This article is written by Gerrid Smith, the founder and CEO of the law firm SEO company, Fortress.
Despite being 27 years into the internet era, SEO still feels like a mystery to many. But we're here to offer a faster path to growth.
I remember a time not long ago when attorneys frequently asked me what SEO meant. Nowadays, it's a term that pops up in CLE courses, bar association emails, and marketing calls. Most lawyers now understand its importance in boosting the online presence of their law firm. They also know to hire someone who can help them with effective law firm SEO services when needed.
Today, the question isn't "what" SEO (search engine optimization) is but "how" to use it effectively to outshine competitors and rank high on Google. In the following sections, I'll explain some essential digital marketing practices tailored for law firms to improve their Google ranking. These are the same strategies the law firm SEO experts at Fortress employ daily to elevate law firms on Google.
The main point here is that search engine optimization isn't a mysterious concept. It's frequently a common sense approach for those who are developers on the internet. It's akin to achieving personal goals like losing weight or managing debt. Of course, to get good at it, it requires commitment but is achievable with the proper steps and investments.
Likewise, it's not easy, but it's predictable and attainable. Following best practices and avoiding misleading advice will improve your website's organic search results rank, leading to more sales or, as we say at Fortress, "bigger cases from better clients." What are these best practices? Let's explore five key strategies in the sections that follow.
And like any king, he's pretty easy to please. Content means any information that adds to a person's online experience. The most common type of content is written text on a webpage. But there are other types, too, like YouTube videos, infographics, photos, and podcasts. For law firms, blogs are incredibly valuable additions.
Search engines use special programs called web crawlers to read and understand the internet. They're always looking for content — it's like their favorite meal. In fact, it's pretty much the only thing they can understand. Even so, there's some content they like more than others.
Just like a tasty steak will attract dogs to your doorstep, fresh content will make your website a hit with web crawlers, notably Google's. However, not any content will do the trick. Google rates every webpage and website based on quality. If Google thinks your site is valuable and relevant, you'll get a higher score and a better ranking on search engine results pages.
In simpler terms, Google can be picky. Here's how to impress it:
Creating content is crucial for law firm SEO, making it a top priority. While other industries may focus on different types of content, lawyers primarily center their content creation efforts around practice area webpages (like "Branson Motorcycle Accident Lawyers") and blog articles (such as "Top 3 Reasons for Hiring a Texas Personal InjuryAttorney After a Boating Accident").
When drafting content, keep these principles in mind:
● Address user questions. Your website content should directly answer the questions potential clients search for. For example, if someone searches for a"family lawyer in Texas," your site should provide extensive information about your family law services in that state. In the process, touch on details like the office location, practice areas, pricing, and reputation.
● Keyword optimization. Use relevant keywords to help search engines discover your site's focus. Again, if you're a family lawyer in Texas, include it as a keyword in your title tags, description tags, headings, subheadings, paragraphs, and the page's URL.
● Content variety. Feature different types of content that target various keywords within the same category. For instance, if the main keyword is "family lawyer in Texas," create content around variations such as "best family lawyer in Texas" or "affordable family lawyer in Texas."
Investing in high-quality writing is essential for seeing results, especially if you're entering the legal search landscape late when competition among law firms for rankings is fierce, and many have already established strong positions.
Understanding how to research keywords effectively is a crucial part of the SEO process for law firms. Identifying and aiming for the right keywords isn't just a task; it's a fundamental aspect of law firm SEO that helps attract the right audience and improves search engine rankings significantly. A thoughtful approach involves breaking down your target audience, which not only sharpens your focus but also helps find relevant keywords more accurately, boosting your search engine rankings.
Diving into keyword research allows law firms to identify those specific terms that offer the best balance — enough traffic while keeping competition manageable. This dual benefit ensures a rise in search engine rankings while also drawing in the desired audience effectively. Include long-tail keywords to highlight particular legal services. Also, optimize for localized searches by incorporating city-specific keywords. Returning to our "family lawyer in Texas" example, you might add "family lawyer in Dallas, Texas" and whatever other areas you serve.
In the previous section, I mentioned that Google evaluates your content. I'll add that it can also act a bit like the mean girls from high school. (Don't worry, Google, we still love you!) Google is obsessed with directing its users to the best information available that matches their search. One way it judges the "best" webpage is by considering how many other websites link to it. Being popular with others in the industry makes you popular with Google.
When another website links to yours, it's called a backlink or endorsement. Each backlink tells Google your site is worth checking out. That said, getting backlinks is more challenging than it used to be. In the early days of Internet marketing, websites would swap links with each other. Some websites even existed solely for sharing links (and selling backlinks!). It got so spammy and sneaky that Google started penalizing anything that looked like the links were not genuine.
Today, backlinks are still incredibly valuable, but only if they're the right kind. For law firm SEO, I highly recommend attorney guest articles, where you write a blog as a "visiting expert" on someone else's website. Guest posts benefit everyone involved — your site, the host site, their readers, and so on. Just write a great article and include a link back to your own website. It's that simple. In fact, you're reading a guest article right now, thanks to my friends here at Smith.ai!
