SEO for Lawyers — An In-Depth Search Engine Optimization Guide for Law Firms
This is a comprehensive SEO for lawyers guide. In this guide, you’ll learn:
(This article was originally published here: https://rankings.io/seo-for-lawyers/)
- the fundamentals of law firm search engine optimization
- how to do keyword research…the right way
- how to write legal content for your actual prospective clients
- how to optimize a law firm website without a degree in web development
- how to stand out in local search/maps and get the best cases
- how to build links without getting your site penalized
- how to measure SEO success without a background in statistics
- Pay-per-click and sponsored ads essentially lease your visibility: that visibility disappears as soon as you stop paying for it. SEO is an investment. The content and backlinks that you acquire have a long-lasting and evergreen impact; in effect, they pay dividends long into the future.
- 51 percent of all website traffic comes from organic search, 10 percent from paid search, 5 percent for social, and 34 percent from all other sources.
- Data shows that 87% of smart phone owners use a search engine at least once a day.
- Hubspot states that Google is responsible for 94% of all organic search traffic; the first position in Google search results carries a 34% click-through rate on desktop and 35% on mobile.
- Studies have shownthat the percentage of traffic from searchers drops to around 2–3% on the second page of results and fades out from there.
What are Google’s top three organic search ranking factors?
Google has one universal mission as it relates to their search engine: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
For years, SEOs and digital marketers pondered and debated what the most important ranking factors in Google’s algorithm were…and then in 2016, they came right out and told everyone: links, content, and RankBrain are the primary factors for how web pages are ranked in Google search results pages.
#1 — Links
Links have always been a part of Google’s algorithm from the very beginning and both the quality and quantity of them still matters today.
In the eyes of Google, each link pointing at a page is like a vote for that piece of content.
The more unique votes from reputable websites that a page has, the more authoritative it appears to Google, and hence the higher it ranks in search results (all else being equal).
We like to use the following analogy: If you’re trying to win an election, you want to get as many votes as possible. If you’re trying to “win” the first page of Google, you want as many high-quality links as possible.
What makes a high-quality link?
Here’s a great explanation by May Soon of Ahrefs:
“There are some common indicators of a backlink being high quality. Please note that no one can tell you for sure how search engines measure the quality of backlinks. The further information is our experience-based recommendation.
- The most valuable backlinks are those editorially placed somewhere within the content (i.e. not in the footer or sidebar). Basically, if website owners refer to your page voluntarily, they give you a valuable vote of confidence.
- Authority of the linking page/site. You can determine how much of “link juice” you’re getting from a given backlink by the authority of a particular page that links to you — its URL Rating (UR). (You can find more information about Ahrefs UR metric here.) As a general rule, a link from a high authority site will be more powerful than a link from a low authority one. We at Ahrefs use the Domain Rating (DR) metric to measure an overall website authority.
- Besides DR and UR metrics, what also matters is a number of outgoing links a website has. A backlink from a website (domain) or from a web page that links to hundreds of other URLs will be less valuable than the one from a website with just a few outgoing links.
- “Do-follow” links are preferable. At the same time, the search engine optimization community hasn’t come to an agreement if no-follow links help you rank or not. Basically, if you have a chance to get a no-follow link from a high-quality website, then go for it.
- Our research has shown that an anchor text might have an influence on the quality and relevancy of a backlink. (You can find the full research here.) It’s essential for search engines to be able to choose the right keywords to rank your content for, that’s why the anchor text, as well as the text that surrounds it, should be topic-relevant.”
- Lino Uruñuela@Errioxa
- · Nov 23, 2017
- @JohnMu @methode Does Google look at anchor text in internal links?
- Most links do provide a bit of additional context through their anchor text. At least they should, right‽
- 7:29 AM — Nov 23, 2017
- Twitter Ads info and privacy
#2 — Content
In order to get on the first page of search results, attorneys need to build content that is more than just topically relevant. Data shows that content which is longer and covers a topic more in-depth tends to rank higher overall in Google search results, so it needs to be more authoritative and in-depth than competing pieces of content in the same niche.
What makes good SEO content?
The structure and substance of content are key to making it rank well in Google search.
- Topically relevant: A web page or blog post needs to be appropriate for its audience (that is, it should matter to them).
- Target keyword placement: The target keyword phrase the page is meant to rank for needs to be placed in the title, the headings, the body, anchor text of internal and inbound links, and image alt tags of the page. This is an SEO tactic that will give your content the opportunity to be found.
- Authoritative resource: The content should be an authoritative resource that provides value to the reader and answers their intent.
- Supporting sources: The content should link out to other supporting resources (e.g., authoritative articles, supporting documents) that users may find valuable.
- Usability: Long-form content should be formatted in a way that makes it easy to consume (i.e., bulleted lists, headings and images that break up content, navigation, etc.)
