SEO for Lawyers: A Deep-Dive With +100 Examples

seo-for-lawyersAre you interested in getting your firm to the #1 position in Google’s search results?

Of course, you are. Who isn’t?

SEO for Lawyers remains one of the most effective ways for law firms to attract quality clients.

Consider these stats:

  • 96% of people seeking legal advice use a search engine.
  • 74% of consumers visit a law firm’s website to take action.
  • 62% of legal searches are non-branded (i.e. generic: Phoenix divorce attorney).
  • 72% of people seeking legal advice only contact one attorney.

In this comprehensive guide, we will share:

  • The fundamentals of law firm SEO
  • What Google wants from a law firm’s website.
  • How to build authority and trust.
  • The most effective law firm content.
  • How to establish a positive reputation online.
  • Concrete strategies to get your law firm to the coveted #1 position in Google’s search results.

Let’s begin.



Chapter 1:

Introduction to Lawyer SEO


What is Lawyer SEO?

The formal definition of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines.

Lawyer SEO differs in that the SEO processes are tailored and applied to businesses in the legal industry.

As a marketing tactic, law firm SEO requires in-depth keyword research, onsite optimization, link building, citation building, Google My Business optimization, content development, and analytics configuration.

whats-involved-lawyer-seo-infographic


What are the areas of Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP)?

Google’s SERPs refer to the elements that appear on a Google search result page.

It includes the following items.


Local Service Ads: LSAs display above everything else in Google’s search results and operate on a Pay Per Lead (PPL) basis.

local-service-ads-for-lawyers


Google Search Ads: Search Ads display below LSAs and above the Local Search Results. The ads operate on a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) basis.

google-search-ads-lawyers


Local Search Results: The Local Search Results are an extension of Google Maps. It is configured through a Google My Business profile. It does not cost a business anything to display in this area, however, competition is steep.

law-firm-local-search-results


Organic Search Results: The Organic Search Results display below the Local Search Results. It is the area most commonly associated with Google.

law-firm-organic-search-results


People Also Ask: A list of questions related to the searcher’s query displays in Google’s search results, often directly below the top relevant organic result.

law-firm-people-also-ask


Featured Snippets: Featured Snippets, also known as Position 0, display for question-based queries or when structured data (such as tables of information) are present.

Google-featured-snippet-law-firm


Local Panel: The local panel displays in the right-hand sidebar of Google’s search results. It includes information related to a business and is an extension of a firm’s Google My Business profile.

google-local-panel-law-firm-seo

When launching an attorney Search Engine Optimization campaign, start by considering the areas of Google’s search results most important to your firm.

Then evaluate how you can positively impact your firm’s visibility in the areas listed above to attract the greatest amount of high-quality traffic.


Chapter 2:

Lawyer SEO Ranking Factors


What are Google ranking factors?

For years, the basic principle of SEO has remained the same:

Google wants to return the most accurate, credible and authoritative information to its users.

Google fiercely defends its search results and updates its algorithms regularly for greater accuracy, assessing each website for a large variety of factors, called the Google ranking factors.

At JurisPage, we believe the following factors most impact a website’s rankings in Google’s search results.


Content

Content refers to any written or video content optimized and published to a firm’s website.

You will see in the content section below that writing original, informative content is the cornerstone of law firm SEO – and optimized content is a key ranking factor.

It must be topically relevant, optimized for keywords, informative, and easy to read and share.

types-of-law-firm-seo-content

Content creation, be it articles, videos, or podcasts, is one of the most effective marketing techniques for a firm to invest in.

By consistently publishing valuable content, you create the perception of being a subject matter expert. It increases your website and social media traffic, and ultimately contributes an increasing number of quality sales leads and prospects.


Hyperlinks & Link Building

Hyperlinks, often referred to as backlinks (or just links for short) are used to calculate a web page’s “PageRank”. A simplified definition of PageRank is below.

PageRank is an algorithm used by Google to evaluate the perceivedvalue of a web page.

While the impact of hyperlinks and how their value is calculated has evolved since Google’s introduction, links continue to play a leading role in determining a website’s position in Google’s search results.

Today, quality, relevance, and quantity matter. But, what do each of these areas mean?

  • Quality: Does the source website have a high PageRank? If so, it is deemed to be higher quality than a website with low PageRank.
  • Relevance: Is the website related to your practice area? If not, the link may carry less weight than one from a highly related source.
  • Quantity: Simply put, how many quality, relevant links has your website received. The more links pointed to your website the higher it will rank in Google.

Every authoritative link that points to your website is seen as a digital vote of confidence, but where do you get links?

law-firm-hyperlinks-SEO


RankBrain

RankBrain is the name of Google’s machine learning algorithm, which is used to predict user intent when someone searches for a term. Part of the Hummingbird algorithm, it assesses what a user means when they type a search term before returning appropriate results.

How-Does-Google-Rankbrain-Work

Remember the following factors when optimizing your law firm website for RankBrain:

  • Organic Click Through Rate (CTR): If a page gets more clicks, it may improve the Google rankings for the main target keyword on that page. 
  • Bounce Rate: if a user turns up on a page and then quickly clicks away, it may be an indication that the page content is not of sufficient quality or is a poor match for a keyword search: either way, it’s not good. It’s especially bad if a user bounces and then clicks on other search results to find the answers they’re looking for.
  • Direct/Repeat Traffic to Your Website: The Chrome browser informs Google how many people visit your site and how often. A high volume of direct traffic or repeat traffic indicates quality and will help rankings.
  • Dwell Time: How long visitors spend on your site pages is important: the longer they stay, the better the indication of high-quality content.
  • Number of Comments: A high number of comments indicates user interaction, which is seen as a positive for Google – blog posts, for instance, that receive user comments may get a rankings boost.

