Getting your law firm to the top of search results with improved search engine optimization can help bring your firm more leads with less effort and cost through inbound marketing tactics. With the right rankings that bring in free leads to your law firm, you can make your marketing more effective and lucrative for your firm.
Lawyer SEO Guide
- Why is SEO Important for Law Firms?
- Most Important Law Firm SEO Factors
- Using Google My Business to Get in Local Pack Results
- Building an Optimized Law Firm Website
- Creating Content for Search Engines
- Building Backlinks to Increase Law Firm Rankings
- Benefitting from National Ranking Directories
- Make Your Attorney Search Engine Optimization Simpler
Why is SEO Important for Law Firms?
According to Clio’s 2019 Legal Trends report, the majority of legal service consumers use search engines to find a lawyer, second only to asking friends and family for a referral. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the number one way you can grow your law firm, beyond providing a great client experience to increase referrals and building your book of business with referral partnerships.
Throughout our years of providing comprehensive legal marketing services to law firms across the United States, law firm SEO services has consistently been a top driver of law firm client growth and is often the most cost effective law firm marketing tactic. Unlike referrals that are very time consuming and often difficult to cultivate, SEO is a highly scalable, profitable way to grow a law firm.
From a marketing and advertising perspective, SEO leads are the lowest cost to acquire for most law firms. Being at the top of search results for your practice areas can easily produce thousands of leads for your law firm without having to spend on advertising or paying to get traffic to your website.
Instead, every second of the day someone searches for legal representation, your law firm can be the first and last place they turn to if your law firm ranks at the top of search results.
So how do you use SEO to get your law firm in front of potential clients? Search engine optimization for lawyers focuses primarily on local SEO, building an optimized website, creating content that engages your ideal clients and ranks well, and building backlinks.
Most Important Law Firm SEO Factors
If you want to increase your website traffic and the number of clients your law firm gets from search engines, it’s important to understand that law firm SEO is a bit different than SEO for other companies.
Beyond the ethical challenges that lawyer SEO marketing presents, the SEO strategies that work for law firms the best tend to focus on local SEO strategies and content marketing. Law firm SEO is also highly competitive compared to most other industries because there is so much at stake for law firms when it comes to ranking well in search engines.
Potential clients who turn to search engines to find a lawyer are often faced with a search results page that looks something like this:
At the top you’ll see Google Ads, typically followed by a Local Google Map Pack, and then regular organic rankings below, often followed by another group of Google Ads. In the regular organic listings that have some of your local competitors, you’ll also notice that there are a number of national competitors, like legal lead generation sites, lawyer directories, and others that aren’t actually law firms in your area.
What does this mean for SEO marketing for attorneys? Lawyers need to use a three-fold approach: get into the Local Pack, rank in localized regular organic rankings, and use national competitor rankings to your advantage.
However, when you’re developing your law firm SEO strategy or comparing SEO services, you need to know that the factors that influence Local Map Packs and organic rankings below the Map listings aren’t the same.
In other words, if you want to be successful using SEO for law firm marketing, you need to focus on the following factors:
- Fully optimizing and utilizing Google My Business
- Building an optimized site that increases engagement
- Creating localized keyword optimized content
- Building non-citation links to your website
- Using national directories to your advantage
In the rest of this guide, we’ll cover the essentials of each of these ranking factors and what your law firm can do to use SEO and lawyer marketing tactics to gain new clients from search.
Using Google My Business to Get in Local Pack Results
Above all else, succeeding at lawyer SEO is all about local search. After all, most law firms serve clients in their geographic area, with a few exceptions. Most legal service consumers use Local Map Packs as a way to find a lawyer in their area without even looking at a law firm’s website.
The most important factor for getting to the top of Local Pack results is your law firm’s Google My Business profile, which is a free business listing service.
For small firms looking to boost SEO, Google My Business is consistently their most powerful tool to gain rankings, especially in highly competitive practice areas where local competitors dedicate a lot of time and resources to improving their website.