- Shareability: The content needs to be useful and practical. It should be something that readers want to share with people they know.
#3 — RankBrain
What is RankBrain?
RankBrain is a machine learning algorithm used by Google. Based on information gleaned from analyzing search results, it helps weight certain ranking factors in an effort to deliver the most relevant results to searchers. Through RankBrain, Google is attempting to more accurately predict or interpret searcher intent, rather than organize web pages using signals like the core algorithm does.
How do I optimize for RankBrain?
- Parent topic: Look for parent keyword phrases and then include similar terms throughout the content on the same page, rather than creating a single page for each keyword phrase.
- Click-through rates: Write compelling titles and meta descriptions to capture a click-through.
- Contact info: Avoid using your contact info (phone number, email) in titles and meta descriptions: this can discourage a click-through, as the searcher already has the information that they need without ever visiting your site. If Google sees that searchers don’t click through to a given result, Google may serve it less frequently.
- Dwell time: Don’t neglect dwell time (i.e., the amount of time that a visitor spends on a given page). You can improve dwell time through long-form content, audio and video features, and user-friendly formatting.
What are Google’s top three local search ranking factors?
Google uses a relatively narrow set of categories to determine local rankings for law firms which consists of relevance, distance, and prominence.
#1 — Relevance
Google is looking for how well GMB listings match user search queries. There are many tactics attorneys can use to make sure their Google My Business listing is as relevant as possible.
- Accurate category: Choose the category most appropriate to your practice area. That is, don’t choose “attorney” for your primary category if there is a more specific option, like “personal injury attorney.”
- Thorough descriptions: If done carefully, you can incorporate keyword phrases in your law firm description and max out the character limit (750, including spaces) on the profile. Make sure the description is relevant to your law firm by following the guidelines in the Business Description Guidelines here.
- Liberal use of imagery/video: Add as many images as possible (and definitely more than competitors). In our experience, profiles with 50+ images tend to get a boost over profiles lacking images. In addition, add any videos you have of your firm to your GMB profile.
- Detailed service sections: Google provides sections in GMB profiles to describe your practice area. Use all 1,000 characters allowed, if possible, and remember to include your target keyword phrases.
- Comprehensive service areas: Include all areas that your offices serve. For example, if you serve cities surrounding where your home office is located, include those in your profile.
- Consistent information: Ensure that your name, address, and phone number information is consistent with other listings on the internet and what appears on your website. Fill in accurate operating hours, website and appointment URLs, and make sure all other fields have information in them.
#2 — Distance
Google uses proximity (the relationship between their location and that reported by a business’s IP address or other methods) to determine which local GMB directory results to show to searchers. Unlike organic search (where links are the #1 ranking factor), proximity is local search’s #1 factor.
Consider this: when you’re on vacation and you search for restaurants, what do you expect to see? Places nearby your resort, not establishments two states away. No matter how great the restaurant is, if it’s not in your immediate vicinity, it’s unlikely to appear in local Maps results.
#3 — Prominence
From the Cambridge Dictionary: prominence
noun — the state of being easily seen or well known:
One of the most challenging aspects of local search engine optimization is improving a firm’s overall prominence. This is because the competition dictates the amount of prominence needed to appear in the three-pack. That is, there are a number of factors that need to be considered:
- Links: Having more authoritative backlinks than the competition is, like we analogized earlier, akin to having more “votes” for your placement in the three-pack.
- Articles: Publishing articles on external sites typically incorporates a link of some kind, so it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
- Images: As we mentioned previously in organic search, having substantially more images than competitors has been shown to influence rankings in a positive manner. Unsurprisingly, the same is also true for local search.
- Directories: Similar to the Yellow Pages of the analog era, these are used to find a business, but they also help Google better understand how to categorize your business. They frequently include NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) citations and help dictate the specific coordinates (latitude and longitude) for your location.
- Reviews: Not only is the number of reviews important, but also the rating. By having a high rating, you have the opportunity to rank for superlative-based searches (e.g., “best car accident lawyer,” “top attorney,” etc.).
Chapter ROI by Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io
Ultimately, Google wants to provide the best result for consumers’ intent. This means that your content has a better opportunity to fulfill that intent if it’s well-organized and well-written. As a result, you should always keep your ideal customer in mind when writing content. By doing so, you give it the best chance to rank in search engines and be found by that prospective client.
This chapter covers keyword research for lawyers. We will explore:
- what keyword research is
- why keyword research is important
- how to find keywords from real search queries
- finding the right keyword research tool (both free and paid)
- how keyword intent shapes your selection process
What is keyword research?
Simply put, keyword research is the identification of those terms and queries that individuals are manually using in Google’s search engine.
What are people searching for?
