How Proximity Affects Rankings in Local Search Results in 2023

Proximity to the searcher is one of the most important factors in Google’s local pack rankings. The physical location where you are searching from still carries a big impact on search results in 2023. In fact according to the Whitespark 2023 Local Search Ranking Factors, Proximity of Address to Centroid is one of the top 3 local SEO ranking factors. 

[Mini Case Study] One Keyword, One City, 138 Zip Codes…
82 Different Law Firms


Example of a local pack result.

Technology has advanced to the point where Google almost always knows exactly where you’re searching from based on GPS and IP data. This means Google can use your location to serve up local businesses that not only match your keyword search, but that are as physically close to you as possible. 

This reliance on proximity makes sense for many types of businesses – dry cleaners, coffee shops, liquor stores, pet groomers, etc. – but it doesn’t make nearly as much sense for law firms, attorneys and other legal service providers.

Simply put, if I want a cup of coffee I don’t want to drive across town to get it.

I just want to know if there’s a decent spot close-by. On the flip side, if I’m getting a divorce, the proximity of the attorney I hire makes little difference to me. I want the best possible divorce lawyer, and I’m happy to drive across town if that’s where the best lawyer is.

Nevertheless, Google relies heavily on user proximity to serve up local results for keywords related to lawyers and legal services. The anecdotal case study below paints a clear picture of how fundamental proximity is Google’s ranking of law firms in local search results, and raises new questions as to whether it is still possible for law firms in competitive markets to “dominate” in local search.

Law Firm Local Ranking Case Study

I wanted to understand the extent to which proximity to the searcher impacts how Google ranks law firms in the local pack, so I searched the keyword “car accident lawyers” from 138 zip codes in the Houston-metro area, one of the most competitive markets for personal injury in the United States.

To replicate searches from each zip code I used Bright Local’s local search result checker tool.

I searched “car accident lawyers” from each and every Houston zip code, and documented the three firms in the local pack for each. Here’s an overview of my findings:


For interactive chart click here