Vicinity Update

Graphic illustrating local search ads impact on legal marketing with digital interaction symbols.

Although we rarely think about it, Google is constantly renovating its algorithm. Why? They want to ensure the best user experience. These updates impact most, if not all, businesses that offer their services online. This time Vicinity rolled out, and there hasn’t been anything this dramatic in local search ads since the last update back in 2016.

In short, local search ads are Google advertisements that feature your firm’s information and guide users towards taking action.

It’s one of the best ways to attract people to your firm because it helps:

  • Target e-commerce customers based on their proximity.
  • Reach larger audiences who have the intention to buy a service/ product. 

When someone searches for, “family law firm near me,” they’ll see local search ads that feature your firm’s location, number, business hours, and reviews. This triggers Google into displaying either the Google Maps or the Google Business Profile (GBP). Check out the samples below:

Local seo strategy visualization


With Google’s new Vicinity, smaller firms can now rank better than others who are ranking out of their area. This minor but significant update is leveling the competitive field for all law firms looking to get more calls and cases through ads.

All things considered, Google’s most prominent Local SEO algorithm update is here! Let’s look into how it works, what this means for your firm, and what you can do to improve rankings.


Vicinity is leveling the competitive playing field for lawyers

Area flattening

When you think of the word vicinity, words like local, area, and zone might pop into your mind. Just think back to the many times you’ve Googled a salon, restaurant, bank, or any other service near you and found all of these in your location.

Proximity is significant in advertisements. But, up until now some businesses have found a way to rank outside their region. This is the problem Google is now trying to fix, and for law firms, this is a great thing! There are 2 reasons why firms investing in marketing should care about this:

  1. It will clear out competitors that were competing past their firm’s location and invading your geo. As a consequence, those firms that are following PPC guidelines by the books will have greater chances of appearing on top.
  2. From the user’s point of view, the search results will be more relevant to them.

When the new update rolled out many noticed the immediate change. Here’s a visual representation of it in action.

As you can see from this vicinity update example, in November 2021, there was one business dominating a massive area. Fast forward to December 2021, the playing field seems to be fairly distributed amongst the other competitors.  

Tablet maps tracking status

Why your firm should care about the Vicinity update

Your biggest drivers for business are users. Today they want to be treated like a person rather than a number in the books. They have personal preferences and expect firms to generate content that’s curated to their wants and needs.

Google recognizes this, so relevance is one of their main ranking factors in local results. Relevance refers to how well your business profile matches what the user is searching for. The other two ranking factors are:Google update impact local businesses

  • Distance: How far each potential search result is from your location, e.g., searching for a family law firm based in Union Square, San Francisco.
  • Prominence: How well known your firm is. This is based on Google’s information about your firm. It’s gathered across links, websites, articles, online directories, etc.

According to Grant Brott, Director of ROI Strategy here at Consultwebs, your firm’s location and quality user-oriented content are now “that much more important.” 

By understanding what’s behind the curtains of PPC and SEO, you’ll provide your users with the best experience from the comfort of their homes. Besides that, other opportunities you can get from Vicinity include:

  • Clearing out competitors that were ranking outside their office’s radius.
  • Increasing your chances of appearing on top of the search results. That is, for the firms that continuously follow Google’s guidelines.
  • Providing a more relevant search results page.


How to improve your firm’s local rankings

Google recommends the following best practices for better visibility:

  • Add complete and detailed business information in your Google Business Profile.
  • Update your firm’s general information.
  • Verify your location through GBP.
  • Keep your hours accurate, especially for holidays and any special events.
  • Manage your  reviews promptly (and we can’t stress this enough!) People like to do business alongside other people – they trust each other! 79% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • Add high-quality photos. Eye-catching visuals are powerful because they’re processed much quicker than text.

Rankings consist of more than bidding money – it’s best to also invest in SEO services for lawyers or follow the best practices we’ve shared with you. 

Be featured and stand out

Although Google consistently renovates its algorithm, the user experience is always at the heart of it all. For your firm to leverage these updates, it’s best to focus on providing the best-personalized experience out there. And we’re here to help.

Want to update your Google Business profile? Need a ranking and review strategy? Seek to amp up all aspects of your firm’s presence? We’re here to help you out. As Google aims to level the competitive field for law firms, we’d love to see your firm getting the most with this update.