Chapter 2


Welcome to the deep and dynamic world of Google’s ranking factors for lawyers. An essential arena for any law firm looking to stand out in the digital landscape. 

Our guide isn’t just a casual chat about keywords and backlinks; it’s a thorough exploration of the intricate algorithms that shape your firm’s visibility in online searches.

Understanding Google's Ranking Criteria:

The idea that Google considers over 200 ranking factors for its search algorithm has been a common notion in the SEO community. However, it’s important to note that Google’s search algorithm is complex, and the company does not publicly disclose the specific number of ranking factors.

Google uses a multitude of factors to determine search rankings, and these factors are continuously evolving. They include relevance, content quality, backlinks, user experience, mobile-friendliness, page speed, and more. Search engine optimization professionals and webmasters often analyze and experiment to understand the most impactful factors for better optimization.


Luckily for us, In 2016, Google lifted the veil (Search Engine Land). Google Search Quality Senior Strategist Andrey Lipattsee confirmed three primary ranking factors in a Q&A. You can watch the entire video here:

  • Links
  • Content
  • RankBrain 


While these are pivotal, they’re just the starting point of our exploration. We’ll unpack these and other influential factors to offer a 360-degree view of how Google perceives and ranks your website.

Ranking Factor #1: Links - Navigating the Web of Digital Endorsements

Consider links as digital high-fives from other websites, a sign that they find your content valuable and worth sharing. These digital endorsements act as signals to search engines about the reputation and trustworthiness of your website. As we delve deeper, understanding the nuances of these links is essential for building and maintaining your website’s reputation and ranking.

What Makes a Quality Backlink?

Unlocking the secrets behind quality backlinks is crucial for anyone aiming to bolster their website’s search engine standing. In this section, we delve into the essential components that define a high-caliber backlink. From relevance and authority to naturalness and diversity, explore the key attributes contributing to a backlink’s quality and its impact on elevating your site’s visibility in search results.

Relevance: The Resonance of Contextual Connection

A quality link (Ahrefs guide to high-quality links) is contextually relevant to your content and area of law. For instance, a link from a respected legal blog or an industry-specific publication is far more impactful than a link from an unrelated site. Relevance ensures that the link carries weight and attracts a relevant audience to your site.

Trustworthiness: The Seal of Digital Reliability

The trustworthiness of the linking site is crucial. Sites recognized as authoritative and secure by search engines pass on more ‘link juice’ and credibility. This includes well-established legal directories, educational institutions, government websites, and leading industry resources.

Diversity: The Spectrum of Digital Endorsements

A diverse profile of quality backlinks indicates a natural and healthy link-building strategy. This includes links from different domains, types of websites, and content relevant to various aspects of your legal expertise. Diversity in your backlink profile shows search engines that your content is universally acknowledged and valued.

Authority Score: The Measure of Influence

A high link authority score suggests that the link originates from a reputable and influential website. This score reflects the link’s potential to positively influence your site’s search engine results page ranking. Building strong links with websites that have high Authority Scores can greatly improve your website’s reputation with search engines. This, in turn, will increase your website’s visibility and trustworthiness.

You can find a site’s Authority Score with a tool such as Ahrefs, shown below. Learn more about Ahref’s Authority scoring here

Follow vs. No Follow: Understanding the Signals:

There are both ‘follow’ and ‘no-follow’ links, and they carry varying weight in determining your Google search result ranking.

‘Follow’ links act as robust nods of approval to search engines, directly contributing to your site’s ranking. They’re like glowing testimonials, telling search engines your content is valuable and worth considering. 

‘No Follow’ links are more reserved, like an honorable mention. They have no direct influence on your ranking, but are still beneficial. 

Both links have their place in a balanced SEO strategy, driving organic traffic and lending credibility in different ways. A diverse link profile with ‘Follow’ and ‘No Follow’ links can enhance your site’s overall SEO health and authority.

Anchor Text: The Contextual Clue

Anchor text refers to the visible, clickable text within a hyperlink, playing a crucial role in linking. It offers context about the linked page for both users and search engines. 

Optimizing anchor text properly can increase the link’s relevance and value. However, it’s important to maintain a delicate balance. Over-optimized anchor text can seem manipulative and lead to penalties. 

