Everything You Need to Know About Law Firm SEO
Constellation Marketing is an award-winning, full-service law firm SEO agency. We make your law firm stand out in Google searches and win new clients.
What is attorney SEO?
Why SEO is Essential for Lawyers & Law Firms
Local Search Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) can help your law firm win hundreds of thousands of dollars in new business this year.
It doesn’t happen overnight, but we believe SEO for law firms is the single greatest growth channel for legal marketing.
Welcome to our comprehensive guide to search engine optimization (SEO) for lawyers.
If you want to:
Get high-level, actionable insights you can use to win more 1st page rankings on Google
Avoid the most common search engine optimization mistakes made by other attorneys
Then, follow along as we share the knowledge needed to win more high-value clients from Google search engines without headaches.
What Is Attorney Search Engine Optimization?
Attorney SEO is the process of maximizing the number of visitors coming to your law firm’s website by ensuring that it appears high on search engine result pages (SERPs).
We’ll cover these elements in more detail later, but here are some of the most integral components of attorney SEO:
- Measurement & Analytics
- Keyword Research
- On-page Optimization
- Website Technology
- Link Building
- Local SEO
Most lawyers get a LOT of things wrong about SEO.
But, I would get a LOT of things wrong if I represented myself in court.
This page is for busy lawyers who need to understand SEO but don’t want to become experts.
How SEO Works for Law Firm Websites
If you have not been intensely involved with the SEO industry, Google must seem like something from outer space. You can find literally anything on it, for better or worse. But how does Google decide what to show you? How does it find and analyze all of those sites and spit out the information or resource you need?
Here are the basic mechanics of their search algorithm:
Google’s search engine software looks for web pages (Crawling)
They try to understand what they’re about (Processing & Rendering)
Then they figure out where to put them amidst all of the search results (Indexing)
How do they know what goes where? This is where the algorithm takes over and categorizes it, assigns the page a value and places it among the other pages according to that value.
This is the KEY PART: you can influence this placement, a practice known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO)!
Google has hundreds of ranking factors and makes adjustments every day. It’s our job to track those and give our clients our best guess at the winning formula.
Why SEO for Law Firms is Essential for Lawyers
When asked why he robbed banks, Willie “Slick Willie” Sutton simply replied, “Because that’s where the money is.”
This, in a nutshell, is why you should commit to utilizing search engines to win new business for your law firm.
According to Higher Visibility, 53% of all web traffic comes from organic search engine results pages. The next largest channel is paid search at 27%. The rest is split between social media and direct traffic.
Regardless of your practice area, your future clients come from Google search results more often than not. The National Law Review reports that 96% of people seeking legal advice use a search engine.
What’s even more important than traffic? Actual clients. Pay attention to this next statistic.
We’ve analyzed thousands of leads for law firm websites, and the evidence is clear: SEO for law firms is the big winner.
Over 70% of all leads for lawyers come from organic search results!
We often hear from clients who want to focus on their social media, physical advertising materials, or other marketing tactics, but the data simply doesn’t support that this is how clients are finding you. When weighing your options, think about Slick Willie and go where the money is!
Right Place, Right Time
When you are looking for a good dinner, what’s the first thing you do?
You’re going to get out your phone and do a simple search like “best tacos near me.”
This EXACT scenario is how the vast majority of people search for a lawyer as well.
Going to Facebook? Nope.
How about YouTube? No Way.
Drive-by a Billboard Again? Probably Not.
They are pulling out their phones and searching for you, just not by name. Like that search for tacos, they may type, “best criminal attorney near me” or “immigration attorney Los Angeles.”
Of course, organic search is not the ONLY way someone finds a lawyer, but it’s the most WIDELY-USED and thus, the MOST IMPORTANT.
Once your potential client has those Google results in front of them, what happens? They scan the first page of results, start comparing their options, and ultimately take action, becoming a lead.
The key to winning this pivotal moment when their needs and your services match up so perfectly is to rank highly for the most important keywords in your market.
