Search engine optimization (SEO) for lawyers and law firms has become something of a byword for most law firms, from the smaller firms to the largest with high-ticket SEO agencies and other assistance, but to absolutely succeed with your law firm SEO there are some key steps that are more important than ever.
What is ‘lawyer SEO’ or ‘law firm SEO’? Simply put, it is the part-art, part-science of increasing rankings in search engines through unpaid traffic.
When we say ‘unpaid’, the reality is that there is effort involved and that involves some payment in the sense of time and effort in achieving top law firm SEO results.
But the rewards are there for any SEO law firm doing the work to achieve good rankings because of all the ways and means of finding a lawyer, it is the search engines over any other source that pays off most.
And with over 5 billion daily searches on Google – do you not think that is where the effort should go? (No need to answer).
And when you consider that there are over 200 ranking factors in Google’s algorithm, you will be asking, ‘how can I find the time to optimize my law firm website for all those factors?’
Certainly social media can be effective, but the impact from social media platforms has tended towards paid advertising currently, rather than through organic traffic directed through them.
But the need for SEO services by lawyers is one of the reason for a growth in law firm SEO services and law firm SEO companies seeking to optimize their law firm clients’ sites for maximum traffic. SEO optimization for law firms has become an increasingly important necessity for those involved in the increasingly competitive legal business.
How SEO Law Firm Marketing And Is Changing
The effectiveness of SEO for attorneys and others is a simple reality by virtue of the facts alone.
Consider these facts from a recent Brightedge Research report:
>> Brightedge found that paid and organic search are responsible for “68% of all trackable website traffic.”
>> The percentage of traffic coming from organic search continues to grow, from 51 per cent in 2014 to 53 per cent in their 2019 research ascross thousands of domains surveyed.
>> Fewer than 6 per cent of pages end up ranking in the top 10 results within a year of publication (Ahrefs).
>> Small businesses (like law firms) that blog generate 126% more leads and convert 6x more of those leads than those who do not blog.
Although paid ads can generate good returns they are obviously (potentially, and usually with law firm ads) much more expensive than efforts made with organic SEO lawyer marketing efforts, but they also have fewer click throughs and less ‘authority’ than sites that rank highly on an organic basis.
Overall, the obvious benefits to having high law firm SEO through natural, organic efforts is going to pay off better than any other form of marketing. Lawyer SEO remains a top ticket requirement – increasingly so, in fact.
The Long Term Benefits of Lawyer SEO
There is also another, compelling benefit to achieving good organic ‘reach’. It is an organic effort that compounds and develops high focused traffic for the law firm website, as distinct from paid advertisements which – like a turned-off tap – simply stop once the payments do.
There is another reason why we at LawFuel know your own SEO law efforts pay off and that is because you can achieve high rankings for many long tail law-focused keywords.
It’s all well and good having a top ranking at huge effort for a top keyword terms, but it is far better to secure your position with dozens, if not hundreds of keyword terms that generate traffic from the people you’re wanting to see your law firm website.
That’s where smart content marketing and great keyword usage makes the ‘SEO lawyer’ a major winner.
And you also help generate the all-important backlinks to your site, which are a key component in Google’s ranking algorithm.
We tend to favor the use of top content that is genuinely interesting and useful to working hard on backlink requests via guest posts and requests for a link to a relevant article you may have published. Black hat SEO is not the way to go – to fall foul of Google’s terms and conditions is a fast way to bad rankings and low traffic.
But lawyer SEO alone is not always easy.
It’s just darn hard work. Tedious work.
The links will come with the content. Focusing on the content is easily the best way for any lawyer to then generate higher rankings on Google and the other search engines.
And in fact you can often obtain better links through better content because you will find that other sites will want to l ink to your great content on specific (ie targeted) areas of law.
So, in a nutshell, focus on content.
The SEO Law Firm Website – How To Design Your Site For Maximum SEO Impact
It is sometime surprising for smaller law firms to indicate that they can rely on directories, or Facebook or Google My Business listings and not have a law firm website optimized for SEO.
The reality is that a user-focused website that is tuned into your legal and local market remains a vital tool in your law firm SEO efforts.
When people are on your website they are there for a reason and it is usually intent – they are intending to use your services for a specific reason.
Your website design, or architecture, is a major factor in achieving great SEO law results online as we reported in our 10 steps to law firm SEO here.
This is all about the user experience – how well your website is placed for maximum SEO. Your website design needs to consider these three points:
- Intuitive design. Too many sites try to say too much, too soon and often in the wrong place and way. Your site needs to be intuitively designed so your visitors can find exactly what they’re looking for. It’s often easier said than done and requires careful thought about your firm, your practice areas and what you need to do to drive conversions from your visitors.
