Today, we explore SEO practices for law firms with tips to growing online visibility. With 1.34 million lawyers and over 447,050 US businesses in the legal industry, standing out online is becoming more and more important and difficult to achieve.
It is likely that at some point that better optimization of your website will be necessary especially considering that in a saturated market full of extremely competitive keywords, it is nearly impossible to rank on page 1 of google. So what guidelines should you follow in order to be found online, engage the visitor to your website and convert into a client?
What is Law Firm SEO?
Law firm SEO is the process of making your legal practice visible when potential clients are searching for your services online. By improving your website visibility on search engines, it is more likely that your business will be found by the 58% of legal consumers that use a search engine to find legal representation. There are key strategies to employ in SEO for law firms to be aware of when optimizing legal sites.
SEO Guidelines for Law Firm Websites
Typically, a law firm or legal services website will usually aim to be educational and clear regarding services offered, with the goal of getting prospective clients to call, email, or otherwise contact the firm and eventually become a client. The target audience usually has a recent legal incident, is searching online and would prefer a firm that is close by. They want an expert firm or attorney that is not extremely out of their budget, with a positive reputation. Your competitors are all vying for the same clients.
So how can a law firm stand out online? Let’s take a look at the basics and how SEO for Law Firms is different than other verticals.
How is Legal SEO different?
While the SEO basics can be applied to practically any site in any industry, there are a few particular details that make SEO for Law Firms different: Law-related keywords are among the most expensive. Websites that offer legal services are often looking to appeal to a local audience and need similar optimizations to a local business. This is compounded by the fact that oftentimes many small firms or solo practitioners share an office with another firm. Soliciting online reviews can be tricky at best, and punishable at worst. Often it’s best not to use hard-to-prove adjectives like “best at [X Legal Service]” or overpromise “[X outcome] guaranteed”, “We’ll beat [X Competitor] every time!”. Let’s go through a list of actions you can take today to get some quick SEO wins for your clients.
5 SEO Steps for Law Firm Websites
Google Analytics & Search Console
It’s crucial to understand where website visitors are coming from—where they are geographically located, what device they’re using, what site is referring them, and what search terms they are using to find the website. To get these insights, the site should have Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics set up. These tools are also incredibly helpful in evaluating the results of SEO actions on site traffic and search rankings. Since keywords in the legal services vertical are so competitive, it is not easy (or inexpensive) to go for the main search terms in paid search, nor is it easy to rank for them organically. However, there are some quick wins for organic search that you can try today:
Using Google Analytics and Search Console for Law Firms in 6 Steps
Request a basic SEO audit. No matter how optimized the website may already seem, there will always be issues to address; fix any technical errors first. Ask us about running a Site SEO report.
- Use Google Search Console to identify pages for optimization. Look for pages with a high volume of impressions, but low click-through rate (CTR) and update the title and description to monitor whether CTR improves. Learn how here.
- Use the Queries feature in the Search Analytics section of GSC to understand what search terms are already bringing the site traffic. Then, perform quick keyword research to identify the biggest opportunities.
- Use the Google Analytics Acquisition section to understand what sites and directories are referring visitors to the website. Look for citations on other sites similar to your main referrers.
- Set up Goals in Google Analytics to see what pages (if any) are driving visitors to take action on your site (e.g. submitting a contact form, downloading templates, etc)
- Use both GSC and Google Analytics to break down your site’s traffic by device and geographical location. This will let you know what percentage of visits are local, and if they are visiting from a mobile device, you know that mobile performance needs to be continuously improved.
Every single insight you get from these quick actions will allow you to tweak your current pages, know what new content to add and measure results. You’d be surprised at how many website owners do not make use of these free tools from Google! See more ways to take advantage of Google Search Console for SEO.
Structured Data & SEO
Structured Data (using the Schema markup) is another way to give your website more opportunities to rank organically, especially with rich snippets, since it provides search engines with further context and details about the site. According to schema.org, 10,000-50,000 domains are using some sort of Attorney-related schema – which means there is plenty of room to implement it and get a head-start on others.
What kind of elements can be highlighted with schema in a law firm’s website?
- Legal Service (identify the site as providing Legal Services. Note that the schema for Attorney has been deprecated)
- Organization (mention the address, area served, awards, diversity policy, employees, founder(s), founding date)
- Place (mention the address, map, logo, telephone)
- Local Business (mention opening hours, price range of services)
If you’re not familiar with how to include schema markup in your site, we can help. You can also aim to appear in Google’s Featured Snippet by giving a detailed or step-by-step answer to a common question. For example: “This attorney has succinctly answered the common question of what steps to take in order to fight a DUI charge, and appears as the first result.”