The key is to keep it relevant and natural, accurately reflecting the content of the linked page. Think of it as a signpost pointing to your content, indicating what users can expect.

Ranking Factor #2: Content - The Voice and Vision of Your Law Firm's Digital Persona

Content is more than just the written word; it’s the voice and vision of your law firm’s digital persona, resonating with users and search engines. It’s the narrative that engages, informs, and connects. As per Google, your content should be helpful, reliable, and created for people first if you want to rank first on the search results.


Let’s dive into the aspects of excellent SEO content: 

Topic Relevance & Intent: Conversing with Your Audience

Think of your content as a dialogue with potential clients. Each piece should resonate like a personal conversation, directly addressing the questions and needs of those seeking legal guidance. It’s about more than just answering questions; it’s about understanding the intent and concerns behind those queries and responding in an informative and empathetic way. When your content mirrors a thoughtful conversation, it satisfies users and signals to search engines the relevance and value of your offerings.

Keyword Inclusion: The Art of Strategic Placement

Effectively using keywords in your content is crucial for SEO success. The art lies in strategic placement and natural integration. Overstuffing can negatively impact readability and user experience, while too few keywords can leave the focus of your content unclear. Strike the right balance and your content will be optimized well for search engines and users. As a general rule, make sure to:

  • Place your primary keyword in prominent locations such as the title, headings, and the first paragraph of your content.
  • Sprinkle related keywords throughout the content naturally to enhance context and depth.

Expertise and Authority: Building Trust with Every Word

In law, your reputation hinges on the trust and respect you command. Your content is a reflection of this prestige. Each article, blog post, or guide should emanate the depth of your knowledge and the breadth of your experience. It’s not merely about listing qualifications; it’s about demonstrating thought leadership and providing insights that solidify your standing as a luminary in your field. In the world of SEO, this is referred to as E-E-A-T.

Transparent and Accessible Language: Bridging Complexity and Comprehension

Legal concepts can be complex, but your content should serve as a bridge, not a barrier. Strive for clarity and simplicity, translating legal jargon into language that resonates with and empowers your audience. Accessibility broadens your reach and deepens your connection, making your content seen and understood.

Engaging and Readable Format: Crafting a Visual Journey

Your content’s format should invite readers on a journey, one that’s visually engaging and easy to navigate. Your content should include clear headings, concise paragraphs, and compelling elements like bullet points, lists, and images. An engaging format enhances readability and invites deeper exploration.

Up-To-Date: The Pulse of Currentness

Regular updates and fresh insights keep your audience informed and engaged, signaling to search engines the liveliness and reliability of your information. Staying current is not just about maintaining relevance; it’s about leading the conversation in your field.

YMYL & E-E-A-T: Upholding the Highest Standards

In the realm of law firms, the majority of content falls within the “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) category, where accuracy is paramount. Google’s designation of YMYL underscores the potential impact on an individual’s well-being, making adherence to stringent standards crucial for law firm websites.


Google outlines specific guidelines for YMYL content, emphasizing the pivotal role of E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. This is particularly significant for law firms, where online content directly influences critical aspects of a person’s life.


As of December 2022, Google introduced an additional “E,” signifying Experience, further enriching the evaluation criteria under the new acronym E-E-A-T. According to Google, content should convey a sense of being produced by someone with hands-on life experience, akin to the perspective of a seasoned or ‘experienced’ attorney.


For law firms aiming to uphold the highest standards in online presence, this means ensuring that content reflects legal expertise and resonates with the real-life experiences of both attorneys and clients. 


Crafting high quality content that reads as though it comes from a knowledgeable and experienced source adds a valuable layer to the E-E-A-T framework, reinforcing trust and credibility in the eyes of both search engines and potential clients.

RANKING FACTOR #3: RankBrain - The Intelligent Algorithm Behind Search

RankBrain is not just a component of Google’s algorithm; it’s the intelligent force that interprets and personalizes search results. Unlike traditional algorithms, RankBrain doesn’t rely solely on predefined rules but adapts and refines its understanding as it encounters new queries.