90% of searchers will not go past the first page to select their result. If you want to be in the game at decision time, YOU NEED TO HUSTLE AND GET ON THE FIRST PAGE!
Search Engine Optimization is the Most Powerful Client Acquisition Channel Available
With all of this in mind, it’s probably becoming clear why as an attorney, you should care about your law firm SEO.
SEO is the most powerful marketing tool for law firm owners who want to maximize ROI.
The costs may seem high at first glance, but in the end, you are generating highly targeted traffic to your law firm’s website.
There are a handful of strategies that work, but here’s why we believe SEO is absolutely the best way to build a sustainable and growing pipeline of new business for your firm:
You are building an asset for your business with long-term value that compounds over time.
You own the real estate! Never depend on a directory company for new business again.
You’ll be a part of the future of law firm lead generation. We analyzed thousands of leads to find out what percentage is coming from SEO, and it accounts for over 70%!
If you’re ready to start taking positive action to expand your sources of new business, take a hard look at SEO.
Core Components of a Winning SEO Marketing Strategy for Law Firms
Measurement & Analytics for Law Firm SEO Campaigns
This section could literally save you thousands of dollars…you can thank us later!
Proper analytics are perhaps the most important aspect of your SEO campaign. If you’re not focused on the right metrics, there is no way to know if your SEO efforts are working.
If you want to:
Avoid wasting thousands of dollars on bad law firm SEO companies
Hold your existing SEO law firm company accountable
Win top positions above your competitors more often
…and get the most out of SEO law firm marketing, you need to start by defining your metrics.
We often speak with attorneys who have attempted to learn SEO themselves. Typically they’ll absorb a couple of tactics but miss the bigger picture.
You don’t need to be an expert, but having a knowledge base will help you develop realistic goals, understand what you’re paying for, avoid overspending on poorly performing campaigns, and find new growth opportunities.
Our golden triangle is: First Page Positions, Organic Traffic, & Conversions
In the end, it all comes down to new cases. PERIOD. If your law firm SEO company sends you reports that only focus on non-impact metrics like page views, you might want to take a closer look.
With an SEO campaign, you want to see a linear progression through the three levels of the marketing funnel.
You generate visibility by getting ranked, then win organic traffic to your site, and finally, gain conversions. Although some law firm SEO companies do it differently, we only count phone calls and contact form submissions as conversions — real people making real contact with your firm.
So, here are the three most important metrics for your law firm:
First Page Rankings
Yes, other metrics are critical to an SEO campaign, but the average lawyer doesn’t need to know them.
Focus on these high-level indicators to save your time and ensure that you’re getting the most value from your SEO law firm website campaigns.
SEO Success = First Page Search Engine Ranking
A popular SEO joke goes like this: Where’s the safest place to hide a dead body? On page two of Google.
But, seriously. When’s the last time you went to the second page of Google? Maybe never.
According to Moz, the first page of Google captures 71% of search traffic clicks and has been reported to be as high as 92% in recent years.
To make site SEO profitable for your law firm, you need to be on the first page. Winning even one highly-targeted keyword position could have a tremendous impact on your SEO success.
Even though first page keywords are the main focus, another important ranking factor is overall keyword count.
This count will give you an idea of whether your website is growing or stagnant. Today’s duds are tomorrow’s winners, so think about gradually improving your overall keyword presence.
Talk to your current SEO agency about which keywords you rank for. If you don’t rank for many, what’s their plan to drive traffic to your website?
The trick is that SEO work will compound over time and allow you to rank for hundreds or thousands of first page keywords, which is where the magic really happens.
Law Firm Success = Conversions
Rankings and traffic are essential, but the ultimate goal is conversions.
Tracking your conversions can help you:
Measure the effectiveness of your SEO campaigns
See which pages are working, so you can double down on the strategy
Identify and fix pages that are getting traffic but not generating clients
What is a conversion? A conversion is when someone goes from surfing the internet to actually trying out your product or service.
There are two types of conversions: those where users take action on their own after finding what they’re looking for online – like signing up at an email list subscription service – and then there’s also attrition which happens when visitors move through pages without doing anything but scrolling.