- Conversion. Talking of conversion you need to look at your site like a guide at a park, where you are able to ensure they can readily follow the steps leading to your call to action or sign up, or answer box – or whatever form of conversion you are using.
- Build trust and authority. This comes from your content and your writing. You need to create an ‘atmosphere’ through your content of trustworthiness and authority – you’re a lawyer who knows what he/she is doing and can be trusted to deliver.
In order to maximize the effect of your lawyer SEO efforts you need to get some technical ‘stuff’ sorted too.
Specifically, you need to ensure that your website is mobile friendly. The mobile market is massive, as you will know, but it is worth repeating:
MOBILE IS MASSIVE.
You need to ensure your site is fully optimized for mobile and try and avoid too many clever intrustions that can slow the site down, like moving images, video backgrounders, moving menus and the like, which can slow the site.
Because the next major factor is loading speed. You want your site to load on devices quickly, to avoid Google penalties, but also to ensure you are providing the very best user experience for your visitors.
Have Good Law Firm Title Tags
These are important as Google will use the first 60 characters of your clickable title in their search options. It is worth the time taken to ensure you have a great title, optimized for your keywords and to display your ‘user intent’ (see below).
Google have shown the importance of such tags, noting –
“Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.”
Also important is the ‘meta description’ for your post, which is a very good way to encourage click throughs to the site because of the information provided in the descriptive content below the title. The meta description therefore has a big influence on your potential clients because they show up in the search engine page results under the link.
Here’s what Google says –
“A meta description tag should generally inform and interest users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about. They are like a pitch that convince the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for.”
Google will generate meta descriptions for those sites where you are unable to write it yourself, which is not necessarily a problem as you still get a good ‘take’ on the content of the page or post. However where possible try and write a descriptive and enticing description of the post or page content, but don’t ‘keyword stuff’ or use other devices to attempt to achieve higher attorney SEO. It won’t work.
Instead, you’re better being descriptive (it is, after all, a meta description) and use symbols or numbers where relevant and even put in a call to action. These are overlooked devices that can help lift your click through rates with a good piece of content.
The SEO Lawyer’s Content Writing Strategy
We have indicated how important content is – and will continue to be as Google continually strives to ensure users receive the answers they are looking for in their searches.
One of the key factors to keep in mind is the ‘searcher intent’ – that is, what is the search engine user’s intent in making their search – are they hunting for a lawyer, looking for an answer, checking out costs or other factors?
Pages that rank on the first page of Google have all passed Google’s ‘intent test’. For instance a query about wanting to ‘buy’ a service or product will throw up sales and ecommerce sites, whereas a legal query of some kind will give you sites that are law firms, legal aggregators like Findlaw and similar.
This is the difference between informational and transactional queries. Similarly, there may be queries that are focused upon navigational matters. Whatever it is, your ‘intent’ should be clear from your content so that you receive those who are actively seeking the information your content is providing.
Generally long form content will rank better with Google, a fact that is backed by numerous studies, including a recent report SEMrush study on top-performing articles.
The study showed that posts with 3000 words or more tend to get three times more traffic, four times more shares and 3.5 times more backlinks that those articles of an average length – being 900-1200 words.
When writing this sort of content you should try and get a good balance between search volume for keywords (of which more below) and keyword difficulty.
So don’t focus on high competition, high volume keywords – instead you can often get better, higher value traffic by going for long tail keywords that are focused on your practice areas.
But long content, while preferred, is not necessarily any answer on its own. The need to provide depth in your content is also important, as demonstrated by a study from HREFs below in terms of the correlation between depth and length in content pieces –
Providing your law firm site’s users with quality, substantive, useful and content is what is going to make them stay on your site and also heighten the opportunity to have them contact you.
It also builds your own authority and trust.
But what constitutes high quality? And authority?
The answer to that depends on the industry you are in and for lawyers it requires some particular focus on your accuracy and content depth.
Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (section 5.1) examines the types of high quality content as follows –
- Informational content should be accurate, comprehensive, original and professionally presented.
- Artistic content should be original, unique and convey a high degree of skill.
- News content should be in-depth, well cited, accurate, and contain original reporting.
How To Build Your Authority With Quality Content
The most effective law firm SEO involves building trust with quality content, as we’ve said, but it will also create inbound links that can boost your site authority, particularly if the site’s usability is good.
However, it is important to ensure you are attracting – and NOT buying – links that match and add to the content you’re lproviding.
