Revealed: The Top Search Ranking Factors For Local Businesses

Most searches for legal services are local in nature.

So how do you make sure your site rankings in the Maps 3-Pack, and in Google’s organic listings for relevant local searches?

Optimizing for local search results can get confusing (and overwhelming) pretty quickly, with over 300 ranking signals having been identified by professionals from the top law firm SEO services


screenshot of the local maps 3-pack in Google search results



From a big-picture perspective, optimizing for local search really comes down to just a few things.

  • Trust
  • Relevance
  • Authority



You have to build trust with the search engines. Google wants to know that:

  • You are who you say you are
  • you’re located where you say you’re located
  • you actually do what you say you do (your services)

Building trust takes time. Time, effort, and resources.

How do you build trust with a search engine?

You need votes, and you need consistency.

Votes = Trust

Every backlink you acquire from a high-quality, authoritative website is like a ‘vote’ in Google’s eyes. The more ‘votes’ you have the more trust you earn with Google.

Consistency builds on that trust

The more Google sees consistent information across the internet that corroborates things such as the information in your Google My Business listing, the more certain the algorithm can be that the information is correct.

Think about it this way.

When you create a Google My Business listing for your firm, Google actually has no way of knowing if you’re a real business or not.

Sure, they send you a verification postcard, but Maps search results in many industries are full of fake, spammy listings that aren’t legitimate, local businesses.

The search engines don’t dispatch a real person to physically verify that it’s really you, and that you actually have an office at the location you listed in your GMB profile.

Remember, the algorithm is just a machine. It’s a computer.

So Google has to rely on the next most viable option to determine if they should trust you… which is to use the information they find about your business in other places online to confirm what you’ve told them.


You have to build relevance in the eyes of the search engine algorithms for the searches that are important to your practice area(s).

Building relevance also takes time, effort, and resources.


At the same time that you’re building trust, and relevance with the search engines, you also have to increase the authority of your website.

Google My Business (GMB) Signals

Primary GMB Category

It’s very important to choose the most appropriate primary category for your GMB listing. If there is a primary category available that more closely matches your practice area than a generic category like lawyer, or law firm – choose the more specific category.

For example, most criminal defense (and DUI) attorneys select ‘criminal justice lawyer’ as their primary GMB category.

Not surprisingly, attorneys at personal injury firms choose ‘personal injury lawyer’ as their primary category.

After you’ve chosen the most specific category available relating to your practice area, then you want to choose several secondary GMB categories.

Secondary GMB Categories

Your work isn’t done once you’ve selected the primary category for your GMB listing. You also want to add several supporting categories to your listing as well.

Categories like lawyer, and law firm are generic, but they will be useful when you ‘theme’ inner-pages on your website for additional, or sub-practice areas.

Site Mirroring – Step 1

It’s important to include your primary Google My Business category in the h1 header tag on the appropriate page of your website – the page with the theme that most closely matches that category.

Example: A criminal defense attorney with a single office location would include the primary GMB category ‘criminal justice lawyer’ in the h1 header tag on the home page of his or her site.

You want Google to see your primary category reflected prominently in the HTML code of the appropriate page on your website.

Site Mirroring – Step 2

Uploading a collection of images to your Google My Business listing is an important part of optimizing your profile.

Some examples of the types of images you should upload to GMB are:

  • images of individual attorneys in your firm
  • group images of your attorneys
  • images of the interior of your office
  • images of the exterior of your office location
  • Images of your signage
  • images of billboards or other advertising assets
  • images of awards your firm has won
  • seals and logos of recognition you have received

For example, if you’ve been named a Top 100 Attorney, that’s the type of recognition you’d want to upload a seal or logo for to your GMB images.