What is SEO and Why Should Law Firms Use It?
Search engine optimization (SEO) describes the tactics and strategies for optimizing a website to improve visibility on organic search. Search engine rankings are crucial for any business looking to drive engagement and generate new leads. Yet time and again, law firms overlook SEO – a mistake that’s likely to prove costly in terms of web traffic, new leads, and increased revenue.
The fact is, the majority of potential clients are using the internet when they need to find a lawyer or legal services.
Great search engine rankings will also help your firm in several other key ways. To learn more about the many ways improved search engine rankings can help your firm, check out our past blog.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: How SEO Can Help You Generate Leads
- 7 SEO Tips to Boost Lead Generation
- How to Approach Keyword Research
- How to Optimize Content for SEO
Chapter 2: The Components of SEO for Law Firms
- What is On-Site SEO?
- What is Off-Site SEO?
- What is Technical SEO?
- What Law Firms Should Know About Keywords
- Searcher Intent: Why it Matters for SEO
- The Importance of Competitor Research
- Why Legal Directories are Important for SEO
- Content Marketing
- Local SEO
Chapter 3: How Do I Monitor SEO Performance?
- Free SEO Monitoring and Analysis Tools for Your Law Firm
- Paid SEO Monitoring and Analysis Tools for Your Law Firm
Chapter 4: How Can My Website Rank in Google?
- SEO Cheat Sheet: Best Practices for Ranking in the Google Top 10
Chapter 5: SEO vs Other Channels
- SEO vs PPC: Similarities and Differences
- Using Social Media to Improve SEO
Chapter 1: How SEO Can Help You Generate Leads
Effective SEO should complement your firm’s lead generation efforts by increasing brand awareness through organic website traffic. Potential clients will have an easier time finding you when your website regularly appears on Google’s first page for relevant search terms.
7 SEO Tips to Boost Lead Generation
Paying attention to SEO is one of the best ways to boost your online presence, get more leads, and grow your firm.
1. Create a Blog with Content Optimized for SEO
Maintaining an active blog packed with valuable content is one of the most effective means of leveraging SEO to drive lead generation.
2. Ramp up Your Website Speed
The Google algorithm places a big emphasis on the user experience. Fast load times will go a long way towards improving your website rankings.
You can use Google’s Page Speed test to analyze specific web pages and implement suggestions for improving load times.
3. Take the Time to Conduct Keyword Research
Optimizing for keywords is a critical element of SEO for law firms. There are lots of tools available to help with this research, but Google Analytics Keyword Planner is a good place to start.
4. Begin Link Building
Link building is the practice of acquiring links from other sites to your own, and it’s surprisingly important for SEO. Link building is crucial, but you need to focus on quality over quantity.
5. Focus on Local SEO Strategies
It’s great to rank high for content, but for firms that operate within a certain geographic area, it’s more important to rank well locally. Claim listings in online directories, use local keyword data, and work on generating positive reviews.
6. Maintain Active Social Media Channels
The more social media attention you have, the more likely you are to collect links to your content.
7. Obtain and Manage Client Reviews
Customer reviews strongly impact SEO, as well as a potential client’s first impression of your firm. Reviews are a strong signal to search engines that your site is trustworthy.
How to Approach Keyword Research
Keyword research is at the heart of a successful SEO strategy. If you don’t get this part right, it’s hard to get much traction in the search engine rankings.
Because search engines have become much better at identifying how specific terms relate to each other, you can focus on more exhaustive pieces of content that use target “adjacent” phrases such as “personal injury attorney”, “personal injury lawyer”, “attorneys who specialize in injuries at work”, etc. You can begin identifying relevant topic clusters by:
- Brainstorming with your team. What do people search to find your services (or your competitors’)? Talk to existing clients and to your sales team as well.
- Understand your competitor’s performance. It’s extremely helpful to benchmark how similar firms are performing online. Make a short list of your most important competitors and then periodically review their positions in search for the same keywords that you want to rank for.
- Leveraging the right tools. Try using tools like SEMRush Magic Keyword Finder or a free option like UberSuggest. They will help you to analyze keywords and find similar terms.