For attorneys, keyword research works side-by-side with your efforts to provide awareness for your brand and give prospective clients an easy outlet to get in touch with you. Queries related to a particular legal situation (such as “what to do after a car accident”) or their specific purchase intent (“hire a car accident attorney”) are common and useful for personal injury law firms. Likewise, for a criminal defense attorney, examples of queries might be “should you take a field sobriety test” or “hire a DUI attorney.”
How many people are searching for it?
You can write the best content in the world, but if you aren’t targeting keywords properly (i.e., those with search volume), no one will see it…and that means no one will read it.
Why is keyword research important?
As mentioned above, keyword research (when done correctly) enables many other facets of search engine optimization. Investing in content creation can provide long-term benefits for your practice, both as a means of building awareness and conversions/case acquisitions…but again, that content creation won’t stand without the proper keyword research to serve as its foundation.
How do you do keyword research?
Keyword research is part art, part science. No matter how advanced tools are, they rarely can predict search volume impressions with precision. Surveying your clients can be a good starting point.
How to find keywords and keyword research tools
Manual competitor analysis
You’ve heard the saying “model the masters.” In this case, one of the best starting points is to create a mind-map based upon the top-ranking sites in your market. See what practice area pages and blogs they’re creating, then model them. This will give you a good pool of keywords to start with; then you can analyze those keywords in the future to see if they have search volume opportunity.
Avvo is a leading legal directory. Their site includes an active Q&A forum, where real consumers/prospective clients air their legal queries, with responses from attorneys nationwide. If you look for trends in consumer questions, you can start to build a bank of keywords that you know prospective clients are actually using.
Similar to Avvo, laywers.com has an “Ask a Lawyer” section, where users contribute questions and lawyers are free to offer their advice.
“People Also Ask”/”Searches Related To”
Once you’ve identified a pool of keywords (through mind-mapping, manual competitor analysis, etc.), you can analyze these using Google Search. Drag them into Search one at a time, then scroll down to find related terms and queries. In this way, you can further expand your pool of keyword with ancillary terms and phrases. For example, see search results below:
And here’s searches related to that term (from the bottom of the results page):
Google Trends is a free tool that you can use to identify what is timely and current in terms of consumer interests. It shows you if a specific keyword is trending upwards or downwards, as well as if it’s grown in demand over time.
While not as full-featured as some of the other tools on this list, it is always worth considering that Google has more raw data in their hands than anyone else. Their Keyword Planner is a perfectly reasonable place to start, as you’ll be looking at a very broad subsection of the internet through their analytics.
Answer the Public dives deeper into the zeitgeist through the use of interrogatives (who, what, when, where, why) and prepositions (for, of, with, etc.). The results that it generates by the keyword phrase are also visually interesting and can help prime the pump for weeks of content generation.
Sample Questions result:
Google Analytics is another free tool within the Google Suite. You can get some keyword data in Acquisition>Search Console>Queries (note that you will need to link Google Search Console with Google Analytics for data to appear in this report).
Neil Patel’s UberSuggest is one of the best free keyword research tools available. Not only does it provide information on the keyword itself (in regards to volume, competitive difficulty, etc.), it also generates ideas and suggestions for related keywords.
“Search Console tools and reports help you measure your site’s Search traffic and performance, fix issues, and make your site shine in Google Search results.” — Google
Google Search Console provides more transparent query data than the related Google Analytics Suite, which gives you a better idea of where to optimize or what to target in the future. To take advantage, go to Performance>Queries.
While I don’t frequently use SEMRush for keyword research, it is a leading keyword research tool. In fact, Robbie Richards asked 133 SEO experts about their preferred research tool and SEMRush was the most widely used.
I think 132 of them are wrong, of course, but that’s just my opinion.
Personally, this is my favorite keyword research tool. While Ahrefs is a paid tool, I think the power that it generates gives it an overwhelming advantage compared to most free tools. When you consider the fact that it’s not only a keyword research tool, but also one of the best tools for competitive analysis, the cost (which is moderate) is easy to justify.
I have no personal affiliation with Ahrefs and am receiving no consideration for expressing this viewpoint. I simply find it to be the best tool for keyword research. Here’s how we use it:
I typically enter 1–3 keywords (that are semantically related) at a time. For example, this is how I would research keywords around “car accident lawyer”:
First, I would enter into Keywords Explorer three keywords related to “car accident lawyer,” such as “car accident lawyer,” “auto accident attorney,” and “automobile accident lawyers.”. You can enter more than three keywords at a time, but be sure that they’re thematically similar; this helps you create a better focus for topic clusters and aids internal linking strategies.
Next, analyze your results by reviewing the keyword volume for those terms that you’re researching. You’ll want to look for keywords that have not only a lot of search volume (100+), but also low keyword difficulty scores. It’s hard to give a ballpark target for keyword difficulty (as this has to be contextualized against the competition), but as a general rule, it’s fairly easy to rank for anything below 30.
