You may or may not have engaged search engine optimization services for your business in the past. Many law firms that generate a ton of cases online do. Many more have been jaded or burned by SEO either from an agency that didn’t deliver or they went the DIY route with little or no success.
Pulling in organic search traffic for your firm isn’t easy. It’s extremely competitive in the legal industry and it’s a big hill to climb, especially when the field is changing and there are many concepts that require a deep understanding in order to tackle them.
In this article, we’re going to look at nearly two dozen tips and tactics that will give you a much more thorough understanding of legal SEO and what your firm needs to pull in new clients and business. This is a massive guide and will take a while to get through. Even by the end, you may find that SEO isn’t a good fit for your firm. One way or another, you’ll have a better understanding of the search engine optimization game in regards to law firms and practices.
SEO Audit – How Do You Stack Up to Your Competitors?
The first thing that you’re going to want to do at the start of an SEO campaign is to determine how your law firm’s website compares to your competition as well as seeing what state the technical details are in.
This will involve going through and inspecting some of the more technical aspects such as:
- Is your site secure with HTTPS?
- Is the website Mobile-Responsive?
- What is the Page Speed Score and Loading Time?
Then you can start looking at more in-depth and advanced features such as:
- What’s the Quality and Length of the Page Content?
- Looking at the Size and Quality of the Backlink Profile
- How many Keyword Rankings and Organic Traffic is the website is receiving
It’s important to see how these attributes compare to your competitors in order to understand where your firm’s website stands relative to the market’s competition. These metrics will form the basic dimensions and framework to measure your SEO campaign performance and determine some objectives in terms of organic traffic and keyword rankings in the future.
Content Auditing – Which Pages Generate Rankings and Traffic?
Once keyword ranking and organic traffic analysis have been performed, the next step is to map these findings to the pages and content on your website.
- Which pages are ranking for the most keywords and producing the most traffic?
- Which pages are producing little or no rankings and traffic?
Just as when a prospective client comes to your office for a consultation, you need to evaluate the case and their matters to see how you can help them and an approach moving forward, regarding their legal issues. This is analogous to the initial evaluation process for search engine optimization.
A thorough audit needs to be performed on your legal practice’s website – in addition to a competitive analysis – to understand:
- The starting point for your SEO campaign
- What you can reasonably expect to achieve in a given timeframe and budget
- The roadmap for achieving your SEO and organic traffic objectives
Perform Meticulous Keyword Analysis
A critical part of any search engine optimization campaign is to understand which keywords and search terms are going to bring your law firm the highest quality and most relevant traffic to your website. This is the audience or pool of people in your market that constitute your target and ideal clients.
Determine the Language Your Clients Speak
When conducting keyword research and analysis, it’s important to be mindful of the language that your market and people in your region use. Don’t assume that you know the language that they use.
For instance, in civil litigation, a lawyer may call themselves a civil litigator or trial lawyer. However, many people are not going to understand what a civil litigator is or if that’s the type of lawyer they’re looking for. Prospective clients are looking for a lawyer that deals with personal injury, car accident or wrongful termination cases.
Another example is the difference between the Canadian and American legal systems. In the U.S., counsel can be referred to as an attorney or lawyer. Technically speaking in Canada, an attorney is an entirely different thing. However, due to mass media and pop culture, the general population isn’t aware of this. Many Canadians still use the term ‘attorney’ when looking for a lawyer. The same applies to alimony. In the United States, alimony is a valid term, while in Canada, the technical terms are child and spousal support. However, most people in both countries referred to this as alimony.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to have to modify the language on your website, however, when performing keyword research it’s imperative to be cognizant of this in order to identify these keywords and queries as part of your final list of target keywords.
The key takeaway here is that regardless of where your law firm is situated, at the city, state, and country levels, language and terminology vary regionally. A part of the SEO professional’s job is to target the language that the market is using rather than the technically accurate language or that which a business prefers to use.
Local SEO Analysis
What is your target market or jurisdiction?
Most lawyers firms are only licensed to practice in one state and therefore, in the majority of situations, is going to limit their marketing to that particular state. Each law firm is going to have a different marketing strategy and target market. Even though a law firm may be licensed to practice in one state, it may only decide to target specific cities and regions within the state. Ultimately, there’s (usually) not too much of an issue with the law firm’s overall marketing gameplan. However, we do need to be aware of the fact that in different regions, people are going to use search differently.
State vs. City-Level Search Terms
This is reflected between state and city-level search queries. Some people may search for “car accident lawyer miami” while others type in “car accident lawyer florida”. Both search terms likely have search volume, however, their relative search volume and traffic cannot be assumed either. This has to be analyzed and accounted for within the keyword research audit.
At this point, it’s a joint responsibility of both the SEO agency and law firm to understand the potential reach, organic traffic, and market value of either optimizing for state, city-level search terms or both. Often, it’s likely that the law firm can rank for both city and state-level search terms, provided they are applying high-quality and aggressive SEO techniques.
This is an integral part of the planning stage. Understanding what state and city search volume your firm can acquire should ultimately play a role in whether you tighten or broaden your SEO campaign’s marketing reach.
Use Your Audience’s Language, not Legal-Speak
Building on top of the idea of your audience’s language, it’s important to be clear with the legal information that you provide on your website. With that said, skip the technical legal jargon and speak in a clear, but professional style that everyone will understand.
Failing to do this, your website visitors are likely going to return to the search results and find a website they can understand and relate to. This phenomenon is called bouncing, which increases your Bounce Rate (which is a bad thing, typically).
If this happens repeatedly, enough times, then a law firm will lose its search rankings due to providing poor user experience. One of your competitors will be more than happy to take your position on the first page.
