Three Months Later: The Impact of the Google Vicinity Update

Jon Robinson (00:02):
The last video that I shared with you all was around the Google vicinity update which finished rolling out around the middle of December. Started in November, finished in December. Really, that was aimed at targeting two main things that we were seeing run rampant within the local search space, not just for law firms but for any local business. They were being significantly impacted by two significant factors. First is target keyword within the name of the business in the Google My Business Profile or now the Google Business Profile. Second is a re-shifting of proximity as a ranking factor.

Jon Robinson (00:37):
We’re going to dive into two of these factors real quick just as a refresher and what the vicinity update was, and then we’re going to talk about what we’ve seen happen since the finalization of this update in the middle of December. First is keyword within the business name. This is a business, more specifically a law firm, but this did impact all businesses, taking the keywords that they were trying to rank highly for and putting them within the business name. Instead of, for example, John’s law firm, it was John’s personal injury law firm or John’s car accident attorney.

Jon Robinson (01:10):
Prior to the rollout of this update, that was very effective in helping your business rank highly on Google Maps for local search for those target keywords. After the vicinity update rolled out, what we saw was not that the presence of one of those keywords within your business name hurt you but that it was no longer helping you as much as it was helping you before. I’ve talked to a lot of law firms. I’ve read a lot in other industries about what’s going on here and really what we have been seeing is that the added boost that a business was getting before for having these target keywords within their business name, again legitimately or not, really is no longer present.

Jon Robinson (01:54):
It may feel like you were penalized in this update if you have your target keywords within your business name but the reality is, is that it’s no longer helping you as much as it was helping you before, if at all. The second factor is proximity, and this was much more impactful. As we’ve seen this update have impact across all local search industries, specifically with law firms, this had a very specific impact which I’m going to share with you right now. Proximity was a re-weighted ranking factor for the vicinity update. What this means is when they released the vicinity update Google said we are no longer allowing large businesses to have as much visibility within a local vicinity or proximity to the searcher as they had once before, if they are far away from the searcher.

Jon Robinson (02:54):
Businesses that are very close to the person who is searching are now going to have a higher ability to rank higher than businesses that are further away. Prior to the vicinity update, we were seeing large regional law firms with offices within a major city or outside of a major city really expand its sphere of influence well beyond the traditional five to 15 mile radius that we see working for a local business. In the law firm space, specifically we’re referring to very, very large or midsize law firms that were really just dominating local areas where they didn’t have a physic office.

Jon Robinson (03:40):
Think of a law firm that, or a city that is dotted with a lot of local personal injury law firms in a downtown area and then you’ve got a big, strong, powerful Google My Business Profile that is not in the downtown area that is extending its reach into the downtown. Also, we saw the opposite occur where you had a downtown located office building for a law firm extend its reach well beyond that five to 15 mile radius within the downtown and expand its visibility outside of the city, sometimes across the state. Since the vicinity update has rolled out, that has almost completely stopped. The radius of influence for local businesses, specifically for personal injury law firms, really has shrunk to a maximum of 10 miles but we’re really seeing a steep fall off after five miles.

Jon Robinson (04:42):
This has really hurt law firms that were relying on local search as a large part of their lead volume, if they don’t have offices other than their core office where they expect to generate cases from. Significant impact for personal injury law firms who were, prior to the vicinity update, getting lots of calls and leads and map pack visibility from potential clients that were outside of this five to 10 mile radius. That was probably the biggest impact that we have seen from the vicinity update.

Jon Robinson (05:21):
Multi-location law firms, so either satellite offices or multiple offices within a region. The strategic placement of those offices is now more important than ever. Depending on where your potential clients are searching from, depending on where they live, you really should look at where your offices are located and the recommendation that I would give to you is look at your rankings, look at where they fall off. There are tools that you can use to do this. If you need help doing so, just reach out and we can run some audits for you and show you where your visibility is falling off for various keywords and look at where maybe it may make sense for you to open a satellite office to expand your visibility within the map pack.

Jon Robinson (06:05):
Really, this has been the largest impact that we’ve seen from the vicinity update. We have talked to some law firms whose lead volume has fallen off significantly because they were getting a lot of leads from outside of the local five mile area of their office. In some instances, we’ve seen 50 to 60% fall off in lead volume and they’re wondering were we penalized, was there something we did wrong, and really the answer is no, there’s nothing that you did wrong. Google has re-shuffled how they are ranking firms or businesses within the mat pack and they’ve said, “Hey, as close as you are to the searcher, that is going to be much more valuable as a ranking factor than some of the other ranking factors that we, prior to the vicinity update, were giving more weight to.”

Jon Robinson (06:53):
My recommendation to you as a law firm who may have been impacted by the vicinity update is to look at where your visibility is extending out to, look at where you want your potential claimants to come from, and potentially evaluate whether or not it makes sense to either move your office or open up a satellite office if you are really dependent on map pack rankings for a significant amount of intakes into your firm.

Jon Robinson (07:18):
As always, feel free to reach out to me, I will always do my best to answer all of your emails, any of your social media questions. You can reach me. It’s jonr@camginc.com. Thanks again for watching and listening and I will see you all soon.

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