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 is the single greatest growth channel for law firms.
Welcome to our comprehensive guide to 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
- Develop a working knowledge of this essential topic so you can maximize your marketing budget and avoid poor service providers
Follow along as we share the knowledge needed to win more high-value clients from Google without all the headaches.
- SEO Basics
- Measurement & Analytics
- Keyword Research
- On-page Optimization
- Content Marketing
- Link Building
- Local Search Optimization
What Is Attorney SEO?
Attorney Search Engine Optimization 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 legal 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 was built for busy lawyers who need to understand SEO, but don’t want to become experts.
How SEO Works for Law Firms
If you have not been intensely involved with the SEO industry, Google must seem like something from outer space.
I was once like you, I just knew that it was really good at finding information, but I had absolutely no idea how it worked.
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)
- Figure out a place 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 assigns the page a value and categorizes it.
This is the KEY PART: you can influence this placement, a practice known as SEO!
Google has hundreds of ranking factors and makes adjustments everyday. It’s our job to track those and give our clients our best guess at the winning formula.
Why SEO is Essential for Lawyers & Law Firms
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 SEO to win new business for your law firm.
According to Higher Visibility, 53% of all web traffic comes from organic search. The next largest channel is paid search at 27%. The rest is split between social and direct traffic.
Regardless of the practice area, your future clients are more often than not coming from a Google search. Data reported by the National Law Review states 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 firms and the evidence is clear: SEO is the big winner.
Over 70% of all leads for lawyers come from organic search!
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 the phone and searching for you, just not by name.
Of course, organic search is not the ONLY way someone finds a lawyer, but it’s the WIDELY-USED and MOST IMPORTANT.
After a person discovers their options by scanning the first page of Google, they’ll move into the comparison stage 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 1st page to select their result. If you want to be in the game at decision time, YOU NEED TO HUSTLE AND GET ON THE 1ST PAGE!
Search Engine Optimization is the Most Powerful Client Acquisition Channel Available
As an attorney, why should you care about SEO?
SEO is the most powerful marketing tool for law firm owners who want to maximize ROI.
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.
- There are certainly costs, but in the end you are generating highly targeted traffic to your website for FREE.
- 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.
- Avoid skyrocketing advertising costs. We’re seeing ONE SINGLE CLICK cost over $300 in some markets. Organic traffic on the other hand is free.
- It’s where your future clients are. We’ve analyzed thousands of law firm leads and SEO accounts for over 70% of new clients.
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 Strategy for Law Firms
Measurement & Analytics for Law Firm SEO Campaigns
This section could literally save you thousands of dollars.
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 law firm SEO company accountable
- Win top positions above your competitors more often
Then let’s get it!
I often speak with attorneys who have attempted to learn SEO themselves. They’ll absorb 1-2 tactics, but miss the bigger picture. You don’t need to be an expert, but having a base of knowledge will help you develop realistic goals, understand what you’re paying for, avoid overspending on poorly performing campaigns, and find new growth opportunities.
To get the most out of SEO, you need to start by defining your metrics.
Our golden triangle is: 1st Page Positions, Organic Traffic & Conversions
In the end, it all comes down to new cases. PERIOD. If your law firm SEO company is sending you reports that only focus on non-impact metrics like page views, I’d be concerned.
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 conversions.
Here is how we visualize this:
So, here are the three most important metrics for your law firm:
- 1st Page Rankings
- Organic Traffic
Yes, there are other metrics 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 campaigns.
SEO Success = 1st Page Search Engine Rankings
Where’s the safest place to hide a dead body? On page two of Google 🙂
If you want to turn all that SEO investment into qualified leads, keep reading. Today, we’re focusing on the Visibility portion of the attorney marketing funnel.
But, seriously. When’s the last time you went to the 2nd 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 SEO profitable for your law firm, you need to be on the 1st page. Winning even one highly-targeted keyword position could have a tremendous impact on your revenue.
Even though 1st page keywords are the main focus, another important metric is overall keyword count. This will give you an idea of whether your presence is growing or stagnant. Today’s duds are tomorrow’s winners, so think about gradually improving your overall keyword presence.