Our law firm SEO experts use Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager (GTM), and Google Search Console (GSC) to track the following conversions for our clients: calls, emails, and form submissions.
These tools can track and analyze stats like call duration and click-through rate from organic listings on SERPs.
This helps us see which keywords are most likely to successfully convert prospective customers into leads who then may convert into clients for your firm.
Yes, first page search engine rankings and organic traffic are GREAT, but ultimately, they are signs of progress and not the end goal. Take a look at the funnel framework we use to track the progression of our clients.
Conversions are a critical piece of the overall campaign because they help you understand if you’re targeting the right keywords with high user intent. You can see all of this data in great detail inside Google Analytics.
When you’re tracking law firm SEO, don’t forget to keep conversions at the top of your list!
To learn more about Measurement & Analytics, check this out.
Law Firm SEO Keyword Research
Don’t get it twisted. Search engine optimization is COMPLICATED.
But, there’s one simple tip that can 10x your ROI.
What is it? Have a keyword plan!
Keywords are often misunderstood. Many people think you just need to add “the right keywords,” and you’re destined for greatness, but that’s a major simplification.
Your potential clients are out there using a particular term to search for a service, and you need to figure out what that keyword is. You accomplish this with a well-crafted keyword research plan.
You’re simply trying to catch a wave by tapping into the stream of people who are already out there looking for your services.
Without a plan, you’re like a rudderless ship.
Having a pointed focus helps you stand above the millions of other results. It tells Google who your content is for, which helps them categorize it and place it within the search results.
So, before you start writing content on your website, spend 15 minutes looking for a good keyword: one that matches your topic and is already being searched by site visitors!
What are the Best Keywords for Law Firms?
Unfortunately, without that keyword plan, writing content isn’t going to do much for you. The vast majority of law firm website content will never acquire a SINGLE CLIENT.
This may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. Let’s dig into why that is.
One of the most common reasons is not picking the RIGHT keywords. Many attorneys neglect to even attempt this, which leads them to sit on the eighth page of Google (or worse).
The best keywords for lawyers are those that show a user’s intent to hire a lawyer. Simple, right?
The basic formula is: Your City + Practice Area + Lawyer/Attorney
Take, for example, Atlanta DUI Attorney which receives 150 searches/month.
What you may not know is that using certain SEO tools like Ahrefs, we can see EXACTLY what people are searching for. We share that intel with our clients, and then we build a page that will rank for it.
By taking a quick look into Ahrefs, we can see that “Atlanta DUI Lawyers” is actually the best keyword with a monthly volume of 400 searches, so we would choose that to target.
There are many other worthwhile keywords to pursue, but this formula is built to bring in the most high-value clients in your market.
Once you have a target keyword, your job is to prove to Google that your website is the best option!
Target Prospective Clients with Long-tail Keywords
Ranking high for something like ‘Auto Accident Lawyer Near Me’ could literally generate you millions in revenue. That’s the power of SEO.
But, the truth is that this search term is EXTREMELY competitive. You’ll need a lot of luck or a well-funded, smart strategy to win a first page placement for it.
GOOD NEWS: there are hidden opportunities called long-tail keywords that will lead to substantial ROI. Long-tail keywords are searched less frequently but still have a high user intent. They may not be the ‘money’ keywords, but they’re still very valuable.
The Location + Practice Area + Attorney/Lawyer formula covers the obvious searches. But there’s still a WHOLE LOTTA pie out there.
The key is digging into the niches.
As the saying goes, niches = riches.
Here is an example long-tail keyword: “Where do I find my Georgia car accident report?”
Even though this person is not looking for a lawyer right now, there’s a decent probability that they actually need a lawyer. There are tons of keywords like this.
If you can show up for a term like this and provide value to a potential client at this important moment, you can win lucrative cases.
3.5 billion searches are happening every day. With effective keyword research, you can capture lots of valuable cases – even as a young law firm!
To learn more about Keyword Research, check this out.
Once you find your keywords and start writing content for your site, it’s easy to get carried away and let your content cover multiple interconnected topics. However, if you want to maximize the ROI of your law firm website content, stick to ONE TOPIC PER PAGE!
