Table of Contents
Those who manage law firms have undoubtedly done some research into how your clients find you. Many law firms have relied on loyal, long-term clients and consistent referrals for years, and many still do. Others prefer the classic law firm advertisements using television, radio, and local signage. However, the reality is that, outside of referrals, search results and visits to law firms’ websites are the primary method for prospective clients to find a lawyer. In other words, you need to make sure your site pops up at the top of the Google search results when potential clients are searching for a lawyer. Search engine optimization (SEO) is especially important for firms that represent individual clients, such as personal injury lawyers or criminal defense attorneys, as these clients may be searching for an attorney in a pinch. If your firm has not yet optimized its website – or created a website at all – it is time to consider a search engine optimization strategy for your firm.
WELCOME TO THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO LAW FIRM SEO. This article is long and well, “ultimate.” It is meant to be a comprehensive guide for you to bookmark and share to have as a resource for all of your SEO questions. Of course, as always, if you ever want to increase your online presence and digital footprint for your law firm or business through SEO, consider setting up a free consultation with Annette Choti, Esq. – President and Owner of Law Quill.
Legal Marketing Trends and Law Firm SEO
The way clients connect with lawyers is changing. Small law firms, solo practitioners, and plaintiff’s firms, especially, need to consider how their clients are finding them – or not finding them. According to the National Law Review, here are a few jawdropping law firm marketing statistics over the past decade.
- 96% of people looking for legal advice start with a search engine to find a law firm’s website
- 31% of legal search traffic is via a mobile device
- 74% of potential clients visit a law firm’s website to take action (such as to initiate contact)
- 85% of people researching legal topics use online maps
- 71% of searchers believed it was important to find a local attorney, which is why local searches are so important
All of this is to say that legal advertising has largely shifted online, and if your firm isn’t taking advantage of this shift, you are probably missing out on a significant pool of prospective clients.
Law Firm SEO Basics
Websites take a lot of work to design and manage, but, in the grand scheme of things, your site is one of hundreds of billions of pages on the internet. Search engines work hard to organize and parse through these countless websites to provide the most useful information possible to searchers. Because search engines have come so far, web searches are the primary way people navigate the web. While your site may feel like a needle in a haystack against the thousands of other law firms and legal services providers out there, know that there are ways to help your site compete against other websites to reach the top of the search engine results pages (SERP).
Law firm SEO is the process by which a website ensures that its web pages appear high up in the list of a search engine’s results. This is critically important for any site attempting to increase traffic. Google alone generates over half of all web traffic on the internet. In other words, if you follow the webmaster’s guidelines and create high-quality, authoritative content that answers users’ questions, you are more likely to consistently attract internet users, which, for law firms, means more leads and referrals. The best part of having an optimized site is that almost all of the traffic is free, meaning that it was not generated by an ad. Compared to the cost of paying for Google ads, the cost of optimizing a web page is fairly cheap.
Indexing and Crawling
How does Google decide which pages make it to the top of the search results? Before we dive into the elements of a successful law firm SEO, here is a bit of background on how Google’s queries work for context.
The index is where the search engine stores all of its web pages. The first step to having a site appear in Google’s search results is for it to be indexed, which is when bots read a page and add it to the index. The process of looking for new and updated web pages is called “crawling,” which Google does with an automated software called a “crawler,” which fetches the pages from the internet and adds them to the index. One way to quickly check to see if your site has been indexed is by doing a “site:” search – simply type “site:” followed by your law firm’s URL. If your URL appears in the search results, congratulations! Your site is already on its way to being optimized.
If it is not in the Google search results, you should consider consulting with whoever manages your web page to improve the design or update any policies that may be blocking the crawlers from crawling and indexing it.
Your firm’s webmaster should be familiar with the Google Search Console tool. This is a free tool offered by Google to allow users to monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot the website’s presence in Google’s search results. This is the best way to confirm that Google is able to crawl your website, fix indexing problems, view search traffic data, and show you which sites link to your content. (Note: this will come in handy when you are working on link building, which will be covered later in this article.) This is one the best tools you can have for law firm SEO.
The ultimate goal of law firm SEO is to have your page highly ranked among search engine results. Algorithms automatically evaluate the billions of pieces of content on the internet, and their algorithms rank which sites are most likely to be useful to users.
Keep in mind as you read on throughout this article that you do not need to be a professional web developer to optimize your online presence or your law firm SEO. Google does much of the heavy lifting in this process. Lawyer SEO does not always require a complete redesign of your page. For most sites, SEO is accomplished through a series of small, incremental changes that improve the quality and user-friendliness of the content. And yes, Google takes all of that into account as it ranks sites. Ultimately, Google will only put forward links that it thinks will help the user. The automated search engines use algorithms to determine if your page is relevant to the user, and if the page is difficult to read, it won’t make it to the top. In other words, the better your site is for the users, the better it will be for the search engines. Next, we will discuss what factors search engines look for when ranking their sites, and how that translates into your law firm’s SEO strategy.
What Do Google’s Algorithms Look For When Returning a Query?
To better understand what it takes to run an optimized website, it is helpful to have some insight into what Google looks for in a webpage when it returns a user’s query. These characteristics include:
- The meaning of the query
- Relevance of the websites
- Quality of the content
- Usability of the information
- Context and settings
Read on for a brief overview of each of these factors and how they relate to law firm SEO.
Meaning of Query
Before Google can give a user helpful results, it needs to understand what the user is looking for. Google’s technological advancements in the last several years have allowed its algorithms to glean the user’s intent, whether that means fixing simple spelling mistakes or reinterpreting the user’s search based on natural language research. Algorithms consider potential synonyms for words entered in the query, as well as any additional information the user might find helpful based on the context of the search. The algorithms also prioritize the freshest possible context to avoid providing outdated information.
