2019 Attorney Directory Visibility Analysis

For the 2nd year, Everest Legal Marketing has compiled data regarding the rankings and visibility of the major legal directories. The legal advertising industry is always quickly changing, and if you’re not on top of who’s doing what, you may find yourself spending tens of thousands of dollars a year on attorney directories when your marketing budget could be better allocated. If you like this content, and would like similar information about legal advertising and SEO topics, “Like” our Facebook page where we regularly publish content relevant to legal marketing.

The Top Legal Directories

For this study we’re analyzing what we, and most industry professionals, consider the top legal 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.

Methodology

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 (12/29/18), 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.

Why do we Perform this Study?

After years of experience in the legal advertising industry, we know that our clients and millions of attorneys throughout the United States spend hundreds of millions of dollars on attorney directory advertising annually. Often, many attorneys are too busy being lawyers to analyze the viability of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars a month on attorney directory advertising and they just trust their sales rep. Having been a sales rep for Lawyers.com, I can tell you that I’ve experienced many times a lawyer who’s too busy to talk for 30 minutes, but just sends a renewal contract without analyzing the facts. The purpose of this study is to identify the top legal directories and how they rank for competitive searches throughout the US. Since we only look at five major cities and nine search phrases (practice areas), we suggest you do your own research relevant to your practice and geography. This study is mainly meant to serve as a litmus test or guideline to how certain directories rank for competitive searches, you may find (like our study shows), that certain directories rank very well in some cities but terribly in others.

What’s new for 2019?

This year, we’ve added the Moz Domain Authority Score (at the time this article was published), and identified whether you receive a “No Follow” or “Follow” link for each legal directory we’ve analyzed. We did this because the value of directory advertising in the search engine optimization (SEO) space isn’t solely dependent on the visibility of a website. Meaning, that your firm’s website rankings on search engines generally increase when you get a backlink from a high authority website, even if the directory doesn’t rank that well.

How Was the Data Collected?

For 2019, we used the same methodology that we used in 2018, and analyzed the same cities and search phrases so that we could see if there were noticeable upward or downward trends. You can download the full spreadsheet for 2019 here and the spreadsheet for 2018 here. Here’s what we found:

Best Lawyer Directories for 2019

In no particular order, here are the top attorney directories for 2019:

FindLaw – Still on Top

FindLaw still dominates the online attorney directory space. Overall their rankings stayed about the same or improved over all the cities we looked at. In cities like New York and Chicago they lost a couple page 1 rankings, but improved some rankings for searches that they weren’t on page 1 or 2 for in 2018.

Lawyers.com – Call an Ambulance

Lawyers.com has slipped significantly from an already terrible position. Comparing 2018 to 2019, nearly all rankings we looked at showed signs of decrease, or removal from the first 2 pages of results altogether. If they didn’t have an already strong brand, connection to Martindale-Hubbell and high Domain Authority we may have removed them from this study altogether. Lawyers.com is now completely absent from page 1 results in Los Angeles and Chicago and only has one Page 1 rank in Houston and New York.

Avvo – Internet Brandsitis?

Avvo was acquired in 2018 by Internet Brands, the company that owns Lawyers.com, Nolo, Martindale.com and many others. Many in the industry have been curious if any of their properties were going to improve, if their rates were going to go up or down or if they were going to somehow further delineate the brands. While Avvo’s rankings for 2019 are still very strong, the armor looks like it may be starting to crack. They’ve lost some Page 1 visibility in Houston, Chicago and New York. Hopefully this is not the beginning of a painful tumble downward towards Lawyers.com.

Super Lawyers – Good Gains

Super Lawyers continues to be an “invite only” platform, and has had some impressive recoveries in rankings. They moved from page 2 to page 1 for several searches in Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago, but still have some issues in New York and Jacksonville. Be that as it may, they are showing improvement which is always welcome.

Justia – You Complete Me

I’ve become a fan of Justia because their advertising rates have remained reasonable, their rankings keep improving and you can get 100% SEO value from a free listing. Outside of a couple searches, they had the most page 1 rankings of all the directories we looked at. If you’re not on this gravy train yet what are you doing with your life?

Yelp – Review Backlash

I say it to clients all the time – Yelp is a love/hate relationship. There’s no doubting their power and influence in the directory space, and their rankings are hot & cold depending on where you are. What was really interesting was a purge/removal of reviews for countless businesses reported by Telapost. When I looked at several active clients on Yelp, indeed I noticed a handful who were impacted. Anecdotally, I have a friend who owns a very reputable auto repair business and he also lost 30+ totally legitimate reviews (about 40% of his total reviews). When any business builds a strategy around a platform and that platform moves the goal post it can be detrimental – choose your allies wisely.

An Interesting Newcomer – Expertise.com

Are you familiar with Expertise.com (Nofollow; Moz DA 66)? You should probably become acquainted with them as they are climbing rankings fast. Last year they weren’t even on the Radar and this year we noticed several search scenarios where they were prominently ranked on Page 1. At the moment, you can’t claim a profile and you must go through a manual request for consideration to be included.

The Rise of Niche Legal Directories

If you’re using this article to help make some decisions about where to list your firm and if you should invest advertising dollars you should also consider some of the smaller “niche” directories. They either appeal to a specific type of lawyer, or a specific demographic. While most of these websites are often lower Domain Authority, you can usually get a free or very low cost profile and backlink to your website. Google still recognizes value in links from websites that aren’t super high authority, specifically if it’s directly relevant to your practice.

www.USA-Probate.com (Follow; Moz DA 19) – This website only lists attorneys that are probate law related. The design is a bit outdated and clunky, but it’s a freebie so beggars can’t be choosers.

www.PersonalInjuryLaw.guru (Follow; Moz DA 17) – This directory lists only personal injury attorneys and has some criteria they follow to assign a lawyer as a “Verified Guru”.

www.ListaLegal.com (Nofollow; Moz DA 30) – This is an English/Spanish directory and your listing is displayed in English and Spanish versions of the website.

While getting presence on directories like these may not have a direct impact on your bottom line, they can very directly help improve the ranking of your firm’s website. If you need help finding these types of directories do a Google search for “Your Practice + Directory“, you’ll obviously see the major players but you may be surprised by some of the results on page 1 & 2 of results.

Conclusion

As the online advertising opportunities for lawyers continue to fracture, it’s critical to take advantage of every possible method to maximize your digital footprint. If you’re an attorney and looking for a partner to help you get business from Google, Everest Legal Marketing can assist with optimization of your current website, or design a brand new website in line with your wants & needs.

About The Author

Doug Bradley
Doug Bradley
I work with law firms to increase their presence on search engines through website optimization. Marketing a law firm hasn’t been “like it used to be” for a while now and the only guarantee is that it will continue to change. Learn more about my experience here.
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