- Monitoring industry conversations. Participate in LinkedIn or Facebook groups and see which topics are most discussed.
- Looking to Google autocomplete. Start by typing in a general term that relates to your business and then see what suggestions Google makes. Or try using a specialized keyword tool like SEMrush to refine terms.
Aligning content with intent is crucial when it comes to SEO for law firms. As you narrow down your list of terms, make sure you understand searcher intent.
Finally, prioritize keywords based on a mix of volume and difficulty. Understand how competitive a keyword is before you take the time to invest in content creation.
How to Optimize Content for SEO
Once you’re armed with a keyword list, you and your team can begin the work of creating and optimizing content to bring more high-quality traffic to your website:
1. Update current on-page content
Review all of the existing content on your website. Make sure your language is not only clear and concise but also follows SEO best practices. Make sure to take advantage of Google Analytics tools and use the findings to improve all of your on-page content.
2. Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
While leveraging SEO for lead generation will bring potential clients to your website, they’ll only engage if the content is helpful, interesting, and valuable.
Many firms have found success with a “hub and spoke” model, where a central page (hub) links to all relevant content (the spokes) on their site.
3. Include content updates in your ABM strategy
Not all page visitors will be ready to become clients. But once you’re creating and posting content on a regular basis, it can be leveraged to help guide these potential clients down the sales funnel.
Review data (or set up workflows using marketing automation) to see what key contacts are viewing, and then send them personalized content that’s related.
To gain a full understanding of how to create a successful ABM strategy, check out this on-demand webinar.
Chapter 2: The Components of SEO for Law Firms
From keyword selection and matching searcher intent to link building and content marketing, an effective SEO strategy consists of many moving parts.
As you begin to develop your overall plan, you’ll need to consider three specific aspects of SEO: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.
What is On-Site SEO?
Also called on-page SEO, on-site SEO refers to the practice of optimizing pages on your website to increase ranking ability and drive more organic traffic.
The quality of your on-site SEO is what will allow the algorithm to determine whether your content meets a user’s intent when they query specific keywords.
So you’ll want to optimize things like:
- User Engagement
- Technical Structure
- Mobile Optimization
To learn more about the on-page SEO factors that help your site rank, please read this blog.
What is Off-Site SEO?
Simply put, all of the activities that happen outside of updating or publishing content to your website – brand or citation building, content marketing, social media, and more – fall under the umbrella of off-site SEO.
12 Off-Page SEO Tactics to Implement
Off-site SEO offers many options for improving your domain authority:
1. Link Building
Earning backlinks from other sites with high credibility is an integral way of boosting your own site’s authority.
2. Brand building
In order to do this properly, focus on increasing your brand searches online. You can keep an eye on this metric by entering your firm name in a keyword performance tool.
3. Content Marketing
Use content marketing to boost off-page SEO signals. The content types that tend to be best for this are blogs, infographics, and long-form collateral like whitepapers and ebooks.
4. Digital PR
Using PR tactics to develop a great story, promote it widely, and then earn a significant amount of links to it is a common tactic.
5. Local SEO
Getting your business to rank in the map pack is technically off-page SEO (since it pertains to a website outside of your own). One thing that can also help is focusing on consistency in citations. Citations are mentions of your firm that contain your name, address, and phone number (NAP).
6. Social Media
Make sure to maintain a consistent and professional presence and engage regularly, and people will discover your social media channels as part of their research process.
Focus on forums as part of a comprehensive strategy to position yourself as an expert and share thought leadership. Sites like Reddit and Quora have a strong community where you can engage and have real conversations.
8. Online Events
Spending time hosting online events will drive social engagement and can even contribute to your link strategy as people share your upcoming event or follow-up information.
9. Guest Posting
Guest posting on a related organization’s site helps to expand your audience while ensuring the readers are still relevant to your business.
They are a great way to reach new audiences, share expertise, and gain a competitive advantage. Plus, Google and Apple’s podcast platforms are a search engine, so people can find your content based on keywords.
Reviews can help Google to understand your site and how people feel about it. To a certain degree, Google can derive brand signals from them, which can contribute to increased domain authority and eventually your position in search.