Talk your current marketer about which keywords you rank for and if you don’t, what’s the plan to get you there?
This work will compound over time and give you the opportunity to rank for hundreds or thousands of 1st 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? When a website user goes from surfing to trying to make contact with you.
As law firm SEO experts, we track the following conversions for our clients: calls, emails, and form submissions.
We do this by using a combination of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager (GTM). Google Search Console (GSC) is not essential for tracking prospective client conversions, but it does help you analyze Google search results and it is a key part of an effective law firm SEO strategy.
Yes, 1st 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 our 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 a law firm search engine optimization campaign, don’t forget to keep conversions at the top of your list!
Law Firm Website
Law Firm 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 keyword to search for a service and you need to figure out what that 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 rudder-less 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 go writing your next blog – spend 15 minutes looking for a good keyword, one that matches your topic and is already being searched by consumers!
What are the Best Keywords for Law Firms?
The vast majority of law firm website content will never acquire a SINGLE CLIENT.
This may sound harsh, but it’s the truth.
Why is that? One of the most common reasons is not picking the RIGHT keywords. Many attorneys neglect to even make an attempt at this which leads them sitting on the 8th page of Google 😥
The best ones 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
>> Example: Atlanta DUI Attorney (150 searches/mo.)
The cool part about this is we can see EXACTLY what people are searching, share that intel with our clients, and then build page that will rank for it.
A quick look into Ahrefs shows me that “Atlanta DUI Lawyers” is actually the best keyword with a monthly volume of 400 searches, so we’ll choose that to target.
There are tons of other worthwhile keywords to pursue, but this formula is built to bring in the most high-value clients in your market.
Now that you have a target, your job is to prove to Google that your website is the best option!
Target Prospective Clients with Long-tail Keywords
Ranking high for ‘Auto Accident Lawyer Near Me’ could literally generate you millions in revenue. That’s the power of SEO.
The truth is that this term is EXTREMELY competitive and you’ll need a lot of luck or a well-funded, smart strategy to win.
GOOD NEWS: there are hidden opportunities that will lead to substantial ROI called long-tail keywords.
The formula we shared yesterday is going to cover 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
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.
Here is an example long-tail keyword: “Where do I find my Georgia accident report?”
Even though this person is not looking for a lawyer right now, there’s a decent probability they may need a lawyer. There are tons like this.
If you can show up here and provide value at this important moment, you can win lucrative cases.
There are 3.5 billion searches happening every day. With effective keyword research, you can capture lots of valuable cases – even as a young law firm!
We’re now moving into our lessons covering on-page optimization.
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
On-page SEO refers to the ranking factors that can be affected directly within your website
Page Titles, Meta Descriptions, and H1
THE MOST important on-page activity for search engines is optimizing the Golden Triangle: Page Title, Meta Description, H1 Header
Absolutely NO ONE calls it this, but I like it! 🤣
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.
Why? Google has an unbelievable ability to understand website pages, but they also rely on signals from the 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 in 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!
This post is about the importance of using structured data to inform Google what you want to rank for.
You probably know that Google uses crawlers (aka spiders) to review your website pages. 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.
We can circumvent this by telling Google EXACTLY what they should consider important.
We did this with the Golden Triangle (Title, Meta, H1), which are all types of structured data. But, we can take a step further. SD is information in a code format that makes it easier for Google to digest.
Utilize all of the SD that is relevant for you!
This could be >> HEADERS, BOLD TEXT, ORDERED LISTS, SCHEMA, AND MORE.
Using these tells Google, “hey, this is important, please focus on it.”
This isn’t just for kicks, 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.
Here is a nice intro to structured data from Moz.
If your webpages aren’t properly communicating with Google, let’s talk!
Technical Search Engine Optimization
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 a microwave society. 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 site takes more than two seconds load, your future client has moved one.
How can you improve your site speed and win more 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 this is just the tip of the iceberg. We optimize our #lawfirm websites on hundreds of factors 🙂
But, the good news is that you only need to do the bare minimum to see a measurable impact. There are trillions of pages on the Internet and the vast majority are ‘set and forget.’ They were created, but not longer actively maintained.