Attempting to manipulate Google rankings is obviously against Google’s terms of service, but also risks having your site downgraded and your ‘authority’ diminished.
It’s not worth it. You can’t ‘fake it till you make it’. You need to establish your authority by publishing quality content.
Google’s Hummingbird update gave Google the ability to properly evaluate the quality of content and its relevance to its users. It has also signalled the end, to a large degree, of the black hat SEO users who game the system.
There is still a decent emphasis upon proper keyword usage, using H1 and H2 tags and optimizing images, but the greater good and the greater organic traffic is going to come from providing quality content.
Google’s ‘EAT’ update – ‘Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness’ has focused on the key factors required for ranking.
Google’s Search Quality Evaluator’s Guidelines state –
Why Being The ‘Best Attorney’ Is Not Necessarily The Way Forward
It is easy for many lawyers to provide content about why they are the best lawyer in – wherever! – but it is not the easy way to achieve good rankings.
The key is to focus on the searcher intent and that tactic does not work where you provide a page explaining why you’re the best attorney or lawyer in a particular town or city and in a particular practice area.
Unless others are providing those pages, you are unlikely to land a good ranking. The better way is to provide the quality content focused on your area or areas of expertise with appropriate details and links.
Provide Answers To Legal Questions For High SEO Impact
For lawyers in particular, there is a great opportunity to build your rankings with Google by providing answered questions – even if they are questions you have raised about matters relevant to your practice areas.
Increasingly, the search engines are showing direct answers in the search results and the power of appearing there is massive. You are, obviously, also providing content for your website users, which is the key to your SEO law firm efforts, but a well answered questions could wind up being displayed by Google as a featured snippet or on Google Assistant as a voice search result.
The ‘answered question’ tactic is one of the most important you can use because the research shows that over half of Google’s searches wind up without even clicking through to other content.
The search engines want to satisfy their users right on the search pages, but some are taken from web pages with an attribution link.
How good would it be to have that for your site?
Remember the SEO Pull of the PPA Factor
PPA is ‘people also ask’, the list of queries that you see in the search results when you’re checking out a question – like
A nice clear answer can be rewarded with inclusion in the ‘PPA’ section together often with a featured snippet.
You can work towards understanding about question-based queries and create some ‘answer-based’ content that can then attract Google’s PPA attention.
Make sure your answers are concise and conversational to maximize the usability for the search engines. And keep the answers updated too.
Here’s How To Do Your ‘Lawyer SEO’ Keyword Research
Keyword research is in many ways the cornerstone of SEO law success. Without a good keyword search system and the diligence of getting inside the head of your ideal user – often called your ‘Avatar’ – you will struggle to develop content that resonates with your audience.
Keywords research is not a scientific practice but there are nevertheless certain cast-in-concrete rules you need to follow to succeed and we have written previously about keyword research for lawyers here, and also here.
Take one of the most competitive areas of law – personal injury law.
At LawFuel we receive weekly requests for guest posts and other advice and requests for links for PI law firms. But let’s say you are looking to create some great content and achieve top ranking for your law firm.
You need to start with the obvious ‘seed’ keyword, which would include terms like –
- accident attorney
- accident lawyer
- accident law firm
- accident lawyer
- attorney pi
- lawyer for injury
- injury attorney
- injury law firm
- injury lawyer
- law firm
- personal injury attorney
- personal injury law firm
- personal injury lawyer
You can use the Google keyword planner to check for volume and popularity and other factors, or you can use some of the more sophisticated paid tools like AHREFS, which has different price points. We also like UberSuggest, Neil Patel’s tool which has extensive free usage with upgrade options for better effectiveness.
Have a look at your closest competitors. These are your competitor’s on Google using the keywords that you are seeking rank for. You can start by using the Competing domains report by entering in the competitor sites.
You can now start ‘fleshing out’ your keyword research by compiling reports based on the intelligence that AHREFS have provided in the report.
You can also locate your law firm competitor by doing a search in an incognito window, using a general but related term and see who his high ranking, but not a local law firm competitor. You are not looking for the local results here, but rather national results and you also want to avoid the major law aggregators like Nolo and Findlaw.
Using a tool like AHREFS for researching keyword difficulty you can go through the selected keywords to see which keywords are ranking for terms that you are not ranking for.
Once you have made a selection in the keyword tool you will receive a list of keywords, although the paid plan will provide a far more extensive list, as you can see below in a search for ‘SEO for Lawyers’ –
For a list to good keyword tools to help search out those valuable keywords, you can check them out at this link.
This will help throw up those terms that you can target, which will be more specific, long-tail keyword phrases.
