With 1.34 million lawyers and over 447,050 US businesses in the legal industry, it’s likely that at some point in your career you’ll get an SEO client in this vertical. If you already count Law Firms among your clients, you know their websites operate in a saturated market full of extremely competitive keywords.
So what guidelines should you follow in order to be effective in your SEO services for law firm clients?
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What is Law Firm SEO?
Law firm SEO is the process of making your client’s legal practice visible when potential clients are searching for them online. By improving your client’s website visibility on search engines, it’s more likely that they will be found by the 58% of legal consumers that use a search engine to find legal representation. There are key strategies to employ in SEO for law firms to be aware of when optimizing legal sites.
SEO Guidelines for Law Firm Websites
Before executing an SEO plan for your client, make sure you’re on the same page regarding the website’s goals.
A law firm or legal services website will usually aim to be educational and clear regarding services offered, with the goal of getting prospective clients to call, email, or otherwise contact the firm and eventually become a client.
The target audience usually has a recent legal incident, is searching online and would prefer a firm that is close by. They want an expert firm or attorney that is not extremely out of their budget, with a positive reputation.
Your client can probably tell you off the top of their head, who their competitors are, all vying for the same clients. So how can a law firm stand out online?
Let’s take a look at the basics and how SEO for Law Firms is different than other verticals.
How is Legal SEO different?
While the SEO basics can be applied to practically any site in any industry, there are a few particular details that make SEO for Law Firms different:
- Law-related keywords are among the most expensive.
- Sites that offer legal services are often looking to appeal to a local audience and need similar optimizations to a local business.
- Many small firms or solo practitioners share an office with another firm.
- Soliciting online reviews for Lawyers can be tricky at best, and punishable at worst.
- Often it’s best not to use hard-to-prove adjectives like “best at [X Legal Service]” or overpromise “[X outcome] guaranteed”, “We’ll beat [X Competitor] every time!”.
Let’s go through a list of actions you can take today to get some quick SEO wins for your clients.
5 SEO Steps for Law Firm Websites
1. Google Analytics & Search Console
It’s crucial for a law firm to understand where their website visitors are coming from—where they’re geographically located, what device they’re using, what site is referring them, and what search terms they are using to find the website.
In order to get these insights, the site should have Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics set up. These tools are also incredibly helpful in evaluating the results of SEO actions on site traffic and search rankings.
Since keywords in the legal services vertical are so competitive, it’s not easy (or inexpensive) to go for the main search terms in paid search, nor is it easy to rank for them organically.
However, there are some quick wins for organic search that you can try today:
Using Google Analytics and Search Console for Law Firms in 6 Steps
1. Run a basic SEO audit for your client. No matter how optimized they already seem, you must address and fix any technical errors first. You can find SEO audit tools within the Vendasta Marketplace, or can follow the Local SEO audit guide.
2. Use Google Search Console to identify pages for optimization. Look for pages with a high volume of impressions, but low click-through rate (CTR) and update the title and description to monitor whether CTR improves.
3. Use the Queries feature in the Search Analytics section of GSC to understand what search terms are already bringing the site traffic. Then, perform quick keyword research to identify your client’s biggest opportunities and make sure they’re targeting a mix of long-tail and short-tail keywords, and not only aiming for extremely competitive search terms.
4. Use the Google Analytics Acquisition section to understand what sites and directories are referring visitors to you, and look for citations on other sites similar to your main referrers.
5. Set up Goals in Google Analytics to see what pages (if any) are driving visitors to take action on your site (e.g. submitting a contact form, downloading templates, etc)
6.Use both GSC and Google Analytics to break down your site’s traffic by device and geographical location. This will let you know what percentage of visits are local, and if they’re visiting from a mobile device, you know that mobile performance needs to be continuously improved.
Every single insight you get from these quick actions will allow you to tweak your current pages, know what new content to add and measure results.
Since you’re in the digital marketing world, it seems like a no brainer to have these set up, but you’d be surprised at how many website owners do not make use of these free tools from Google! See more ways to take advantage of Google Search Console for SEO.
2. Structured Data & SEO
Structured Data (using the Schema markup) is another way to give your legal client’s website more opportunities to rank organically, especially with rich snippets, since it provides search engines with further context and details about the site. According to schema.org, 10,000-50,000 domains are using some sort of Attorney-related schema - which means there is plenty of room to implement it and get a head-start on others.
What kind of elements can be highlighted with schema in a law firm’s website?
- LegalService (identify the site as providing Legal Services. Note that the schema for Attorney has been deprecated)
- Organization (mention the address, area served, awards, diversity policy,employees, founder(s), founding date)
- Place (mention the address, map, logo, telephone)
- Local Business (mention opening hours, price range of services)
If you’re not familiar with how to include schema markup in your client’s site, get their webmaster or contractor to generate the snippet and include it on the page’s Head or Body sections. Test that the schema is implemented properly with Google’s own tool. If your client’s site is on WordPress, you can use a Plugin such as Schema Pro.
You can also aim to appear in Google’s Featured Snippet by giving a detailed or step-by-step answer to a common question.
This attorney has succinctly answered the common question of what steps to take in order to fight a DUI charge, and appears as the first result.