Local SEO for Law Firms
After correctly setting up analytics, doing basic on-page SEO, and implementing structured data, your Google My Business (GMB) page is where you’ll set your sights in order to get a law firm found. GMB is user-friendly enough, but there are all kinds of special cases and exceptions when it comes to Lawyer listings.
In more complex cases, like multiple lawyers at one office, solo practitioners in shared office space or a local office of a regional law firm, you may want to double-check on best practices. The best place to ask whenever you have doubts is in the GMB forum. If the law firm’s GMB listing has been created or claimed already, check whether map location and Name, Address, Phone (NAP) and Opening Hours are correct and consistent with the website and all other listings that appear online.
If there are few or no other listings, there are many directories where a law firm can appear, there are at least 100 online business directories for legal services such as Avvo, FindLaw, Jurist, Nolo and Lawyers.com among others. GMB and directories, however, it not the only thing to worry about when optimizing for local clients.
Avoid these 4 Local SEO Sins.
There are big online no-no’s that seem to plague lawyers in particular, so be sure to avoid them:
Claiming 24/7 service: an answering service that works around the clock is not the same as actually being available 24 hours a day. Your stated office location needs to actually be staffed during your working hours.
Virtual offices and phony addresses: it’s become popular to create listings for virtual offices in order to rank well in local searches across different cities. This can also involve putting up fake or altered photos to show a supposed office front. Don’t try to trick Google into displaying these fake locations!
Keyword stuffing: use local listings to display your real, official business name. John Smith Law is fine. Do not list John Smith best criminal lawyer in Mineola as a business name. That’s keyword stuffing and everyone (including Google) hates it!
Fake reviews: reviews provide extremely important social proof to potential clients, and someone trusting their legal problems and even freedom to an attorney is going to make sure they do thorough research.
High quality, relevant content is the best way to organically increase website traffic and generate leads. This doesn’t only refer to blog posts – your should have separate pages for each of their areas of practice, that describes in detail what you do. The keyword research done in the previous steps of this checklist will come in handy here as well – create content based on the keywords you’ve identified. You can dedicate blog posts to answer frequently asked questions in depth. Make sure they make the answer ‘localized’ whenever possible. For instance, see how this NY-based law firm answers a question about custody and localizes it for New York.
Do a quick check to search for a question and see which of your competitors currently ranks well for it. That will give you an idea of the length and depth of the content that needs to be created in order to position the page in search results for that question. You won’t always need to create 1200+ word articles if there isn’t high competition for certain questions you want to rank for. If you can’t create content in-house and you’d like to take advantage of this key SEO tactic, connect with us to discuss how our team can develop relevant SEO-optimized content and then publish it.
Additionally, all content must be related to and linked back to each of the areas of your practice. An FAQ page can be created, where there are short answers that link out to posts which provide the in-depth answers.
Finally, don’t neglect social media when promoting content! Posts that speak to a current event can do very well to drive awareness to a site. For instance, a law firm discussed in a timely blog post, whether Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder were actually legally married in the state of New York, right after the media reported that they had tied the knot for real in a film together.
Links and Legal SEO
Being included in the main legal directories, in Local Chamber of Commerce listings, and other business directories that link back to your client’s main website, are link-building basics you can’t neglect. Once you start publishing content based on keyword research, the next steps are working on getting quality backlinks by doing some outreach to sites that have linked to similar competitor content in the past. Make sure that each page’s permalink contains a target keyword that sums up what the content is about.
Another great way to build some links is to create a lead magnet, such as downloadable legal forms which provide high value. Others sites may link to this asset, and you can request an e-mail address in order for it to be downloaded. Digital natives seem to trend towards a DIY approach when they have legal issues, and this is a way that you can provide value to them without being pushy.
Don’t forget that a site can start getting a lot of referral traffic from content and link-building efforts, but if the site itself doesn’t make it easy for site visitors to become actual leads, then your site won’t be fulfilling its ultimate purpose. Make sure clickable phone numbers, maps and an accurate address and working hours are visible at all times on the site. Livechat can work very well for leads, but only of your client or an assistant can monitor it in real-time.
The legal services vertical is not an easy market to stand out in. However, by doing smart SEO and making sure your expectations are in check regarding the absolute amount of traffic and local leads expected, you can ensure that you have a greater opportunity do better than the competitors and snag clients!
Remember these tips:
- Always start with on-page basics which are so often ignored in favor of ‘advanced’ SEO. Get the simple things sorted first!
- Invest time to select the best keywords.
- Optimize for local searches with Google My Business,
- Get listed on quality legal directories and avoid the mistakes other law firms make with local listings!
- Leverage structured data to improve chances of appearing in featured search results.
- Write educational content and create a publishing schedule.
Find all of this a daunting task outside of your scope of understanding, time and resources?
We can help. Creative Canvas Media is here to help your business solve the challenges faced in the digital space.
Article Credit; Larissa Murillo/Market Manager @Marketgoo