12. Content syndication
Many publications syndicate content from other sources to supplement their original material. This is helpful in terms of backlinks but use syndication thoughtfully. Content syndication is another way to amplify your content’s reach.
What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO focuses on the components that make a site load quickly and ensure the search engine bots crawl and index its pages. Effective technical SEO also addresses factors that can hurt your rankings, including duplicate content, non-working links, inaccurate redirects, and more.
The most important characteristics of a technically optimized website are:
- Healthy links
- No duplicate content
- Structured data
- XML sitemap
- Hreflang tags
For an in-depth explanation of how to have a technically optimized website, check out this checklist.
What Law Firms Should Know About Keywords
Think of keywords as the backbone of SEO for law firms.
As the terms prospective clients are most likely to enter when researching the service you offer, they hold the “key” to bringing more traffic – and more qualified leads – to your website
Ranking for the Right Keywords
Not sure what keywords to optimize for? Here are some tips to ensure you’re targeting the right terms for your law firm’s organic and paid search campaigns.
Searcher Intent: Why it Matters for SEO
As a digital marketer, you need to be aware of searcher intent. How well you understand that intent will directly impact your page’s ability to rank online and it will influence your reader’s satisfaction with your content once they arrive at your site.
According to Yoast, “Search intent (or user intent, audience intent) is the term used to describe the purpose of an online search. It’s the reason why someone conducts a specific search.” Search engines have evolved over the past few years and are not as susceptible to SEO tricks. They are more sophisticated when it comes to judging content and are focused on serving up results that align with what the searcher actually wants to learn about. You can read more about this in Google’s Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
A comprehensive understanding of search intent will enable your firm to:
- Perform more effective keyword research by targeting terms that best align with your firm’s and your prospective client’s needs.
- Develop content that answers user questions and then create pages in a way that is friendly to both visitors and search engines.
- Rank higher in search engines by creating material that search engines judge to be more valuable and helpful for their users.
Types of Search Intent
The types of search intent sometimes overlap, but there are generally 4 categories:
- Navigational Intent – This means that the user is looking for a certain page, physical address, or domain. It aligns with Google’s “visit” and “website” search intent and also includes local search. For this type of intent, it’s important to keep in mind that the searchers already know what they’re trying to find.
- Informational Intent – With this type of intent, the searcher is hoping to learn something. It’s common for searchers to pose these searches as questions and use words like who, what, how, etc.
- Transactional Intent – These searchers want to do something specific, either in person or using their device. To make the most of this type of intent, begin by understanding what conversion means to you. Do you want them to sign up for a consultation? Register for something? Then, provide the most relevant information in a straightforward and user-friendly manner.
- Commercial Search Intent – A hybrid of informational and transactional intent refers to commercial search intent. This refers to the keywords and phrases that searchers use to research before making a final decision. For example, once someone has determined that they need an attorney, they will start looking for specific information that can help them choose one.
The Importance of Competitor Research
Performing competitor research to identify weaknesses and opportunities will help you improve your overall strategy by allowing you to:
- Set benchmarks for your current SEO efforts
- Identify areas to improve when it comes to strategy
- Uncover competitor gaps and weaknesses
- Gain insight from competitor strategies – and apply them to your own
Running a thorough competitor analysis is a great way to take stock of your overall industry, competitors, and market, in addition to how search is working across those areas.
10 Steps for Completing an Effective Competitor Analysis
Link building is the process of getting other websites to link back to your website. All marketers should be interested in building links to drive referral traffic and increase their site’s authority. Even as SEO has continued to evolve, backlinking has remained a highly effective tactic for attracting attention from Google and other search engines.
A successful backlinking strategy should include:
- Guest blogging on authoritative sites
- The creation and sharing of infographics
- An active social media presence
- Sharing resource links from trusted sites
- Creating content pillars
- Looking at competitors’ backlinks
- Earning editorial links
For a breakdown of how to implement each of these tactics, check out this post.
What Makes a High-Quality Backlink?
Nobody can say for sure how link quality is measured, and what makes a high-quality link is somewhat subjective. However, there are three core elements that most experts agree on.
A high-quality backlink should be:
- Natural– It’s essential that website owners choose to link to your site because it makes sense and adds value and not because you have paid them to or manipulated them in any way.