Relevance of Page
The algorithms then try to pull up the most relevant web pages possible. One of the clearest indicators of relevance is keyword matches. When keywords in the user’s search query appear within the title, headings, and body of the text, this signals to Google that this is likely to be a relevant page. There are far more complicated methods that the algorithms use to tell whether a page is relevant for a user. For example, Google also analyzes anonymous user data to tell how helpful a webpage was to the user. If the aggregate data suggests that users do not spend a lot of time on the page, for example, this will factor into the search engine’s estimation of the site’s relevance and your law firm SEO. If you have used a search engine regularly over the past decade, you have probably noticed an exponential improvement in the quality of your searches. This is the result of years of experience in machine learning that allows the search engine to get into its users’ minds.
Quality of Content and SEO for Law Firms
Even if Google narrowed down search results to just those that are relevant to the user’s search, there would still be an unworkable number of results. The algorithms go further, and instead of presenting all results in a random order, the SERP will prioritize the most reliable content. The system is designed to find pages that provide authoritative and trustworthy information on the user’s topic of interest. Part of the process of discerning high-quality content also means weeding out low-quality spam content. This is why law firm SEO is so important. In some cases, it is a great idea to go through all of your law firm’s content with an SEO Content Audit.
Usability of Law Firm Websites
Search engines have incorporated user feedback over the years to come up with a formula for an easy-to-use website. This is a critical component for law firm SEO. Pages that are usable will be ranked higher on organic search results pages, and users will spend more time there. Google’s algorithms identify and flag sites that appear incorrectly in browsers, are not mobile-friendly or do not load quickly. Owners are responsible for making their sites more usable and for increasing their law firm SEO.
Context and Settings
It’s no surprise that Google has access to an almost unlimited amount of users’ personal and browsing data. By using the users’ location, search, history, and settings, Google is able to target results more specifically. This means that what appears on a user’s SERP will depend on where they are and what type of information they typically search for. This is yet another way the search engine tries to provide the most useful information possible.
Essential Elements of a Law Firm SEO Strategy
Now that you have a high-level understanding of how Google’s algorithms work, it’s time to connect the dots to your on-site law firm SEO. Typically, a law firm SEO strategy will be targeted toward meeting Google’s guidance and creating a website that the algorithms will consider helpful.
When first starting out, law firm SEO and optimization may seem overwhelming. Lawyers are busy, and for many, marketing is not always top of mind. However, keep in mind that these changes do not have to be done at once, and it doesn’t always require a complete overhaul. Instead, SEO success depends largely on targeting Google’s ranking factors. Through regular updates of content, keyword analysis, and slight changes to formatting and navigation, you can boost your law firm SEO, your site’s credibility and generate leads from brand new sources.
High-Quality Content and Law Firm SEO
One of the most important aspects of law firm SEO success is to create content that is helpful for users. This typically takes the form of descriptions of your practice areas, blog posts about relevant topics, or FAQ pages addressing some of your potential clients’ most common questions.
Although your goal is to make the site easy for Google to navigate, the usefulness to your readers is more important. Make sure the content is easy to read and written for general readership. Avoid spelling and grammar mistakes, sloppy formatting, and unnecessary legalese. The content should be regularly refreshed because a dated site with inaccurate legal information can only hurt your law firm SEO.
Longer pieces of content tend to perform better than shorter ones. While not every post needs to be a full-length treatise, remember that the basic tenant of law firm SEO is to make your site a one-stop-shop for your site visitors. This means that you should address a topic fully and not leave a reader wanting more. Not only will your readers prefer content with more depth and breadth, but so will Google’s ranking algorithms.
The call to action is one of the most critical components of your content. As of 2014, 74% of potential clients who visit a law firm website end up making contact by phone. This is why at the end of every page, and intermittently throughout, you must remember to remind your reader about your services and how to get in touch with you. Your ultimate goal is to drive the reader to engage your firm, so be sure to close out with a call to action with the next steps. Many law firms list their phone numbers, email addresses, or a link to a page to submit a consultation form, for example. This call to action is what ultimately turns law firm website traffic into leads, so be sure to use your webpage to convey to potential clients what makes your business special.
One word of warning as you draft law firm SEO content: do not forget that your site is subject to your state’s rules of professional conduct. When writing content about your products and services, while it is fine – and encouraged – to promote your firm’s work, do not make any promises, guarantees, or misleading assertions that could violate your state’s advertising and solicitation rules.
Keyword Analysis for Law Firm SEO
The content you put forth on your page should not only be driven by your personal experience of what your clients want to learn about, but also by keyword analysis. Keywords are words or phrases a user may type into Google’s search bar to discover information about the topic. By knowing and anticipating these keywords, an optimized site can anticipate what users are looking for. Research and analytics can help your firm target its content toward the type of clients you’re looking for and increase your law firm SEO.
To start the process of keyword analysis, you may first want to consider how people are currently finding you. Is local advertising, such as TV, radio, and billboard, driving people to search for your law firm’s website? Or are users going straight to the internet? Start by using any digital tools available to you to glean this information, or simply ask your clients how they discovered you.
Next, you should do some keyword analysis. Are there popular keywords people are searching for that your site is currently not addressing? If so, you could be missing out on a huge pool of potential leads that are being directed to your competitors’ sites. AHRefs and Google Keyword Planner are two examples of tools that can help you conduct research about relevant keywords and plan content to target those topics.
Law firm websites’ content should be targeted not only at your firm’s services and practice areas, but it should also try to attract local searches. Local SEO should also be targeted at the geographic regions in which you practice. If you are a small office that practices mainly in one city, then you may only need one practice area page. However, larger firms with offices in multiple cities and states may want to consider implementing local SEO. Local SEO means creating multiple versions of each page targeted at each geographic location. For example, you may find that your clients are searching for “car accident lawyer in Las Vegas.” If you practice in multiple cities across Nevada, however, you may want to create separate pages for “Reno, NV Car Accident Lawyer,” “Las Vegas, NV Car Accident Lawyer,” etc. to ensure you are attracting clients by location.
