Of all the niches in digital marketing, law firms occupy one of the most competitive. But chances are if you’re here, you already knew that! Marketing yourself online is one of the most effective ways to attract new clients. Just like in every other field of advertising, there are right and wrong ways to go about it. But when legal keywords in PPC ads cost up to $150 per click, those wrong ways can be costly – and ineffective. Here’s our guide to doing it the right way with SEO for law firms.
To start with, what is SEO? It stands for Search Engine Optimization. In other words, it’s an effort to ensure your website shows up when potential clients search for legal services. We’re not saying your ad on the side of a city bus doesn’t work, but to make it effective in today’s world you need a strong SEO effort to go along with it.
This article isn’t intended to be a full website walkthrough. Instead, we’ll discuss some methods of boosting your law firm’s rankings in organic search results. Consider this a jumping off point for optimizing your site and making it easy for new clients to find you.
Presenting Your Site: Functional Professionalism
Let’s start with your website.
A law firm office is a clean, functional space designed with utility and professionalism in mind. It shows visiting clients that these lawyers are organized, knowledgeable, and ready to represent them. A firm’s site should reflect this sentiment. Focus on making yours easy to navigate with a clean, modern appearance. Your contact information should be readily available on every page and your expertise and experience should be on full display. Not only does this make your site easier for clients to use, it also helps improve your search engine rankings.
Want to learn more about improving your law firm website? Check out our quick and easy law firm website checklist!
To start optimizing for search engines, here’s what your site needs:
1. Researched Keywords
Don’t rely on clients searching for you directly: according to the FindLaw U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey 2014, 62 percent of legal searches are non-branded. Instead, start your SEO operation by finding keywords your firm can capitalize on. Search engines use crawlers to index websites across the internet – it’s how they know what to display in any given search. But these crawlers need keywords to properly index a site so they know when it’s relevant to a search.
You’re no stranger to a little research… but how do you go about finding the right keywords? There are a couple of easy ways to get started. First, consider the services you provide to clients: divorces, injuries, etc. Put each of these at the top of a list as your topics. Underneath each, list all the variations of those topics you can think of. For example, separation, annulment, or marriage could all be relevant to divorce.
Now you’ll take your list to Google (or the search engine of your choice) and start punching in the keywords you’ve thought of. See what autocomplete options Google comes up with and add those to your list. You can also scroll all the way to the bottom of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) to find the box titled Searches Related To [Your Search].
Anytime you need to enter a keyword on your website (as you’re building pages or writing blog posts, for example) consult your list of keywords.
If you’re new to keyword research, it may help to learn more about search results with our walkthrough of the Google SERP.
2. A Defined Location
Law firms are largely location-based. They serve a specific area. If you need legal help and live in Cleveland, you’re probably not going to call a lawyer from Albuquerque (renowned as he may be). SEO for law firms needs to be local, as well, so let’s talk about targeting your area.
First, let’s add a few more things to that list of keywords you just made. When potential clients search for legal services, they often do so with a location in their query: copyright lawyer in Wichita, for example. Think about the communities you serve. Start with your state and any states that are nearby and zoom in gradually. You don’t need to list every neighborhood of your city. Consider using locations in which a number of previous clients lived. Add these location keywords to your list and you’ll have all the combinations you’ll ever need!
Again, make sure your contact information is visible and accessible from every page of your website. Your name, address, and phone number (called the NAP) are three crucial pieces of information search engines look for on your site. If clients search for you directly, this information is displayed on the SERP itself. And even if they don’t search for you by name, consider that 74 percent of prospective clients beginning a search online end up contacting the office by phone, according to the FindLaw survey we mentioned earlier.
Local SEO is crucial for any law firm. Check out our guide to local SEO to learn more!
Example: Pillar Law Group LLP
Pillar Law Group is an Indiana-based law firm that offers a wide range of services without sacrificing effectiveness. Check out their website: it combines their decades of experience with their connection to the area to make it clear that visitors have found the law firm they’re looking for. Contact information is available on multiple areas of the site, making it easy for potential clients to get in touch.