While content and hyperlinks are paramount to any SEO campaign, it is our belief at JurisPage that RankBrain will increase in importance as its algorithm is developed.


Core Web Vitals (“Page Experience”)

Core Web Vitals is a name for Google’s assessment of the page experience for users. Google announced previously that as of May 2021, certain factors related to page experience will be used in Google Search rankings.

This is what Google had to say:

“At Google Search, our mission is to help users find the most relevant and quality sites on the web. The goal with these updates is to highlight the best experiences and ensure that users can find the information they’re looking for.”

Here is a summary of the three factors used (highlighted in green):

Core-Web-Vitals-Infographic


To understand the web core vitals, a more descriptive explanation is needed.

The Core Web Vitals are:

  • Loading (Largest Content Paint): The largest content paint measures the amount of time it takes for the main page content to load.
  • Interactivity (First Input Delay): First input delay is the time between when a user first interacts with a page element, like a link, tab, or application, and when the browser is able to process the event. The key takeaway is to keep your website simple and eliminate functionality that doesn’t respond quickly to a user’s action.
  • Visual stability (Cumulative Layout Shift): Cumulative Layout Shift measures the visual stability of a web page. When page elements shift upon loading, it detracts from the website’s user experience.

The items detailed beside the core factors are also important signals for page experience:

  • Mobile-Friendly: The website is formatted for mobile viewing.
  • Safe Browsing: The website is free of malware.
  • HTTPS: The website has a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate.
  • No Intrusive Popups: The website is free of popups that detract from the user experience.

In summary, Web Core Vitals are complicated and are not something the average attorney will be able to navigate on their own. Hiring a legal SEO agency is your best option.


Page-Level Factors (Onsite Optimization)

One of the main Google Ranking Factors is page-level optimization – also known as onsite optimization.

This relates to how well the text and media on your page are optimized for search.

It’s an expansive topic and we go into each of the main factors in the dedicated section on onsite optimization but for now, it is enough to acknowledge the importance of the following items.

Onsite-SEO-Optimization-for-Lawyers


Domain Factors

A series of domain factors, (i.e., factors relating to your domain name) also affect rankings with Google but generally to a lesser degree than the factors mentioned above.

For starters, there are four parts of a URL to consider:

parts-of-a-url

Traditionally, law firm domains in North America are the firm’s name followed by .com. or .ca. though .law and .lawyer top-level domains are now available.

We don’t need to dwell too long on this topic but consider the following factors and their potential impact on your rankings:

  • Domain Age: has a minimal impact (the older the better).
  • Keyword Usage in a Top-Level Domain or Sub-Domain: this can indicate relevancy and is especially effective if it is used as the first word in a domain.
  • Domain Authority: pages on an authoritative domain often rank higher than those on lower-authority domains.
  • Domain Registration Length: Google regards a domain that expires far into the future as a good indication of legitimacy.
  • Domain History: a checkered domain history with frequent ranking drops may indicate a problem to Google.

Chapter 3:

Keyword Research for Lawyers


What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of identifying words or phrases most frequently searched by your target audience. Keywords then form the foundation of an SEO program including content, metadata, URLs, etc.

It is important to note that keyword research comes before content writing.


What is Search Intent?

Each keyword has an implicit intent.

For example, the query “Best DWI Lawyer in San Antonio” implies the user is searching for a top attorney to support him or her with a charge. We call terms with a purchase intent Transactional Queries.

Just look at how cluttered the search result is for this term. This is common for queries with purchase intent.

transaction-keyword-for-seo


The intent of the search query “DWI Laws Texas” on the other hand is not implicit. The user is simply searching for general information.

Therefore, Google delivers a different search results page.

We call these terms Information Queries.

informational-queries-law-firm-seo


Lastly are branded queries. Branded terms do not require much in terms of optimization, however, items like Google’s local panel which displays in the right sidebar are items to configure and monitor.

branded-search-query


To leverage search intent and target profitable keywords start by identifying the user’s intent, then shape content to address it.

For lawyers, the key questions to ask are the following:

  • What keywords will users search about your firm or attorneys? (Brand intent)
  • What keywords will users search to collect information about a legal matter? (Informational intent)
  • What keywords will users search to hire a lawyer? (Purchase intent)

The most effective approach to keyword targeting, then, is to focus on categories that follow a typical customer journey.

In very simple terms, this is what happens on a customer journey.

Customer-Buying-Journey-Keyword-Intent

Tips for engaging customers with keyword selection:

  • Find keywords that apply to each type of user intent and then prepare content to precisely match each type.
  • Start by developing content for transaction keywords. They are terms with the strongest purchase intent.
  • Next, look to develop strong branded content about your firm and its partners and associates.
  • Finally, create information content related to the primary practice area and services you provide.

How to Find Profitable Keyword Opportunities

The following opportunities are a starting point for your research. Then, supplement this list with keywords you identify using the many research tools available.

Here are a few of the best ones.


“People Also Ask” Sections on Google SERPs

We have already looked at the featured snippets and “People Also Ask” sections that feature on the Google SERPs now.

Each of the questions highlighted below can be searched separately to find more related questions – it’s a veritable goldmine for keyword phrases to target.

People-Also-Ask-Keyword-Research

It’s important to note that Google is generating these questions from thousands of potential options, yet, it found the ones listed to be most closely related to the original search query.