Again, though, you are writing for your readers, not for Google’s bots. Successful content will get inside the searcher’s mind. What is another way a potential client might phrase the question, even if it is not technically or legally accurate? For example, imagine you operate a personal injury law firm. You might want to develop content about “Accepting Liability at the Scene of the Accident.” However, a prospective client, unfamiliar with the terminology, might phrase their question like “What if I apologized after I hit someone’s car?” Your keywords should reflect the searcher’s intent by using natural variations of the keyword phrase.
How to Incorporate Keywords for Law Firm SEO
In short, keywords should be incorporated evenly across the content for your law firm SEO. Keep in mind that using keywords is more of an art than a science. Incorporating keywords into your webpage’s content should never hurt the overall quality of the writing. Avoid awkwardly “jamming” keywords into a sentence. Instead, you should always try to smoothly integrate the keywords using natural language. It is especially helpful if the body of the content is organized using headings. The headings should be short, easy to read, and, when appropriate, they should contain keywords that catch the eye.
Outside of the body of the text, there are a few places you should consider incorporating keywords, both for the benefit of your readers and Google’s crawlers.
The “title tag” refers to the name of the page as it appears in the SERP. This title should clearly reflect the topic of the webpage, including your primary keyword. The “meta description” is the short piece of text below the title tag. The keyword should also be naturally incorporated in this short description. Keep the tags and descriptions short – there are character limits, and studies show that shorter title tags draw more traffic.
The reason title tags and meta descriptions are so important for your law firm’s SEO is that they are the first thing the user sees after submitting a Google search. If the helpfulness of the webpage is not immediately apparent to the user, they will pass over it until they find a page that seems more relevant. Google’s algorithms take these clicks – or the absence thereof – into consideration. This is why it is extremely important to include compelling titles and descriptions in your design.
One overlooked location to incorporate keywords: in the title of images on your page. When you upload an image, it needs to have a name. Rather than uploading a photo labeled 10283910192.jpg, consider incorporating the keyword into the label, such as RenoCarAccidentLawyer.jpg. Also include alternate text describing each image. This is a win-win, because it not only serves as another opportunity to incorporate a keyword in your content, but it also makes the page more accessible for visitors with visual impairments, as the screen reader can describe the photograph aloud.
Finally, the actual site URL should make it immediately obvious what the page is about. Incorporate keywords in the URL if possible.
In sum, research the keywords that will draw the right type of clients to your firm. Then, incorporate those keywords – and their variations – naturally throughout the content, title tag, meta description, and even the URL.
Domain Authority and SEO for Law Firms
Your web page is an opportunity to show your readers that you know what you are talking about. Not only do you want your readers to know that you are competent in your practice areas, but you also want to prove to Google that you are only citing from reliable, authoritative sources.
Each piece of content should incorporate external links from very reliable sources. If you are citing a study, link to an authoritative source, such as a government page or well-known organization, to support your assertion. When incorporating these external links into your content, it is advisable to hyperlink directly to the source using relevant “anchor text.” The anchor text is the word or phrase that is highlighted to hyperlink to the external link. The anchor text should be relevant to the source you’re linking to, which helps Google assess how helpful and authoritative that link is to your readers.
There are ample opportunities to link to trustworthy sites from a law firm’s website. For example, you can support your legal statements with links to relevant statutes or case law from trustworthy sites, especially sites on a .org or .gov domain. Before adding an external link, ensure it has a high “domain authority.” Domain authority is a score out of 100 that illustrates how relevant or reliable a page is, which is a helpful predictor of how high that page is to be linked in search engine results pages. Tools like Moz’s Domain Analysis SEO Tool and AHRefs Website Authority Checker can give you a high-level understanding of how well your site is ranking compared to other similar sites.
To improve domain authority, and your law firm SEO, your firm’s site should not only include trustworthy links, but you should also be striving for “backlinks,” or “inbound links.” This process is called “link building.” Inbound links are off-page citations to your page. In other words, the more your page is linked across the internet, the higher your domain authority is likely to be. Examples of places where your page might be linked include online legal directors, your Google business page, and shares on social media. The best way to promote inbound links to your page is to create highly shareable content, like blog posts and other informational articles.
As a lawyer, you probably have countless connections and networking opportunities in your area. Networking has always been a cornerstone of successful law firm marketing. Think of law firm SEO as a way to help bring your networking practices into the digital age by moving your connections online.
Another critical component of your law firm’s SEO strategy has to be optimizing technical functionality. Though, as discussed, you do not need to be a professional web developer to do this, whoever manages your firm’s site should ensure that the page is up to Google’s specifications.
If you are wondering why there is such a focus on adhering to Google’s guidelines rather than other search engines, the simple answer is that Google is essentially the only search engine. Google holds about 94% of the market share for searches, and it makes its guidelines very straightforward. For more information about Google’s Webmaster’s guidelines, read on here.
The first and most important consideration is making sure the user has a great experience. Although these steps are important to make your site more accessible via Google, you should never design your site entirely for the benefit of the crawlers. These are for people, and at the end of the day, that is who you should be directing your website to. If a prospective client can’t easily navigate your site to find what they are looking for, they will close the webpage and start their search from scratch. Search engines pay attention to how long users stay on your page, and a frustrated user will not spend very long on a poorly-designed site.
What does a well-designed website look like? Make sure the basics are covered.
- Are the links still live, or do you have broken links scattered throughout your site? 404 errors can be frustrating for users, but in case of broken links, be sure that your 404 error page is customized to help the user navigate back to the live page.