Optimize your Site Speed [But Not Too Much]
Many SEO companies will tell you that page speed is an important factor for ranking on the first page of Google. They tend to cite Google studies where they show that anything over 2 second load time equates to poor user experience and performance needs to be improved. Generally, they refer to a tool called the PageSpeed score, which ranks a webpage’s speed optimization out of a score of 100 for mobile and desktop, respectively.
The SEO providers (and Google) recommend being above 80 or 90, depending on who you source. However, in reality, this is far from the truth if we look at what’s actually ranking on the first page of the search engine results.
We conducted a study where we investigated 200 law firm websites ranking on the first page of Google for their primary keywords. After all, if these law firms’ websites are ranking within the top 10 results, it should give a strong indication of what PageSpeed score needs to be in order to appear in the top 10 results and just how important this website page speed score metric truly is.
The web page speed results were:
- Avg. Desktop Speed Score: 75.9%
- Avg. Mobile Speed Score: 44.2%
Law firm websites built with the popular WordPress CMS (content management system), which comprised over 62% of the legal websites on page 1 results, performed worse.
On average, law firm websites running WordPress averaged web page scores of:
- 66.8% of Desktop
- 32.8% on Mobile
It’s fine to make your site as fast as (reasonably) possible. However, it doesn’t appear to be a significant ranking factor. WordPress websites have many out of the box capabilities and extendable SEO features. It’s a better success contributor to have a law firm website built with WordPress than to trade it for a boost in site speed and performance.
Site Speed & Performance Priority
That aside, it’s still important to optimize your site’s performance. However, you don’t want to focus solely on your site performance score. In many cases, this could even interfere with the user experience. Having an excellent mobile and desktop performance score may come at the cost of sacrificing some very useful elements and tools that enrich your website’s UX. In other instances, where WordPress plugins and performance optimization tools may break portions of code on the website.
A final consideration for website speed and performance is that internet connection speeds, WiFi and cellular are becoming faster and cheaper. This translates into being able to download webpages in less time, even as their data footprints grow.
Optimize Your Law Firm’s GMB Listing
GMB – Google My Business
An essential part of both organic and local SEO for law firms these days is having an optimized Google My Business listing. This is a free listing profile provided by Google and plays a vital role in ranking in the organic and local search results. In fact, without a highly optimized GMB listing, it’s virtually impossible to show up in the local search and map results for any search query, let alone your target keywords.
Make sure to:
- Claim your listing
- Fill it out entirely
- Make your primary category your target area of law
- Add secondary categories for other areas of practice you wish to promote
- Add at least 5 photos of the business; take photos of the legal team, exterior, and interior of the office (at least 3 of each is a best practice)
- Ensure that the Name, Address and Phone Number is current and matches that found on the website
- Fill in the website and appointment URLs, respectively
When filling out the appointment and website URLs, add tracking parameters to the URLs so that this will appear in your Google Analytics reporting data. Tracking parameters appended to a URL look like this:
This will allow you to see how much traffic your GMB listing generates for your firm over time. You can create custom tracking URLs with this free Campaign URL Builder.
Create a GMB Listing for Each Office Location
If your firm has multiple office locations, you will be entitled to one listing per office. Repeat the process, but modify the tracking URL to be unique for each office. If your website has location-specific pages for each of your offices, use this for your primary website link in your GMB listings. This may provide an enhanced user experience for visitors that find you through the local search results.
Build your Online Reputation with 4 and 5 Star Reviews
Many attorneys generate business through referrals and word of mouth. It’s a very powerful form of social proof. With more people using search engines to find what they’re looking for online, be it e-commerce or local businesses, having social proof on your listings and profiles in the form of testimonials and reviews is critical. After you’ve claimed and optimized your GMB listing, you can start garnering reviews on the listings directly. These reviews also have a direct impact on your ranking abilities in organic and local search results.
Later, we’ll also see how to use these reviews to maximize the organic SEO impact they have on your website’s page rankings with Technique #13.
Why 4 and 5 Star Reviews?
Many SEO providers emphasize the necessity to have pristine and perfect 5-star reviews. In our experience, a combination of 4 and 5-star reviews is superior. They produce a more genuine signal and appear more authentic as people are browsing testimonials and reviews others had left, before hiring that lawyer.
Furthermore, when this is tabulated in the overall score of your law firm’s rating out of 5 stars, a firm with a 4.7 – 4.9 out of 5 seems more legitimate to prospective clients. If the reviews seem faked or templated, then Google’s algorithm may detect this, which could negatively impact your rankings.
Inbound backlinks from other websites are still considered the single greatest ranking factor for the majority of cases in organic search rankings. This is also the SEO operation that you want to approach with the most caution during execution, whether it be yourself or having a law firm SEO specialist doing it for you. To perform your due diligence when hiring an SEO agency, you’ll want to investigate the link profiles of their website and other websites they’ve worked on previously before engaging their link building services.
Many link building tactics can get you results in the short term, however as these links calcify and search algorithms change, this could harm your rankings and you may run the risk of being penalized.
There are multiple categories of links and even more tactics for acquiring links. In this section, we’ll touch on the categories that are most relevant for the majority of law firms.
Links with Strong Local Signals
In general, links with the highest quality and strongest local signals are derived from websites owned by local businesses and organizations in your law firm’s area.
This includes organizations such as:
- Local Coalitions
- Schools and Universities
- Local Businesses
- Local Media and Journalism Organizations
There are other types not listed, too. As long as it comes from an individual or organization that is physically located in the city you’re seeking higher SEO rankings from, links from these websites will go a long way. These links are strong indicators to search engines that your business is locally relevant in the same geography as the organization or business linking to your firm’s website.