Read Legal Forum Q&As

Avvo and lawyers.com are two law firm directories that can help you scan for frequently asked questions.

Both forums (Avvo Forum, Lawyers.com Forum) feature a wide range of Q&As which can yield excellent keyword phrases to target for content during the informational/awareness stage.

Here’s how the lawyers.com Q&A section looks.

Forum-QA-For-Keyword-Research

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Google Keyword Planner

When it comes to keywords, anything offered by Google is worth considering as their analytics tools are the best and broadest-reaching.

The Keyword Planner can help you identify keywords and check their search volumes in detail.

Google-Keyword-Planner-Keyword-Research


UberSuggest

Next to Brian Dean at Backlinko, Neil Patel’s SEO information is the best out there – and UberSuggest is his free keyword research tool.

It provides volume and competitive difficulty information on the keywords you select and generates new ideas and suggestions for related keywords.

Ubersuggest-Keyword-Research

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Ahrefs

Ahrefs differs from the others outlined in that it’s a paid tool. However, it provides competitive analysis as well as keyword research, which may justify the fee.

With its Keyword Explorer, you can enter a term like divorce lawyer (or even better, a few related keywords like divorce attorney, child custody attorney, alimony attorney) then view the keyword volume and difficulty score.

ahrefs-keyword-research-for-seo

The “Questions” section of “Keyword Ideas” also generates keyword phrase ideas for informational query keywords.

Source


Google Trends

Google Trends is another free-to-use Google tool that may be of use to some firms. However, it’s at the bottom of the list for a reason: law firm content is less susceptible to “trends” than other businesses – although it can help to identify if a specific keyword is trending upwards or downwards over time.

A good example might be if cannabis legislation changes in a particular state and cannabis business lawyers are looking for related keywords that have started trending.

Google-Trends-SEO-Keyword-Research


Chapter 4:

Content Marketing for Lawyers


The overarching goal of writing content should be to become a Topical Authority.

A Topical Authority is a person or brand perceived as an authority over a niche service or skillset.

Positioning yourself, and your firm, as an authority on a topic provides numerous benefits in Google’s search results and on your website.

Benefits-Topical-Authority

The TopicSeed website says “topical authority is the future”:

“Unlike keyword research that targets a set of literal phrases, topical authority and topical research require a broad yet deep comprehension and mastery of linked entities and hierarchical concepts.”

So, how do you position your firm as a topical authority and give Google what it wants?

In our experience, Google rewards the following:

  • Original content with no duplication.
  • Authoritative, well-referenced, and researched content.
  • High-quality, informative content that provides valuable insight into the topic.
  • In-depth content: long-form is favored over short-form content.
  • Easy to read, well-written content.
  • Well-structured content.
  • Recent and updated content.

What Type of Content Should You Create?

The needs of your target audience are defined by the intent of the user when they search for information.

Therefore, a law firm’s content strategy should align with its user’s intent.

For most law firms, this largely means creating five types of content for its website:

These content types will account for 80-90 percent of what you need to do from a content marketing perspective.


Practice Area Pages

Practice area pages are the most important pages on a law firm’s website.

Start by separating your practice areas into individual pages – it’s better for keyword targeting.

Here’s an example of the typical structure of a law firm’s website.

typical-law-firm-sitemap

See how granular the DWI practice area pages are for this Long Island DWI attorney.

Global-Navigation-System-Law-Firm-SEO

If you want to target certain geographical areas, it’s a good idea to make practice area pages location-specific .

Here is an example of a criminal defense firm with offices throughout Los Angeles and Orange County.

location-pages-law-firm-seo

Informative, in-depth practice area pages are reshaping Google’s organic search results. Instead of pages with 350 words of content, plan for 2,000 words or more.

Look at the DUI content published by Chudnovsky Law in California.

long-format-dui-content-for-law-firm-seo

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Profile Pages

Potential clients will be interested in your experience and expertise. A profile page is a perfect location for this information. You want to supercharge your profile page to make it as enticing as possible.

Here’s an example for Long Island attorney Richard Hochhauser.

profile-page-lawyers


Blog Articles

Blog articles are important for users seeking information about their legal issues.

One of the best strategies we’ve found with blog content strategy is to answer the questions asked by your target audience.

Here’s a good example of suing an insurance company after an accident.

blog-article-law-firm-seo

High-quality, informative blog posts are shared widely online. They attract links and shares, build awareness and highlight your expertise.

As basic as it is, many firms fail to set up a blog or to produce content regularly. It can be a simple and effective way to advertise.

Here’s a good example of a blog page with recent content from Taylor Janis in Calgary.

blog-article-content-marketing-law-firm

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The bottom line? Each lawyer has a wealth of knowledge about their respective practice area. If you can’t find the time to create blog posts, find someone who does.


FAQ Pages

FAQs can feature on the homepage or be scattered throughout your practice area pages, like this one from Houston personal injury attorney Ryan Dehoyos.

faq-content-law-firm-seo

Alternatively, you can build dedicated FAQ pages, like Spectrum Family Law in Edmonton.

faq-page-law-firm-seo


Step-By-Step Guides

Step-by-step guides that break down complex topics into easy-to-understand pieces are effective for blog posts, eBooks, and other downloadable resources. They can help you attract attention and capture contact information from prospective clients.

step-by-step-guide-law-firm-seo

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Build a Library of Resources

Some law firms build an entire knowledge center or library of written and multimedia resources to help visitors find answers to their questions.

Here’s an example from an employment law firm in Toronto.

knowledge-center-content-law-firm-seo

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Video

Creating engaging videos is much easier than in years past. Now, with advancements in tech, almost every one of us carries a video production studio in our pocket.