3. Local SEO for Law Firms
After correctly setting up analytics, doing basic on-page SEO, and implementing structured data, your legal client’s Google My Business (GMB) page is where you’ll set your sights in order to get a law firm found. GMB is user-friendly enough, but there are all kinds of special cases and exceptions when it comes to Lawyer listings.
In more complex cases, like multiple lawyers at one office, solo practitioners in shared office space or a local office of a regional law firm, you may want to double-check on best practices. The best place to ask whenever you have doubts is in the GMB forum.
Don’t forget to use the multi-location local SEO checklist to make sure you don’t miss a thing, and bookmark their support documentation on multiple practitioners at a GMB listing.
If the law firm’s GMB listing has been created or claimed already, check whether map location and Name, Address, Phone (NAP) and Opening Hours are correct and consistent with the website and all other listings that appear online.
If the client has few or no other listings, there are many directories where a law firm can appear, such as Avvo, FindLaw, Jurist, Nolo and Lawyers.com among others. To get a full rundown of directories in the legal services space, check out the top 100 online business directories.
GMB and directories, however, it not the only thing to worry about when optimizing for local clients.
! Avoid these 4 Local SEO Sins
There are big online no-no’s that seem to plague lawyers in particular, so be sure to avoid them:
- Claiming 24/7 service: an answering service that works around the clock is not the same as actually being available 24 hours a day. Your stated office location needs to actually be staffed during your working hours.
- Virtual offices and phony addresses: it’s become popular to create listings for virtual offices in order to rank well in local searches across different cities. This can also involve putting up fake or altered photos to show a supposed office front. Don’t try to trick Google into displaying these fake locations!
- Keyword stuffing: use local listings to display your client’s real, official business name. John Smith Law is fine. Don’t list John Smith best criminal lawyer in Saskatoon as a business name. That’s keyword stuffing and everyone (including Google) hates it!
- Fake reviews: reviews provide extremely important social proof to potential clients, and someone trusting their legal problems and even freedom to an attorney is going to make sure they do thorough research.
While an attorney can politely ask a satisfied client for a review on Google, Avvo, etc, warn your client against tactics such as having employees pose as clients to write reviews, swapping reviews with other attorneys, or paying or offering gifts to clients in order to get a positive review.
4. Content and SEO
High quality, relevant content is the best way to organically increase website traffic and generate leads. This doesn’t only refer to blog posts - your client should have separate pages for each of their areas of practice, that describes in detail what they do.
The keyword research you’ve done in the previous steps of this checklist will come in handy here as well - create content based on the keywords you’ve identified.
Your client can dedicate blog posts to answer frequently asked questions in depth. Make sure they make the answer ‘localized’ whenever possible. For instance, see how this NY-based law firm answers a question about custody and localizes it for New York.
Do a quick check to search for a question and see which of your client’s competitors currently ranks well for it. That will give you an idea of the length and depth of the content that needs to be created in order to position the page in search results for that question. You won’t always need to create 1200+ word articles if there isn’t high competition for certain questions you want to rank for.
If your client can’t create content in-house and you’d like to offer the service, we know of plenty of SEO Pros who hire law students or former attorneys to write relevant SEO-optimized content and then publish it for their clients.
Additionally, all content must be related to and linked back to each of the areas of your client’s practice.
An FAQ page can be created, where there are short answers that link out to posts which provide the in-depth answers.
Finally, don’t neglect social media when promoting content! Posts that speak to a current event can do very well to drive awareness to a site. For instance, a law firm discussed in a timely blog post, whether Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder were actually legally married in the state of New York, right after the media reported that they had tied the knot for real in a film together.
5. Links and Legal SEO
Being included in the main legal directories, in Local Chamber of Commerce listings, and other business directories that link back to your client’s main website, are link-building basics you can’t neglect.
Once your client starts publishing content based on their keyword research, they can work on getting quality backlinks by doing some outreach to sites that have linked to similar competitor content in the past. Make sure that each page’s permalink contains a target keyword that sums up what the content is about.
Another great way to build some links is to create a lead magnet, such as downloadable legal forms which provide high value. Others sites may link to this asset, and you can request an e-mail address in order for it to be downloaded. Digital natives seem to trend towards a DIY approach when they have legal issues, and this is a way that you can provide value to them without being pushy.
Don’t forget that a site can start getting a lot of referral traffic from content and link-building efforts, but if the site itself doesn’t make it easy for site visitors to become actual leads, then your client’s site won’t be fulfilling its ultimate purpose.
Make sure clickable phone numbers, maps and an accurate address and working hours are visible at all times on the site. Livechat can work very well for leads, but only of your client or an assistant can monitor it in real-time.
The legal services vertical is not an easy market to stand out in. However, by doing smart SEO and making sure your smaller client’s expectations are in check regarding the absolute amount of traffic and local leads they can aim for, you can ensure that your attorney clients do better than their competitors and snag clients of their own!
Remember these tips:
- Always start with on-page basics which are so often ignored in favor of ‘advanced’ SEO. Get the simple things sorted first!
- Invest time and work with your client to select the best keywords.
- Optimize for local searches with Google My Business, get listed on quality legal directories and avoid the mistakes other law firms make with local listings!
- Leverage structured data to improve chances of appearing in featured search results.
- Write educational content and create a publishing schedule.
Now I want to hear from you! Have you worked on Law Firm SEO before? Do you have an excellent resource you think we should include?
Leave a comment below!
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