Local Directory Links & Citations
Other local links that bear far less weight, but are still an essential link nutrient nonetheless come from local online directories, such as Yelp and YellowPages. These don’t pass much link equity to your website, however, they constitute the low-hanging fruit that will level the playing field since most of your competitors will have these links pointing back to their websites.
Directory and local citations are still very important for local SEO. Regardless if they offer links back to your website or not, having a good number of local citations will build trust in search engines regarding the legitimacy of your business. It’s critical to ensure that your NAP (name, address and phone number) are up to date in these citations and identical to your GMB profile as well as what’s listed on your website.
Many legal directories such as HG, Avvo, FindLaw, and Lawyer.com offer free lawyer profiles on their websites. Many of them will either require you to pay for the backlink or attempt to upsell you to marketing, ads and SEO services. That ultimately is your decision, but it’s worth considering these premium profiles to build your website’s backlink profile with relevant legal links from these directories. Legal directories are a good start to building legal relevance for your law firm, but like local directories are considered low-hanging fruit.
Authoritative Legal Links
To really differentiate yourself from other law firm websites, you need to go after backlinks from authoritative legal websites. This includes online legal publications and magazines that far fewer law firms are published in. These backlinks will make a significant impact on your ability to rank due to higher equity they feed toward your site’s SEO signals.
Guest posting, stat sharing, case results, and legal resources are still considered valuable content exchanges that can acquire you more authoritative links back to your law firm’s website.
In the end, the purpose of links is to build trust and confidence in the search engines that your site is relevant for certain geographies and search queries. The stronger the signals and more confidence search engines have regarding your site, the higher it will appear in the search results.
On-Page Link Building
The inbound link building techniques discussed above, are known as a part of off-page SEO. There is also the practice of on-page SEO and part of that also involves link building: internal and external.
Internal linking just refers to the practice of building links between different pages of your own website. This helps pass link equity to pages that are more important and you wish to rank higher.
In addition to link flow, internal linking provides benefits such as:
- Increase conversions
- Call out pages that people may want to visit, in order to learn more information about a particular legal subject or service
- Provide contextual relevance to the pages through the anchor text used in the link
Internal linking is an essential part of a healthy, well-balanced link building diet for your law firm’s website.
Just as a large objective in SEO and link building is to have other websites link to your practice’s site, linking from your own site to others has multiple benefits. Linking to external websites and resources should be a best practice in order to provide your visitors and prospective clients with valuable and credible information on other domains.
Your site can’t (nor shouldn’t) cover every topic or definition. Many times it’s preferable to cite sources. External linking demonstrates to search engines that you’re willing to link to high-quality, authoritative resources for your visitors’ benefit, which could give your own site an edge in terms of credibility from the search engines’ perspectives.
Office Location Impacts SEO Rankings
Just as they say in real estate “location, location, location [is everything]”. This is becoming increasingly the case within SEO – both for local and organic results. If you plan on running an SEO campaign to target a capital or large city, then it’s highly recommended that your law firm is situated – at least with a satellite or by-appointment-only office – in that city.
Many law firms try to target a city while having their primary or satellite office in an adjacent, nearby city or region. For local SEO, where attorneys can rank in the local map or 3-pack in the search results, it’s impossible to rank for that target city if your business isn’t situated in it. When it comes to organic SEO, it’s possible but more difficult if your office’s address does not include the target city included in its address.
In this case, the SEO campaign will have to compensate for this by means of additional local signals and link building. If the purpose of being in an adjacent city is for cost control and improving the firm’s bottom line, by saving one or several thousand dollars per month, then there’s little to no merit in performing the SEO campaign for the target city. Ultimately, the additional investment required for an SEO campaign to combat these signals will eradicate the bottom-line savings of that office’s location.
Search engines are placing larger emphasis on providing the best user experience possible. In many instances, this means prioritizing convenience (in geo-location), rather than the quality and competence of the lawyer they may end up hiring. It’s unfortunate that this is the case, but it is the reality of the situation. We see law firms that move out of a target or capital city into an adjacent city. Within weeks to a month, we see a significant drop in organic traffic and rankings within that short period of time.
If your firm has a valid reason for being in an adjacent city, such as it is too much logistical overhead to move operations into the capital city, or perhaps the building is owned by the firm, then offsetting this with a larger SEO budget can be effective in performing the additional work necessary to rank for that target location.
However, if it’s simply for cost-control purposes and is a sign that the firm won’t be willing to invest the amount required in an SEO campaign, to begin with. Furthermore, the additional clients your firm will gain from the SEO benefits of being located in the target region will outweigh the minor savings on the bottom-line produced from office rent savings.
If you’re serious about an SEO strategy for your law firm, then your office location is a critical consideration to take into account.
Get in Front of Your Prospective Clients ASAP and Frequently
In the early days of search engines, the ranking and search algorithms used to be quite basic and the information that could be found online was smaller and quite limited. Therefore, we used shorter keywords and queries to find the information we were looking for.
As search engines have become smarter and more complex, the amount of information on the internet has grown exponentially. People are typing in longer and more sophisticated queries; asking full-fledged questions to Google rather than typing in one or several keywords. As a result, the state and landscape of search and search engine optimization have changed and evolved to reflect this behavior.
Targeting one or several keywords for your law firm’s website was the old way of performing SEO. Now, the most successful law firm websites, in terms of SEO success, are ranking for hundreds or thousands of keywords and generating relevant, search traffic organically at every level of the funnel.