At JurisPage, we recommend our clients create simple videos using their iPhone or Android device.

The video can be edited to include a logo sting, background music, and call to action. It’s an excellent way to attract video views on YouTube and increase the time on site for key web pages.

Here’s an example from Trey Porter in San Antonio.



What are “Topic Clusters” and how do they affect content architecture?

With “Topic Clusters”, a primary page or “pillar page” acts as the centerpiece of a particular topic and supporting pages that go deeper into each element of the topic link to it. These pages feed attention and authority back to the pillar page.

We suggest that this is a great way to strategize with your firm’s content as topic cluster models may become more prominent in SEO.

So, a law firm that focuses on DUI in Florida might work towards this model with its content.

content-clusters-for-law-firm-seo

The main pillar page is DUI Attorney and the clusters provide further information and raise the authority of the main page. They also allow you to target more individual keywords (great for SEO).


Tips for Structuring Content for Top Rankings

Regardless of the type of content, certain structural elements are important for both readability and rankings.

Google’s Quality Guidelines document states:

“The page layout on highest quality pages makes the Main Content immediately visible.”

This means that the structure of the content on each page is likely important for rankings.

Focus on the following structural elements for your content.


Write Short Paragraphs

Make your content easy to skim by breaking up text like the example below.

short-paragraph-law-firm-seo

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Use Expressive Headers and Sub-Headers

Descriptive, well-placed sub-headers are important for scan reading and general readability as well as for the opportunity to use keywords.

sub-headers-law-firm-seo

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It is beneficial to use headings and subheadings to pose a question, then to answer the question directly below. This approach makes it easy for a user to skim a page, and find information relevant to their situation.


Make it Easy to Read With Bullets and Numbered Lists

Bullet points and numbered lists are a great way to organize content into a logical, easy-to-read order.

bullet-points-seo-articles

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Include Relevant Images 

Images are an effective way to break up text and make it more “digestible”.

image-optimization-law-firm-seo

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Add Relevant Video Content

Video is still under-utilized by lawyers. The American Bar Association found in 2020 that only 24% of firms surveyed use video as part of their marketing.

While professional promotion videos can cost a pretty penny, affordable explainer videos still provide considerable value to clients, and generate exposure for a firm.

Look at this example from Dale Carson Law. Even though it is shot on a smartphone at an unusual angel, it has garnered over 450,000 views.



Remember to Include a Call To Action

People are on your website for a reason. Whatever that reason is, you can help them take the next step – and stay on your site for longer (great for SEO) or convert to a lead (the ultimate goal of SEO).

If they are searching for information, the next step may be to download a guide. If they are looking to hire an attorney, the next step may be to call you or email you for a free consultation.

Either way, calls-to-action should be dispersed throughout your content.

call-to-action-law-firm-seo

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The above basic content structure strategies will go a long way to creating articles and pages that are appreciated by users and by Google.


Deep and Narrow is the Recipe for Success

Content length is a verified Google ranking factor.

If you cover a specific topic in-depth, it will help identify you as an authority and you will be rewarded with higher rankings as a result.

Think comprehensive rather than superficial, in-depth and insightful rather than scratching the surface of a topic.

Not only does this inform readers looking for answers but it increases dwell time on the page, which is another ranking factor.

content-total-word-count-law-firm-seo

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Well-referenced content that includes reputable sources is also a sign to Google of content depth and quality.

The Google Quality Guidelines indicate that “expertise and/or authoritative sources” are important when assessing certain pages for “a topic where are important…”.


Chapter 5:

Onsite Optimization for Lawyers


What is Onsite Optimization?

Onsite optimization is the process of improving a website’s architecture, content, and code to make it search engine friendly.

As you saw in the first section, page-level factors (onsite SEO) are among the most important ranking factors for Google.

Many of the necessary changes in this section will likely need to be discussed with your web developer. Let’s look at a few of the areas that the discussions should focus on.


What is the Optimal URL Structure?

We’ve already covered keyword research and content marketing but, in fact, URL structure needs to be considered before your content can find a good home.

The structure of your website needs careful consideration from the start – so that content is easy to find for users and Google.

The two types of URL structure are:


Flat Structure: with no use of sub-directory folders.

flat-url-structure


Sub-Directories: uses directory folders to organize content.

sub-directory-url-structure


While plenty of law firm websites do rank highly using the second option, we always recommend a flat URL structure for clients because the keyword is introduced earlier in the URL string.

While we are on the subject of URLs, there are two other URL-related ranking factors to bear in mind:

  • URL Path and Length: Pages close to the home page may be better-ranked than those “buried” within the site.
  • Short URLs: these tend to fare better than long ones.

Adopt Schema.org

Without getting too technical, adopting legal service “schema” will also improve the structure of your law firm website and help SEO.


What is Schema.org?

schema-org-optimization-overview

Schema is web page markup that guides search engines to interpret structured data on a web page.

Simply put, it makes it easy for search engines to understand the information on a web page.

Take the word “Hamilton” for example. It could refer to Alexander Hamilton, the broadway play Hamilton, or the Canadian city Hamilton. By using schema.org markup, we can tell Google exactly which Hamilton we are referring to.

The most important schema market up for law firms include the following.


icon-location-schemaLocation Schema

Location Schema does not appear in Google’s search results. For all intents and purposes, it is a microformat viewed and interpreted by search engines alone.


icon-attorney-schemaAttorney Schema

Attorney Schema is markup intended to identify an entity and as law firm. Like location schema, it is a microformat viewed and interpreted by search engines, not end users.


icon-faq-schemaFAQ Schema

FAQ Schema is markup intended to identify a question and its answer. It is displayed in Google’s search results before a website’s meta description tag.


