What the ‘Vicinity Update’ Means for Your Law Firm

What the ‘Vicinity Update’ Means for Your Law Firm

Have you recently noticed changes with your local search ranking? Google's Vicinity Update, implemented in Dec. 2021, may be responsible.

Many law firms have noticed major changes in their local search rankings since the beginning of the year due to the update to the local search algorithm. This is Google's biggest change to the local search algorithm since the Possum Update the Possum Update in 2016, and has caused major ranking fluctuations that may be affecting your firm.

What is the Vicinity Update?

The Vicinity Update changed the algorithm for local searches. Sterling Sky named this update “the Vicinity Update” because of the increased value of proximity in local searches. Proximity has always been a factor in the local search algorithm, but the Vicinity Update has increased its value to make local search results more relevant for users. Not only has the importance of proximity increased, but Google has devalued the use of keywords in business names, which prevents businesses from successfully ranking far from their actual location.

The Vicinity update corresponds to an update to the layout of the map pack. The map (previously a rectangle above search results) is now a square located on the right of search results and shows more businesses that weren't visible before.

What did the Vicinity Update Change?

The Vicinity Update has influenced the rankings of many businesses’ local search results. Businesses with keywords in their business name, and businesses that have been ranking high in areas away from their location have seen significant drops in their rankings since the Vicinity Update. However, many businesses are seeing improved rankings since the Vicinity Update. These businesses include those that do not have keywords in their business name (particularly those in any industry with a lot of keyword-rich business names and scams to field), and second locations for well-known businesses.

The previous local search algorithm allowed businesses to avoid the proximity factor and often rewarded keyword stuffing business names (despite this being against Google's Guidelines). With the Vicinity Update we will no longer see businesses benefit from keyword stuffing. We will also see more businesses with greater opportunities to rank because they will no longer be competing with business from other locations.

A representative of Google said, while discussing the Vicinity Update, “We’re constantly exploring ways to connect people with the helpful information that they’re seeking. We’re currently rolling out an update to the Search interface on desktop so when people search for places or businesses nearby, like ‘parks near me’ or ‘restaurants near me,’ they’ll easily see local results on the left and a map on the right. We expect this to be broadly available over the coming weeks.”

What Does This Mean for You?

The Vicinity Update affects some businesses more than others. One of the industries that is seeing the biggest change is the legal industry. Many law firms have keywords in the business name that affected their ranking. Also, firms had to compete with fake listings that were ranking higher than legitimate law firms. After this change, ads in both of those categories have seen drops in rankings, while other law firms have seen increases.

The Vicinity update likely changed the efficacy of your SEO. To boost visibility Google Recommends that firms:

  • Enter complete data
  • Verify locations
  • Keep opening hours accurate
  • Manage and respond to reviews
  • Add photos

The goal of any updates Google makes is to improve the user experience. Your firm will have to learn to continuously adapt to these updates to rank for relevant searches. This may seem daunting, but we can help.

How ProSites Can Help:

Google Ads and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be confusing, and Google's continuous updates make it hard for attorneys like you to keep up with best practices. Fortunately, we have many resources to help you market your law firm. We offer customizable solutions to bring in new business for your firm. These solutions include our SEO for Lawyers program to help drive traffic to your site, our Local Services Ads program, and more. These can help you navigate the Vicinity Update, and other unexpected Google updates and changes as they come up. We are here to manage your online marketing, so you don’t have to. We’ll keep up with Google updates, like the Vicinity Update for you, so you can focus on the most important thing, winning cases.

To learn more about how we can help you manage the Vicinity Update, reach out to ProSites Legal Today!