From this analysis, you’ll have identified if your desired terms are worth pursuing.
Lastly, you can use the “Questions” section of “Keyword Ideas” (located on the upper left-hand side of the screen) to help generate mid- and top of funnel-based blogs. Here’s a sample result for the query “car accident lawyer.”
The second tactic is to type in the keywords for which you’re striving to rank in your location, find the top-ranking competitor, and insert their URL into Site Explorer>Top Pages. For example, if I were in St. Louis and trying to rank for “car accident lawyer” in the city, I would take a look at the top-ranking site’s page report:
This will allow you to analyze the quality of the content on your competitors’ pages, as well as the top keywords for which they rank.
What is the best keyword research tool?
In our opinion (as you might have guessed), it’s Ahrefs.
One last factor to consider when doing keyword research is intent. While many queries may have search volume, they don’t necessarily translate to signed cases. For example, the first result in “Questions” for “car accident lawyer” is a prime example of a query that has volume, but has very little value to you as a lawyer.
I understand that you could make a case for this keyword, because you could use this as an opportunity to educate consumers on the value of hiring a lawyer vs. going it alone. It could also serve as a potential linkable article for your editorial outreach.
However, when you consider the amount of keywords available with direct and obvious purchase intent, queries like this should be at the bottom of most editorial calendars. They simply aren’t worth the effort for such a small return.
Personal Injury Lawyers: Stop writing about highway accidents! Your SEO hates it.
Another frequent violation of intent that I see personal injury lawyers make is blogging about current events, such as recent vehicle accidents. You need to consider the intent of an individual who searches for “two individuals killed on highway 99.”
It’s very unlikely that they are looking to hire a lawyer; in most situations, it’s simply someone looking for local news, rather than seeking an attorney or legal counsel.
This type of article also has other negative consequences: because the article isn’t evergreen, it provides little value for the future. In fact, it also depletes the overall authority of your link equity. To expound, think of your inbound link equity as if it were a pitcher of water (where the pitcher represents all of the backlinks pointing to your site) and the content of your website as a receptacle. If that receptacle is a baking sheet, and you pour the contents of the pitcher onto it, the water will spread broadly, but the depth will be shallow. If the receptacle is a mixing bowl, the water will spread, but much of the depth can be maintained.
To put it differently, the fewer pages you have, the more link equity flows through them. Increasing the number of pages simply dilutes that equity, thus making it harder to rank.
Don’t just take our word for it: Gary Illyes (Google’s webmaster trends analyst) stated in 2016 that an expansive site (one with numerous pages and deep directories) can actually be a negative for search engine optimization purposes if it’s not managed properly. He said:
“Narrow it down as much as you can. Don’t create low quality and no value add pages. It’s just not worth it because one thing is that we don’t necessarily want to index those pages. We think that it’s a waste of resources. The other thing is that you just won’t get quality traffic. If you don’t get quality traffic then why are you burning resources on it?”
What form of intent should you target?
Generally, you’ll want to do keyword research for practice area pages, which function at the bottom of the funnel for conversion/sales. These showcase your expertise and include calls-to-action. Examples of conversion keywords include:
- Houston car accident lawyer
- Houston motorcycle accident lawyer
- Houston truck accident lawyer
- Houston wrongful death lawyer
- Houston slip and fall lawyer
- Houston medical malpractice lawyer
- Houston personal injury lawyer
The second type of articles that you should create falls into the middle to top of the funnel. These answer legal questions and provide awareness for prospective clients. Examples of awareness keywords include:
- What to do after a car accident
- How to hire a car accident lawyer
- When to hire a car accident lawyer
- What happens when you are at fault in a car accident
tl;dr: Keyword Research Step-by-Step
Step 1: Mind-map a keyword pool.
Step 2: Use a keyword research tool *cough cough Ahrefs cough* to evaluate the opportunities.
Step 3: Write content 10x better than the top results.
Step 4: Profit.
Chapter ROI by Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io
Keyword research is the foundation of SEO. Attorneys need to target a library of terms and phrases that include purchase intent, location, primary practice area, branded, and informational-based queries. Ranking for phrases with decent search volume in these categories helps drive traffic and prospective clients to the site.
In this chapter, we will discuss content development for law firms. It covers:
- law firm content archetypes (practice area pages and blogs)
- legal content topic clusters
- why lawyers should prioritize long-form content
- how to E-A-T nutritious legal content
How Does Content for Lawyer Websites Work?
Virtually every page on an attorney’s site is designed to fulfill a specific purpose. Content is not just written for the sake of telling people about the firm or about the service, but rather, it should be crafted to drive people to perform specific actions (like getting the information they need for their legal situation) and ultimately hiring an attorney.