Here’s an example of FAQ Schema.

schema-markup-faqs


icon-review-schemaReview Schema

Review Schema is markup intended to identify information in a review including the reviewer, the review, and a rating. It displays in Google’s organic search results.


This is how review Schema appears.

schema-markup-reviews


Schema isn’t for the faint of heart. In most cases you will need an SEO specialist to support you with its implementation.


Professionally Write Title and Meta Descriptions

The page meta title and description tags are what you see in the Google Search Engine Results Page after you type in a search term. The combination of the meta title, description, and page URL is called a snippet.

professional-meta-title-description

Meta titles and descriptions tell Google, and potential clients, about the page’s topic.

Titles and descriptions should be professionally written because of their importance in generating top rankings in Google.


Page Titles Recommendations

Title tags should include the target keyword first, followed by a pipe, then the firm’s name.

page-titles-for-seo


Meta Description Recommendations

Meta descriptions are longer than titles (166 characters before being truncated) and should use the keyword the page targets but be compelling enough to convince someone to click through to your website.

page-description-for-seo

Also, include your city or state if you are optimizing for local search (more about that later).


Improve Page-Load Speed

You saw in the section on Core Web Vitals that page-load speed is an important ranking factor in law firm SEO.

Here’s what Google found about mobile page load speeds in a 2017 study.

mobile-page-speed-new-industry-benchmarks-01-2.width-800

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It’s compelling data.

Besides the negative SEO effect, it’s fair to say that nothing damages user experience like a painfully slow website.

So, how’s your site’s speed? Check it using Google’s free tool.

Here’s the result for one of our client websites.

google-page-speed-test

As you can see, the page speed score is 91 percent – the average is between 50-89 percent.

The bottom line? To increase the speed of your website, do the following:

  • Select a premium hosting platform, one that isn’t driving traffic away with poor performance.
  • Compress all images used on your website (uncompressed high-def images are the main cause of slow speed).
  • Install a caching plugin many plugins can slow pages down, caching plugins compress and optimize scripts.

Use FB Open Graph (OG) Tags

Did you know that when someone posts a link to your website or blog on Facebook, a preview of your page content is displayed?

Facebook knows the content of the linked website because it crawls the link – just like Google does – and looks for Open Graph tags. Then, when a user published a link to a social platform, the open graph data is used. It includes items like the website’s image or logo, page title, and description.

Here’s an example.

Facebook-open-graph-example


Other Winning Onsite SEO Strategies

According to the main authorities on Google ranking factors, the other areas that lawyers should focus on with onsite SEO are:

  • Keyword Frequency/Density/Prominence: Long gone are the days of “keyword stuffing” – that may get your site penalized with Google. But if you can demonstrate relevance to the topic by using a keyword frequently throughout a page in a natural way, great! Even better if it’s in the first 100 words.
  • Keyword Usage in Headers and Sub-Headers: Google uses H1 tags as a relevancy signal and we encourage our clients to develop content with this in mind.
  • Use of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Keywords: Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords are terms related to the main keyword that help search engines understand the meaning behind content – especially if it is not immediately clear: a term like “insurance lawyers” could mean lawyers who represent insurance firms in legal battles or lawyers for people who want to sue insurance companies: LSI keywords like “civil lawsuit against the insurance company” will tell Google which one you mean.
  • Table of Contents: This helps both readers and Google better understand the content on the page and can lead to extra backlinks – you will find a TOC at the top of most of our blog articles.
  • Quality and Readability of Content: The depth and recency of content, the frequency of updates, the presence of duplicate content, and the readability of content are all important for rankings.
  • Use of Multimedia: The use of images, videos and other multimedia can boost the perceived quality of content.
  • Outbound Link Volume/Quality: Linking to authority sites is generally considered good practice but too many outbound/affiliate links or broken links likely have a detrimental effect.
  • References and Sources: Citing references and authoritative sources may indicate quality content – and it’s something that law firms should find easy to do.
  • Internal Link Quality and Count: This is an indication of the importance relative to other pages on your site.
  • Image Optimization: File name, alt text, title, description and caption are important.
  • Mobile-Friendliness: Your pages should be optimized for mobile devices according to Google’s “Mobile-first Index”.

Chapter 6:

Local SEO & Google My Business Optimization


Most law firms target the local area as a rich potential source of new clients. To do that online successfully, local search needs to be a priority.

Just look at this stat from Bright Local.

“93 percent of consumers used the internet to find a local business in 2020, with 34 percent searching every day.”

Bright Local’s Consumer Review Survey 2020

Google provides some pointers for businesses. A dedicated page shows you how to improve your local ranking on Google.

From the following, it is clear that the main factors used by Google in determining rankings are relevance, distance, and prominence:

how-google-determines-local-rankings

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There’s not much you can do about distance but several strategies stand out when it comes to demonstrating relevance and achieving prominence with local SEO.

We have found the following to be the most important.


Google My Business: Own Your Local Panel

Google My Business is the free business listing that replaced Google Local and Google Places. It is your firm’s direct connection to Google Maps and Google’s local search results.

Here’s how it displays in the search results.

google-local-search-results-listing

If you don’t polish your listing one of your local competitors will get the free clicks from prominent positions held in the Google SERPs.

An optimized GMB account helps you boost local rankings.


Why’s Google My Business Important for Law Firms?

Information from your Google My Business account may be used on Google SERPs directly in place of information from your actual website.