3. Expertise On Display
Hope you didn’t put that keyword list away yet! Use your experience and knowledge to help boost your search rankings while sharing it with the world by starting a blog on your website. This allows you to add SEO-friendly content to your website while giving clients proof of your expertise.
To get started, use your keyword list to come up with topics to write about. You can discuss the nuances of a legal service you provide or give readers advice for certain legal situations they might find themselves in. Make sure your posts are well-written and on-topic. Clients won’t want to use your services if they see blog posts full of typos and bad grammar, just like Google crawlers won’t list you if they find keywords scattered throughout a post that don’t relate to the rest of the content. Make sure your article addresses your keyword-based topic clearly and accurately.
If you’re having trouble coming up with topics, try a different approach: create client personas. These are “clients” you’ve come up with who represent the needs and demographics of real clients you’ve worked with.
For example, if you find yourself working with clients who are nearing retirement age or who have been victims of specific kinds of medical malpractice, create client personas with those traits. Come up with blog topics using information they should know or advice you want to give them: “What You Should Know About Malpractice Lawsuits If You’re Over 55,” for instance.
End every blog post you write with a call to action. What can your firm do to help the reader based on the topic of this blog post? Knowledge can be an excellent sales pitch.
4. Linked Authority
Establish authority through link building, an essential part of SEO for law firms. Search engine crawlers measure how often your website is referenced through links. The more times other sites link to pages on your site, the more authoritative you appear to these crawlers and the higher you’re likely to rank.
But that doesn’t mean you can go out and buy links or create fake ones. Crawlers have seen almost every trick in the book and are designed to sort earned links from faked ones. That means effective link building must be done legitimately – you have to earn them.
Sound complicated? It’s really not, but it’s not something you can force either. Search engines want to see that you’ve earned these links through your reputation to keep spam and bad results out of the SERP, which is ultimately a good thing for you.
Simply be mindful about the activities of your firm and link building will happen naturally. Were you quoted in a news article? Did you write a piece for a publication? Was your firm featured on a partner or client site? Has someone cited one of your blog posts? Have you sponsored a local minor league team? Are you listed in any online legal directories? Each of these presents an opportunity for link building. Make sure your site is linked to wherever it’s mentioned.
5. Technical Perfection
When ranking sites, search engine crawlers look for more than just content. They’re checking technical aspects of the site, as well. Site structure, meta titles and descriptions, and images are all important aspects of SEO for law firms.
Just like you want other sources to backlink to your site through link building, you’ll need to link between pages on your own website. This makes it easy for crawlers to navigate your site. However, don’t just create links around the site at random. Link to different pages in places that make sense. For example, if another page on your website is relevant to what you’re discussing in a blog post, insert a link to it in the post. These internal links also help crawlers determine which pages are most important on your site by the number of pathways you create to them, so link more important pages on your site more often.
Pages also need meta descriptions and titles. Your website building tool should make it easy to add these on each page. Give the page a short description and use the keywords from your list that best describe it.
If you’re using images on your website (which you should be!), they need to be optimized for SEO too. Learn about image file types, alt text, and more in our guide to optimizing images for SEO (that’s an example of an internal link, by the way).
6. Measurable Results
Once you’ve finished your initial optimization efforts, you need to keep track of the results. Google Analytics is one of the most powerful tools available for anyone involved in digital marketing. It can help you monitor site traffic, determine the effectiveness of the keywords you’ve used, and measure your click and conversion rates.
We won’t lie to you: SEO is a project that’s never really finished. There will always be ways you can improve and innovate. That’s why tools like Analytics are important. Analytics allows you to measure the results of your work and find ways to optimize even further. Remember, the better your SEO, the easier it will be for potential clients to find you in their search results.
It’s crucial to focus on SEO for law firms operating in today’s world. It’s not just a marketing gimmick; but it’s not a replacement for your other campaigns, either. SEO fills in the gaps and complements your other marketing efforts. By improving your organic search results, potential clients who have heard of you will have an easier time finding you. People who are looking for the kinds of services you provide will be more likely to find you, too. But one of the best things about SEO is that anyone can learn how to do it. Start putting SEO for law firms to use on your site today!