Law Firm Content Archetypes
Good content is built as much as it’s written. Content archetypes are used for constructing information in order to accomplish a specific goal (e.g., ranking well in search, converting a visitor to a client, achieving shareability, etc).
From Steve Pockross, CEO of Verblio (formerly BlogMutt)
“After creating content for dozens of law firms and having the opportunity to hear what works directly from our clients, my best advice is for attorneys to focus on a combination of…
- Helping average people understand specific areas of the law and…
- Local law-related news.
Including a local bias in your writing can be extremely helpful.
For example, if you’re a personal injury attorney in Denver, write about Denver pedestrian laws, and the impact ride-sharing services have had on drunk driving rates.
Google can also be a great resource to find content ideas — search for something related to your practice, scroll through the search results and look for “People also ask” and the list of related searches at the bottom of the page — each of these is a great idea for content.”
In the legal vertical, there are two basic content archetypes: practice area pages (which are effectively sales pages) and blogs (which are used to gain links and build top-of-mind awareness/social media engagement).
Practice Area Pages (Sales Archetype)
These are, effectively, the sales pages for a law firm; these bottom-of-the-funnel pages are where prospective clients are converting (i.e., hiring an attorney).
Your practice area pages should:
- Cover only one practice area at a time and be as specific as possible. For example, personal injury lawyers should have separate pages for car accidents (e.g., “Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer”), truck accidents (e.g., “Los Angeles Truck Accident Lawyer”), motorcycle accidents (e.g., “Los Angeles Motorcycle Accident Lawyer”), etc., rather than one personal injury page including all of those sub-topics.
- Use the word “attorney” or “lawyer” somewhere in the title tag of the page in most cases.
- Include in-depth, lengthy, and useful content, including video. The goal is always for your content to be of value (i.e., it matches the reader’s intent), which keeps them on the page.
- Deliver multiple calls to action, so it’s clear to the visitor where to go when they are ready to contact the attorney. These could be contact forms in the sidebar, chat windows, contact info in the header of the page, etc.
- Be geographically relevant, if applicable (i.e., if you serve multiple cities, you should have a car accident lawyer page for each one and make each page location-specific).
Strength of this archetype:
- Consumers visiting these pages are more likely to be in a buying/hiring mindset.
- These pages are ideal for targeting multiple locations. For example, if your firm has multiple offices, you can create a page for each city (e.g., Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer, Santa Anna Car Accident Lawyer, Riverside Car Accident Lawyer).
Weakness of this archetype:
- These kinds of pages do not lend themselves naturally to editorial outreach. That is, few websites of quality are looking to link back to a firm’s sales page.
Blogs (Link Attraction/Awareness Archetype)
Blog content has long been a staple of successful search engine optimization campaigns. For attorney SEO campaigns, blog posts serve as “top of the funnel” content. That is, the visitors that it attracts to your site are those who are in a discovery mode.
Here are some tips for running an effective law blog:
- Be strategic about generating content by writing posts from queries people are actually using in search (e.g., “what to do after a car accident,” “how much does a car accident lawyer cost,” etc.).
- Generate informative content that is helpful to readers and is the best source of information of its kind available on the internet.
- Generally, if a blog is being used for editorial outreach, you should avoid including a specific geography. Why? This limits your ability to cast your outreach net widely and reach a broad audience (i.e., “What to do after a Philadelphia car accident” only appeals to individuals living in the Philadelphia metro and is of little value to a site in, say, Chicago).
Strength of this archetype:
- Can be used for link attraction efforts
Weakness of this archetype:
- Consumers are not typically in the hiring mode when they arrive on these pages.
When looking for examples of topics, here are some good resources:
From Robbie Richards Marketing Director at Virayo
My agency works with a lot of lawyers across the US, and while there are countless different content promotions out there, I’m going to touch on a super simple 3-step approach we’ve had a lot of success with.
Caveat: I’ll preface by saying this is something we focus on after all the usual stuff — technical, GMB optimization, citations, service-based (bottom funnel) keyword research, etc. — has been taken care of.
- Question-based content strategy: Once all the “money” keywords have been mapped to important service pages, we’ll shift our focus towards building out content assets that fill the top and middle of the funnel. We start by doing question-based keyword research around the firm’s core service areas. There are a few simple tools we do this: a) Google autosuggest and related search b) AnswerThePublic c) Forums/ QA sites. These sources will surface a TON of content topic ideas based on the exact questions your target audience are searching for during the research phase. For example, if you’re a divorce lawyer, you’ll find that people are asking the following question online: ‘How do I know if I have a good divorce lawyer?’. Divorce can have a significant financial and emotional impact on someone’s life. So, people want to know they have someone who knows what they are doing. The firm could create a comprehensive checklist covering all the things people need to consider when hiring a divorce attorney. Once we have a content calendar filled with questions asked by our target audience, we’ll move onto the promotion phase. Now, there are a lot of ways to go about this — answering questions on forums and QA sites, posting to GMB, etc. But, we like to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible because there is a lot of work there for often little payoff.