A search for San Antonio DWI attorney returns this page.

local-search-results-map-pack

To achieve visibility in the map pack, it’s very important to optimize all your business information.

How to optimize your Google My Business account:

  • Enter your business location correctly on the map.
  • List your authoritative and official business website.
  • Add information such as opening hours.
  • Ensure that your business name, address, and phone number(s) (“NAP”) are consistent with other listings and across your website: Google aggregates your business information from around the web – keep addresses and other details EXACTLY the same.
  • Choose the most appropriate primary category for your firm, to ensure it shows up in the right searches. Be as specific as possible, i.e., “criminal justice attorney,” not simply “law firm”.
  • Add as many photographs of yourself, your staff, and your business premises as possible to make your firm more prominent.
  • Include a 360-degree tour of your office.
  • Describe the key points of your business, use keywords, and add links in the ‘Introduction’.
  • Solicit reviews about your firm (more about this later).

Citation Building in Top Legal Directories

Citations are references to your business name, address, and/or telephone number on the web. Quality citations are important for law firms, even if you do not receive a backlink from the referring website.

Google considers citations from well-established and reliable websites (with good domain authority) to be an important ranking factor. They add credibility, context, relevance, and authenticity to your law firm.

There are two main types of citations relevant to law firms.


Structured Citations – the most common; found in online directories like Yellow Pages, Yelp, Lawyers.com, and Avvo.

citation-building-yelp

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Unstructured Citations – found on blogs, government websites, media websites, etc.

unstructured-citation-local-seo

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The Best Citation Sources for Law Firms

Here are some of the best places to get quality citations.


Prominent Legal Marketing Directories

Go for quality citations over quantity. Most are free but there are also paid options.

Select the directories with the best domain authority, such as:

Wherever appropriate, make sure that all attorneys at your firm have completed and optimized their personal profiles in the directory.


The Key Data Aggregators in the USA and Canada

“Data aggregators” gather your name, address, phone number, images, etc. and disperse the details to thousands of websites.

The main aggregators in the US and Canada are:

You can submit information to them using Moz Local, Yext or Bright Local or they will get your data from the likes of:

Make sure your business information is correct and optimized with all aggregators as it is were most search engines get its data.

Your business should be featured in the proper category and the listing should include images/video, a detailed description, and operating hours.

Yellow-Pages-Structured-Citation

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Every couple of months, updated data is sent to the search engines. If your business information is not up-to-date and doesn’t match with what the search engines already have, it can damage your rankings.


Chapter 7:

Lawyer Link Buidling


What is a hyperlink?

Hyperlinks are the clickable underlined text that interconnect websites together. They are often referred to as backlinks.

Here’s how they normally display on a web page.

hyperlink-example-seo

Every backlink pointed to your website acts like a digital vote of confidence to Google.

Many of the top-ranking law firm websites have content that attract backlinks naturally. Others have invested in campaigns to increase the number of backlinks pointing to their site.

You should do both. Links are without a doubt one of the strongest Google ranking factors.

Let’s take a look at how it works and the best-practice strategies you can use to start getting more links.


What is anchor text?

Anchor text is the words that encapsulate a hyperlink. Readers do not necessarily see the URL of the link on the page – instead, they see colored text (often blue but green in this example):

anchor-text-hyperlink

It’s best if anchor text is descriptive and includes the keywords a website page is attempting to rank for – though you may not have a great deal of control over the anchor text that another website uses to link to your pages.

Google says the following about it:

“… anchors often provide more accurate descriptions of web pages than the pages themselves.”

Anchor text remains a ranking factor but don’t overdo the keywords in the descriptions.


What Are Nofollow and Dofollow Links? 

The two types of links are easy to differentiate:

  • “Dofollow” links are the standard links we know and love and help with our rankings by passing on authority to our website.
  • “Nofollow” links are those that a search engine should not count. They do not pass on any authority to the website it is linking to.

This is due to one line of code.

no-follow-hyperlink-example

Nofollow links are found on a number of websites including:

It is a controversial topic but nofollow links are thought to provide no (or very little) direct SEO value. So, if a linking website designates the link provided to your website as nofollow, you derive little benefit from it.

However, having some nofollow links may be a good idea because it demonstrates a more natural link profile – and that may be viewed favorably by Google (unnatural link profiles may be penalized).


How Does Link-Building Work?

When an external website links to you, it shares a small portion of its authority.

The process of encouraging other sites to include such links is called link-building and it is an established SEO strategy.

Here’s a list of hyperlinks on an external scholarship page. All of the blue underlined words are hyperlinks.

hyperlink-examples

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It is sometimes referred to as “offsite” SEO because instead of making changes to your website to improve its rankings, the changes are made on an external website.

In this example, the Yelp website provides a link to the firm Taylor Janis Workplace Law.

yelp-hyperlink-example

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Link-building from these types of authority sites is relatively simple – but sometimes you are asked to pay for the privilege.

Here’s a broad overview of the main legal directories, with their domain rating (evaluation of authority).

Getting authority links from sites other than legal directories can be harder work.

The best way is by generating content that compels other site owners to link to it or otherwise investing in strategies that compel other site owners to link to your website.

Let’s look at the best ones.


What is Google Looking for With Links?

Just before we move on, let’s take a quick look at what Google is really looking for with your backlink profile, as identified in their ranking factors.

Google considers a number of link factors when assessing a hyperlink but we recommend keeping the following factors in mind:

link-factors-google-considers


The 7 Best Attorney Link-Building Strategies

Apart from directory links, we’ve found the following link-building strategies to be the best investment of time.