Understanding RankBrain

Consider a scenario where an individual types “divorce attorney in New York” into a search engine. Meanwhile, a different user might search for “NYC lawyer for divorce,” yet another might enter “New York marriage dissolution attorney.” Despite the varied wording of these queries, it’s clear that all three are pursuing legal assistance for divorce. At this juncture, RankBrain becomes a significant factor.


Google’s RankBrain algorithm is like a virtual detective for these nuanced searches. It deciphers the underlying intent behind each query, recognizing that despite the different wording, users are essentially seeking the same information.

So, when users input these varied search queries, RankBrain goes beyond literal matches and focuses on understanding what each user is aiming to discover. It then determines which ranking signals are most relevant and should be applied to ensure the most accurate and helpful results.


For lawyers optimizing their websites, this means tailoring content to address the overarching intent behind a range of related search phrases. By doing so, your legal practice is better positioned to consistently rank well for diverse yet synonymous queries related to divorce services in New York. This strategic approach aligns with how RankBrain operates, optimizing your website’s visibility for a broader spectrum of client searches.

Optimizing for RankBrain: Practical Strategies for Attorneys

Content Relevance

  • Craft content that directly addresses the needs of potential clients, ensuring it resonates with various search queries related to your legal services.


Natural Language

  • Embrace natural, conversational language in your content to align with how users phrase their queries, allowing RankBrain to interpret your information better.

User-Focused Approach

  • Prioritize the user experience by organizing your website logically, providing easy navigation, and delivering comprehensive information to meet diverse users.

Ranking Factor: Technical SEO & User Experience

Your site’s technical health and user experience lay the foundation for how RankBrain views your content. It’s about ensuring your website is not just accessible and secure but also easy to navigate. Here’s how various technical and UX elements play a role:

  • Mobile Friendliness: Today’s users are increasingly mobile. A mobile-friendly site ensures visitors have a positive experience regardless of their device, signaling to RankBrain that your site is user-centric.


  • Website & Page Load Speed: Speed is a direct signal of efficiency. A fast-loading site keeps users engaged, reducing bounce rates and increasing dwell time—factors RankBrain considers.


  • Core Web Vitals: These metrics reflect the health and usability of your site. By optimizing for speed, responsiveness, and visual stability, you’re directly influencing the user experience signals that RankBrain analyzes.


  • XML Sitemaps and robots.txt: These tools ensure that search engines can effectively crawl and understand your site, influencing how thoroughly and accurately RankBrain can assess your content.


  • Site & URL Structure: A well-organized site with logical URL structures makes for a better user experience and easier content indexing, which are crucial for RankBrain.

  • Schema Markup: This helps search engines understand the context of your content. Rich, informative results are more likely to engage users, a positive signal for RankBrain.


  • Duplicate Content & Canonicals: Managing duplicate content ensures that RankBrain isn’t confused about which pages to prioritize, helping maintain your site’s authority.


  • Website Security – SSL: Security is a crucial factor in building trust and is viewed favorably by both users and search engines. A secure website, typically SSL-certified, is perceived as more credible and reliable. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) provides an encrypted link, ensuring safe data transmission between the user and the site.


  • 404 Errors: Minimizing broken links and errors contributes to a smoother user experience, reducing frustration and potential bounce rates.

On-Page Experience Metrics

Understanding how users interact with your site offers direct insights into its effectiveness and areas for improvement. These metrics help gauge user engagement, a crucial aspect of RankBrain’s analysis:

  • CTR (Click-Through Rate): This measures how compelling your search listing is. A high CTR indicates to RankBrain that your content is likely a good match for the query.

  • Bounce Rate: A high bounce rate might signal to RankBrain that the content wasn’t what the user was looking for or didn’t provide enough value.

  • Dwell Time: The longer users stay on your site, the more likely they find the content valuable and engaging, a positive sign for RankBrain.

From the nuances of building quality backlinks and crafting authoritative content to the intricacies of technical SEO and user experience, mastering these factors is how you’ll develop a winning legal strategy. It requires a blend of knowledge, adaptability, and an in-depth understanding of the digital landscape. Stay tuned as we continue to provide insights and tools you need for your firm to have a successful online presence.