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 some of the items in this series and you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors!
Google’s goal is to serve their 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, which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, is the framework that Google raters use to assess content creators, webpages, and websites as a whole.
Here’s how to do it:
- 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
How does this help you win more clients? Two ways.
- You’ll get more traffic and
- convert it at a higher rate
Elevate your content and you’ll be rewarded handsomely!
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 cover many topics on the same page poorly are 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 change to outrank big players like FindLaw or Avvo.
A good practical example of this strategy would be a law firm who does both 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 make sure there is no overlap between the different topics. There is some grey area here, but attempting to segment is better than nothing at all.
Keep your pages focused 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 🤯
It’s a serious challenge to get your content noticed.
The good news is that Google has always put a premium on high-quality content. With the right strategy and execution, you stand to 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.
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.
Publicly, their position is that links don’t matter all that much. They are just one small piece of a complicated algorithm.
Based on extensive personal testing, we know this just isn’t true.
Backlinks are considered by many to be the #1 ranking factor in Google and are crucial for a successful law firm seo campaign.
Since the beginning of Google, links have been an important part of how they connect and rank webpages. By possessing links, you’re showing Google that others believe in you enough to vouch for you publicly.
Law firms need links to stand out.
Everyone can create a website and talk about their practice areas. It’s true, high quality content is another important part of the algorithm, but links can be your differentiator.
Today we’re going to talk about backlinks. What they are and how to get them.
What are they?
A backlink is a reference from one website to another.
You can also have internal links. These create connections between two pages on your own website, we’ll talk about these tomorrow.
Backlinks confer value on your website. Generally speaking, the more links you have the better.
How do I get them?
Lots of ways!
Here are some common ways that #lawfirms acquire links:
Signing up for a directory like Avvo, FindLaw
Signing up for a website like Facebook or YellowPages
Joining an organization like your local Bar
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
Beg your cousin who has a website
I’m not going to cover them all here, but if you are interested in deepening your knowledge, I can recommend this guide from Moz: https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-link-building
Don’t get overwhelmed trying to do every single strategy.
Our standard advice for lawyers who want to do their own SEO is applicable here: start small and be consistent.
Over time, you’ll begin to build authority. Combined with high quality content, this combination will 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.
What is it?
An internal link is a connection between two different pages on the same website.
Why do it?
These type 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 I do it?
Determine what your most important content is
Find other pages that are topically relevant to you 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.
Local Search Optimization
Local Search Engine Optimization 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) 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
A couple of major benefits to being placed here:
- It’s 100% free
- You’re above all organic search 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, Prominence), but proximity has an outsized impact.
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 rankings (among other, lower-impact activities).
We’ll talk about citations and citation consistency tomorrow (part of prominence), but if you’re a busy attorney – focus on optimizing your GMB and then scrap for every review possible!
The Importance of Consistency for Local Search Optimization
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. Why? 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’ ability to rank well in local search. And that’s not to mention how frustrated consumers get when they find 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!
Search Engine Optimization Strategy for Lawyers
Keep it simple, stupid.
Great content and relevant links will carry you a long way when it comes to law firm SEO.
There’s so much to think about when it comes to #SEO, it can be overwhelming. The best advice we can give a busy attorney is to reduce your focus.
Trying to understand or even master all of the 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 over night, 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
For the final lesson, we’re going to discuss SEO strategy and how to maximize the ROI of your most precious commodity: TIME!
There’s an infinite number of ways that you can 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 5k 1st page positions and 60,000+ organic users every single month!
1 >> Publish
2 >> Track
3 >> Optimize
4 >> Repeat
Deceptively simple, but incredibly effective.
Clearly, there’s a lot more detail with each step that we’re not discussing here. Your key takeaway as an #attorney is the mindset.
It’s like the scientific method, but for marketing. Using some of the tips in this series, make your best guess and then follow along over time to see how it’s performing. Once you’ve received some feedback in the form of a ranking, you can then work to improve it.
As your ‘farming’ your live content, you can go ahead and plant the seed for the next crop.
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.