We recently published an extensive set of legal content development guidelines to demonstrate the right way to do it.
We know that Google is looking to rank comprehensive, authoritative content.
Pages that attempt to cover many topics on the same page typically don’t go into enough depth on any of the subjects — and so they’re destined for page six status. To escape the sea of mediocrity, focus on covering one topic really, really well.
Google’s latest algorithm updates have shifted away from site authority to reward PAGE authority. Regardless of your overall stature, you can win important rankings.
This is great news for attorneys like you. You now have a better chance to outrank big players like FindLaw or Avvo.
A good practical example of this strategy would be a law firm that does criminal and civil law. You would NOT want to mix these topics within a page.
Using keyword research before you write can help inform your plan and ensure no overlap between the different topics. There is some grey area here, but attempting to segment is better than making no effort and free writing.
Keep your pages focused and you stand to win against the competition.
Establish Topical Authority on your Law Firm’s Website
More than 547,200 new websites are created every single day.
That’s 380 every minute!
With so much competition, no wonder it’s challenging to get your content noticed.
Don’t get discouraged, though. Google has always put a premium on high-quality content. With the right strategy and execution, you can benefit in a big way.
So, how do you create high-quality content?
Here are few key components:
Strive to create the most comprehensive resource on the Internet
Cover all aspects of a topic that should logically be included
Incorporate relevant resources and cite your sources
Make it easily navigable and functional for users
Sites that consistently produce quality content are rewarded with better rankings, and sites that create low-quality content get less visibility.
When you’re working on your site content, just keep these steps in mind:
- Find a keyword target
- Write high-quality content
- Rinse and Repeat
Over time, this activity compounds, and you’ll become THE authority in your market.
Nearly as important as what keywords you use is how you format the page containing those keywords. Let’s dive into on-page optimization!
On-page website SEO refers to the ranking factors that can be affected directly within your website.
Proper on-page optimization will help you:
Show up for your targeted keywords
Compete toe-to-toe with well-capitalized competitors
Win more 1st page positions without spending on links
Page Titles, Meta Descriptions, and H1
Even if you do nothing else as far as on-page optimization, there are three absolute MUST-DOs.
The most critical on-page activity for search engines is optimizing your:
- Page Title Tag
- Meta Description
- H1 Header
Every page or post you create should have these three elements. To be optimized, they should all include your target keyword.
It’s shocking how many law firms don’t do this, but it’s essential (and luckily, it’s pretty quick and easy to do).
Why is it so important?
Google has an unbelievable ability to understand website pages, but they also rely on signals from the site owner.
By adding this “meta” information, you’re giving the search engines a map instead of allowing them to draw their own conclusions. This gives you the power to influence how you’re listed on their search engine results pages.
This process takes 2 minutes and will give you a tremendous advantage over the vast majority of competitors.
Structured Data: Schema, Headers, and More!
Along those same lines, it’s important to utilize structured data to inform Google what you want to rank for.
You probably know that Google uses crawlers (a.k.a. spiders) to review your website pages. But, you may not know HOW they work.
They scan your page, looking for the most important parts. This may differ from what YOU consider the most important information on your page.
The good news is that we can circumvent this by telling Google EXACTLY what they should consider important by using what’s called structured data.
Structured data is information in a coded format that makes it easier for Google to digest.
Title Tags, Meta Description, and H1 headings are types of structured data, and they make up part of the puzzle. But, we can take it a step further and utilize ALL of the structured data that is relevant for you!
This could include:
- Bold Text,
- Ordered Lists,
- and more.
Using these elements tells Google, “Hey, this is important, please focus on it.”
Although these formatting tricks can also make your page easier to read for the human eye, this isn’t just for kicks or for appearance’s sake. We know for a fact that IT WORKS. Optimizing the material on a page is one of the quickest and most impactful wins you can have.
Take a look at this intro to structured data for SEO from Moz…. And if your webpages aren’t properly communicating with Google, let’s talk!
