Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the hottest digital marketing buzzwords of the decade. Unfortunately, many brands haven’t caught on yet, as up to 70% of small businesses don’t have an SEO strategy. However, lawyer SEO is different, as it’s one of the most competitive industries in SEO. Fortunately, any law firm can still get into the game and start ranking for their legal niche, as long as they have the right strategy.
Let’s talk about the importance of law firm SEO and how you can grow your legal SEO strategy today!
Why Law Firms Need SEO
Let’s put it this way – every business needs to use SEO in their digital marketing strategy. However, it’s particularly important for lawyers. Here’s why.
Organic traffic is the traffic you don’t have to pay for or prompt. Organic traffic finds you, not the other way around. For law firms, search engine optimization is the primary driver of organic traffic, even ahead of social media marketing.
Don’t underestimate the power of organic traffic. It’s important for building recognition, trust, and loyalty over time. Also, organic traffic accounts for 64% of all web traffic, so without a strategy to earn it, you’re missing out!
You can consider SEO a “buy once, cry once” type of marketing expense, meaning that the need for ongoing costs is limited, unlike advertisements. Essentially, once an SEO strategy takes off, which could take months or even years, the benefits tend to last for a long time, with only minimal upkeep.
Yes, laws and legal practices change all the time, so you will have to update your content periodically and post new content, but beyond that, you could see results for years from a successful SEO strategy with minimal expenses. Ranking at the top page of a relevant Google search with high search volume could easily and single-handedly keep a law firm afloat for years to come.
In this world, lawyers get a bad reputation. Many people see lawyers as untrustworthy, or they start their interactions with negative presumptions. Well, organic traffic is a great way to begin building trust among your target audience.
Up to 94% of users skip over search ads in favor of the organic results because they trust them more. When they find these organic results, they know from previous experience with Google that it’s bound to have the information they want. If they click on it and find the quality information they’re searching for, they start their journey with your law firm on an initial note of trust. This can help improve your conversion rates, awareness of your services, repeat business, and loyalty among your client base.
Let’s be honest – ads are expensive. They can be a great way to generate short-term traffic, but their costs add up quickly. Also, you can easily lose money on a PPC campaign if your conversion rates are too low, with the average often hovering around 2%.
Unfortunately, the average American sees over 5,000 ads a day, and they’ve become desensitized to them. Add that to the common distrust of lawyers, and that’s a significant barrier to overcome. SEO is a great way to diversify your website traffic, which should help boost your conversions and reduce your marketing costs over time.
Law Firm SEO 101
Now that you understand the importance of SEO for law firms, let’s run over the fundamentals of SEO to help you start on your strategy. Here are the most important aspects of law firm SEO to help you get started.
1. Legal Keyword Research
Keyword research is the first step in search engine optimization, as it tells search engines where to rank your content. Keywords are the reason Google is able to match your searches with the right content, and any website will need to use the right ones throughout their sites to be matched with the right searches.
First, think of some of the obvious keywords that somebody may search for if they’re looking for the legal services you offer. If you’re a criminal defense attorney, then “criminal defense attorney,” “criminal lawyer,” and “defense attorney” come to mind.
Once you have a small list of ideas, use the keyword research tool of your choice to search for related keywords. Most of the free tools only give you a certain amount of searches per day, so use others as you please. These tools will tell you the related keywords along with their cost-per-click (CPC) for search ads, search volume, and relative competition (usually only high or low).
Once you have a list of relevant keywords, write them down with other relevant information and save them for later. These are critical for ranking on the right searches.
2. Website Quality
The quality of our websites is the foundation of our SEO strategies that we build upon over time. From Google’s perspective, it would reflect poorly on their service if their search engine were promoting sites with low usability, so the quality of your website is a major ranking factor.
Believe it or not, Google uses over 200 ranking factors on our websites alone to help determine your ranking. The most important factors include:
- Page loading time
- Mobile-friendly design
- Clean navigation system
- Linking structure
- Page structure
- UX design elements
The list goes on, but these are a good place to start. Google understands that the majority of web traffic now comes from mobile devices, which is why more websites are adopting the “mobile-first” strategy.
For a law firm with businesses as their target market, you’re bound to have more desktop traffic. However, the average person will be searching for legal help from a smartphone or other mobile device.