- Promote informational assets with Facebook ads: Even though you’re paying to play, we’ve found the investment is worth it. Facebook is a great way to get immediate local visibility in front of a targeted local audience. For example, a divorce lawyer could promote the answer to an audience within their geographic location to anyone who has changed their relationship status recently to separated or divorced. You’re getting the content immediately in front of a very targeted audience. While there is no hard sell in this ad, you’re building awareness and credibility during a time when people are actively researching the right attorney to help them through a difficult point in their lives.
- Retarget and move down the funnel: By now you’ve created valuable resources and engaged your target audience. But, 96% or more of these people aren’t going to take action (schedule a consult) on the first touch point. So, we need to re-engage them. Our agency does this across both Facebook and Google (AdWords). We’ll typically retarget anyone who has consumed the content promoted in step #2 with one of the following:- Video: Features the principal attorney offering a free consult- Carousel: Featuring testimonials from happy clients saying how the firm helped them get through a tough time (with CTA to get a consult). This audience has received helpful content, engaged with the firm already, so these ads are used to move them down the funnel and schedule a free consult with an attorney. This is obviously a very simplified example of how a firm could promote content, but it is one of the quickest ways we have found to produce valuable content, amplify it to the right audience, and ultimately turn some of that traffic into leads and cases.”
Legal Content Topic Clusters
As Hubspot recently highlighted, content development in SEO is moving towards a new framework, what they call the “topic cluster model.” Essentially, one primary page acts as the lynchpin for the rest of your site’s related content: a single page is connected to multiple smaller, more specific pages, which feed authority back that singular primary “pillar page.”
In the legal vertical, practice area pages are ideal targets to act as pillar pages.
As webmasters continue to add thousands upon thousands of new pages to the web each hour, it’s essential that Google have a way to assess and categorize relevant topics. The pillar/cluster model assists in this from an architectural standpoint, treating all of those smaller pages as arrows pointing back to the pillar. Attorneys can benefit from using a similar methodology with their content.
Here’s an example of the pillar/cluster model for the topic “car accidents.”
Why You Should Write Long-Form Content for Attorney Websites
Google’s algorithm can measure many things, but it can’t track is the smile on a reader’s face. Consequently, there is no easy way to measure if a given piece of content is adequately answering a user’s intent. One element that Google does measure is the amount of time that a user remains on the site (known as dwell time).
One method of increasing dwell time is to naturally write longer content. Because it takes longer to read, your average dwell time is going to reliably increase. In that same capacity, it’s also why many individuals recommend video content.
The other benefit of long-form content is that you organically include related phrases and synonyms, which gives you the opportunity to rank for additional keywords.
Last, but not least, longer content is performing better in search. Brian Dean released a study in 2016 that showed the average first page search results was 1890 words (from a sample size of over one million queries). Every day, the index becomes larger, so it’s more important than ever to create high-quality, long-form content that answers consumer intent.
Your mom always told you to eat a healthy breakfast and start your day off right. Similarly, Google suggests that you focus content on qualities that they abbreviate as E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Put simply, Google wants content from credible sources and emphasizes those three elements as being fundamental to credible content.
Here are best practices to make your content E-A-T-worthy:
- always include an author byline on all pages
- ensure author bios highlight expertise and experience
- link out to other credible sources (e.g., legal journals, bar associations)
Essentially, Google is asking you to treat your on-site content the same way your teachers in high school and professors in college taught you to write research papers: say what you mean, but back it up with independent sources.
Ultimately, Google wants consumers to view them as a trustworthy source of information. To that end, they may serve content written by an attorney (who is inherently authoritative) rather than commentary from a blog (which may have been written by anyone) when fulfilling a user’s search query for legal information. It’s incumbent on you, when writing content, to show your bona fides, as it were, and demonstrate that authority.
Chapter ROI by Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io
Content for a law firm website should be produced strategically and methodically. Using the pillar/cluster model of content development can be a significant advantage over your competition.
This chapter covers on-site SEO for lawyers. In it, we will explore:
- how to create an optimal site structure for scaling your law firm
- how to optimize your title tags for maximum impact
- how to optimize your meta descriptions without pulling a fast one on Google
- how to speed up your site (so consumers don’t leave)
- how to properly utilize internal links to distribute link equity and improve dwell time
- what the heck is legal service schema and why should you care?
- how to optimize images and get more bang for your buck from top-performing content
How to Create an Optimal Site Structure for Your Law Firm
In previous chapters, we’ve talked about why it’s important to do keyword research and why it’s critical for you to have keyword-specific content on your website. However, before you go gangbusters on creating content for your website, you need to consider the overall structure of your website, as this has an impact on your ability to scale.