Your law firm’s SEO campaign should focus in part on optimizing your Google My Business listing, posting regularly to your profile, and cultivating new reviews from past clients.
The most important factors for your Google My Business optimization include:
- Short Name
- Business Description
- Attributes and Highlights
- Service listings
- Q & As
Although we have a separate guide on optimizing your Google My Business profile for law firms, a key part of attorney SEO is prioritizing your GMB listing and shouldn’t be overlooked. In addition to Local Pack results, Google My Business also has a small effect on localized rankings below the Map that can help your law firm rank in the regular organic results too.
Building an Optimized Law Firm Website
Your law firm website goes hand in hand with your Google My Business listing to help your law firm rank in both Local Pack results and organic listings below the Map. Without a website, your law firm is entirely dependent on third-party listings and referrals to get clients. All the same, a surprising number of law firms simply don’t care about their websites.
Attorney SEO marketing incorporates on-site SEO techniques to help your law firm rank in searches related to your practice areas both in Local Maps and the localized search results below the Map. (Yes, your website does influence your Local Pack ranking, although to a smaller degree than Google My Business.)
At the most basic level, a law firm website should include the information prospective clients need to know about a firm to make a decision on whether to hire them, including the firm’s practice areas, attorney experience, accolades, and a way to easily contact the firm.
Building a law firm website optimized for search engines incorporates a number of additional factors, including:
- Keyword optimization on main pages
- Blog posts for more specific keyword searches, called long-tail keywords
- Optimized lawyer bios & profiles
- Optimized multimedia content for fast loading times
- Site Organization & links between pages to create structure
- Ability for information to be read and saved by search engines, called crawlability and indexability
- Additional code that adds meaning for search engines, including schema markup, JSON & structured data
- Pages that load under 3 seconds, at a minimum
- Easy to use on any device, including mobile devices
- Security features, including SSL
- Trustworthy domain URL
Much of building an optimized website has to do with technical aspects, beyond making sure that your website has the right content with the right keywords. A good SEO agency should not only be able to improve keyword optimization on your website but help make improvements to the code and technical elements of your law firm website.
Creating Content for Search Engines
Legal SEO is extremely competitive for most practice areas so having a good website is a good starting point but doesn’t necessarily ensure high rankings. Search engine optimization for attorneys usually requires content marketing to be successful.
Search engines focus on ranking law firms that are perceived as authoritative experts in their field. While in the practice of law being perceived as an authority in your practice area usually means publishing articles, winning notable cases, participating in your Bar section, and building a reputation among fellow lawyers, the perception of authority online is very different.
In part, search engines use the depth and breadth of content related to common searches to judge a firm’s authority online. The other main part of how search engines judge authority is the links your firm’s website has from other quality websites, which our law firm SEO guide covers below.
Successful content marketing for SEO starts with keyword research, which is the process of discovering the terms your ideal clients are using to find a law firm to hire. A good law firm SEO expert should already be familiar with the best content to create for your firm’s website and what drives new client acquisition the most effectively, helping your firm get to the top of search results that matter more quickly.
After figuring out the best opportunities for ranking in search results, the process centers on creating blog posts or articles that incorporate these topics and keywords to attract your ideal clients to your firm.
For the most part, SEO marketing for law firms tends to focus on creating content for search engines not only to rank for what’s called long tail keywords but also to help improve the rankings of more difficult, short tail keywords.
Long tail keywords are more specific searches that incorporate more terms, like “what to do after being denied social security insurance”. Short tail keywords, on the other hand, usually focus on more general practice areas, like “social security disability lawyer” and are significantly more competitive.
Not only does content marketing help you target long tail keywords effectively and rank for specific issues you can help potential clients with, leading to a high conversion rate from website traffic, the more content your law firm shares about your practice areas, the better chance your firm has to rank for short tail keywords.
Building Backlinks to Increase Law Firm Rankings
Above all else, one of our best SEO tips for law firms is to focus on the second part of how search engines judge the authority of your firm: links to your website.