Guest Posting

Guest posting is where lawyers publish content on another authority’s website in exchange for a backlink.

guest-post-examples-seo

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Usually, it’s a temporary arrangement where you reach out to another law firm, a related professional business or a professional association and offer to post content that their readers would be interested in.

In return, you will be allowed to include a backlink or two to your website, sometimes in the content, but also in the author bio.

guest-post-hyperlink

The key to guest posting is not to overdo it and to select reputable websites to collaborate with. Quality, not quantity.

The more authoritative the site is, the more value the link back to you will carry.


Infographics

Well-designed infographics have two important characteristics for SEO: they help people stay on your page and they are easily shareable.

When someone shares your graphic, there’s a good chance of a backlink to your website (you should be credited for your work).

Here is an example from Steinberg Law Firm.

personal-injury-lawyer-charleston-infographic

If you can encapsulate key information in a graphic format (chart, diagram, image with stats), it’s a winning strategy both for your audience and for SEO.

The process is relatively simple although the execution is everything:

  • Research information from a reputable source
  • Design your infographic professionally
  • Promote the graphic on your website and across social media

High-Quality Blogging

Write compelling content and follow the tips included in our content marketing section above and you will naturally attract backlinks.

It all starts with sharing informative, original content that answers questions thoroughly and effectively.

Therefore, investing time (or money if you hire an external writer) in writing blog posts not only raises your profile as a topical authority but generates backlinks naturally.

high-quality-blogging-example

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Publishing Books, eBooks, Reports & Other Quality Content

As well as blogging, you can take your knowledge-sharing a step further to generate more backlinks.

If you write high-quality content like eBooks, guides, reports, white papers, and so on, links to it can be widely shared around social media.

Here’s how one Tennessee-based criminal defense law firm, Houston & Alexander, approach it:

free-ebook-example

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Podcasting

For lawyers who intend to get active with multimedia, podcasts are a great way to share your knowledge and generate more backlinks.

From a link-building perspective, the work you put into a podcast can pay you back in two main ways:

  • Attracting links from media organizations
  • Garnering links from host bios

Here’s a great example from the Legal Talk Network.

In 2018, it posted a podcast titled Fire in a Crowded Theater.

lawyer-podcast-for-seo

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A year later, CNN opinion writer Kara Alaimo published an article on Twitter’s removal of a Nickleback video posted by then President Donald Trump.

In the body of the article, the writer links to the Legal Talk Network’s podcast in a paragraph about free speech.

cnn-article-hyperlink

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Links from large media organizations are worth their weight in gold. This is another example of the power of content creation.


Join Help A Reporter Out

Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is a free service that helps reporters in North America acquire the expertise they need for their stories.

help-a-reporter-out-for-seo

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You can sign up and provide your opinions and quotes as required. The content is used by major news outlets, including Reuters, Fox News, Time, etc.

For you, it’s a path to extra publicity for your firm, as well as credibility and backlinks.

Success with this may take a while. HARO wants to create content that engages the audience, so you need to provide quotes that offer a unique and engaging perspective on the legal topic at hand.


“Win” Legal Awards & Join Associations

If you join associations and put yourself in the running for legal awards or purchase them, it can help generate backlinks through the profile pages that you create.

Winning law firm awards work on several fronts. They build credibility, create social proof for your firm, and deliver SEO value.

super-lawyers-awards-seo

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A good way to start receiving awards is to nominate other respected lawyers that you are acquainted with. Let them know about the nomination, they may reciprocate in the future.

You can nominate lawyers for awards at the following types of organizations:

Awards are also issued by many other sources.

The following example, for instance, is from the practice management software Clio, which runs awards for the best podcasts each year – providing a high-quality backlink to all of the winners.

best-law-firm-podcasts

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Chapter 8:

Reputation Management & Review Solicitation


Reviews or testimonials help potential clients understand your services better AND are important for SEO.

Think of them as your corroborating evidence. Almost all visitors will expect to see other people saying good things about your firm.

attorney-ratings-seo

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Why Are Reviews Important?

Bright Local’s 2020 Local Consumer Review Survey shows how important it is to actively solicit reviews – and to do it continuously:

Review-Statistics

People now trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. They are seen as an indication of how much you can trust a local business.

So, you absolutely must have them to attract clients.

From an SEO point of view, reviews are used as an important ranking indicator in local searches. Google says it itself in its guide, improve your local ranking on Google.

“Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business, from across the web, like links, articles, and directories. Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business’ local ranking.”

A high overall Google review rating (4.8 – 5.0) may also help you rank for “best” or “top” lawyer searches in your local area: another important reason why gathering a broad base of high-quality, positive reviews from clients should be a priority.


How to Solicit More Reviews

Since reviews are so powerful, how can you get more customers to write them for you?

Try Googling your firm’s name. Which review sites appear on the first page of results? These are the sites that prospective clients will see. Target more 5-star reviews on these sites. That way, existing search results at least present you as the stellar firm that you are.

Following are the fundamentals of how to go about it.


Most Importantly and Obviously: Ask For Them!

Here’s how our client Oykhman Criminal Defence request reviews on their website.

review-solicitation-form

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Note how they make it as easy as possible for clients to leave a review. It certainly works as they have collected hundreds of glowing reviews from clients.


Prime Customers at the Start and Remind Them at the End

Let customers know their feedback is welcome and expected at the start of the relationship. Include it in the description of your process while onboarding.

Then, when you remind them to leave a review after the case file is closed, it will jog their memory to act.