The first decision you have to make it which URL you want to utilize: flat or multiple sub-directory permalinks.
What is a flat URL structure?
A flat URL structure is one that does not use sub-directory folders. Here’s an example:
What is a multiple sub-directory structure?
Like it sounds, a multiple sub-directory structure uses a number of directory folders to organize website content. Here are some examples:
Which structure is better?
Most search engine optimization specialists will tell you to use a multiple sub-directory structure. This has some inherent problems:
- the permalink (similar to a title tag) has a character limit; if you want to emphasize a keyword, it’s important that it appears early in the URL structure
- In fact, Backlinko’s Brian Dean did a study (analyzing more than one million search results) and concluded that shorter URLs rank better, all things being equal.
- this structure can also place emphasis on keywords that don’t have a relevant search volume (see above: no one searches for practice areas or locations)
This is not to say that there aren’t websites that rank using a sub-directory structure; obviously there are. However, in our experience (even with particularly large sites), a flatter structure yields better results. Here’s why:
- the keyword is emphasized earlier, so there’s no confusion on Google’s part about which keyword in the URL should rank; it’s pretty clear, as it’s the only one used
Last caveat — while the pros outweigh the cons when using a flat architecture, there is one important con that should be addressed: with a flat architecture, all pages must utilize internal linking best practices.
The reason is that a sub-directory structure has a natural hierarchy that promotes good internal linking among a websites pages. To achieve the same result using a flat structure, breadcrumbs must be utilized (shown below).
Why is it important?
If you want to rank in highly competitive metros, it’s imperative that you utilize all available advantages. A flat architecture is easier to implement and provides more opportunity to rank in search.
It’s the first item in this chapter for a reason.
Optimizing Title Tags for Maximum Impact
Optimizing a title tag is well-known as one of the most impactful tactics for on-page SEO. This is the first method for informing Google about a given page’s topic. Here are some dos and don’ts:
- use fewer than 60 characters
- start with keyword upfront
- always include a city or state, when optimizing for local search
- go with “lawyer” over “attorney,” as it has more search volume, typically
- use a modifier, such as “near me,” “hire,” “free consult”
- target multiple geographies; instead, have a state- and city-specific page
- include a phone number
- target multiple practice areas (e.g., car and truck accidents on the same)
- add the firm name at the beginning
Here’s the foundational formula that we use for practice area pages:
City + practice area + lawyer
That is, “Chicago Car Accident Lawyer”
Depending upon the length of the practice area keyword, you can then add modifiers to improve click-through rates (such as “Chicago Car Accident Lawyer | Free Consult”) or for additional search volume opportunity (such as “Chicago Car Accident Lawyer Near Me”).
How to Optimize Your Meta Descriptions Without Pulling a Fast One on Google
The goal of writing a good meta description is to create compelling content (albeit in an abbreviated form). By doing so, you create the opportunity to capture searchers as they browse search results. The richer and more enticing the meta description, the greater the chance that a prospective client on Google’s search results will visit your page. There’s no ironclad blueprint for writing good meta descriptions, but all effective ones need to include your geography and primary keyword, couched in a compelling reason to click through the result. Here’s an example of a quality meta description:
(Note: the above example uses the word “best,” which is frowned upon by most state bar associations, but this is otherwise a superb meta description; always be careful when using superlatives in your advertising)
However, one common mistake that I see many lawyers make: placing your office phone number in the meta description. Here’s why that’s a misstep:
By placing your contact info in the meta description, you are providing a prospective client with the opportunity to not click through to your site, but still reach you. Google has no way of knowing the success or failure of that call, or even that such a call took place. Consequently, Google may be less likely to serve your results to searchers, as they interpret the lack of clicks as a lack of confidence.
How and Why You Should Speed Up Your Website…Without a Degree in Web Development
Let’s cut right to the chase: 53% of all mobile users leave a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. With search increasingly being driven by mobile use, that’s a percentage of your prospective client base that you simply cannot afford to ignore or underserve.
How to Check Your Website Speed
First, head to PageSpeed Insights and run a diagnostic scan. Here’s an example of how the results might look:
(Please note: not our client
Most of the time, the largest obstacle to a better website speed is the use of uncompressed, high-definition images. If you upload uncompressed images frequently, this tends to drag down the overall performance of your site. Remedy this by installing the Smush Image Compression and Optimization (formerly WPSmush.it) plugin.
This tool removes extraneous and hidden information from your images, reducing their file sizes (compressing them) and streamlining your load times. It also scans new images as you upload them, repeating the process of stripping away the unnecessary data.
How to Optimize Internal Links
What is an internal link?
