#1 Organic is NOT the Best Placement on Google

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The Most Important Position on Google SERPs

We’ll give you a hint: It’s not the #1 organic position.

For law firms trying to rank the highest on Google’s search engine result page (SERP), SEO companies make a lot of noise about getting the #1 organic position.

Many law firm SEO agencies will say they can get you the top organic rankings for important keywords. They’ll put monthly reports in front of you that your website appears in the #1 position, pat themselves on the back, and think their job’s done.


So… What gives? Why don’t you always see an uptick in business? Why isn’t your law firm signing more cases?

As Kid Cudi once said;
“Everything that shines ain’t always gonna be gold.”

While it’s true that with a #1 organic ranking, you’ll see more site traffic coming in that’s “free” (you most likely paid an SEO company to toil away at your website to get to that top spot) — that URL is not the first thing that appears for a keyword. 

The search engine result page shows a whole host of other things before the organic results.

Why Don’t Organic SERP Rankings Matter Much?

It’s a fact that organic rankings compete with other SERP features that Google bakes into every search.

SERP features offer compact information that’s faster for searchers to digest, and they don’t require a click to enter a website.

SERP features are content such as:

  • Popular Products or Google Shopping Ads when your search is for flower delivery
  • Top Stories when you search for a person or place in the news
  • Image packs when searching for animals or plants
  • “Things to Know” when searching for places or things
  • “People Also Ask” appear for a whole host of searches
An Example of a “People Also Ask” SERP Feature:


And for a vast majority of searches where users are looking for a physical business — your law office — Google serves up paid content and local establishments in Google Maps first.

Many SERP features wind up pushing organic results down the page because Google prioritizes their convenience, and of course, their own bottom line; (Writ: “Money.”)

The result? You can be #1 organically in a report, but appear as the 9th link or lower on the result page.

You could be told mistakenly that your URL appears on the first page of the SERPs (which should be in the top 10), but the SERP features take up enough space to place you on page 2.

Your site could basically be invisible unless the user scrolls down some — or worse, unless they click through to page 2. The problem is, most users will revise their search before they resort to clicking through to page 2.

Organic rankings are the one of the most misleading metrics on SEO performance these days.

Where should the effort go instead?

The Most Visible Google SERP Features for Law Firms

If you want better visibility to convert users, what are the SERP features that grab searchers’ attention first?

Let’s look at the anatomy of a SERP for a law firm keyword.

Local service ads (LSAs)

Labeled with “Google Screened”, a row of three LSAs display the firm’s name, the average and number of reviews, years in business and whether they’re currently open or closed.

LSAs are pay-per-lead — telephone leads, that is. You only pay Google when a client’s call lasts a determined amount of time.

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads

About one to two PPC ads will appear with a telltale “Ad” in bold lettering.

Law firms bid for placement with certain keywords, and they pay Google AdWords whenever users click their link.

The local map pack

The map pack takes up the most real estate on the SERPs compared to other Google features.

It’s also called the 3-pack since it displays up to three businesses and lists a law firm’s address, phone number, hours, years in operation, number of reviews and average ratings. It also places a pin.

What’s the Most Important Google SERP Feature for Law Firms?

So if organic rankings aren’t the most valuable metric for your firm, what matters?

If you’re an established law office in a region trying to appear on the SERPs, we’d say the most important place to rank is in the local map pack.

Searchers can see their proximity to you, see snippets of reviews, and get directions.

Some quick tips for placement on the map pack:

  • A large volume of positive, authentic reviews
  • A fleshed-out Google Business Profile page
  • A well-optimized website for mobile and desktop
  • Frequent updates on your Google Business Profile

Note that keyword relevance, distance from searchers, and authority play a part, so appearing on the map pack is a little more technical.

If you want the most immediate result, you should probably start with LSAs.

In smaller, less-competitive markets, LSAs provide an affordable way for fledgling firms to be seen and get the phones ringing.

Some things to note about LSAs:

  • Google takes several weeks to screen your business’ information before you can appear
  • The service types you offer, not keywords, determine whether you appear, and when you appear

Then, to enter the top-three LSAs, you’ll have to win the auction against other firms, curate reviews, and be responsive to calls — plus other factors that make this a bit intensive to manage alone.

Responsiveness is the #1 ranking factor for LSAs. If you miss 1 or 2 calls, your firm can disappear from the top 3 LSA results entirely.

Does Your Law Firm Need The #1 Organic Position at All?

The local map pack and LSAs should matter most to law firms wanting to market themselves online.

But #1 organic rankings aren’t useless. Like an article headline, though, they don’t tell the whole story as a metric.

We find that organic rankings are best for users who are deeper in the research phase. They’ll scroll past ads and maps to see if a law firm has content on a complex issue affecting them.

If a potential client wants to know ‘how to divorce a military spouse with kids involved’, or ‘who to sue if a semi-truck’s brakes failed before a fatal crash’ — there are some good opportunities to publish a well-optimized and researched article for your website’s resource library.

In fact, enter a search with a longer, nuanced phrase and you’ll usually find the map pack isn’t there, and no ads appear if the word “lawyer” or “attorney” isn’t used.

If there’s any redemption for organic search, it’s that the rare savvy searcher will know that LSAs and PPC ads are paying for placement, and so they’ll seek out organic results as a habit of trusting relevance in the rankings.

So ultimately, organic ranking is an important factor in your law firm’s success online, but it’s not the *only* factor.

Instead, hire a law firm digital marketing agency that understands the most important features of the SERPs that will net results for your practice, and will implement a well-rounded ranking strategy that includes placement in the most important spots on the SERPs.

DRIVE Law Firm Marketing’s law firm SEO strategy improves and manages your law firm’s local relevance signals to compete for the map pack. We also have an intake accelerator program that boosts your law firm’s performance with intake, which can drastically improve your LSA results.

Think your firm could benefit from our approach? Use the work with us button to find out if your firm is a good fit for us.