- Are your pages optimized to load quickly? Page speed is critical to ranking high.
- Does your page look correct in different browsers? Wonky formatting or page errors are a surefire way to dissuade users from spending time on your website.
- Google offers a tool called Lighthouse to allow developers to audit metrics like performance, accessibility, progressive web apps, SEO, and more.
In addition to the behind-the-scenes upkeep, the page should be visually appealing on the front end as well. At the surface level, the font, size, and color of the text shouldn’t strain your readers’ eyes. The site should also be easy to navigate, with intuitive menus and hyperlinks. Consider features like breadcrumb menus to help users easily navigate to a prior page, especially if your site is organized in a hierarchical structure with multiple categories. For example, if your site is organized by city, then by practice, then by sub-area, you should consider incorporating a small, compact menu at the top that tells readers where they are and how to get back to where they were. A personal injury page might have a breadcrumb navigation menu that looks like “Reno Personal Injury Lawyers > Car Accidents > What If I Accepted Liability for a Reno Car Accident?”
Also consider including features to help readers with visual impairments, such as including a screen-reader to read the text aloud. In other words, do whatever you can to make your website run like a well-oiled machine to impress your prospective clients and allow Google to easily search and index your page.
One of the most important and often missed opportunities that law firm SEO strategies do not address is mobile. At this point, making your website mobile-friendly is not optional if you really want to invest in digital marketing. If your law firm has not invested in mobile, consider the following:
- In 2020, there were 211 million mobile search users – yes, that is over half of the country
- In 2016, the influence of mobile devices on retail was over $1 trillion
- Over 60% of Google searches are on a mobile device
If you are not sure if your site is optimized for use on mobile devices, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. If it is not already, then make sure mobile-friendliness is incorporated in your law firm SEO strategy.
Structured data is a way for sites to provide detailed information about their pages to a search engine. The purpose of structured data is to allow the query to return “rich snippets” to users that provide immediate helpful information right in the search results. A rich snippet, or rich result, is an enhanced search result. Perhaps you have noticed the difference between a result that simply shows the title tag and description of the page versus a result that pulls out information pertinent to your search and presents it right in the SERP. The more detailed results, which may contain photos or short answers to your questions, are examples of rich snippets. Featured snippets are a type of rich snippet that attempts to answer the user’s question right on the search results page. In response to the question “Do I need a lawyer for a car accident?”, Google returns the following result near the top of the page:
If Google thinks a featured snippet is likely to answer a user’s question, it will pop up to the top of the results. If it does, in fact, begin to answer the user’s question, the user is likely to continue on to the web page. It is no surprise that rich results and featured snippets typically have higher rates of clicks, and they can be extremely helpful for SEO purposes.
Although marking up a web page to provide structured data requires some technical knowledge, this should be something a lawyer SEO expert or your site’s webmaster can help with. To create structured data, your site must conform to the vocabulary used by the major search engines. Schema.org is a community project that creates and maintains “schema” for structured data on the internet. These schema are incorporated throughout the webpage’s HTML, and it allows web crawlers to understand the context of the content and provide users with a more useful and efficient browsing experience. Structured data is an advanced element of law firm SEO, but it can make the difference between a plain-looking search result and an extremely helpful snippet that attracts a potential client to your firm.
Black Hat vs. White Hat and Law Firm SEO
If it seems like search engines may be easy to trick, think again. Sneaky tactics to try to deceive the search engine are not only discouraged, but they are also ineffective. The algorithms are smart, and they know how to weed out sites that use disapproved techniques to boost your law firm SEO.
“Black hat” is the term used to describe these shortcuts. They are discouraged because they violate the search engines’ terms of service. Some of these tactics include “keyword stuffing” or sneaky redirects. Do not attempt to increase your law firm’s traffic using these techniques, because they do not work, and they tend to make your site less user-friendly.
The best way to improve your search engine results is by working to make it a trusted and reliable source of information using white hat SEO techniques. White hat techniques are those discussed above: creating high-quality content, linking to reliable external sources, using keywords organically throughout the page, and organizing your site so users find what they are looking for easily.
If you are unsure whether you are using white hat or black hat law firm SEO practices, ask yourself whether what you’re doing is intended to help your prospective clients find information, or is it a back-end feature that is secretly trying to drive people to your page? If it is a tactic you wouldn’t be proud to describe to a colleague, it probably violates the search engine’s guidelines, and you should reconsider using it. Look out for SEO companies who offer quick turnarounds, cheap services, and guaranteed law firm SEO success – they may be engaging in shady practices as well, and it is best to avoid them.
How To Take Your Law Firm’s SEO to the Next Level
While law firm SEO is becoming the way of the world, SEO for lawyers is a unique art. Not only does your website need to address the topics that site visitors want to read about, but the content must also build confidence in your professionalism as an attorney. Attorney SEO content should be assertive, reliable, and understandable, and it should convey who you are as a firm as well as the services you provide. Below are a few tips on how to get started – or improve – your process.
Develop Client Personas
Before you can begin targeting your content at site visitors, you need to first understand who are the type of clients you want to attract. One way to brainstorm the content you want to develop is to imagine a persona of an ideal client. What is their age? Profession? Type of case? Type of fee arrangement? Plaintiff or defendant? Redesigning your site for search engine optimization is an opportunity to revamp your marketing strategy and make sure your firm is attracting the right kinds of leads based on how you want to grow your business. If you currently represent personal injury victims but want to transition your practice area more to criminal defense, then the content and keywords on your site should reflect that. If you want to grow or minimize a particular practice, SEO is an opportunity to do that.
Audit the Existing Site for Law Firm SEO
Sometimes, websites are used as a stagnant page that primarily serves to list contact information and practice areas. It is possible that your site has not been reviewed in years. Before beginning the SEO process, you need to know what’s out there, what you want to keep, and what you want to change. Broken links, outdated information, incorrect contact information, and an out-of-style design can be major detractors, especially when for so many site visitors, your website is their first impression.
