The Ultimate Guide to Law Firm SEO
Demystifying Search Engine Optimization for attorneys: How to get great Google results in 7 steps
“What is SEO?”
There was a time when I had lawyers asking me that question almost every day. But times have changed. The internet’s been with us a while.
Today, most attorneys know what search engine optimization is, why it matters, and that good SEO is the gateway for getting more clients online.
Less obvious, however, is how to get good results using SEO.
That question takes a little longer to answer, but there is an answer — no magic wand, no crapshoot, no “make a few tweaks and hope it works.”
Getting your law firm’s website to the top of Google is a lot like losing weight or building up a beach body. If you make the commitment, stick with it, and do the right things, it will happen. But it isn’t easy — and if you fool around with silly fads, bad advice, or fickle binges, you can end up worse off than you were before.
I’ve seen one law firm after another take their website to the top of the Google search results. In fact, that’s the primary thing my company does. I head up an attorney SEO agency called Black Fin, where we focus entirely on getting bigger, better cases for law firms using the internet, and we’ve developed some proven-to-work marketing tactics along the way.
Below, I hope to demystify the process by telling you exactly the steps we take at Black Fin, why we take them, and how you too can master the art of digital marketing for lawyers.
Preface: why your Google rankings matter
Most web users never click beyond the first page of Google results.
Why should they? Ten perfectly good law firms turn up on Page One (plus another five in the Google ads and three more in the Google Maps results, also on Page One). That’s more than enough for any prospective client to wade through.
In fact, studies show us that many people won’t even look beyond the first half of the first-page results.
You probably know this from your own Googling habits. In what percentage of your own personal searches do you venture onto Page Two?
That’s why Google rankings matter.
Getting to Page One is like building your law firm on the busiest highway in town. Staying on Page Two is like hanging your shingle 30 minutes into the woods. Some people might still find you, but not many.
SEO is the art and science of ranking your firm on search engines like Google and Bing. Conversion rate optimization (CRO), in turn, is the art of converting visitors into clients once they find your site.
Step one: develop new content for your website (or rework what you have)
There is a golden rule in the world of digital marketing: content is king.
Google’s web crawlers use written content to understand and organize the web. It’s what they feed on.
So feed them.
Search engine algorithms assign quality scores to every website and webpage. The higher your score—and the more relevant your content—the higher up in rank you’ll rise.
Here’s what that means in practical terms:
Your content has to be good. Well-written, easy to read, informative, and free of major spelling or grammatical errors.
The more great content you have, the better. We suggest creating a single page per practice area (ideally 1,500 words in length) and about 5-10 sub practice area pages under each practice area page.
Relevancy matters too, so know the keywords you want to target. Don’t guess at keywords blindly, and don’t try to stuff a bunch of them into every page. Research your keywords, know your market, use synonyms, and target a term or two at a time.
Already have practice area web pages on your site? If you didn’t draft them with these guidelines in mind, it’s probably time to redo them. Otherwise, keep adding to what you’ve got.
And while written content is truly Google’s life force, don’t underestimate the importance of supplementary visual content, too (videos, infographics, photographs, etc.).
Step two: get your blog game together
Search engines love having fresh content to crawl. That’s where blogs come in.
By adding at least a few posts a week, you’ll send a signal: “Our website is a great source for new and worthwhile legal content!” The web crawlers will read you loud and clear.
Not convinced? Visit the highest-ranking law firm websites in your market. You’ll probably find that their blog game is on point. That’s especially true in bigger cities. Learn from the people who are currently winning.
And remember, under Google’s latest algorithm, longer word counts pack a stronger punch, so don’t hold back!
Step three: commit to wining local search results
Maps optimization is a subtype of SEO marketing, and for lawyers, it’s extremely important (because most law firms are competing locally). Here’s how to do it:
Create city web pages. They’re like practice area webpages but tailored to a particular region, county, or town. If you want to get aggressive about dominating search in multiple markets, you’ll create a new page for each city and each practice area you hope to target (without duplicating content).
Claim your Google My Business listing. Google maintains local business listings for just about every business, including law firms. You can formally “claim” yours and exercise control over it, and that’s super important. It affects whether and how you show up in Google Maps, local search results, etc.
Ensure NAP consistency. NAP stands for “Name, Address, Phone number.” Search all the major local directories online and make sure your contact information is consistently up to date across the web. Don’t miss out on a single case because some other website has your phone number wrong.
Recruit compelling client testimonials. Ask your local clients to leave honest written reviews on Google Maps, Yelp, and attorney review websites (but don’t offer incentives for doing so, lest you’re looking for a penalty).
