Lawyers always want to know what the best attorney directories are to advertise on. Legal directories can be expensive, but also extremely effective as an advertising mechanism. After all, most people who look up a lawyer on a legal directory need legal help immediately and are actually looking for an attorney to hire. This article looks at the most popular legal directories and how they rank across five major cities in the US. You can download the data here in Excel.
The Most Popular Legal Directories We’re Analyzing
For this study, we’re analyzing the following attorney directories (in no particular order):
You may find it odd that we’ve chosen to include Yelp in a study of legal directories, but you’ll find that Yelp has established itself as a highly visible directory in the legal space.
When discussing the concept of this study, our ultimate goal was to make the results easy to digest and help you determine how to best use some of your advertising budget. Sometimes simplicity is difficult to design into something as complex as rankings, multiple search phrases, multiple cities, etc. Here are the methods we used to ensure a reliable data set:
- All search data was gathered on the same day (12/29/17), from the same computer & IP address.
- We used an anonymous, Private Browsing window in Safari to ensure that Google did not manipulate results based on prior searches, (here’s why).
- We did not click on any websites during the study, we simply examined where each directory ranked.
- We are only examining “Organic” ranking positions and not considering paid or local listings.
- In an effort to make the data simple, we categorized the results in four ways:
- “Page 1 – Top 3” (Green)
- “Page 1 – Below Top 3” (Green)
- “Page 2” (Yellow)
- “Not on Page 1 or 2” (Red)
- We chose to analyze the following cities based on population, diversity and heavy competition:
- Los Angeles, CA
- Houston, TX
- Chicago, IL
- New York, NY
- Jacksonville, FL
- We chose the following practice searches based on heavy competition:
- “criminal defense lawyer”
- “personal injury lawyer”
- “divorce lawyer”
- “workers’ compensation lawyer”
- “business lawyer”
- “real estate lawyer”
- “estate planning lawyer”
- “employment lawyer”
- “bankruptcy lawyer”
- For the purposes of simplicity, we chose to use the word “lawyer” instead of “attorney” – so a search in this study would look like “Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer”. Variations in the phrase, singular vs plural, city in the back vs in the front all have an impact on rankings.
For the purposes of this study, we chose not to record & analyze actual ranking position due to constant fluctuations. Instead, we opted to display the attorney directories that ranked within the top three results as our top measure. This is because when Google puts a result within the top 3 organic, they tend to have more stability in these positions when compared to the rest of the results on page 1. Our “Page 1- Below Top 3” measure is also designated as green to show that it’s still a page 1 rank, (organic positions 4-10), but not a top 3 position at the time this study was conducted.
The Biggest Winner – FindLaw
FindLaw has always had excellent rankings for “lawyer” searches, and 2018 is no different. In our study, FindLaw had 100% page 1 rankings – never hitting page 2 for any of our searches. They are clearly the dominant force in the industry. FindLaw has been duking it out for superiority for over a decade, and based on the results of the study their closest competitor for the “lawyer search” market at this point is Avvo (see below).
The Biggest Loser – Lawyers.com
At one time Lawyers.com was the best ranking legal directory, but in 2018 it’s obviously slipped significantly across all searches and all cities. Out of 45 search scenarios, Lawyers.com only ranked once in the “Page 1 – Top 3” position. In Chicago, Lawyers.com was completely absent from page 1 and in Los Angeles only made an appearance on page 1 of Google once. Lawyers.com is a apart of the Nolo-Martindale family of brands, whose parent company is Internet Brands. With all of this equity in the legal space, it’s curious how such a strong brand name can fail so hard.
Great Visibility, If You Qualify – Super Lawyers
Super Lawyers had excellent visibility in most cities, and is unique in the market place because you need to qualify as a “Super Lawyer” in order to be included on their website. For that reason, it makes it a bit less accessible for all lawyers, but a great place to market if you’re in the club.
Excellent Results – Avvo
Avvo had some of the best results across all cities and searches. Avvo was consistently on page 1 and only hit page 2 twice (in Los Angeles). It’s obvious that Avvo has made some major strides in rankings and visibility in recent years and is gunning for FindLaw. Avvo has been criticized for the ease in which an attorney’s ranking can be manipulated, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are everywhere on Google search.
The Biggest Surprise – Justia
Two years ago most attorneys had never heard of Justia, nor would they have even considered them as a credible legal directory. This study shows that they have firmly established a seat at the table. In fact, they had considerably better visibility in all cities for all phrases when compared to the long established player Lawyers.com. Pay attention to this directory and watch for big moves as they gain attention.
The Anomaly – Yelp
There’s no denying the power of Yelp and it was reported in 2014 as the #1 place people go to for attorney reviews. However, it’s apparent that they have great success in some cities, and struggle in others. They actually had the overall best results of all six directories in Los Angeles, but were completely absent in Jacksonville and also had spotty visibility in Houston and New York.
Runner-Up Directories You Should Pay Attention To
After looking at numerous searches across five cities, we’ve found that there are a few directories that are starting to penetrate page 1 & 2 of Google on a fairly regular basis. While we did not record these websites in this study, we may in future years as they gain in popularity. You may want to keep these on your Radar:
- Thumbtack – This is a pay-per-lead model that starts at about $25 per lead/contact. It had excellent visibility for a period in 2015 and 2016, but has started to taper off.
- UpCounsel – Attorneys must apply to become apart of the UpCounsel network, and paid transactions with clients flow through their website.
- HG.org – HG.org has been around since 1995 and it’s a decent attorney directory, but has never really taken off since it’s never had strong rankings.
It’s obvious from the findings that legal directories should still be an important element of an attorney’s advertising budget. In fact, many of our clients get some of their best leads from their advertising on legal directories. However, it should also be noted that you don’t even need to pay for basic inclusion on Yelp, Justia and Avvo.
Everest Legal Marketing specializes in attorney SEO and is a marketing agency that works with lawyers throughout the US. Our experience within the online legal advertising industry gives our clients a unique perspective on how to allocate budgets for legal directories and online marketing.
The author of this study, Doug Bradley, is a former Lawyers.com employee, and also has a agency partnership with Yelp and HG.org. Everest Legal Marketing handles legal profile advertising for numerous lawyers.