While You Are At It, Audit Your Social Media Presence
Lawyers and social media don’t always seem to go together, but more and more, a business without any social media accounts may seem detached and inaccessible. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are helpful for law firms for multiple reasons. First, they allow your law firm to communicate directly with prospective clients by promoting events, sharing success stories and testimonials, and answering inquiries. Second, social media platforms also allow you to share backlinks to your firm’s website, which in turn boosts your site’s authority. If you are operating a firm with no online presence outside of your website, consider creating new social media accounts to expand your network. If you have existing accounts but don’t use them regularly, consider refreshing your pages and using your accounts more actively.
Keep Google My Business Up to Date
Google My Business is a free tool that allows businesses to update their information on Google’s platforms. Many search engine users rely on business information, such as phone numbers and addresses, that are readily accessible via Maps and Search. If you operate a business, it is in your best interest to keep this information up to date to help clients reach you. Updating this information is the responsibility of the business owner, so make sure your law firm’s online presence is accurate across all platforms. Beyond the basic, the information included in Google My Business may also include a link to your site, a listing of your hours, and other pertinent information about how your business is running, such as COVID protocols. Google My Business also allows customers to leave reviews, and, as most law firm management knows, testimonials are an important marketing tool. GMB is a massive tool to help your law firm SEO.
Research Your Competitors
Most law firms know who their top competitors are within their region and practice area. Take a look at your highest-ranking competitors’ websites and compare them to yours. Are theirs easier to navigate? Do they provide more helpful information? Do they cover topics or services that yours does not? This is a cheap and easy way of putting yourself in a potential client’s shoes. If you were looking for an attorney, which would you choose based only on the websites? While your firm is worth much more than its online presence, it is a growing reality that a poorly designed website can make or break a lead.
Conduct Keyword Research for Law Firm SEO
The best blog in the world won’t help your business thrive if people can’t find it. You need to start by determining what it is people want to read about. One simple way to decide on relevant and highly-searched topics is to delve into keyword research, as discussed briefly above.
There are numerous tools online to look up highly searched keywords and phrases, but a simple way to start is by looking at what types of questions your ideal clients would typically ask. Scroll through discussion boards and forums as well as your high-ranking competitors’ sites, and make a list of some of the common words and phrases that come up.
You can then use one of the many online tools to identify which of these phrases is getting the highest amount of traffic. A few of the most popular keyword research sites include:
- Keyword Planner
- Search Console
- AHRefs Keywords Explorer
There are many others, and if you consult with a law firm SEO expert, they most likely already use one of these tools religiously.
By identifying commonly-searched topics to write about, you can be sure that the content you put out will drive a lot of organic search traffic to your website and may even be shared across other platforms, like social media sites. All of the content posted on your website should be designed to attract prospective clients. Be sure to monitor the success of the content and adapt appropriately.
Implement Your Law Firm’s SEO Strategy
Each firm’s strategy will be unique. Using the numerous factors discussed earlier in the Essential Elements chapter, develop a strategy that is customized to your firm’s and your clients’ needs. Whether this includes a full redesign, or gradually republishing content, it is important to make a plan that works for your firm’s needs and budget. We understand that law firms are made up of lawyers and legal staff, and many law firms do not have full-time marketing professionals on their payroll. This is why many lawyers, especially with smaller practices, choose to hire an SEO consultant to support this initiative. For more information about whether hiring an SEO company is right for you, read the following section entitled “When It’s Time to Hire an SEO Consultant.”
Monitor Your Law Firm SEO Progress
You’ll want to regularly check on how your site is performing. Tools like Google Analytics allows website owners to track how users are interacting with their page. Among the many features of this powerful tool, website owners can monitor the number of active users, how users move through their website, and whether website referrals or advertisements are significant factors in driving traffic. SEO for lawyers can be a time-consuming and costly process, so you want to make sure your investment is paying off with more website traffic and a higher rate of lead conversions.
When You Know It Is Time to Hire an SEO Consultant
If law firm SEO is a brand new concept to you and your firm, it might make sense to start out with an SEO consultant. Some law firms try to take on the SEO beast by themselves, and while DIY is certainly possible, lawyers and legal professionals are busy enough as it is. Drafting new content, communicating with web developers, conducting keyword research, and monitoring success metrics probably do not fit in most lawyers’ daily schedules.
If you are considering hiring a law firm SEO professional to support your firm’s website, below are some of the services they may be able to offer.
- Conducting an audit for law firm SEO. Remember that pesky and time-consuming site audit? This is usually an SEO expert’s first step. They will want to get to know your site to determine what is working, and what isn’t. In addition to familiarizing themselves with your business, they will want to get to know the structure of your site and make recommendations about how to reformat for improved navigation and readability.
- Developing client personas. Your lawyers know your practice areas best. A law firm SEO expert, however, can help you refocus your business to help target the right clients for you. By asking thought-provoking questions about the future of your firm, a consultant can help design content to attract leads.
- Technical improvements. One of the most valuable services a law firm SEO expert can offer is improving the technical quality of the website. As discussed, page speech, page design, and adherence to search engines’ guidelines are critical. This involves some level of technical expertise, which is why many law firms opt to work with an outside consultant to make their firm’s website as “Google-friendly” as possible.
- Keyword research and content road mapping. How many lawyers have time to keep a blog post in addition to hours of meetings, drafting, and litigation? Not many. A law firm SEO consultant can conduct all of the research needed to outline a plan for posting refreshed and optimized marketing content. Though there are countless tools on the market, a consultant will take care of that so you don’t need to spend any time getting up to speed.