Target local search terms. It’s helpful to reference local people, places, and events in at least some of your blog posts.
Recruit high-quality local backlinks. When local businesses or organizations link to your website from theirs, Google’s algorithms see it as an endorsement. If you can pick up a handful of these “endorsements” from websites that have high Google quality scores (i.e., they already rank pretty well on Google themselves), it can give you a boost.
Step four: social media marketing
I always tell my clients not to overestimate the importance of social media but not to underestimate it either.
You’re not going to tweet your way into the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. But social media is important. A quick primer on why:
Studies show that when prospective clients evaluate attorney websites, social media is one of the things they evaluate. A weak/absent social presence suggests that you’re behind the times or maybe not as successful as you seem.
Search engines see traffic from social media sites as high-profile “endorsements,” so there is a real SEO angle here.
If you’re using social media correctly (i.e., actively and like a real human being), you can get attention from local community members who just might need a lawyer’s services.
Here again, the proof is in the pudding: the majority of the country’s top-performing law firms are all actively engaging with social media. It matters.
Step five: start with an SEO-friendly website
One of the most challenging things our agency deals with on a regular basis is law firm websites that, by the nature of how they have been set up and organized, are going to be really hard to rank.
Much has been made of whether or not drag-and-drop website builders like Squarespace and Wix are as easy to rank as a site built on a platform like Wordpress.
While there is plenty of evidence that you can rank these sites, you’re typically going to be limited in a number of ways with regards to the options you have. When it’s your business, you need to do it the right way, which isn’t necessarily the easiest or the cheapest way.
Beyond building your site on the right platform, there’s also the matter of having a clean, clearly defined structure. Google’s web crawlers rely upon an easy-to-understand navigation for processing, categorizing, and ranking websites, so it’s really a must to make sure that these things are considered while your website is being built or rebuilt.
After all, SEO isn’t some magic pixie dust that you sprinkle on a site after it’s done. Really, it’s an integral part of a holistic marketing effort that touches a number of parts of your internet marketing—your website being one of the most important.
Step six: get outside your own domain
When it comes to backlinks and “endorsements,” take the bull by the horns—go out and create content on other people’s websites too.
Why ask for a mere link when you can write whole articles on their domains while still linking back to yours?
Everyone wins this way. You’re getting SEO-boosting backlinks and new traffic. The other website is getting great new content from a fresh voice. And their readers are getting useful content from a widely respected professional.
We call these “guest posts,” and they make a lot of sense in the legal market. As it happens, the very article you’re reading is a guest post—published for your enjoyment by our dear friends at LawPay. We practice what we preach, and you should practice it, too.
Step seven: assess and adjust
Finally, you need to know whether your efforts are working. That’s where analytics come in. It’s a fancy term for tracking your digital marketing efforts and recalibrating campaigns as you go. You’re blindfolded without it.
We suggest using Google Analytics. It’s the last step but certainly not the least.
But these really aren’t “steps” at all…
I’ve put them together as an attack plan here, but the hard truth is that none of these steps are one-and-done propositions. To really succeed at law firm SEO, you’ll need to tend to all six steps regularly. They work in tandem.
You can’t do it all on your own
Who has time for all this? Probably not you. Attorneys aren’t known for their ample free time.
So put the burden on an expert’s shoulders. The right law firm SEO campaign will deliver a measurable return on investment. Expect to see results and communicate that expectation to whomever you hire.
Commit your law firm’s SEO campaign to success
Ultimately, success in digital marketing for law firms comes down to attitude.
If you make a determination, right here and now, that your law firm will dominate the Google search results within your market by this time next year, there’s no stopping you. It’s only a question of commitment. How serious are you about getting results?
The internet isn’t simply “the new Yellow Pages.” It’s the new TV ad, the new billboard, and the new business card too. In short, the web is the most powerful and most effective way of getting new clients for your law firm. So make the most of it. Put these steps in motion and get in touch with an attorney marketing expert today.
About the Author
Gerrid Smith is the founder and CEO of Black Fin, a internet marketing agency that specializes in helping law firms grow. Gerrid first established himself as a legal marketing authority in the early days of the internet, when he launched the largest directory of personal injury attorneys on the web. Today, Gerrid and his team have emerged as leaders in SEO, PPC, social media, and content marketing for lawyers. In 2017, Inc. magazine recognized Black Fin as one of the fastest-growing companies in America. If you need help improving your law firm’s web results, contact Gerrid at Black Fin today.