To learn more about On Page Optimization, check this out.
Technical SEO and Speed Optimization
So you’ve got your keyword plan, you’re taking the time to optimize your pages and use structured data… what else can you do to gain a competitive edge? Enter technical SEO.
If you want to rank above your competitors for the best keywords, YOU NEED A FAST WEBSITE.
Fast loading pages have two key benefits:
They make it easy for potential customers to evaluate and hire you.
They satisfy Google’s desire to rank sites that will deliver a great user experience.
The reality is that we live in an era of instant gratification. Everyone wants what they want, RIGHT NOW. This extends to hiring a lawyer.
79% of online shoppers say they won’t go back to a website if they’ve had trouble with load speed!
If your page speed takes more than two seconds to load, your future client has moved on.
How can you improve your site speed and win more potential clients?
Use speed enhancing plugins like WP Rocket or NitroPack
Compress (reduce the file size) of your images
Leave out any necessary widgets or scripts
Get a premium host who explicitly optimizes for speed
Those are the heavy movers, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. We optimize our law firm websites on hundreds of factors.
But, the good news is that you’ll see a measurable impact by doing the bare minimum.
There are trillions of pages on the Internet, and the vast majority were built with a ‘set it and forget it’ mentality. They were created but are no longer actively maintained.
This works in your favor, because it means even doing just one of the items above will help you surpass thousands of other people.
SEO is not an all-or-nothing pursuit. Chip away at the most approachable items we discuss here one at a time, and you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors!
To learn more about Website Fundamentals, check this out.
Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
Google’s goal is to serve its users the best content possible quickly.
Showcasing your expertise will help you rank higher and win more clients.
Since ‘best’ is subjective, let’s dive into their interpretation and how you can achieve it.
E-A-T is the framework that Google uses to assess content creators, webpages, and websites as a whole.
Here’s how to master the framework:
Add awards, certifications, experience, and professional membership information.
Include a byline on all content with a link to your profile.
Add data and references to your content.
Add name, address, and phone number.
If you’ve dipped your toe into the SEO waters, you’ve probably heard of backlinks. So let’s dig in: what are they and how do you get them?
A backlink is a reference from one website to another.
Inbound links, which create connections between two pages on your own website, are similar to backlinks. We discuss these more below.
Backlinks confer value on your website. Generally speaking, the more links you have, the better.
How do you get backlinks? Lots of ways!
Here are some common ways that law firms acquire links:
- Signing up for a directory like Avvo or FindLaw
- Signing up for a website like Facebook or YellowPages
- Joining an organization like your local Bar
- Getting quoted in a journal or news article
- Writing a guest post for another website
- Writing a great article that is then used as a reference
- Begging your cousin or anyone else who has a website
We won’t cover all of the ways to build links here, but this guide to link building from Moz is a great resource if you are interested in deepening your knowledge.
Don’t get overwhelmed trying to do every single marketing strategy. As with everything else we’ve talked about in this guide, you can choose just one or two strategies to start with.
Our standard advice for lawyers who want to do their own SEO is always applicable: start small and be consistent.
Over time, you’ll begin to build authority. Combined with high-quality content, backlinks will help give you an unparalleled advantage over the competition!
Internal linking is the overlooked cousin of backlinking. But, it may very well be the best “SEO hack” that’s out there.
An internal link is a connection between two different pages on the same website.
Why do it?
These types of links are useful for three reasons:
They allow users to navigate a website.
They help establish information hierarchy for the given website.
They help spread link equity (ranking power) around websites.
Optimizing your internal links allows you to very quickly (and easily) redistribute link juice, create topical authority, and aggressively use keywords, unlike link building.
How do you do it?
- Determine what your most important content is
- Find other pages that are topically relevant to your important content
- Find where the two topics converge
- Create a connection between the two pages with a link
Internal linking is a very underrated SEO strategy.
It’s completely free.
You don’t have to ask anyone to link to you.
And it actually helps you rank higher on Google.
Boom! High ROI.
To learn more about Link Building, check this out.