Bottom-Funnel: Short-Tail Keywords or Transactional Search Terms
Short-tail keywords or head search terms generally fall into the bottom portion of the search engine marketing funnel. These are typically referred to as:
- Transactional keywords
- ‘Hot’ or ‘ready to buy’ keywords
This is because people searching for these keywords are typically considered in-market (e.g. have the intent of purchasing) for a product or service immediately or in the near future. In terms of legal marketing, this audience is ready (or nearly ready) to contact a lawyer regarding their legal issues.
These are terms like “personal injury lawyer houston” or “dui attorney texas”.
One way to tell if these types of keywords are bottom-funnel or transactional search terms is to use a tool like Google AdWords Keyword Planner to see if the term receives:
- Many searches
- high competition and;
- Is bid on frequently
If a keyword exhibits these qualities, then other lawyers are advertising for them and are most likely bottom-funnel and transactional. Due to the high competition and transactional nature, these are generally by far the most competitive and most difficult keywords to rank for organically.
Mid-Funnel: Discovery Keywords and ‘Shopping’ Search Terms
These mid-funnel keywords go by many different names. It’s not standardized language, but usually dubbed as:
- ‘Discovery’ keywords
- ‘Window Shopping’ keywords
- ‘Evaluation’ keywords or;
- Consumer Research’ keywords
These mid-funnel search terms represent the group of people that are aware that they may or do need a lawyer for their legal issues, generally understand the type of lawyer they’re looking for and are performing market research to find which lawyer they want to hire.
Some different things they’re likely to look for in the middle funnel or discovery phase includes:
- A comparison or list of lawyers in their area
- Rates and costs of hiring a lawyer
- Reviews and testimonials for the lawyer
Essentially, people in this segment of the funnel are performing due diligence before calling a specific law firm or attorney. Search terms that fall within the mid-funnel segment include keywords such as:
- “Reviews” or “Testimonials”
- “Cost” or “Fees”
- “Best” or “Top”
Thus, someone in the discovery stage may type into the search bar:
- “best divorce lawyer chicago”
- “divorce lawyer chicago fees” or;
- “family lawyer chicago reviews”
There are several ways of showing up on these search results. The first is to get listed on other review sites like Yelp, Nolo, Lawyer.com, and Avvo. This way, even if they don’t click on your firm’s website, your odds of being found on one of these review or directory sites is much better. This technique is known as “barnacle” SEO.
The best result you could have for people performing searches in this funnel segment is ranking on top for these searches and having them click through to your website, instead of going through a 3rd-party site where they can see various options for legal representation. You can create and optimize pages on your website that are targeted to rank for these types of queries.
One page that you should consider creating on your website is a reviews or testimonials page. This page would display what past clients had to say and aggregate these from all of the different sources where you collect reviews (e.g. Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, Avvo, emailed testimonials, etc.).
This page should be optimized for search terms that include keywords such as “top”, “best”, “reviews”, “testimonials” as well as “cost” and “fees”. This can be accomplished by adding an FAQ section about cost and fees, for instance. We can also improve the ability for this page to rank for these keywords by marking the page up with Review and AggregateRating schemas (which we’ll look at in section 13).
Finally, we’ll want to optimize these pages with call to actions such as click-to-call phone numbers and contact forms to capture as many people at this stage of the funnel as possible. The earlier we can scoop them off the market, the better.
Top-Funnel: Long-Tail Keywords or Informational Search Terms
These are typically research or informational search queries. Also known as long-tail queries or keywords, since they tend to be the longest search terms that people type into search engines.
An example of research or information-seeking search query would be: “how are business assets divided in a divorce in massachusetts?”
These search queries are at the top of the funnel since they’re typically questions they’re asking before they consult with a lawyer. They’re doing research on their legal matters to get a better understanding of their situation before they’re ready to hire professional help.
Since long-tail keywords identify the category of the longest search terms, the number of times that exact search is performed (i.e. search volume) is lower. However, this doesn’t mean that these articles won’t generate substantial traffic. On the contrary, due to the fact that these queries are long-tail, there are many ways a person could ask that question (e.g. search query).
There are more unique questions and combinations of questions and informational search terms, at the top of the funnel, then both the middle and bottom of funnel combined. These are generally the lowest in competitiveness and there are many content gaps to be filled, presenting a massive opportunity.
These keywords are a perfect fit for blog content and evergreen articles. Check out our articles on blogging which can help to start ranking for these top-of-funnel and long-tail keywords.
- How to Start a Blog for your Law Firm [Complete Guide]
- 8 SEO Blogging Tips for Lawyers to Get More Traffic
- 17 Blog Ideas for Law Firms to Attract Your Ideal Audience
Create the Ultimate Area of Law Pages
Even law firms that focus on one area of law, such as injuries and accidents, will likely have multiple areas of practice and service pages. These are the pages that will attract many of the bottom-of-funnel, transactional, and short-tail keywords, such as “car accident lawyer houston”.
Ensure that these pages have a lot of in-depth, helpful and unique content. Answer FAQs, as many specific to that area of law and as in-depth as possible. We see a lot of law firm websites with relatively generic FAQs, with very short, general answers that usually end up with an ‘it depends’ response and saying to call to find out more. If your website is going to start ranking and maintain its high positions for valuable and competitive keywords, then your answers need to be better and more comprehensive than your competition’s.
Other ways to improve the quality of content and user experience on your AoP pages involve including visual elements such as graphics, tables, and videos that support the content and make it easier to understand the services, how that area of law works within that jurisdiction and how your firm helps its clients with these types of cases.
Videos that include a lawyer from that practice can help build a personal connection with visitors and can help to increase conversion rates.
These pages should also generate leads for your firm since these pages will be targeting traffic from the bottom of the funnel. Therefore, make sure to include your standard call to actions with your phone number clearly presented as well as a contact form or button. This will help you capture the maximum amount of leads as possible.