- Reputable– Today’s search engines look for social proof of how credible web pages are.
- Relevant– Search engines pay attention to the relevancy of both the page and domain of a backlink.
For more backlink strategy tips, check out this post.
Why Legal Directories are Important for SEO
Online directories can be a powerful way for firms to build links and bring more traffic to their site. There are several benefits of using online directories (also called business directories or business listings).
The Benefits of Online Directories
Online directories are a key way to increase your visibility online. Additionally,
- Online directories offer targeted and relevant reach. Directories commonly index companies by niche, location, or category. Even better, they often include reviews.
- Online directories result in trusted links. Because they are usually trusted sources of information with high-ranking websites, a link to your own site will help to increase its authority.
- Online directories are cost-effective. Though some specific directories charge a fee to list your firm, some are free. Options like Bing Places, Yelp, and Foursquare are all free to list with.
How to Find the Right Online Directories for Your Firm
There are a lot of active directories to choose from. Here are a few things to think about:
- Relevance – Choose directories relevant to your firm. Smaller directories geared towards your niche or geographic area can have more impact than larger, more general directories.
- Domain authority – It can be more helpful to get an inbound link from a site with an excellent domain authority than to get several links from those with lower domain authority.
- Listing features – Every directory is different, and some go into more detail than others or have different functionality. You’ll need to establish whether you want a simple name, address, and phone number listing, or one that shares photos, reviews, etc.
Content marketing describes the process of planning, creating, and optimizing content that ranks at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) and provides something of value for your target audience. As your rankings improve, you’ll bring more organic traffic to your site, attract more qualified leads, and see revenue begin to rise — a huge win for your law firm.
Struggling to write content that ranks well in the SERPs? For more tips on effective content marketing, check out this blog post.
For a more in-depth look at how to craft a successful content marketing strategy, check out this free eBook: The Law Firm Guide to Content Marketing.
Local SEO describes a set of tactics that aim to improve rankings and visibility in local search results such as Google’s Map Pack or Local Pack. Ranking high for local search is crucial for any business targeting people in a specific region, city, or area – something that tends to be particularly true of law firms.
Why Local Listings Matter
Google has also gotten really good at identifying immediate, local needs and catering results to this type of search. When the algorithm detects that someone’s “intent” is local (that they are looking for something in the area around them), Google’s Map Pack results will appear more prominently at the top of search result pages.
While a great user experience is important for overall organic SEO, Google also supplies a set of guidelines for local SEO. Following these guidelines is critical for maximizing visibility in the Map Pack and not having your listing suspended for any reason.
How to Improve Your Local Search Ranking
In our experience, three categories matter when it comes to local search:
- Relevance – How well a local business profile matches what someone is searching for
- Distance – How far each potential search result is from the location term used in search queries
- Prominence – How well-known the business is, according to Google
To boost your local rankings, pay attention to the following eight factors:
Tip: Take the 2 minutes to run a free SEO audit of your site so you can see where you stand on search engines and get a clear picture of the on-site issues you may want to fix in order to rank higher.
Why Reviews are Important for Local SEO
In recent years, it’s been proven that reviews are one of the most important ranking factors for local searches. In fact, businesses with prominent reviews often perform better than other websites with higher domain authority.
Why do Reviews Matter?
There’s been a lot of research into how reviews impact local search engine results. The bottom line is that businesses with a significant number of positive reviews on their Google My Business page are likely to rank relatively well in local packs.
However, as you might expect, just having lots of reviews won’t help you too much. More important than the quantity of reviews is what is contained within them. Other factors that Google seems to take into account for local pack results are things like how many reviews have been responded to, average weekly or annual reviews, reviews with photos, and new reviews within the past month.
Chapter 3: How do I Monitor SEO Performance?
Knowing exactly where to direct your SEO strategy can be challenging.
Google and the other search engines are always updating their algorithms, and much – if not most – of the information they use to determine rankings remains a secret.
So how will you know which SEO tactics are working for you and which aren’t?
Fortunately, law firms can choose from a multitude of SEO tools – free and otherwise – designed to make SEO monitoring much, much easier.