If you want your firm to succeed at law firm search engine optimization, you need to focus on link building, or the process of acquiring links from reputable, high-quality websites to your site. Link building work is often the best way to fast track your law firm’s rankings.
The most valuable links for your law firm include, in increasing effectiveness:
- Links from legal directories, both general and specific to your practice areas
- Links from legal associations, both regionally and nationally
- Links from local non-legal organizations in your area
- Links from media outlets, both regionally and nationally
- Links from other websites that your ideal clientele trust and read
For every firm, the makeup of these links is a little bit different.
SEO for attorneys & lawyers tends to get caught up in perfecting a laundry list of directories. Most SEO companies start off their main focus on getting legal directory links, but it’s important to keep in mind that these kinds of links aren’t the most powerful when it comes to building an effective backlink profile.
You should be aware that your SEO efforts should focus on cultivating the other types of links listed above, with an increasing focus on the later types, or your efforts may be overly focused on links that are the least effective.
As well, there are some backlink schemes that can be unethical for lawyers to participate in or that could potentially risk rankings on the long term because they aren’t in line with search engine best practices.
In our work with law firms, we’ve found that the best backlinks come from a combined approach to content marketing and PR that not only helps law firms grow brand awareness with target clientele but also helps gain backlinks at the same time.
Benefitting from National Ranking Directories
One of the most difficult aspects of doing SEO for law firms is national competitors that push local law firms down in rankings. In many cases, there are only a handful of local firms in organic rankings below Maps because of legal directories and lead gen websites and that can sometimes force firms’ websites out of search results.
Many SEO professionals shy away from focusing on these directories because they compete directly with your firm for organic rankings and you’re building on “rented” land. However, the best law firm SEO marketing strategies actually incorporate these directories into your overall strategy.
Instead of trying to beat out national competitors, integrating them into your overall marketing strategy can actually be more beneficial to your law firm’s long term success. Not only can your law firm benefit from backlinks on legal directories but your firm can also be found by potential clients who use these platforms.
The technique of using national competitors to gain rankings in competitive local search terms is called barnacle SEO. This technique originates primarily from ecommerce SEO, where ranking for specific products can be overwhelmingly difficult if not entirely impossible for smaller companies. The idea comes from using third-party seller profiles on high ranking websites instead of trying to take on those high ranking websites head on.
Keep in mind that SEO for legal marketing should always prioritize a law firm’s own site, as the “pay to play” agreements of many legal directories can change drastically and have a negative effect overnight on your firm. But most attorney search engine marketing benefits from integrating profile optimization on legal directories and shouldn’t be neglected.
To reap the benefits of barnacle SEO, your firm needs to optimize your lawyer’s presence on legal directory sites, make sure the information is accurate, and fully utilize the platform’s features. Not only can this boost your local SEO with a link, it can help your firm “steal” away some of the traffic from a national website.
Make Your Attorney Search Engine Optimization Simpler
SEO for legal firms is often more complex than SEO for other kinds of businesses because the competition is usually higher—but Google and other search engines also hold law firms and other legal service providers to a higher standard than other kinds of sites.
Google believes that services and products that have a high influence on people’s lives and finances should be held to a higher standard when it comes to trustworthiness, authority, and expertise. They translated that into weighting the algorithm differently for law firm rankings than for other kinds of businesses.
What does that mean for your firm? Working with someone who understands the unique challenges of lawyer SEO can make a huge difference not only in how well your firm ranks in search but how effective SEO is for your firm to gain new business.
SEO & attorney marketing are a key element to successful firms—just look at the top competitors in your region for any practice area and you’ll notice one thing they have in common. Those firms prioritize doing marketing and investing in SEO.
Want to grow your law firm by getting to the top of search results? Get a personalized SEO assessment for your firm in a free initial consultation and learn how affordable SEO can be. Contact us today to talk to an SEO expert about how SEO can help you drive business goals forward.