You can begin to prioritize these keyword terms providing specific focus and based on monthly search volume and keyword difficulty to find terms that have low competition.
Not everyone who reads your great, targeted content will convert. Even if you have used terms about people who are planning to hire a lawyer and all the other great, ‘user intent’ keywords.
People search online for multiple reasons and when you use great content marketing with good use of keywords you will secure a portion of that audience. Others will be browsing and checking, updating and seeking to confirm questions they may have. But they won’t all convert.
But with good content and well chosen keywords you will be moving ahead of the competition and gaining the trust that you need to help find that lead.
Link for SEO, But Carefully
Internal linking is important as well as developing high value outbound links.
You can obtain quality backlinks by guest posting on other websites with decent page rank and authority and via manual outreach to other websites.
Increasingly Google will work towards semantic ‘intent’ and focus on those sites that work with topics rather than just keywords.
As you have heard, we prefer the most natural way to generate links through your quality content, where the link is a genuine vote in your law firm’s favor.
Internal links are important for your law firm ranking because they can set up an information hierarchy for your site and also help Google get a clearer understanding of the content on your page. They can significantly increase your website ranking when properly used as well.
But internal linking is also important for a couple of good reasons –
- These link provide connections that allow users to navigate our websites more easily.
- The connections between pages allow information and topical identity to form — which in turn helps Google figure out what our web page (and website) is all about and which, in turn, assists your overall ranking.
Lift Your Law Firm Site’s User Experience
The ‘User Experience’ is a key factor in Google’s rankings, which includes increasing page speed (see below).
But there are some easy ways to increase the user experience by way of layout and content delivery, including these factors –
- Use subheadings: Proper use of subheadings (H1, H2, H3) helps Google understand what your content is about and to let your content be more accessible to your readers.
- Make your content visually appealing: Using images, drawings, screenshots, videos and other imagery lifts the user experience also. There are studies that indicate that visuals help people understand your content better.
- Avoid using intrusive popups: Popups can see a downgrade by Google and are not good from an SEO perspective, but they also end up annoying your visitors. Since 2017, Google has been penalizing sites that use intrusive popups. If it is absolutely necessary for you to use them to grow your email list, use exit-intent popups, or display them to users who have spent at least 5 minutes on your site.
- Use white space: White space is an under-used but fantastic way to create good design and better experience for your content. According to Crazy Egg, white space between paragraphs and in the left and right margins increases comprehension by 20 per cent, so use it to make your content more attractive and to increase reader feedback.
Improve Your Law Firm Site’s Page Speed
Increasing page speed is a major factor in obtaining top ranking with Google for your law firm and it should also rank as one of the key lawyer SEO objectives.
A bad page speed situation will create a bad user experience and see your rankings drop. Putting emphasis on page speed is important and you can check using various tools like the one at Ubersuggest, or the SEM tool.
Another good tool, which is free, is GTMetrix providing insights on your page speed and gives recommendations on the steps you can take to improve your load time also.
Image optimization is a key factor in page speed and there are a variety of things you can do to improve your site speed, which mostly come down to optimizing and compressing your website images.
Images play a crucial role in improving both your site speed and the overall user experience for your law firm site.
Image formats that are commonly used are JPEG and PNG, which use different techniques to compress them, so the changes between the two can be dramatic.
The images above make JPEC look the best option in terms of compression, but this is not so.
PNG images are the best where there is text or line drawings and the like involved, while a newer format – WebP – is very efficient in terms of compression and favored by a growing number of site owners.
Google have a useful guide on WebP that you can see here.
Below are three, free tools you can use to compress your images and help speed up your site –
- TinyPNG: This tool uses smart lossy compression techniques to reduce the file size of your PNG and JPEG files. It is good particularly for compressing PNGs.
- ImageOptim: ImageOption is recommended by Google and is the best tool for compressing JPEGs, but not for PNGs. For compressing PNGs, you’re better off using TinyPNG.
- ShortPixel: If you run your site on WordPress this tool is ideal. It’s free plan allows you to compress 100 images per month.
Lazyloading is another great way of speeding the site performance. You can see Google’s advice on how it can be used here.
Final Thoughts on SEO for Lawyers
The playing field for generating high rankings and decent traffic will always change, but paying attention to the above fundamentals will assist law firms in their goal of achieving high rankings and generating good traffic from qualified ‘leads’.
In essence, as if you haven’t guessed, the key is to generate quality content in an inviting, informative manner that not only generates high interest from potential clients, but also generates trust and authority for your law firm.
Keep a weather eye on Google changes, but retain a strong focus on quality content.
>> Read more about law firm SEO – Check these ‘fast start’ tips