When Google first rose to fame, users typed in a search phrase and received a simple list of relevant results determined by the search engine’s algorithm.
Now, users type a question or phrase into search, and the results they see are displayed in all kinds of different ways. There are the organic links you expect to see, but there are also “local packs,” “knowledge panels,” “featured snippets,” and more that draw users’ eyes and stimulate clicks.
It is a very different search engine result page (SERP) than we started with back in the nineties, but it means that law firms have more ways than ever to get noticed by Google’s users.
In this guide to the different types of SERP features that typically display in searches for attorneys, you’ll find out what users might see when they search for you, what it takes to be featured, and why it matters for your law firm.
Local Search Result Displays That Drive More Traffic for Attorneys
If your “perfect clients” are mostly in your local area, then local SEO should matter to you. And, if local SEO is a big part of your digital strategy, then local SERP features should matter to you, too. Find out how and why to get in on the local SEO game.
The look and feel of Google’s local results have changed many times, but being featured in local SERP displays has typically provided big boosts in traffic and visibility for our attorney clients. Since local results are prominent on the page, some users find what they need there before they even scroll down to the regular organic results below, especially on mobile.
Take a look at the example image above. This is what local searchers might see at the top of the page when they search for an attorney online, and it is what takes up most of the page space “above the fold.”
To make the most of these local result features, attorneys should pay special attention to:
1. Local Ad
One local ad can display for local search results, and it typically displays in the first local position. This means that the local ad is the very first result that most people see when searching for something like “personal injury attorney near me.” These ads are very visible and can be very valuable for driving traffic to your website, especially on mobile.
If you already use Google AdWords, it’s fairly easy to position yourself for local ad visibility. In your Google AdWords account, you just need to set up your location extensions and choose to show local search ads. If you’re using call extensions with your ad, keep in mind that call extensions are not eligible to show with local search ad formats.
2. Local Pack
The local pack is the list of businesses that follow the local ad in the example above. Although the number of businesses listed before the user must click “More Places” varies by industry, there are currently always three listings displayed for the legal industry. Like the local ad, these are highly visible listings that can drive a lot of local search traffic.
These listings are managed through your Google My Business account, but there are no guarantees that your law firm will be featured. To improve your positioning and chance to show in the local pack, it’s all about continuing to improve your local SEO strategy.
“Rich Snippets” and Other Enriched Results Offer More Information for Searchers
Aside from local features, Google has enriched its organic search results in tons of new ways over time. Users currently see lots of different features on the SERP, depending on their queries, which all offer some kind of peek into the content and businesses they’ll find behind individual results.
Taking full advantage of these kinds of features helps your pages stand out from other organic results, and it gives you a chance to start building trust and interest with users before they even click through.
Since these displays and features vary so much by industry, we’re not going to create an exhaustive list here. Instead, we’d like to offer an overview of the ones that we think matter most for our attorney clients:
3. Rich Snippet
“Normal snippets” are the usual, text-and-link-only results that we have essentially always seen on SERPs. “Rich snippets,” on the hand, use features incorporated into organic results to give users a little something extra. In the example above, you can see that the organic result has been enriched with a star rating and numeric rating connected to a review of the law firm.
Reviews and ratings are probably the most important “enrichment” attorneys can add to their organic results. By including review schema on your law firm’s web pages, you can stand out from the crowd in organic search results.
It is important that you use review schema carefully, though. If you add review schema to pages not specific to a service, location, or practitioner, you run the risk of getting a manual action taken on your website by Google, which will tank your website’s rankings. We recommend only using review schema for your website’s service pages, office pages, and biographies.
4. Related Questions
The “People also ask” card generates a list of questions related to what the user searched for, along with drop-down answers and links to helpful content. The related-questions cards are mixed into organic results, and their location in the SERP may vary. You can see an example of common placement in the image above.
Like most of the SERP features in this section, the way to get your content listed under a “related question” is to keep up with a healthy SEO strategy. Having pages that already rank highly in organic search makes it much more likely that Google will pull your content and point people to your site. It also helps if you are already creating content meant to answer common questions. This is where frequently asked questions (FAQs) and how-to articles can really work for you!
5. Featured Snippet
When users type a question into Google Search, they may see a “featured snippet” block in the results. The featured snippet may include an image, as shown above, as well as a summary of the answer, a link to the page the answer was extracted from, the page title, and the URL.
Featured snippets are typically prominent at the top of the page, and many users find answers there—before they even glance at the organic results.