Either way, optimizing your website for a fast and easy experience on any device should be your first priority. We’ll discuss more on web design later.
3. Content Marketing Strategy
After laying a foundation with your website, you still need to build the house. That’s where content marketing comes into play.
While many industries are competing to develop different kinds of content, there is nothing easier or more effective than a blog for law firms. If you would like to stand out from your competition, developing some type of video or interactive content may help you skip the line to the first page on Google, especially if competition is limited in your area. However, if your keyboard works, you’re bound to have legal experts in your law firm who can answer any questions your target audience may have. Well, that’s the key.
See, the average user isn’t going to search for law firms specifically, but rather for information. When you offer this information to them, you can generate organic traffic, build trust, and position your legal services as the solution to their problem. The more content you have within a specific topic or niche, the more you will reinforce your authority on that topic to search engines, which will boost your rankings.
Think about it. If you have a website with five pages for your homepage, services, and contact information, how is anybody going to find you on Google without searching for your law firm directly? They aren’t. With a blog or other content marketing strategy, you’ll have potentially endless chances to rank for various searches, especially as you continue to vary your keyword strategy.
4. Off-Page Ranking
Everything is connected online, and Google will certainly index all of it. For that reason, you want your law firm to be present everywhere on the web that’s relevant.
Once your website is up, you should immediately add your business onto Google My Business (GMB), Yelp, and other online directories. Fill out every prompt they offer and ensure that everything is consistent on these directories, your website, and social media profiles. Addresses, law firm titles, owners, and contact information need to be the same across the board to avoid confusion among users or Google’s algorithm.
Next, you can add your business listing to different social media accounts, Google Maps, and more. All of this can be done comfortably within a day, so take your time and get it right.
Lastly, if there are any local directories, especially for legal services, list your law firm and website on them immediately. Even your local Chamber of Commerce can help.
Creating an SEO-Friendly Website
Not only is your website the foundation of your SEO strategy, but it’s also the center of your entire digital marketing strategy. Optimizing your website for SEO should show results for your ad campaigns, email marketing, and any other online marketing strategy. Here’s how to start.
Optimize Page URLs
Within your site’s URLs, you should have at least one keyword, but try not to overdo it. The easiest way to do this is to always use your target keyword in your H1 tag. If you’re using WordPress or most other design tools, they will automatically add this to your permalink.
For example, a permalink should look like www.generic-domain-name.com/personal-injury-lawyer, not www.generic-domain-name.com/nfjbe?nskjbjkseb192dksl. If the page is dedicated to “personal injury lawyer” or if it’s an “about us” page, then Google’s crawlers will already start with the expectation of your content prior to opening the link.
On any type of device, a page has to load quickly, offer an easy navigation system, and respond quickly to intended interactions. Consequently, Google prioritizes fast-loading pages.
Most users won’t wait more than a few seconds for a page to load, so developing a modern and responsive website is essential to compete in today’s world. Removing junk code from your website, condensing heavy files, and optimizing images and other content can help improve your page response time.
Content marketing on your website needs to embrace quality. Anything in your content that doesn’t serve a direct purpose to your user should be removed entirely.
While word count can help your blog soar, it isn’t everything. A 500-word blog post with clear information about assault cases is far better than a 2,000-word post that’s mostly “fluff”. You may be able to sneak past the radar for a while, but Google has what’s called the panda penalty to penalize sites that rank highly with low-quality content.
After creating every piece of content, review it with a critical eye and ask yourself, “does this serve a purpose?” If not, change it or dispose of it. Also, the purpose doesn’t have to be informative; it can help improve the user experience, flow of the piece, or any purpose you want, as long as it’s clear what that purpose is.
Not only should your blog utilize the keywords in your strategy, but your target keywords should be spread throughout your entire site. Ideally, you want to use at least one of your target keywords at least three to five times on each page.
Every page should be followed up with secondary keywords that are also relevant to your legal services.
For example, there are plenty of keywords related to a primary keyword like “DUI attorney”. Your website’s content could have plenty of instances of “DUI penalties”, “criminal attorney”, “how long does a DUI stay on your record”, and so much more.
However, there is a fine line to tread, as you don’t want to be caught “keyword stuffing”, which could result in penalties from search engines. Try to use them as much as possible, but only when natural, which brings us to our next point.