Local Search Optimization
Local SEO for Attorneys Starts with Google My Business
What is local SEO, and how does it work to help law firms?
Local SEO is a search engine optimization (SEO) marketing strategy that helps your law firm be more visible in local search results on Google.
When it comes to local SEO, we’re talking about the Map Pack and Google My Business.
Here’s why it is so beneficial to be placed in the Map Pack:
It’s 100% free
You’re above all organic search engine results
How do you get into the Map Pack?
Unlike regular organic search results, placement here is largely a byproduct of your location.
There are technically three pillars of Google’s Local SEO algorithm: Relevance, Proximity, and Prominence. Relevance is by far the most important ranking factor for local searches on Google.
You get into the Map Pack by being close to the person who is searching. But, you can also expand your footprint by optimizing your Google My Business presence and acquiring positive reviews (among other, lower-impact activities).
There are a few things you can do to boost your prominence – citations and citation consistency, for one – but here’s the bottom line if you’re a busy attorney. Focus on optimizing your GMB and then push for every review possible!
The Importance of Consistency for Local Search Engine Optimization
So, want your law firm found in Google’s Map Pack more often? Of course you do!
Placement in the Pack can be a game-changer for a law firm since being there means you’re above all of the other organic search results.
This is a powerful location given what we know about user behavior (ain’t no one scrolling to page 2 to find a law firm).
Citation syndication is an essential part of achieving placement in the Map Pack. Having a consistent presence (accurate business info) across the web feeds the “prominence” part of the local algorithm.
Conversely, having incorrect or duplicate listings can hamper a business’s ability to rank well in local searches. And that’s not to mention how frustrated consumers get when they are confused by inaccurate information online.
Syndication helps push your business information across the web quickly and effectively. We use BrightLocal for the job.
Their syndication service distributes client data to thousands of directories, apps, and mapping services.
If you’ve ever changed jobs, moved office locations, or just want to perform better in search – you need syndication!
To learn more about Local Search Optimization, check this out.
Law Firm SEO Strategy for Lawyers
Keep it simple, stupid.
Great content, a solid tech stack, and relevant links will carry you a long way when it comes to law firm SEO. But let’s be honest. That’s a lot to deal with when it’s not your full time job.
There’s so much to think about when it comes to law firm’s SEO results, and it can be overwhelming. The best advice we can give a busy attorney is to reduce your focus.
Trying to master or even understand all of SEO’s nuanced subtopics is dang near impossible. We work 24/7 to master this, and we still feel perpetually uninformed.
When you’re looking for practical solutions that will help you win more clients, keep it simple.
Content and links are the two most enduring parts of Google’s search algorithm.
Staying firmly grounded in these two areas will help you by:
Providing a scaleable way that you can impact your marketing
Giving you a large advantage over other attorneys who either do nothing or ineffectively try do everything
A simple SEO plan for attorneys is to write one comprehensive piece of content every month and then share it to build links.
Don’t expect an avalanche of traffic overnight, but over time, this practice will compound exponentially.
Harness this (relatively) passive strategy, and you’ll turn your knowledge into a recurring pipeline of new clients!
Publish, Track, Optimize, Repeat
Let’s close it all out with a practical look at how to make the most of your SEO strategy and maximize the ROI of your most precious commodity: TIME!
There’s an infinite number of ways to spend your time trying to improve your visibility on search results. It’s really easy to go down the wrong path and waste your time.
Here’s the framework we use to win our clients over 5,000 first page positions and 60,000+ organic users every single month!
This strategy is deceptively simple but incredibly effective.
Of course, there’s a lot more detail with each step that we’re not discussing here. Your key takeaway as an attorney is the mindset.
Think of it like the scientific method, but for marketing. Using some of the tips in this guide, make your best guess, take action, and follow your results over time to see how you’re performing. Once you’ve received some feedback in the form of a ranking, you can then work to improve it.
As you are ‘farming’ your live content, you can go ahead and plant the seed for the next crop.
Law firm SEO is very similar to investing in the stock market. Over time, this compounds and can create a life-changing asset for your law firm. Good luck!