Create a Powerful Content Strategy
When it comes to ranking for long-tail keywords and informational queries, creating blog articles and evergreen content is imperative to the success of this top-of-funnel SEO strategy. A best practice is to create long-form content which goes in-depth in order to answer the user’s search query.
You can implement a vlogging strategy and transcribe the videos with the objective of producing long-form, written articles. This allows your firm to market the content in two formats, opening up the number of platforms and mediums where the content can be shared and marketed. You can upload these videos to YouTube and perform YouTube SEO, which will open your firm up to exposure on the second largest search engine on the planet. YouTube is likely to keep growing in use and popularity in the future. So planting those seeds now can lead to long-term prosperity on the platform.
The video and blog content can be posted together on the same page on your law firm’s blog, giving visitors the choice of which format to consume the content.
Your On-Page SEO Diet: Keep Your Website Lean
While one of your objectives may be to produce powerful, long-form content, it’s important to keep your website as lean as possible.
Auditing Law Firm’s Website Content and Pages
After performing an SEO and content audit, as discussed in the first section on auditing, you’ll want to determine which pages are ranking and pulling in organic search traffic as well as which pages are generating little or no value in terms of organic search traffic.
Top Traffic Pages
Pages that receive traffic and pageviews indicates that these pages should be kept or enhanced further to boost rankings, traffic and increase the number of queries the content appears for.
Pages with Low to No Traffic
The remaining pages on your website may make up the bulk of your website’s content. Unless they serve a special purpose, such as used for PPC, landing pages, linkable assets or popular social media content, then these are the problematic pages that need to be addressed.
There are three possible actions to take on these low traffic pages:
- Upgrade the Content: The page may not be receiving any organic traffic but may be well suited for a group of keywords that you found during your keyword research. In this situation, the content should be enhanced to the point that it outpaces anything else you find on page 1 for its target keywords.
- Consolidate the Content: Perhaps the content is good, but short and stands no chance on its own without being more in-depth. In this instance, it may belong on another page on your website. If there are multiple small pages or content pieces on your website that share a primary, common topic, then consider grouping these into one larger article that provides more value and stands a better chance of ranking.
- Delete the webpage: If it provides no value, doesn’t receive traffic, then consider trashing it. This only adds overhead to your firm’s web presence that has no place and serves no purpose. Removing this clutter will allow your website to become more focused, easier to navigate and only provide internal linking only to the pages that matter.
Note: If you’re analyzing pages during your site audit that are less than 6 months old, then ignore them for the time being. Some pages may take 6 months or a little longer to properly rank. This way, you’ll know for certain if the page is generating traffic, if it needs to be fixed or removed.
Once you have either fixed or removed pages as mentioned above, your site’s content and page count should be smaller and allow you to optimize your navigation for the pages that truly matter. Use your top-level navigation to promote your most important area(s) of practice and core service pages, as well as other key pages that are frequently visited, based on your content audit.
The benefits of minimizing the number of pages navigable from your main menu are two-fold:
- Improves User Experience (UX): The better and faster that users can navigate your site, the better their experience, which will be reflected in your future site and content audits using your web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics. Create sub-menus specific for inner pages. People that visit a specific core service page can then browse deeper pages from there. Those pages just clutter up the main menu and slightly decrease every visitor’s experience with your law firm’s website.
- Increase Internal Link Equity to Important Pages: By restructuring your navigation and removing less important pages that generate less organic traffic and receive less attention anyway, this will improve the distribution of link equity. The amount of link equity from inbound links is divided between all of the unique, internal page links – including your site’s main menu. Therefore, the more links your menu has, the less link equity or ‘juice’ each page receives. Not exactly fair for your more valuable pages.
Markup Every Page with Schema
Due to the extreme competition in law firm SEO, Markup Schema is becoming increasingly important for firm websites. In the past, having schema markup on every page for LocalBusiness or Attorney was the recommended standard. However, Google is increasingly using SERP features in their results pages, creating richer experiences.
Law Firm SEO agencies are marking up web pages individually with custom schemas specific to each page’s content. There is an array of schemas available for use, some of the ones we’re seeing the top-ranking law firm websites using include:
- LegalService or Attorney (use one or other; Attorney is now deprecated)
- WebPage (for each individual web page)
- Blog (on articles and blog posts)
- HowTo (great for how-to articles)
Schema markup makes it easier for a search engine to understand specific page content on your website. This helps rankings as well as potential enriching your organic listing in results. The schema may provide unique callouts to your listing in the search results, such as that shown above with examples of star rating icons and FAQ menus in the search results.
The more schema-rich your pages become with relevant markup, the more flexibility this gives Google and other search engines to include your pages in a variety of different search queries, contexts and SERP features.
Optimize your Content for Local Searches
Law firm web content is usually going to involve a combination of state and federal levels of law and legal codes. Many people are aware of this and act on this by searching for localized information. They will tend to add the state as a keyword in their search query.
Occasionally they will add the country or city in the search query, but often they will search using state-specific queries.
Many times search engines will infer the location for such types of queries based on the user’s location, even if they don’t include a location modifier such as state or city name within the search query. Search engines like Google and Bing, want to optimize search results based on the user’s predicted intent. In these instances, the organic listings displayed in the search results are going to be highly localized.
As a result, make sure that your website’s content includes some of these state or city-level keywords. This will enable it to not only rank highly but engage people searching for information in that area and increase overall relevancy.
Your firm’s website is probably already optimized to an extent for this, as it’s footer and header elements may include office locations, addresses, and local phone numbers. Search engines are intelligent enough to understand, index this and interpret text such as addresses and state acronyms. However, this is another area where schema markup can give search engines more confidence about your business’ local relevance. Using a LocalBusiness, LegalService or Attorney schema will include an address, where the search engine can read and index this from. This will help tie your content to localized searches.