Focus on the User
In all seriousness, user experience (UX) and SEO go hand-in-hand with everything. Google’s entire service is to match users with the best experience based on their search, so focusing on developing a user-friendly website is the best way to boost your strategy in the long term.
There are plenty of ways that UX can help SEO either directly or indirectly. Search engines may not care about your table of contents, but if users find it convenient and it increases interactions with your site, then it will help your SEO strategy.
A small joke in parenthesis within your content may be seen as “fluff” or filler, but not if it’s improving user engagement with your content.
All in all, adopting a user-oriented strategy will yield the best long-term SEO results. There are many ways a website can boost your legal practice.
Local SEO for Lawyers
A lawyer in one state is often confined to practicing within that state. For that reason, following proper local SEO practices is critical for success in your strategy and building traffic from users in your area. Here’s what you need to know.
Okay, so we talked a little about building appropriate links from directories and the like, but that’s not all. Most importantly, you need to build what are called backlinks.
Backlinks are the links from other sites to yours, not just from directories, and they are the primary off-page ranking factor for search engines. Backlinks are how search engines determine your website’s authority on a topic.
Google’s algorithm is excellent, but it isn’t an expert in legal content or any content for that matter. For that reason, the algorithm relies on other websites to offer their authority or “link juice” to other businesses.
Think about some of the “.gov” or “.edu” sites where you get a lot of your information on criminal penalties, laws, regulations, and more. Well, most law firms don’t want to link to their competitors, so they link to these sites instead to offer information to their users. Consequently, as they build more backlinks, one of these government pages may only have a couple of hundred words of content and still outrank some of the best, most thorough content on a given legal subject. For that reason, it’s important to develop a link-building strategy so you can benefit from that type of authority. Try reaching out to affiliates for links if possible, but most importantly, promote quality content on a stellar website to give other blogs a reason to link to your site over time. Keep in mind, local links are the most important ones for a local law firm. A link from a business in Seattle will mean little if your law firm is in Boston.
Along with the legal keywords you use, you will also want to match the location-specific keywords for your service area. For example, using keywords people in your area would search for, such as “personal injury lawyer in Nashua, NH” or “divorce attorney near me”, can help the right traffic find you.
Google uses multiple factors for users to judge their search intent, and location is one of them. They will either use their IP address, home address from their Google sign-in, or location services from their device.
This way, if you are nearby, you will have an easier time ranking for them by using these keywords. Also, this is another reason to get listed on Google Maps!
Track Your Progress
As time passes, you should use your favorite analytics tools like Google Analytics to track your website performance. This way, you can see how traffic is coming into your site, how long it stays, and how it interacts with or navigates through your site. With this information, try to determine your website’s weaknesses and improve them over time. Your website’s bounce rate, conversion rate, and time-on-page are some of the most important.
Finding the Right Lawyer SEO Help
We understand that this is a lot of information, but you don’t have to do it alone. With a small initial investment, you can get the ball rolling on your strategy and still see long-term results.
However, it’s important to find a law firm SEO expert, as they can best assist you with your strategy. Here’s how to find the best law firm SEO company to help you with your strategy.
First, you want to find an SEO company that offers law firm SEO services. There is no substitute for specialized help in such a competitive field. Not only that, but you want to find a company that offers website design and development, as this is crucial to the success of your strategy. Content marketing can only do so much on its own if you’re building a house on a broken foundation.
When it comes to industry knowledge, nothing beats a law firm SEO company. Some companies will offer case studies, testimonials, or a portfolio of previous work.
Regardless of what they offer, review it and see if it meets the standards you’re looking for. You can also check online reviews or ask for references if you want to gauge previous customer satisfaction!
We know that when you factor in the cost of web design, content marketing, and more, it can add up. As we mentioned before, the benefits of SEO are long-lasting and don’t require the same ongoing expenses as paid ads. However, we still have marketing budgets that we need to keep in mind. Calculate yours and find a company that’s able to offer you the services you need for the right price!
Build Your Practice Today
Now that you know more about law firm SEO and how to build your SEO strategy, why not start today? The sooner you start building your strategy, the sooner you will see results. Remember, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint, but once your strategy comes to fruition, you could see results for years to come.
Stay up to date with our latest legal marketing tips, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or for help with your strategy!