Lawyers spend a lot of money on advertising online and offline. So, it is not surprising that Law Firm SEO is a a competitive market.
Despite that I have been successful at driving high quality organic traffic from the search engines to Law Firm Websites.
Get a Free SEO Analysis and Recommendations from an SEO Expert with experience doing SEO for Lawyers by submitting a discovery form.
Why is SEO Important for Attorneys?
Search Engine Optimization can make many millions of dollars per year for law firms because SEO catches potential clients in the small windows of their lives when they need a specific type of lawyer.
For example, consider Personal Injury SEO…when someone is in a car accident, they are going to go to Google’s search engine and look for a lawyer. They aren’t going to scroll through their Facebook ads or drive around looking at billboards to find a law firm to take their case!
What Factors and Action Areas are Important for a Lawyer to Rank well in Google?
(1) Good SEO Research, Strategy, and Planning
Virtually any project of any type begins with good research, strategy, and planning. SEO is no different!
(A) Keyword Research
This goes well beyond just Keyword Research. Fortunately for most law firms, I’ve done research for their specific legal services before, so a project’s keyword research often starts 70% done. From there, it is more about your specific firm’s preferences. Not all lawyers in the same niche of law want the same types of cases.
(B) Google’s SERPs Research
Then we need to look at Google‘s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) to determine what and how Google is serving up their search results. Google’s SERPs change over time and can be different for different types of law and in different locations, so doing our homework here is important. One of the most prevalent search result features for law firms right now are Google’s Maps Listings popping up in the search results. [See item (2) below]
(C) Your Current SEO Situation
Next we need to look at the specific situation and search visibility for your website and online firm’s brand. 2 different law firms wanting the same cases in the same city might be in very different SEO situations due to the history of their website and any previous SEO done to them.
(D) Your Competition
What are your direct SEO competitors and what are they doing?
The answers to this question are important to look at. We want to look at your competitors to not necessarily model them (although some of them are probably doing some good things), but to get an even clearer picture of the battlefield you are on right now!
(E) Create an SEO Strategy and Plan of Action
Based upon all the factors above, we will create a specific SEO Strategy and set of actions to move your website forward as fast as reasonably possible so you get those valuable phone calls from qualified prospective legal clients!
Now, this strategy won’t be rigid because many SEO projects require some flexibility. SEO is a game of imperfect information and so we often probe Google to see how they respond to help us understand better what data they have and are not showing to us.
While it is not rigid, there are some common threads that run through every successful attorney SEO project.
Those threads are, at a 10,000 foot level viewpoint, items 2-5 below…
(2) Local/Maps SEO Focus
Example Legal Google SERPs page with Maps Pack first:
Not only do the Maps/Google My Business/Google Business Profile (GMB/GBP) listings show up first, but they are more engaging because they are richer in color and complexity, so our human brains are drawn to them.
Furthermore, Google makes more money when a searcher engages with their Maps listings because they can sell them more ads. And Google is, after all, a public corporation with an obligation to their shareholders to make more money!
Google Maps Ads when you click on a maps listing:
Google also gets more data because the user stays on their platform for longer, so they definitely love that.
All the above reasons add up to it being obvious why Google has pushed their maps higher in the search results and for more searches over the last 3-ish years.
Important Note: Where your law firm’s maps listing(s) ranks has its own set of metrics independent of everything else AND it is significantly affected by some of the other factors above and below
(3) Structured On Site Relevance Building
What goes on on your law firm website is critically important for how well your SEO project works for your firm. This is true for your Maps Organic and your non-Maps Organic rankings.
Basic Technical On Site SEO
First, we want to make sure we’re doing the most basic SEO 101 here by optimizing the following items for the pages on your website that you want to rank:
- Domain name* (optional, but the biggest bang for your buck lever you can pull)
- Title tags
- H1 tags
- H2-H4 tags
Most everything else not in the above list is not important most of the time. For example, site speed is not important unless it is really bad. Going from Good to Great site speed isn’t likely to see any increase in rankings.
Yes, content is missing from this list intentionally. Content is certainly important, but it isn’t as important and it also falls into item 4 below.
A Common Myth/Half-Truth
“Blog posting is important for SEO” is, by and large, not true.
A better statement would be, “Blog posting done well can help your SEO.”
…but, even that doesn’t really get to the bottom of things because it answers the wrong question.
Yes, blog posting can help with your SEO, but, there’s usually a better way to go about using those same resources to much greater SEO benefit.
Oh yeah, and most blog posting is done with a poor plan and does little to nothing for your SEO, so I find that blog posting is usually a huge waste of your law firm’s marketing resources.
A Better On Page SEO Strategy…
What is far superior to even good blog posting is to put that same content towards a hierarchically organized and properly interlinked set of pages.
For example, a common first baby step in this direction are practice area pages. Putting up web pages that talk about your specific practice areas you want to rank for is a good idea.
However, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. You want to go deeper conceptually into your practices and the specific problems and solutions for your clients.
…not just a little bit deeper, but you can go MUCH deeper. This is basically an endless well of content ideas.
Now, it is not just about putting these pages up on your site (that by itself does help), but a critical part of the recipe is how these pages are interlinked.
Proper website interlinking is a complex subject that is beyond the scope of this article, so I recommend you Contact Me for a Free SEO Analysis and Recommendations to learn more.
(4) Targeted Website Visitor Engagement & Conversion
A critical factor in Google’s algorithm is visitor engagement.
Why is Visitor Engagement Important?
Google is closely watching how their searchers respond to the website’s they rank.
They can certainly see if a visitor bounces off your website and goes to click on another website in the search results. This would be a bad signal for your website to Google because they interpret it as your website not answering the query of their visitor they sent you.
On the flip side, if a searcher ends their search session on your website after spending a good bit of time there, then Google interprets that as your website answering their query. This is very good for you.
Engagement SEO Areas of Focus
- Quality Site content — Having quality content that ENGAGES the visitor and speaks to their wants and needs is very important to having good engagement metrics on your website. Quality and relevance is more important than quantity. It is better to have less content that your target market finds interesting and engaging than it is to have a lot more words that is more bland and generic.
- Page Speed — Page speed is a direct ranking factor, but it is also an indirect ranking factor. Visitors will not wait long for your website to load. So, if your website loads slowly, you will have poor engagement metrics as visitors will bounce quickly.
- Video — Video is the most engaging and richest form of content. Google owns YouTube. Web pages with videos on them have higher engagement. Period. Video is not required, but it definitely helps.
- Images — Images can be very engaging as well. Having head-shots of your lawyers and anyone else at your firm is important. I don’t recommend using stock photos because they make your website look bland and impersonal. It would be better to have a lower quality, but more real and engaging image than a stock photo of some random obvious models sitting around pretending to be lawyers and clients.
(5) High Quality Link Building AKA Off Page SEO
Your link profile (the full set of links from other websites linking to your website) is a critical SEO factor. It has been since Google’s founding and continues to this day to be of great importance.
The situation is even more complicated than that because Off Page SEO is not just about the links pointing to your website, but the links pointing to those and so on…
In higher competition situations, your competitors will generally have more high quality links and so you will need more high quality links.
Link building is one of the most complicated parts of the SEO project because it is almost like the internet as a whole needs to be considered.
Also, identifying a quality link vs a mediocre link vs a decent link vs a zero link vs a bad link takes a lot of experience, so don’t expect to be able to look at your own website’s links and know for sure whether it is helping or hurting.
Link building is also often times the most expensive part of the SEO project because it requires getting links on websites we don’t control. It is much easier to make updates to your own website that you have, ostensibly, full control over.
Law Firm SEO Frequently Asked Questions
How often does a law firm website need to be optimized?
It depends on your website’s current situation and your level of competition.
A brand new website will need a lot more frequent work.
Low competition searches will require less frequent work.
This can vary from almost never to nearly every day.
How long should it take for SEO on my law firm’s website to work?
Again, it depends on your website’s current situation and your level of competition, but also your specific practice goals and how aggressive you set the SEO budget for (I offer different options).
Typically, I’m able to get significant and obvious SEO results for law firms within 6 months and we are able to make excellent progress in about 12 months.
What does longtail SEO mean for lawyers?
Longtail keywords are highly specific searches that are usually easier to rank for, get searched less, and convert better on a visitor by visitor basis vs higher volume keywords.
What is off-site SEO?
See item 5 above.
Do I need backlinks?
Most certainly yes unless you are in a very specific and small legal niche and/or in a very rural area with few lawyers.
Do backlinks from .edu or .gov domains help SEO?
They can, but not necessarily.
It depends on where your SEO thresholds are at right now and the exact properties of the pages and sites these links come from.
What is the value of link building services for lawyers?
Some link building services are worthless and some are worth as much as the big cases they can get a law firm.
Will buying pay-per-click (PPC) ads from Google help my law firm’s SEO?
Officially, according to Google, no.
However, they can help in a roundabout way because of item 4 (Engagement) above.
Getting traffic to your website that engages with your brand in a positive way can help with SEO…even if it comes from PPC ads.
So, PPC can help your SEO indirectly, but Google almost certainly doesn’t have a “are they paying us money” part in their algorithm.
Are there SEO tactics that attorneys should avoid?
Yes. Links from hacked websites. Blogging waste as described above. Keyword stuffing. Others…
Can attempting to hire an SEO consultant for law firm SEO create legal ethics issues?
Yes, if your SEO consultant is willing to be hired by 2 different firms working on the same keywords, I believe that is unethical.
I will not work for 2 different firms targeting the same keywords at the same time.