Additionally, each page’s main content body should also include cues to the local relevance of the content. Places to insert the state name or acronym include:
- Title tag
- Main heading
- Text body/paragraphs
Don’t stuff keywords, including location cues, however, add it where it seems natural and relevant for a specific, local audience searching for this type of content.
Make it Better on Mobile than on Desktop
Around 50% will come from mobile devices. As a result, it’s imperative that this segment of site visitors have an incredible experience on your law firm’s website.
Improve the User Experience (UX)
Browsing the web on a smartphone can be convenient, but can also have its drawbacks. Less information is visible on the screen, websites – while mobile responsive – tend to have more glitches on mobile, such as poor clickability, unsmooth scrolling, and laggy interactivity. Make sure that your website designer tests this for all modern smartphones to ensure that your firm’s website behaves as expected.
Once visitors land on your site, make sure that the body and heading fonts are appropriately sized for reading the information easily and quickly. Implement a back-to-top button that allows them to scroll back to the main navigation. Include a table of contents on longer blog posts and articles where visitors can scan the page contents quickly and go to the section with the information they’re most interested in discovering first.
Increase Leads with Mobile CRO
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the practice of testing different elements to determine which call to actions, buttons and other page elements result in more and better conversions. In the case of law firms, new leads and intakes are the ultimate forms of conversion.
An easy way to increase conversions is by providing a clickable or click-to-call phone number on the mobile device. This will allow people to call your firm directly from the phone their browsing your site from rather than them having to either memorize or copy and paste the number into the dial pad to initiate a call. A significant part of increasing conversions really boils down to removing barriers and friction to having a prospective client get in touch with your firm.
If you’re interested in learning about how to optimize your website to convert more leads, check out our tips of increasing law firm lead conversions.
Fix the Simple, Technical Issues
In the first section, we discussed performing an SEO audit. One part of this audit will include technical issues and impediments that are holding your website back from its full potential.
There may be many small issues or improvements that can be made to your website, including:
- Not having HTTPS / SSL Certificate
- Improving Website Speed
- Fix Mobile-Responsive Glitches
- Fix Redirects and Broken Pages
- Adding the Local Schema and Markup
- Adding a Sitemap, Robots.txt
- Proper Installation and Configuration of Google Analytics
The issues and improvements listed above are all relatively easy and quick to resolve. A webmaster can churn through these in less than a week for most small law firm websites. These are all small improvements, but can add up to making your website more usable and provide better indexing and thus rankings for search engines. Don’t think of these as giving your site an edge or upper hand, rather it will catch your site up to the standards it should meet to stand a chance of ranking on page 1.
Optimize your Site for Multiple Office Locations
There are several things you want to perform on and off-page to ensure that you’re optimized to rank in each of the cities where your law offices are located as well as their surrounding communities.
Your locations, links to location pages or mention of locations should appear in several or all of the following places on your practice’s website:
- Contact Us page
- Website global footer
- Locations page
- Area of Practice and core service pages
Office Location Pages
Create a page for each office location and provide unique content for each office. Perhaps an office is by-appointment-only or only deals with a subset of clientele and areas of practice. To spruce up these location pages, include bio excerpts for the lawyers and staff that work at this office, accessibility features, a Google maps embed as well as reviews for that specific location.
Each office location should have its own Google My Business listing. When filling out profiles for local citations via online directories, add a listing for each office location wherever possible. Finally, the office location (i.e. city) should be included in the location page’s title, headings, URL and text body.
‘Other’ Location Pages
In addition to pages for each office location, you can create pages for the adjacent cities and communities that each office serves. If you’re willing to travel to those locations, then you may want to make mention of that (e.g. meet at coffee shops, housecalls, location of client’s choosing).
Go Beyond Google for Organic and Search Traffic
Google is by far the largest game in town, but certainly not the only game when it comes to generating leads and relevant online traffic from search.
Don’t Forget About Bing Search
Bing is the second largest web-based search engine and can bring in a decent amount of traffic to your law firm’s website.
Bing is responsible for generating a much smaller amount of traffic compared to Google but is still relevant and significant enough that it deserves some SEO attention. This law firm’s website analytics shows that their Bing traffic accounts for approximately 9% of their Organic traffic during this period and 7.73% of their conversion goal value from organic search traffic sources.
Bing’s equivalent to Google My Business is called Bing Places. Just as with Google, it’s free to register and list your business so that it appears in the local map pack search results within Bing search.
The only difference with Bing Places is that instead of being able to accumulate reviews directly, as GMB provides, reviews are collected from a business’ Yelp listing. It’s relatively quick and painless to set up a Bing Places listing and can help convert a small, but contributing portion of visitors into client leads every month, so for the small amount of effort required, it’s a no-brainer.
Barnacle SEO can be generated from a number of different websites. Essentially, by creating free or premium listings on directory websites such as Yelp, Yellowpages, Super Lawyers, and FindLaw, you’ll improve your odds of generating leads from people who visit these websites instead of your site directly.
This is a great form of referral traffic and like Bing, it can generate some nice leads and business from it. It will depend on how much you invest in these listings both advertising and potentially through performing SEO on your profile.
Just as you perform SEO for search engines like Google and Bing search, many of these directory websites use their own search engines, meaning some optimizations to your profile can impact where your attorney or firm profile appears in the set of results.
The most popular websites to perform barnacle SEO are swarming with lawyers competing for leads. If they’re able to generate relevant traffic or even rank for your keywords, then they’re probably generating some good business for local law firms, including your competitors.