- Optimized formatting for law firm SEO. Outlining and drafting content is an important element of on-site optimization, but the formatting is equally important. Your title tag, meta description, headers, and keyword use should follow a somewhat rigid formula to get your pages in tip-top shape for SEO. This is another service a law firm SEO expert can provide.
- Brainstorming link-building. Once you’ve begun posting optimized content with authoritative sources, your law firm will want to focus on inbound links. A law firm SEO consultant can help you develop a strategy to boost backlinks to your pages from trustworthy external pages.
What To Look for in an SEO Consultant
There are a lot of “experts” on the internet. The good news is, as a legal professional, you know the danger of failing to conduct due diligence before turning over your website to a stranger. While SEO for lawyers is a growing field with a number of highly qualified professionals, there are some red flags to look out for before entering a contract.
Ask for References
Just like you would before hiring any employee or contractor, ask your SEO expert for references. You do not want a brand new consultant experimenting with your business. Look for examples of past projects and ask the potential consultant whether they have had success in reaching key performance indicators with previous clients. For law firm SEO projects, the consultant should be able to illustrate how they’ve improved their clients’ search engine rankings, improved traffic to your website, or developed highly-viewed content and blog posts.
If you contact the consultant’s references, ask how the project went, how well the consultants communicated, and whether the client saw any quantifiable results. Also, inquire as to how the work on the project was divided between the consultant and their client. Did the client have the opportunity to provide input on the plan? Was it customized to the business’s needs? Did the client have final authority in the content that was posted on the site? These questions can provide valuable insight into how easy this consultant will be to work with and how likely they are to meet your firm’s needs.
They Can Explain their Strategies and Timeline
Your expert should be able to explain their decisions and why they are right for you. Not only should they understand the process to build an optimized website, but they should also understand the technical reasons behind it as well. A consultant should also be up-front about how much time the project will take. Large-scale changes to a site usually do not have a quick turnaround time; rather, many of the changes will follow a gradual roll-out plan as new content is developed and published.
They Never Use Unfair Tactics
Low-quality SEO or sneaky black hat tactics can result in severe penalties, such as de-indexing. (De-indexing is just about the worst-case scenario for SEO, because that means your site will not appear in search results at all.) If an expert promises fast and cheap results, this is a red flag that they are using less-than-favorable techniques to trick search engines into boosting the page. Buying links, keyword stuffing, and sneaky automation and redirects are bad SEO practices, and they are more likely to hurt your site than help it. Make sure you vet your consultant’s SEO strategy before implementing their suggested changes.
They Are Clear Communicators
An important characteristic of a good law firm SEO consultant is communication. Much like lawyers have a duty to communicate with their clients and allow them to be the ultimate decision-maker, SEO companies should do the same. Before making significant changes to your website or posting new content, consultants should provide your firm with regular updates and the opportunity to preview and approve content. Ultimately, the content is being posted on your behalf, so make sure your SEO understands your jurisdiction’s rules as to advertising and solicitation. Finally, make sure that your consultant is responsive to your questions. Law firm SEO projects can be fast-paced and constantly changing, so you will want a consultant who is dedicated to keeping you in the loop.
They Know What Success Metrics to Look For
What good is a law firm SEO expert if they cannot tell you how your website is performing after the changes are made? Ask your SEO consultant how they measure the success of their work. If they cannot explain the key metrics, then they might not be the right consultant for you. Some of the most important success metrics to know include:
- Organic search traffic and law firm SEO. Google Analytics offers a dashboard that shows owners how much organic search traffic they received over a set period of time. Organic search traffic, as opposed to traffic from paid advertising, is a strong indicator of how well the law firm SEO strategy is working.
- Click-through rate. Click-through rate is a valuable metric because it shows how often a user clicks into your webpage after seeing it on the results page. Not only is click-through rate a helpful indicator of your page’s ranking, but it also suggests whether your title tags and meta descriptions are compelling to readers. If your page has a low click-through rate, chances are you will need to revamp the way your site appears on the SERP.
- Bounces. A dreaded “bounce” is when a user leaves your page after seeing the first page. Therefore, the site’s bounce rate is the proportion of visitors who immediately left your page. Usually, this is an indicator that the first page was not helpful to the user. The search algorithms use metrics like bounce rate to determine how relevant the page is, so a high bounce rate means your site will probably drop down in the rankings.
- Link building. Your SEO consultant should be able to monitor the number of new inbound links. Inbound links are a critical component of establishing reliability, and an SEO strategy should consider ways to earn new backlinks on other reliable sites.
- Domain authority and law firm SEO. As discussed briefly in an earlier section, domain authority is an estimate of how reliable Google finds your website. A successful SEO strategy will see a rise in domain authority as you put out helpful and authoritative information.
Their Services Meet Your Budget
Know your budget before you start shopping around for a consultant. Treat search engine optimization as part of your firm’s regular marketing budget, because, as discussed earlier, SEO is often a cheaper way to generate organic traffic without having to pay for ads. Optimizing your website is a long-term investment that will teach you the tools and strategies to keep a beautiful, user-friendly page that ranks at the top of the results pages. Depending on how much you are willing to spend, an SEO consultant can play a small or large role in that process. Ask your potential consultant how their payment arrangements work, which services are included and whether you can expect any additional fees or expenses associated with the project. Law Quill always provides upfront and full disclosure on all services, right on our website.
They Put People First
So much of our lives take place online that it can sometimes feel like we are interacting with robots instead of people. At the end of the day, SEO for lawyers is about reaching people and helping them find what they need. The team that you ultimately choose to improve your website should understand this too. If your firm is like most client-facing firms, you probably prioritize your firm’s ability to provide a personal touch to your representation. Whether you represent personal injury victims, families facing divorce, small businesses, or any other client in need of your advice and support, your SEO campaign should reflect your mission. Make sure your SEO consultant understands your firm’s mission and vision and incorporates it throughout your redesigned website. Just because your page is being revamped, it does not mean that your firm has to lose its personal touch.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the search engine optimization/SEO process, you are not alone. SEO for lawyers is a new and growing field, and many firms are still unsure if investing in SEO is right for them. Below are some of the most common questions that lawyers and law firms have when starting out the SEO process.