Businesses don’t have a lot of control over when or if their content is pulled for featured snippets. The best way to show up in the block is to have content on your website that already ranks highly in search, clearly answers the question, and naturally incorporates question-based keyword phrases, like “what to do after a car accident” or “how to create an estate plan.”
The featured snippet can also be displayed without an image, as shown below:
Attracting Your Perfect Clients With a Multimedia Search Experience
The online experience is now a multimedia experience, and modern searchers are often looking for more than just text when they need answers. In response, Google has increasingly found new ways to incorporate videos, images, and other media in its search results. Here are some of the multimedia features your potential clients might see on the SERP:
Google has changed where and when video thumbnails display on the SERP many times. Currently, video results may display a thumbnail in results, especially if the videos are hosted on YouTube.
Google recently started favoring the “video carousel” format for video thumbnails, which you can see above. This features three videos on the results page and gives users the option to scroll through additional videos. This lets users go straight to the video instead of digging around on different web pages for the link.
How do you position your law firm to get your videos displayed in search results? Along with creating relevant videos that answer your perfect clients’ questions, you will need to use video schema to markup your videos in a way that is recognized by search engines.
7. Image Pack
The “image pack” is a block on the SERP that features potentially relevant image results.
While images are less likely to show in searches for legal services and are not necessarily a big deal for attorneys, it is still possible for your images to be featured.
To make sure that you look good if they do, there are a few extra steps you should take with the images on your website:
- Add a descriptive file name
- Include descriptive alt text
- Use a human-readable URL
- Optimize the image size
- Include the title attribute
While the bulk of your content probably should not be in PDF format, there are some kinds of content—like whitepapers, in-depth guides, studies, printable forms, and more—that are best offered in PDF.
When a result on the Google SERP directly links to a document that is recognized as a PDF, users will see a “PDF” tag above the result, as shown above. This lets users know that they won’t be taken to a traditional web page and will need a PDF reader installed for their device or browser to view the content.
SERP Displays for Branded Searches and Brand Intent
Google pays attention to users’ “brand intent.” When the search engine recognizes that a user is looking for an exact domain or particular brand, they might see some different SERP features than they might in a non-branded search:
When someone searches for an exact domain or a business, Google may display an expanded “pack” of up to 10 sitelinks. The full pack of sitelinks dominates the real estate of five organic positions, dominating the top of the SERP. Sitelinks can also show up as part of an organic result further down the SERP:
Businesses don’t have any control over whether Google displays sitelinks for a search, and they also have no control over which sitelinks are pulled. To position yourself with the potential for expanded sitelinks on SERPs, your website needs to be structured so that Google can pull relevant sitelinks. Other than that, just keep doing everything else you’re already doing to get your website to rank highly and be an authoritative resource for your perfect clients.
10. Knowledge Panel
Knowledge panels typically display for branded searches, but they can sometimes display for more specific queries when a website is very authoritative. These results only display on desktop searches, and the information may be pulled from many places across Google’s services and the Web, including reviews, ratings, photos, directions, phone numbers, hours, and more.
If you are the subject of a knowledge panel or an official representative of the business or organization depicted, you can get verified on Google to claim this panel and suggest changes. This gives you more control over the “snapshot” of your law firm that potential clients see when your knowledge panel pops up in search.
How Ads Appear in Search Results for Attorneys
Of course, your AdWords ads can also appear on SERPs. They may display at the top of the results page, as shown above. They can also be shown at the bottom of the results page, as shown below:
The order of AdWords positioning is determined by Google’s “Ad Rank.” While this is partially determined based on your bid, it is still possible to beat out higher-bidding competitors with the quality and relevance of your ads and PPC landing pages. The positioning of displayed ads on the SERP (top or bottom of the page) is entirely up to Google.
Why Should I Care About All the “Extras” on Google Search Results Pages?
Google’s domination in online search is clear, especially in mobile search. Google holds 80.5 percent of the global search engine market share on desktop, and 95.9 percent for mobile devices. Bing comes in second with a meager 6.9 percent on desktop, and Yahoo search struggles into second place with only 1.9 percent on mobile.
Google’s SERP features and best practices are very different for different industries, so you really do need to be on top of the best strategies for attorneys and law firms. While Google’s algorithms and methods change all the time, playing by their rules and leveraging their features gives you the best chance to be seen by your “perfect clients.”
If you have questions about what you see when you search for yourself on Google, or if you want more information about positioning yourself for the best organic visibility, reach out to our team at 888.886.0939. You can also get a detailed snapshot report that will give you more insight into your website’s current performance.