Furthermore, lawyers have certain restrictions (as I’m sure you’re aware of) to how they can market themselves, so there are limitations in this area as wel.
How much does page load speed affect the ranking of law firm websites?
It is a direct and indirect factor (see item 4 above).
Should lawyers use AMP pages for their mobile websites?
It is probably not needed if they setup their website with mobile in mind.
Are meta keywords good for law firm SEO?
Meta keywords don’t affect rankings.
What search engines should a law firm website be submitted to?
When high quality SEO is done, there’s no need to submit to any search engines.
What is a XML sitemap and how does it help with my law firm’s SEO?
It is basically a roadmap for the pages on your website. Most content management systems (CMS), like WordPress, set this up automatically and you don’t need to worry about it.
Sometimes the XML breaks and it needs to be fixed. This issue can be found by looking in Google Search Console.
What is a meta description?
This is the description that likely will show up in Google’s search results below the link to click on your website.
It can affect the rate at which your website is clicked on (Click Through Rate or CTR).
Google sometimes ignores it and picks different text on your site to show.
If I want to explore the agency model, what questions should I ask agencies I’m evaluating?
Ask them about their high level plan and strategy. Run that strategy against the suggestions I’ve made on this page.
Look for inconsistencies.
This will be difficult for you to evaluate because you are not likely an SEO expert.
What is considered duplicate content? Does having it hurt my firm’s website?
Duplicating content across assets you own is generally OK if done in moderation.
Copying content from other websites is generally not helpful and can hurt you if you don’t link to its original source.
What is the “top of Google” and how can my law firm website get there?
This seems like a silly question, but is actually pretty important because many rank checking tools will show a website at #1, but, because of the Maps listings, they will actually be pretty low on the page.
I would say getting to the “top of Google” is vague because you can’t reasonably rank every keyword in all geographic locations #1.
Therefore, a more reasonable expectation is ranking well in maps and in the non-maps organic, say, top 3 in most target areas and for most keywords.
Is “PageRank” relevant for law firm websites?
Yes, but Google hasn’t updated their public facing PageRank calculation in many years, so it is not useful to look at as a metric.
How often should lawyers blog for the best SEO outcome?
Blogging is low on the list of priorities. [See item 3 above]
What is “black hat” SEO?
There are many definitions for black hat SEO…it is hard to focus in on any one specific definition because the range of ideas is so varied as to provide little meaning.
See the white hat answer below for more details…
What is “white hat” SEO?
Just like for black hat SEO, white hat SEO has many definitions.
White hat SEO can actually hurt your rankings.
I think that White Hat & Black Hat are largely not a useful perspective to view things through.
What is more accurate is to look at things the the safety and effectiveness lenses.
Is a specific SEO technique/strategy safe and effective? Great, it is on the list of potential activities.
Is it not safe or not effective? OK. We don’t do it then.
What is link disavowal? Does my law firm need it?
Link disavowal is a tool in Google Search Console that tells Google you want them to ignore specific links going back to your website.
You probably don’t need to do it because Google usually ignores bad links, but sometimes it is helpful.
Can a competitor sabotage my law firm’s SEO?
Unfortunately, yes they can.
They can send porn links.
They can send CTR spam.
There are other very nasty things that can be done.
I’ve had a competitor use Google’s suggestion tool to change the link inside my Google My Business page to their own website!
Does a domain name’s history affect SEO?
Does having relevant keywords in a law firm’s domain name help with SEO?
Does hosting environment, IP address or location of the web hosting company’s servers impact a law firm website’s chance of SEO success?
Broadly, no, but contextually, perhaps it can.
Don’t get hosting, for example, in Russia.
Also, don’t buy a bunch of websites all on the same hosting account/IP and then link them to your website.
There are lots of other weird situations here…
Will a Google penalty on my law firm’s website follow my firm if I switch my site to a new domain?
However, it can be done poorly and you can lose rankings. I’ve seen this happen many times because web designers are usually artists that don’t know what to do to avoid ranking losses.
I got an email asking if a SEO company can place a link on my site. Should I?
Probably not. Your website. Your decision.
Does the density of keywords on a page of a law firm’s website affect SEO?
In a manner, yes, but it isn’t a critical factor unless it is extreme in one direction.
Does the top level domain (TLD) matter for lawyers who want to rank well?
Hire an Experienced Law Firm SEO Consultant
I have experience successfully ranking attorneys in Google as an SEO Consultant to drive more clients to your doorstep.
Other SEO Companies claim to provide valuable SEO while doing the same old canned SEO that everyone else is doing.
Well, my SEO is not based upon what has lately been making the rounds on blogs.
It is based upon providing SEO services to lawyers successfully since 2014.
This is not 6 years of doing the same thing over and over again.
This is 6 years getting better at SEO every year by learning from the best, ignoring the rest, and real world testing.
I’m accountable for real ranking results — not excuses like, “this should have worked!”