How do I know if our page needs to be optimized?
While there are many quantifiable metrics to tell how well your website is performing, such as the number of visitors, the proportion of clients that found you by search engines, or other indicators, there may be some immediately apparent clues that your law firm’s website is in need of updating. Some questions you may want to consider to determine whether your firm should take the leap:
- When was the last time our content was refreshed? An old website with years-old content is a red flag. If your firm hosts a blog, make sure there are regular contributions, as the search feature will try to provide users with up-to-date results. If any of the information is inaccurate, such as the description of your fee arrangement or services, it is likely that your site is not going to rank particularly high because ultimately, it is not helpful to users.
- Can your site be accessed on mobile? If your site is incompatible with mobile devices or certain browsers, chances are it is not optimized for search engine results.
- Is your page’s loading speed slow? Recall that search engine optimization relies on high-quality web pages. If your website does not load quickly, it probably needs to be optimized so it meets the technical requirements for SEO.
- If you were a client, would you find the content helpful? If you find it frustrating to navigate your own site, or feel that your firm has a website just for the sake of having one, this is another sign that users are not likely to spend a lot of time on your page. The algorithms will factor in the length of time users spend on your page, and if users click out quickly, your site’s SEO ranking will drop.
- Does your site make it easy for the potential client to contact you? The purpose of your website should be to connect readers to your firm’s services. If your firm does not offer an online contact method, such as a consultation form or a chat function, chances are you are not maximizing your leads.
- Does it look and feel like it belongs in the 21st century? A visually appealing and intuitive website can make all the difference. Your website is an opportunity to show prospective clients that you are a modern and tech-savvy firm, which is an ever-important skill.
What do we do once an SEO project is complete?
It is critical to discuss the duration of the SEO project with a consultant to make sure both parties understand what is expected of them before they begin work. In all likelihood, your SEO expert or experts will come on board for a limited duration and work with your firm to build processes to ensure your site meets Google’s guidelines and remains continuously refreshed. However, even after the SEO consultant’s work is done, the firm must continue to refresh its content, monitor its progress, and stay up-to-date on any necessary changes to the technical or on-site SEO. The best possible outcome of your SEO project is that your firm – whether you are a solo practitioner or a larger firm with an in-house marketing department – builds an understanding of what it takes to run a successful website and implements processes to keep your site performing well.
How much does hiring an SEO consultant cost?
The cost of hiring an SEO company varies based on the experience level, location, and level of involvement necessary, among other factors. SEO agencies can charge based on an hourly rate, by project, or by month. Make sure you understand the type of fee arrangement up front so you can compare apples to apples when deciding on an agency. A typical hourly estimate for an SEO expert is $100 to $200 per hour. It is important to note that the price of an SEO package will tend to vary based on the services included. Simple keyword research, for example, may cost less than a full-scale website redesign and ongoing content creation. Work with the SEO agency to find a range of services that fits within your budget. Law Quill always provides upfront and full disclosure on all services, right on our website.
Why should our firm spend money on SEO instead of paying for online ads?
While paid ads seem like a more certain way to direct traffic to your firm, it is usually a short-lived investment. Paid ads, or “pay-per-click” (PPC) are certainly a faster way to skyrocket your site to the top of the search results, but the downside is that once you stop paying for the ads, it immediately drops back down.
In a pay-per-click arrangement, the advertiser pays the search engine each time the link is clicked. Google Ads is a PPC marketing system, where advertisers essentially bid on keywords, and then every time a site visitor clicks on the link, the advertiser pays a fee. Yes – Google literally auctions off keywords! The term “attorney” is, unsurprisingly, one of the most sought-after keywords, so law firms could end up spending a significant chunk of change per click. Of course, if these clicks lead to conversions – i.e. new clients – then paid ads can provide a solid return on investment. However, if the underlying site is not helpful or attractive, chances are the site visitor won’t spend much time there anyway, and that cost for the click will be lost.
On the other hand, SEO for lawyers focuses on holistically improving the helpfulness of your content. These are typically changes your firm should be making anyway, regardless of whether you pay for Google Ads or not. Ultimately, you want to help your site visitor, whether they found you through organic traffic or through a paid ad. And once your site is optimized, you will likely not even need to pay for ads because of the uptick in organic traffic.
My law firm prides itself on being a traditional local firm. Do we still need an optimized website?
The short answer is yes. Let’s face it – many law firms are old-fashioned brick-and-mortar offices, which rely heavily on networking and personal referrals to obtain new clients. Beyond that, some law firms may prefer old-school advertising methods, like local television ads, direct mailings, and billboards. While these methods may be working for you, investing in a solid, optimized website is a way to build a foundation for the future. Emphasizing internet marketing does not mean moving away from attracting local clients. In fact, local searches are critically important, since most people looking for a lawyer want someone local. The SEO process will make local searches a priority and work with your firm to target the geographic regions you want to reach. Compared to the cost of printing brochures and business cards, planning an SEO campaign and paying for SEO services can be a relatively cost-effective way of boosting your marketing initiatives.
What kind of content should we post on our website?
The short answer: informative, high-quality content. For law firms, the type of content on your website is usually going to be either a practice area page or a blog post. Practice area pages should specifically describe the services provided and anticipate what types of questions users may have about what types of cases you take. Remember that this is a great opportunity to implement local SEO as well. Blog posts can be a bit more flexible and conversational, and these should address a variety of interesting and helpful topics.