Set Clear Goals for Your Law Firm’s SEO Campaign
The most important – and sometimes most overlooked – part of a successful SEO campaign is setting clear objectives. Usually, the easiest and clearest goal is to define the number of additional clients you wish to acquire per month resulting directly from your law firm SEO efforts.
There are four components you can use to reverse engineer the exact efforts and strategies required to achieve these objectives:
- Number of new clients per month
- Type of cases
- Lead conversion rate
- Website traffic conversion rate
Work top-down on each of these to determine a defined number for each subsequent objective. This will represent your optimization funnel for search engine optimization. With each number we estimate, we will be able to understand, ultimately how much traffic we need to drive to the website in order to generate the required number of new cases per month.
Number of Clients and Types of Cases
As mentioned earlier, start by defining the number of clients per month you want to acquire for your law practice. This will be the end goal we aim to achieve. However, we also need to know the types of cases that we want to sign up.
Are these clients for family law, personal injury, another form of litigation or non-litigation?
A personal injury attorney may only deal with certain types of cases, such as car accidents and disability. In those instances, you would want to focus on attracting only that type of traffic.
The more specific, the better. Don’t skimp on this simple, but critical step. It can play a huge role in the type of traffic and hence the quality of leads we attract to the site. Typically, the more specific we define the case types before embarking on an expensive, lengthy SEO campaign, the higher the quality and relevance of website traffic. This will directly translate into higher conversion rates.
Traffic Conversion Rate
The traffic conversion rate is a measure of how many conversions (contact form submissions, phone calls, etc.) you generate from your law firm’s website traffic. Organic search traffic resulting from search engine optimization and your site’s content will typically be one of the highest converting channels (compared to PPC, referral, direct and social traffic).
In many cases, a firm can expect to produce an organic traffic conversion rate of between 4 – 15%, depending on the area of practice, the types of pages and content ranking in Google and other factors.
Lead Conversion Rate
Finally, the lead conversion rate is the measure of how many leads it takes to produce a new client. This can be impacted by things such as:
- Traffic relevance and lead quality
- Sales processes
- Legal costs and fees
Many firms shouldn’t expect to convert every lead into a new client. You’ll usually get a lot of unqualified leads through your funnel and that’s fine. Generally, firms can expect to convert anywhere between 1 in 10 to 1 in 3 leads into clients.
Let’s get a closer look at the estimate of traffic that is required to generate 25 new clients per month for a law firm. Let’s suppose we’re creating a lot of blog content and optimizing the home and service pages to rank in search. In this case, we expect a 5% traffic conversion rate and a 20% lead conversion rate.
# Leads per month = (25 clients / 0.20) = 125 leads
# Relevant Organic Traffic Visitors per Month = (125 leads / 0.05) = 2,500 relevant site visitors
Keep in mind this is an estimate. Think of each of these metrics as knobs that can be turned to adjust and move closer to the goal. Content relevance can be tweaked to improve visitor relevance, more content can be created to increase overall volume and conversion rate optimizations can be performed to increase the number of leads generated from the same number of visitors.
Have a Plan for Measuring Results
Search engine optimization is a long-term process. Seeing results will take time and your firm will need the right tools to measure results over time.
You should have internal processes and dimensions in place to measure these results. In part, this can be supported by having a good intake process where you can collect information from clients on how they discovered your law firm. Below, we’ll focus on how to measure results from your SEO investments.
Online & Web Tracking
There are four common technologies your law firm should implement to track your SEO results:
- Web Analytics tool; such as Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Backlinks and SERP Tracker
- Form and Call Tracking
Website analytics platforms are very common on websites now. Most of these are free to use in perpetuity. With an analytics platform, such as Google Analytics, you can track endless attributes about your website’s visitors. Some metrics include where they originated (i.e. organic search, PPC ads, etc.), browsing location, as well as what actions they took including when they submit a contact form or made a phone call from your website.
Google Search Console
Google also provides a free SEO tool called Search Console. This allows you to check certain health metrics of your website, including proper indexing and links pointed to your website, both internally and externally.
However, the most potent use of Search Console is the ability to research what search queries your website and its content appeared for. Furthermore, you can view attributes and metrics such as:
- Number of search impressions
- Click-through rate (CTR) and clicks
- Ranking Positions
- Which pages ranked for what queries
And much more.
Search console is a fantastic way to see how your content – new and old – is performing as well as where improvements can be made.
Backlink and SERP Trackers
There is a large market of search results ranking and backlink trackers available. These are excellent tools for comparing your website’s performance and tend to provide more in-depth reporting and information where Google’s Search Console tool is lacking.
One of the unique aspects where these premium tools shine is for performing competitive and comparative analyses from an external perspective. Google’s web analytics and search console tools provide the most accurate sources of data. However, these tools only gauge the performance of your own website. Tools like Moz or Ahrefs enable you to see how your website’s SEO stacks up against your competitors.
Form & Call Tracking Software
You’ve probably heard of call tracking software before, especially if you have engaged in PPC and Adwords for your law firm. While the analytics and tracking tools mentioned above will get you 90% of the way, call tracking can be used in conjunction with these and even complement their results. Call and form tracking software can be used to create goals in analytics that will allow you to see exactly which calls originated from organic search in addition to any other sources of traffic.
Hire the Right SEO Partners
We won’t go in-depth with this, but it’s important to do your homework before hiring an agency to handle your law firm’s SEO. There are a lot of good and bad agencies out there, just as there are lawyers that know what they’re doing and others that just advertise that they’re competent.
There are also SEO agencies that will pull in results for you, but at what cost? Some agencies will generate results for you by employing deceptive tactics that trick search engines rather than appease them properly and provide the best information and experience for the end-user. It’s very difficult to know this for sure, without knowing SEO intimately. Before I got into SEO myself, I had been burned several times trying to help out my family’s law firm.