Delving into the technical aspects of law firm SEO forces us to explore on-page optimization thoroughly. In this world of technical terms and strategic points, we uncover the mechanics behind successful SEO.
● Use a heading structure. Clarity requires you to use H1, H2, and H3 headings wisely to organize your content effectively.
● Place keywords judiciously. Include your main keyword in the title tag, preferably at the beginning for better impact. Also, within the first 100 words of your content, seamlessly integrate the primary keyword to boost visibility. Use synonyms and related terms throughout the content to enrich it, following the principle of latent semantic indexing (LSI).
● Streamline URLs. Create clean and organized URLs to avoid cluttered structures.
● Make it look nice. Incorporate original images and visual content smoothly within written pages to improve the user experience. Never feature long chunks of text that make it difficult for the reader.
● Have a strong closure with a call to action. In business school, we called this "asking for the sale." End each webpage and article with a compelling call to action, directing users to desired interactions. Examples include calling your office, subscribing to your newsletter, or tuning in to your podcast.
Of course, there are additional ways to boost your visibility. Use structured data markup to provide search engines with more information about your law firm's website. This strategic step enhances the understandability of your content, offering a richer context for search engines. Is there more? Of course. But these tips will get you off to a great start.
Map SEO is becoming increasingly important for law firms. And guess what? Google is the key player in this arena. While I could talk extensively about local search marketing, here are the main points for law firms:
● Sort out your NAP issues. NAP is the abbreviation for name, address, and phone number. Many websites and attorney directories have your firm's incorrect or outdated contact information. This can be quite problematic because Google now prioritizes NAP consistency. A single wrong phone number could mean missing out on a potential case. So, get someone to review your NAP as soon as possible.
● Claim your Google My Business page. Google My Business listings are like social security numbers for businesses — every company has one. And if you don't have one, you should get it! But who's managing the information on yours? If the answer is "nobody" or "I don't know," you need to change that quickly. Fill your listing with plenty of current information.
● Ensure your business is Google Maps-friendly. Open Google Maps on your phone right now. Search for your law firm. Do you show up? Do prospective clients see a picture of your business? Can someone in need of your services tap the phone button and call you while looking at the information? You can manage a lot of this through Google My Business.
● Request reviews. Google business listings include reviews that carry significant weight. The more 4- and 5-star reviews you have, the better. Therefore, encourage your satisfied clients to share their honest thoughts in a Google review. Just remember not to offer incentives in return, as there's a strict policy against that.
Boosting your law firm's online reputation and improving local search engine rankings relies on carefully cultivating local citations and positive reviews. Local citations involve your name, address, and phone number (NAP) resonating across a range of online platforms that should business directories, review sites, and social media platforms. At the same time, reviews reflect client opinions and sentiments about a company's products or services, influencing buying decisions and online reputation management.
By focusing on managing local citations diligently and encouraging positive reviews, your law firm can enjoy the benefits of a more robust online reputation and higher local search engine rankings. The long-term effect of these efforts can lead to increased website traffic and a broader client base for your firm. Embrace the potential of local citations and reviews to reinforce your online presence and pave the way for a successful digital footprint in the legal field.
Prevent performance issues at all costs. The structure lies beneath all the content, data, and metadata on your website. Just like fancy decor can't hide a house's crumbling foundation, you can't fix bad site design with blog posts. What does this mean?
Website speed is crucial. Google's bots check load and response times. Slow sites get penalized. Mobile friendliness matters, too. Does your law firm's website load differently on mobile than on a desktop? It should adapt.
By the way, how organized is your site? Can users navigate easily? Is there a clear map of your site? Do all the "click here" links lead where they should? I've seen law firms pour lots of time, money, and effort into content marketing (a good thing!), only to realize their efforts were wasted due to inadequate site design. That's why I always suggest starting law firm SEO with a site audit. Find and fix any hidden structural issues that might hurt your site's performance.
Having a mobile-friendly website is a requirement for improving user experience and boosting your firm's search engine rankings. Implement responsive design, dynamic serving, or separate URLs, and regularly confirm mobile-friendliness using tools like Google's Mobile-Friendly Test. This dedication ensures easy access, appealing visuals, and a competitive edge in the digital legal world.
A well-structured website assists search engines in understanding content, leading to better rankings and improved user experiences. Embrace a clear hierarchy. This strategic approach facilitates smoother crawling, indexing, higher search rankings, and more organic traffic. It's a powerful combination that propels law firms towards a digitally dominant future, meeting growing user expectations and taking up a strong position in the competitive digital landscape.
Simply waiting around and hoping your website will improve its search ranking isn't much of a strategy. Blogging without direction isn't much better. However, when you combine these five practices, your chances of success start to meet reasonable expectations. In other words, there's no reason you shouldn't anticipate significant results over time. That said, successful SEO doesn't happen overnight, and as attorneys, you barely have time to take on online marketing as a second career.
Therefore, successful law firm SEO boils down to commitment. Are you willing to seek the necessary assistance from a law firm SEO company to make it happen? If you're ready to put in the effort to secure a top spot on Google for relevant keywords, you can. And in the 21st century, SEO services are how you attract bigger cases from better clients.
So, maximize your online presence. Implement these eight practices and reach out to a law firm SEO agency, like Fortress, today.