Anyone Else Noticing Local Results Vanish for Sex-Related Legal Queries?

JoyHawkins

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I was alerted that recently Google started cracking down on people that are retargeting ads related to criminal defense lawyers.

Shortly after, Dan Foland from Postali reached out to me about how they're noticing tons of local results vanishing for criminal defense keywords related specifically to sexual crimes. For example, this search returns no listings.

Here is a screenshot I took earlier this year in Edmonton:


And this is how it looks now (the lawyer is gone).

Anyone else noticing the same thing?
 
Last edited:

DanLeibson

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May 17, 2013
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I don't get one for 'Sexual Assault Attorney' but I think that could be query specific and not about Google "filtering".

I did get this 100% not creepy and aptly titled gentleman though when searching for "sexual harassment attorney"

 

Phil Rozek

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Very interesting. I think the issue is that search is ambiguous, at least to Google: is it for an attorney to represent the accused, or the accuser?

I notice that "sexual harassment lawyer for women" returns local map results. The term "sexual harassment lawyer for men" does not.

"Harassment defense lawyer" also returns a local map. It's clearer whom the attorney is for, though some of the results are more geared toward workplace harassment, so the practice area is a little vague in that query and in that SERP.

Of course, all that doesn't mean much. Worth digging into more.
 

JoyHawkins

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I wanted to add that similar to what Gyi just tweeted, I have only found listings for attorneys for these types of searches if the word is included in their business name. For example, I'm in the Toronto area (in Canada) and yet this search returned an attorney in Connecticut, with an exact match name :cautious:

 

AndySimpson

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I don't get one for 'Sexual Assault Attorney' but I think that could be query specific and not about Google "filtering".

I did get this 100% not creepy and aptly titled gentleman though when searching for "sexual harassment attorney"
I have a client Dan who is a top sexual assault attorney for LA and CA victims, I'm also seeing this company 'Sexual Assault Attorney' appear during the testing I am doing....these guys have actually called themselves 'Sexual Assault Attorney' and have alleged offices all around CA :unsure:

We've totally dropped out of the 3 pack / 2 pack for any related sexual / assault related terms...I've even faked my location on desktop and mobile to be at the clients exact (physical) office location and zero, zilch, zip, nada, nothing!

When I do a search from my clients office for "sex abuse lawyer" I get a "Fight Child Protective Services" listed 42 miles away from my location

Rape victim lawyer near me - again nothing, no 3 pack, but we list well organically, do the same search in Google maps and you get a Rape Foundation listed, 15 miles away. Which is good, but not what the user is searching for.
 
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I've got a criminal defense client who was in the local pack for "sex crime attorney" for years, but dropped out in June when the that search stopped generating a local pack. Here's the brightlocal chart to show when it happened.

I'm also seeing what Joy is talking about with only businesses that have the keywords in their (fake) name generating a local result. Try searching "sex crime attorney" when your location is set via the brightlocal tool to Los Angeles. You'll see an attorney who surprise...calls her practice "Sex Crime Attorney". I found that she also has a website where her other practice name happens to be Los Angeles Criminal Attorney. :)

I'm guessing that the local pack getting dropped for some of these keywords is due to Google's squeamishness with these terms. For instance, for many years Adwords has prohibited bidding on child p*rnography attorney. I've been able to request exceptions for related terms that were disapproved, but not that one which is strictly off limits.

 

DanLeibson

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I have a client Dan who is a top sexual assault attorney for LA and CA victims, I'm also seeing this company 'Sexual Assault Attorney' appear during the testing I am doing....these guys have actually called themselves 'Sexual Assault Attorney' and have alleged offices all around CA :unsure:

We've totally dropped out of the 3 pack / 2 pack for any related sexual / assault related terms...I've even faked my location on desktop and mobile to be at the clients exact (physical) office location and zero, zilch, zip, nada, nothing!

When I do a search from my clients office for "sex abuse lawyer" I get a "Fight Child Protective Services" listed 42 miles away from my location

Rape victim lawyer near me - again nothing, no 3 pack, but we list well organically, do the same search in Google maps and you get a Rape Foundation listed, 15 miles away. Which is good, but not what the user is searching for.
So it seems like there is lots of spam for these queries. Similar to the EMS stuff Google should start back at the beginning to get it right. Personaly, I would be worried for someone relying on Google search results for "Sex abuse lawyer".
 

sjr4x4

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Interesting reading. I have an employment lawyer client with as expected local relevant results, 3 pack and sponsor ads.

But just as a quick test, trying a search on .co.uk for sexual abuse lawyer, then there is no 3 pack and no sponsor ads. Result number 1 is a UK abuse charity, which makes sense. Result 2 local lawyer. Result 3 London lawyer, but very well optimised. Then it's irrelevant results from over the pond.

Change it to a more familiar UK search term, sexual abuse solicitor, and we have sponsor ads, and relevant UK organic results. But no sign of the abuse charity, so they may want to work on some more relevant search terms. But with a list of promoted ambulance chasers, it hardly makes for the optimum user experience Google tells us it wants to deliver.



 

Dan Foland

SEO Director at Postali
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I realized that I have a sex-crime related tracking campaign setup for a client and was able to nail down when this all started which was mid-late June. Interestingly some terms still show results such that I wouldn't expect.
 

JoshSpurlock

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Dec 11, 2018
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I'm a certified sex therapist and our counseling practice obviously promotes our sex therapy services as part of our practice - we seem to have been hit hard by medic and it seems like it may be largely related to our sex-related posts, which previously ranked well and had high CTR and dwell time. -> Anybody else seeing sex related queries affected independently of industry or the validity/relevance of them to a credible business? @JoyHawkins
 

JoyHawkins

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The only example I've seen is the one Dan brought up here but I'll ping a few others.
 

Marie Haynes

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Jumping in per Joy's request.

We've done a large number of reviews for sites that dropped with recent algo updates (Aug 1, Sep 27) and none were specifically connected to sex crimes, therapy, etc.

We did have one client come to us with drops that was a fertility site and they did have some adult(ish) content on the site.

@Josh, if you are seeing drops that started with Medic (April 1), I am betting that this is not connected to the discussion on this thread about some sex crime and similar keywords not returning results, but rather that this is related to some element of E-A-T.

If it helps, here are some things I have written that are likely relevant:

https://www.mariehaynes.com/the-august-1-2018-google-update-strongly-affected-ymyl-sites/
The September 27 - early October algorithm update was likely about Google’s ability to assess trust - Marie Haynes Consulting

I'd be looking at the following:
  • Do you have a good review profile online or are people generally complaining about your business?
  • Does your site make it clear who is the creator of content?
  • Does the content creator have good expertise? Are they known as an authority in this area?
  • Do you have articles that need better scientific references?
  • Do you have content on your site that contradicts scientific consensus? If so, are you sure to tell both sides of the story?
Hope that helps!

Marie
 

JoshuaMackens

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Sep 12, 2012
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Hey Joy,

The evidence looks like Google is filtering the query. Is this your conclusion thus far?
 

Dan Foland

SEO Director at Postali
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@Marie Haynes I have a client that specializes in sex crime defense. I saw their GMB views, rankings etc. tank due to these types of queries getting filtered. However, they also saw really nice gains organically from the medic update. Sex-related queries like these don't appear to be related between GMB & Organic from my research.
 

JoyHawkins

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@JoshuaMackens there are very few things that Google ever explains when it comes to local rankings so I'm not expecting them to address this officially. In their advertising policies they actually mention criminal lawyers as one of the industries that they have limits on. I'm not sure if this is related or not but it could be.
 

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