Some things you can look into is whether the SEO provider already works with one of your competitors or not. Companies such as FindLaw, Justia, and Scorpion are more than happy to work with multiple law firms in the same city, practicing the same area of law. Make sure you choose an attorney SEO agency that doesn’t work with your competitors.
Know What [and Who] You’re Up Against
Before engaging in a search engine optimization campaign, it’s important that you know exactly the hill you’re trying to climb. It’s incredibly competitive, especially in the attorney and legal industry. In the old days, we used to look in the phone book and yellow pages for a lawyer. Now we search online and everyone is fighting for high rankings since search has become increasingly accurate at predicting a user’s intent and we rarely need to go beyond page 1.
What are the Odds of Ranking on the Top 10 Search Results?
The first thing that you need to know is that when someone searches for “car accident lawyer houston”, not every search result listing on the front page is for a lawyer’s website. Some of these are going to be directory listings, that give searchers some variety.
|Aggregate||Family||Injury||Criminal||Law Firm (General)|
We conducted a study and found that on average only 5.6 out of a maximum of 10 listings on the first page of Google search results were for law firm websites on the first page in the U.S. Canada had more availability for law firm website to rank at approximately 7.4 positions out of 10 containing a law firm’s website.
WHO is Ranking on the First Page?
Equally important is understanding that law firms investing in search optimization aren’t the only ones competing for space in organic search results. Companies in the business of selling law firm marketing and leads to attorneys, such as FindLaw, Nolo, Yelp, Justia, and Lawyers.com are competing for these same rankings. These are the other players that occupy the remaining 4.4 out of 10 positions on the first page of search engine results.
Ultimately they’re trying to sell you one or all of the following:
- Advertising in their directories
- SEO and Marketing services
- Lead Generation services
If they sell your services one and three, that’s fine. However, there’s an inherent conflict with offering service two. If they’re providing you with SEO services, you will be competing directly with their own rankings. Keep this in mind before opting in to their marketing services.
How Legal SEO is Changing Search Result Pages
Finally, I want to point out that search is ever-changing. Search result pages are no longer static. This translates into search results being highly malleable and no longer does it necessarily mean that 10 organic listings will appear on the page. Pages are believed to continue to contain 10 search result features, however, that is not the same as 10 listings.
Above is an example of how there are only 7 websites organically ranking on the first page of Google for this search result. There are still 10 organic features, however, 6 of these features are allocated to only 3 attorney websites. As we saw in the section about Schema markup, these websites are taking advantage of that markup and benefiting from it by taking up more of the organic ranking space and 60% of the position space is occupied by only 3 out of 7 of the websites on page 1.
Other examples of this include videos ranking in the regular search results. Webpages with videos and video schema can also rank in these positions as well. Use schema and cross-reference these with the available Google SERP features to increase the chances that you not only occupy but soak up as much first-page, organic real estate as possible.
Effective SEO is Hard Work and Requires Collaboration
The final point I’ll make is that good SEO takes hard work. It requires collaborative planning and executing, both from the search engine optimization agency and the law firm to achieve long-term results that are above board with search engine policies. One or several lawyers at your firm should be involved in creating content, the SEO and marketing process. Providing high-value legal information doesn’t have to be difficult, but it requires someone’s time and energy.
Some firms don’t want to deal with the headache of getting involved and that’s understandable. However, if this is your stance, then you’re left with two options:
- Pay significantly more for SEO to be entirely outsourced
- Engage in shady tactics to rank, but you’ll end up losing rankings eventually (and you’ll still end up paying a handsome sum of dough)
Your SEO strategy can be completely outsourced, but you’ll end up paying more since you’re going to want to contract writers and content marketers that produce well-crafted, carefully thought out legal content. That costs money. You’re also going to have to pay for extras and services that will better position your firm’s website to rank accordingly.
On the other hand, you could go the illegitimate route. There are a lot of SEO and marketing companies out there that perform black or gray hat tactics (some of which are even listed above in this article) which go against Google’s webmaster guidelines. Eventually, this catches up to everyone that engages in such tactics. These companies still charge a lot of money to perform SEO, even though they’re not willing to pull out all the stops to perform it properly. Many law firms opt for this option.
However, we don’t perform the latter type of work at Zahavian Legal Marketing. It goes against our ethics, integrity and the meaning of the very name of our agency. If you’re looking for black or gray hat services, respectfully, call someone else. With that said, it’s critical to understand that you’ll have to either collaborate with us or we’ll charge you significantly more to outsource the entire strategy and process to us.
We’re also not interested in firms that say no to every decision. It’s not fair to you or us. We don’t want to charge you a monthly fee if we can’t deliver results for you and we can’t do that if you’re not willing to engage with at least some impactful strategies that will build an SEO moat for your business.
If you made it all the way through to the end of this (or just scrolled and scanned – I don’t blame you!), then you know that SEO is definitely a full time job. In fact many companies have internal teams dedicated to their search engine and organic traffic performance. Ultimately, start by thinking looking over sections 18, 22 and 23 several times. Law Firm SEO can be extremely powerful for producing new clients for lawyers and firms, predictably and consistently, month after month. That’s great to know, but has to be weighed out by the fact that it requires some serious investment and there is serious competition in the legal industry fighting for this valuable online real estate.
If you’re interested in starting a SEO campaign for your law firm, you should probably begin with an audit of your law firm’s website and overall web presence. This is analogous to getting a checkup at the doctor’s or a client’s case evaluation, before work actually gets underway. If you want to know the state of your law firm’s organic search optimization and website’s performance, contact a law firm seo specialist to get started with an SEO audit.