches that lists results that are most likely to relevant and important, based on where you are:

Google customer review program in local SEO box

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.

Getting in this local box, therefore, should be a significant goal of your law firm’s SEO efforts if you rely on business from the surrounding area.

New Study Suggests that Reviews Might Play a Part in Local Rankings

A new study published on Search Engine Land has found that your online reviews might—just might—impact your ranking in the local box.

Back in late May, in an attempt to bolster the reliability of its online review program, Google deleted old online reviews that had been done by anonymous profiles (you can’t leave online Google reviews without a profile, anymore, because the search engine found them to be unreliable). Noting this, local SEO expert Joy Hawkins found that approximately 3% of all online reviews were removed. She then looked for the business that had lost the most online reviews, and checked to see whether they had fallen in the local rankings, as well.

While her case study is limited, she did find that there seemed to be a correlation in lost reviews and lost local ranking. The severity of the ranking loss, however, did not have a one-to-one connection to the lost reviews, though: Two sites lost the same percentage of their online reviews (56%) but one dropped two spots in the local results, while the other dropped five spots.

The Takeaways

Online reviews might impact local SEO ranking for law firmsThere are a few takeaways from this study:

  1. If your law firm lost prominent in the local box in late May, it could have been because of this purge of online reviews
  2. If your firm did suffer, ask satisfied clients to review your law firm on Google (and on Facebook and any other reviewable platform your firm uses) so you can recover
  3. Take online reviews seriously, including negative reviews
  4. As we’ve highlighted numerous times in the past, Google is moving away from traditional search signals and towards user intent signals—paying less attention to things that you can do with your law firm’s website, like hone its keyword density, and more attention to how readers interact with your site

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