Free SEO Analysis and Monitoring Tools for Your Law Firm
Here are a few free tools law firms can use to monitor their SEO and improve their rankings:
There is a multitude of free tools out there that can help your firm improve its SEO strategy. For a full list click here.
Even if you choose to forego other tools, it’s essential to SEO that your firm has a professional analyze your website. You can get a free SEO website analysis here.
Paid SEO Monitoring and Analysis Tools for Your Law Firm
All of the above free tools do a great job of helping law firms monitor and manage their SEO. But if you have the budget for it, you might also want to consider giving some of these paid platforms a try:
For a full list of our favorite paid SEO monitoring tools, click here.
Chapter 4: How Can My Website Rank in Google?
As a law firm, getting your website into Google’s top 10 results is essential to achieving your business objectives. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy! In the ever-evolving world of search algorithms, it’s important to stay abreast of the latest tactics for ensuring a successful SEO strategy.
SEO Cheat Sheet: Best Practices for Ranking in the Google Top 10
Chapter 5: SEO vs Other Channels
So now that you have a better understanding of SEO and how the various optimization tactics can help your law firm bring more organic traffic to its website, it’s time to think about leveraging SEO in combination with other digital marketing channels, including paid search (PPC) and social media marketing.
SEO vs PPC: Similarities and Differences
SEO and PPC for law firms both have the same goal: to get your website to the top of search engine rankings and to drive people to your website.
But because it relies on content creation, there’s no cost associated with SEO unless you choose to outsource the writing. With PPC, on the other hand, marketers create digital ads and bid on keywords. Those ads appear above the organic results when searchers query those keywords.
Law firms will generally benefit by leveraging both SEO and PPC. Because both content marketing and paid advertising drive traffic from the same search terms, the keywords that work well on one side can provide insight into those that will work on the other. Using analytics will help you get the most value out of both SEO and PPC.
Using Social Media to Improve SEO
Social media is an incredibly powerful platform that your firm should be using in your overall marketing efforts. There are so many benefits to a well-planned social media presence, and some are more obvious than others. An often overlooked advantage of social media is that it can play a key role in SEO.
How Social Media Impacts SEO
It’s important to note that social media itself is not a ranking factor for search engines. However, your activity and the links you share across social platforms expand your exposure. Think of every post on social as an opportunity to be viewed and to influence SEO in these ways:
- Broader distribution of your content
- Content with a longer lifespan
- Increased online visibility and more organic traffic
- More opportunities for brand recognition
- Brand management and enhanced brand reputation
- Better local search engine performance
Generally speaking, the more that people share your content online, the more social signals are sent to search engines to indicate that your posts are useful to your target market.
The Best Social Platforms for SEO
Social sites have robust functionality that allows them to operate as a sort of search engine themselves. Experts agree that these are the top social media sites to focus on if you want to integrate social activity with SEO.
- LinkedIn – This is the top site for lead generation and also the content marketing hub for many B2B marketers.
- Medium – If your blog is short on readers, you might want to try posting on other sites to drive more activity. This site allows users to post all kinds of things like personal stories, republished articles, or original material.
- Facebook – By far the top social media site in the world, Facebook makes it easy to share content and links.
- Twitter – Twitter is ideal for sharing all types of content that can increase social signals due to its retweet, reply, and quote tweet functions.
7 Tips for Using Social Media to Improve SEO
Hopefully, you can see why social media is good for SEO, but we haven’t really covered the “how”. What are the best practices for using social media to improve SEO?
- Focus on high-quality content.
- Make it easier for readers to share with social share buttons and clear CTAs
- Optimize social media profiles like you would organic content.
- Don’t forget about images.
- Engage with active conversations by replying to others in your industry, sharing others’ posts, or posting polls.
- Create interesting and relevant post captions.
For a more in-depth look at how to create a winning social media strategy, check out this free eBook: Advanced Social Media Strategies for Law Firms.
SEO is one of the most powerful tools law firms can leverage to improve organic rankings, bring new traffic to their site, generate high-quality leads, and drive conversions. But effective SEO is also highly complex and consists of many components, all of which must be well-optimized in order to earn the favor of ever-evolving search algorithms.