Almost two months ago to the day, I posted a breakdown of how the top law firm in the Chicago market came to dominate the area.  Today I'll revisit this law firm to see how their rankings have changed since then.  

Just like in the last case study, I'll cover a number of GMB ranking factors as we reverse engineer the situation.

  • Title used on the GMB listing
  • The GMB categories that were selected
  • Review rating
  • Number of reviews
  • The quantity and quality of links to the website

I'll keep the business name anonymous for this post, but that shouldn't stop us from learning anything here.

Organic vs. Google My Business Ranking

I should be clear about what we're measuring before jumping into the study. These case studies measure the rankings of Google My Business listings, as opposed to the organic results of the websites they are associated with.

In other words, we're measuring against what we see on Google Maps and on the Local Finder. Local and organic search each have their own Google ranking algorithm. While some of the techniques covered here apply to both kinds of search, some are only applicable to local.

How is share of search visibility determined?

Searching for the term divorce lawyer across a grid of GPS coordinates, and then taking the average of the results was how I determined which GMB listing had the greatest share of local visibility.

So, what's changed in the last two months?

The top listing from January has been taken down a few notches!  They now reside in position three for the same query.

We'll walk through the same factors as last time, and look to see how the new number one has taken the top spot.

Keyword stuffing for the win?

Actually, not really.  This is an interesting situation, because more often than not we find that GMB titles are simply bursting with keywords.  

Google really wants everyone to use their legal business name, but the power of keywords is an open secret, and many businesses take advantage of this.  In this case, however, the top 10 don't have much keyword stuffing going on.

If you recall from last time, our previous #1 result did engage in keyword stuffing.

Business Name LLC | Divorce Lawyer, Family Attorneys, Child Custody, Free Consultation

They haven't changed this name, but the new number #1 result is simply a generic law office name, without a keyword in sight.  I think this is interesting, because if nothing else we can eliminate the title as a ranking factor here, and focus more on other aspects.

Categories, categories, categories

GMB categories don't necessarily offer a competitive edge, but getting them wrong can certainly put you out of the running.

The primary category has the most weight when determining relevance, with secondary categories allowing businesses to claim other services they might offer.  Out of the top 20 results in this study, 13 selected either Divorce service or Family law attorney as their primary category, with the others choosing generic top-level categories like Attorney.

Interestingly, the new #1 result is simply using Attorney as their primary category.  Just as with the GMB title, they aren't doing anything special here, so we can rule this out as a source for any kind of differentiation.

Our previous #1 is still using the more specialized Divorce service as their primary category, but that hasn't kept them at the top.

Reviews

OK, now here is where it really starts to get interesting.  

Our previous #1 result had a solid 58 reviews and a 4.2 rating – that's now up to 62 reviews.  But the new #1 has a 3.5 rating and only 26 reviews, with not a single new review in the past year.  To top it off, there are review replies, but they're combative and unhelpful.

In a previous case study, I actually pointed to reviews, and specifically newer reviews, as a big ranking signal.  So clearly something different is happening here, because just on the basis of their reviews, this business should not be dominating Google Maps as they seem to be.

We've basically eliminated their GMB listing as a factor at this point: title, categories, and reviews don't resemble a business that should be in the top spot.  

What's going on with their website, and more specifically, the authority of their website? The top result has a Moz DA of just 21, while the subject of our last case study has a DA of 34 at the moment.  

In fact, let's break down some of the website metrics for the top 5, as well as 15th-20th ranked websites.

GMB Rank DA Dofollow Ratio Alexa 1M+ Ranked Alexa Top 10,000
1 21 29% 29% 12.2%
2 27 25% 60% 2.4%
3 34 91% 50% 2%
4 18 27% 73% 2%
5 23 35% 45% 1.7%
...
15 20 54% 44% 2.2%
16 14 20% 68% 6.2%
17 25 88% 64% 4.4%
18 1 N/A N/A N/A
19 20 7% 47% 5.2%
20 24 35% 55% 1.8%

The incredibly high do-follow ratio of 91% stands out immediately for the now 3rd ranked result – and that's out of 25,576 backlinks.  In fact, as we discovered last time, their link profile is... interesting.  Their main strategy has been to take over other domains with high value backlinks, and redirect those to their own website.

As a result, one look at their anchor text will show you that the original links have nothing to do with divorce attorneys.

Has over-cooking their link profile hurt them?  While they are still #3 on Maps, I can't find them on Google Search at all, even if I set my location to just a few blocks from their office.  Despite the majority of links going to directory sites, there are a handful of law firm websites ranking.

This may explain why the drop was seen, but does anything explain the rise of the now #1 result?  Especially considering their particularly poor review profile.

The one stand-out factor seems to be the number of links from Alexa Top 10,000 sites they have earned.  The 12.2% ratio is the highest of any of the websites I profiled. Could this play a role in their somewhat difficult to explain performance?

There are of course other factors, such as user engagement, that we don't have the data to dig into.

I will be revisiting this case study in another month, to see how the situation evolves, so stay tuned! It should be interesting to see if the rather mysterious performance of this listing persists, or if they sink down in the rankings a bit.