Understand the Rules of Engagement for Each Review Platform

Different sites have different rules for how and where you can ask for reviews.

Yelp expressly forbids asking for or incentivizing customer reviews but Google has no problem with you asking customers to review you.

yelps-review-policy

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Use GatherUp

GatherUp is a platform that helps you automate the customer feedback process. It makes getting online reviews easier.

gatherup-reviews


Manage and Respond to All Reviews

People are more likely to leave reviews if they know that their feedback will be heard – and responded to.

It’s a good idea to respond to every review, both positive and negative (rather than just negative ones).

negative-review

By responding to every review, you show that there is a real human being behind your firm’s review system and they are not just managed by a robot.

Responding to Google My Business reviews also triggers a notification to the reviewer and helps keep you top of mind with them – making it more likely they will come back if legal services are required again in the future.


Where Should Law Firm Clients Leave Reviews?

Put simply, as many places as possible, Remember, prominence is a major ranking factor for Google local search – the more prominent you are on the main review sites the better.

Focus on the following websites.


Google My Business 

You’ve seen how Google My Business reviews show on the SERPs with a star rating next to your name. This happens once you have a minimum of five reviews, so make that your first target if you currently have fewer than that.

Oykhman Criminal Defence in Edmonton has cracked it, sitting prominently at the top of local rankings for “criminal defence lawyers Edmonton”.

google-reviews-in-map-pack

You can feature Google reviews on your website too, like another of our clients, the Oykhman Criminal Defence.

Google-reviews-on-website

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Avvo

If you’re listed on Avvo, make sure that you get customers to review you there.

It is especially important for individual lawyers within law firms to do this. Ratings show on your profile and add instant credibility to your “personal brand” as a lawyer and appear prominently in search.

Here’s an example from personal injury lawyer Ryan Dehoyos.

avvo-review-rating-example

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Yelp

5-stars next to your name on Yelp provides instant credibility and also carries considerable SEO “juice” as reviews from Yelp are aggregated to many other sites.

yelp-review-example-five-stars

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However, bear in mind the strict policies on leaving reviews (and no solicitation) on Yelp – or you could be banned or penalized.

This is why many firms have no reviews on their Yelp profiles. You can send your clients a link to Yelp but don’t request a review and send a direct link to your profile.


Facebook 

Regardless of your practice area, it is highly likely that your clients have Facebook profiles. They may not know Avvo, BBB or Yelp or have a Google account but they are familiar with Facebook and understand the review process there – it’s very simple.

facebook-review-examples

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Facebook is also an authority site so it is a good idea to actively solicit reviews there.


Better Business Bureau (BBB.org) 

Many law firms connect with clients through the BBB, which is considered a trusted authority site by Google. It is an underused resource by lawyers and if you do get business this way, encourage your clients to leave reviews.

Reviewers can only leave their first name and initial of the last name, which (in the case of a criminal defense lawyer, for instance) can help maintain anonymity:

bbb-review-example

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Chapter 9:

Performance Metrics & KPIs


As with any law firm marketing, part of the secret is measuring performance and adjusting campaigns to make them more successful in the future.

The problem is that SEO takes time to work.

Patience is required after the changes are made – and performance needs to be measured and monitored over months rather than days or weeks.


The Metrics That Matter – and How You Track Them

There are certain metrics to track and interpret if you want to know how successful your SEO efforts are.

Ultimately, these are the following.


Rankings: This shows how are you ranking in Google for your main keywords.

analytics-serps-rankings


Organic Traffic: This shows how many visitors are landing on your website due to organic search.

analytics-sessions


Pages: This shows which pages are receiving traffic. Are they your most important pages?

analytics-pages


Leads: This shows how many target clients are contacting your law firm.

analytics-sales-leads


What Are The Main Tools You Can Use To Track These “Vital Statistics”?

While an increasing number of analytics providers exist, we’ve found the following analytics platforms to be the best.


Google Analytics

google-analytics-home-page

Google Analytics is a free tool for webmasters.

It allows you to track your goals and measure many key website performance areas:

  • Visitor numbers
  • Visitor source
  • Visitor demographics
  • What they’re doing on your site (behavior)
  • Frequency and ‘recency’ of visits
  • Contact form submissions
  • Conversions
  • Site speed
  • Mobile visitors

Google Search Console 

google-search-console

The Google Search Console is another free tool that can help you improve and optimize your website by tracking the following:

  • Who is linking to your site?
  • Are there technical errors on your site that need fixing?
  • What keyword queries are being made by users?

Google Tag Manager

Google-Tag-Manager

Google Tag Manager is also free and manages JavaScript and HTML tags. These are snippets of code that are added to the site and used for tracking and analytics on websites.

This information is then sent to third parties.

If you don’t manage it properly, it can lead to site issues. Tag Manager makes it easy – without the need for a web developer.


Monitoring Calls Via CallRail

callrail-metrics

A great tool for measuring the number of phone calls you receive is CallRail.

I’ve blocked out a few columns for privacy, but you get the idea.

With CallRail, you can:

  • Measure phone call conversations from search, digital marketing (including PPC), or even offline
  • Record phone calls
  • Automatically show the right number to the right audience

Master Law Firm SEO by Starting with the Basics

SEO was, still is, and will be (for the foreseeable future) a key foundation of any law firm’s marketing strategy.

If you’ve read this far congratulations! You now know most of what you need for a comprehensive understanding of SEO basics.

In brief, try to focus on:

  • Optimized, informative, and in-depth content
  • Building authority
  • A great user experience
  • A good technical structure to your website build
  • Compliance with all of Google’s guidelines