Creating optimized content starts with identifying proper keywords. The content your firm posts on its website should be correlated to the types of clients you are trying to draw. If you are a family lawyer, for example, you should by now know which cases you accept and what type of client you want, and more importantly, which types of cases and clients you don’t want. Therefore, you shouldn’t post generic blog articles, but rather target them to anticipate the needs of those most sought-after clients. Instead of writing “What You Need to Know About Family Law,” think about who you are speaking to. You may tend to represent women with minor children in your city going through a divorce. In this case, you would want to develop content like “How Will Child Custody Be Determined After My Divorce in Pittsburgh?” This topic is more likely to be searched by a prospective client than a generic term like “family lawyer.” Ultimately, the keywords should be a major factor in what your firm posts.
Other firms near us are posting videos. Do videos help SEO?
Yes! Videos are crawled and indexed just like written web content. Firms that post videos are offering just one more type of content to attract users. Video makes up a huge portion of all traffic on the internet, and many people rely on videos for a fast and easy way to learn new information. A mix of media, like video, photo, and written content, can boost the authority of your site and help build credibility within your community. Videos are helpful and memorable, and they are also usually very cost-effective. Look out, though – videos can also be frustrating if they are too long, not engaging, poorly made, or if the site does not support fast page speeds. In other words, video can be a huge benefit, but make sure they are done correctly! You don’t want to go viral for the wrong reasons, and law firm video ads sometimes have a reputation of being of poor production quality.
As long as the video itself is good, this medium can be a great opportunity to include more keywords in the video’s label, transcript, and alternative text. Talk to an SEO consultant about creating a strategy for developing video content. Law Quill now provides this as a service to all clients.
Should we hire someone in-house to handle SEO?
Some larger firms with in-house marketing departments may consider hiring a professional in-house to handle all aspects of the firm’s digital marketing, including search engine optimization. There are certainly pros to this choice. Above all, having a person on staff to handle content development means you will have that person’s full attention dedicated to your firm, rather than handling multiple clients.
On the other hand, though, sometimes an in-house SEO specialist is not the right choice. First, hiring a person, or training an existing employee up, can be more expensive than necessary. Though SEO for law firms is a long-term process, it is not always a full-time job. Your law firm may find that it is more cost-efficient to contract with an agency to handle these projects. Another benefit of going with an agency is that in addition to the services provided, you also get years of experience. It is rare for one person to have the knowledge and computer science expertise to handle all aspects of a firm’s SEO campaign. With an agency, you will likely get the benefit of a team with years of experience and expertise in each of the essential elements of law firm SEO.
How fast can we expect SEO to work?
Search engine optimization for law firms is a long game. You may start to see results, such as an uptick in the number of site visitors, within a month or two, but it is impossible to guarantee results. This means you should be wary of any so-called SEO “experts” who guarantee fast results. The science of SEO continues to evolve. Do not expect a one-and-done project to last forever. If you continue to put out great content, comply with webmaster guidelines, modernize your website’s accessibility, and stay up to date with SEO ranking factors, you should see steady growth over time.
How do we ensure the tone and voice of our website stays true to our firm?
If your project with an SEO agency involves the agency drafting and posting content on your behalf, you may be concerned about losing control over your unique voice. The good news is that there are usually multiple ways for the law firm to maintain oversight in the process. First, you should always be sure that the agency allows you an opportunity to review and edit content before posting. This way, you can feel confident that the post is legally accurate, consistent with your firm’s vision, and meeting quality standards. Another way to keep your site close to the vest is by having attorneys regularly contribute content. Your attorneys likely have a unique perspective, and if anyone knows how to help your clients find what they are looking for, it is the attorneys themselves. Work with the SEO agency to come up with a regular posting schedule, and if you’d like a hand in developing the content yourself, make sure to plan on consistent updates and refreshers.
SEO for Law Firms is the Way of the Future
Whether your business is new to SEO or looking to take your firm’s digital marketing strategy to the next level, the process can be demanding. The important thing to remember is that cost associated with implementing SEO for lawyers is a long-term investment, one that is becoming more and more necessary as law firms rely on online conversions to attract new clients.
Lawyers are busy, and sometimes old-fashioned in terms of their marketing style. Don’t think of search engine optimization as a total overhaul of your marketing plan, but rather one of many pieces. If you are finding traditional marketing techniques to be effective, investing in attorney SEO does not mean you have to pull the plug on other forms of solicitation. Law firm SEO is especially recommended for firms marketing directly to individuals, but not exclusively. It is also important for just about any type of business to build a credible and accessible online presence. Instead, it is just a way to pave a foundation for success in the digital age.
Even if your law firm has an in-house marketing department, you should think critically about whether it makes sense to engage an external agency to help your law firm design and implement your SEO strategy. While the process may mean straightforward, there is much more to SEO than simply putting out updated content. A consultant provides law firms with the technical expertise necessary to start boosting their website’s metrics.
There is no surefire, fast-track way to boost your website’s search engine optimization, but through time, patience, and an upfront cost, SEO for law firms is well worth the investment.
How Law Quill Can Help With Your Law Firm SEO
Using law firm SEO strategies can give your law firm an organic boost in the Google rankings and cause your law firm to stand out in the sea of competition. When individuals start searching for an attorney, most people start looking online, so it is crucial that your law firm stands out and gets noticed. Once you have SEO in mind, you can move ahead, creating content and maximizing your use of on and off-page strategies. Building links, watching metrics, and keeping a user-friendly, updated website are more ways you can make SEO an effective part of your law firm’s marketing plan.
We are here to help and would welcome the opportunity to visit with you for free regarding your law firm website’s content, and how we can take these tasks off your plate! Schedule a free visit with us by scheduling a quick phone or zoom call at your convenience on our calendar today. You can also email us at email@example.com.