It’s applying link anchor text to another page, found on the same website, with the intention of helping a consumer with navigation. For example, in future chapters, we’ll talk about effective link building techniques, such as utilizing legal directories.
Why does it matter?
Using links within the body of your content to bridge the gap between related articles is not only beneficial for the user experience, but it also helps to distribute link equity and improve important signals for Google. You can think of link equity (inbound backlinks) as being a measurable quantity, fluidly moving throughout the pages of your site. By using internal links, you can distribute the equity of those links to your most important pages. This has a side effect of allowing those pages a better opportunity for ranking.
Another significant benefit of internal linking is keeping a user engaged on your site for a longer period of time, thus lowering your bounce rates. In practical terms, if Google sees a consumer staying on one website longer than another, it may interpret this as the user having a better experience on the site where they stayed the longest.
Lastly, I want to point out that internal links also have a positive effect on conversion rates, as they direct a consumer towards the bottom of the funnel, to your conversion point (that is, the contact form).
What the Heck Is Legal Service Schema and Why Should You Care?
For attorneys, legal service schema is the most important structured data to add to a website. Adding legal services schema to your site explicitly tells Google that the content is related to a law firm.
Legal service schema markups can make your page more relevant to users searching for legal information, which typically results in an increase to your click-through rate. In this way, having schema markup gives you an additional opportunity to rank over those sites that do not.
One final bonus tip (before I share an example): you can insert “free consultation” into the priceRange field, rather than fees (as shown below).
Here’s an example of a fully optimized legal service schema.
How to Optimize Images and Get Maximum Value from Your Top-Performing Pages
The first step, of course, is to determine precisely which pages on your site are performing well. You can do this through Google Search Console or our preferred method, Ahrefs’s Top Pages. After you’ve identified a page to be optimized, drill down into performance to look for keywords that aren’t ranking #1 (see example below of our client, Dolman Law Group).
Next, modify existing image alt text to include these phrases or add images with them. Google crawls alt text to determine what is shown in an image. This is an easy way to add low-hanging fruit keywords onto the page without having to include them in the body of the content. Sometimes it’s difficult to include phrases because they don’t make sense, organically speaking, within the body text; alt text optimization allows you to sidestep this, in a way.
In this chapter, we’re going to explore local SEO for lawyers. You’ll learn:
- how to optimize your Google My Business profile 10x better than your competition
- how to get the best cases through review outreach
- how to disperse your address to thousands of sites
- how to submit to citations and directories for maximum impact
- how to nuke local spammers and stop them from stealing your business
Google My Business — Maximizing Rankings and Profits
It’s pretty clear that you need a Google My Business profile. It’s also obvious that you need one that’s optimized. I won’t spend time detailing step-by-step instructions on claiming your profile; others have already done a very nice job of that.
That said, there are a few common mistakes that I’d like to point out.
The largest mistake I see is in not claiming the proper primary category. If you’re a personal injury attorney, your category should be “personal injury attorney,” not “law firm.” Likewise, if you’re a criminal defense attorney, you should be claiming “criminal justice attorney.” Claiming the right category sets you up for success under the right umbrella.
Another mistake I see is placing minimal emphasis on image and video. Google is pretty smart, but sometimes they incorrectly interpret images. If you want your business to have the image of a trash can, go ahead and skip this step.
One of the main ranking factors for local is prominence. Adding more imagery than your competitors has a direct relationship with increased prominence. In fact, one reason we know this for certain is because Google specifically calls it out in Google My Business. In the image below, you can see how Google compares the amount of views your images have with those of “businesses like yours” (read: your local competition).
The above photo references a client of ours who ranks #1 for “Philadelphia car accident lawyer.” As you can see, their firm has nearly 10x the views as their competition. It would be natural to ask how many photos they have, so let’s take a look at that below:
We have a seen a direct correlation between the number of photos and local rankings, across the board for all of our clients. Most attorneys aren’t aware that Google can put you in touch with a Google Certified Photographer. Not only can they shoot a 360 tour of your office, but they can assist in maximizing the use of imagery on your Google My Business profile. If you’ve changed your hairstyle and considering deleting that outdated shot and replacing it with an updated one, keep in mind that it may be helping you rank in local search.
As a quick reminder, here’s what Google says about reviews:
Let’s be real: there’s no “probably” about it. Reviews absolutely help your rankings.
Reviews Aren’t Only Important for Restaurants
Some of the common complaints I hear are that attorneys don’t want tire-kickers and the best cases go to their competitors. A big reason for this is having fewer total reviews and a lower overall rating from them. Consumers are more educated, particularly when it comes to making a difficult decision for an important case. A low-level traffic ticket might not motivate them to do a lot of research, but a personal injury case (which everyone knows might be quite lucrative) will send them searching for the absolute best attorney.
If you were on vacation in an unfamiliar place, you might do a search for “best restaurants near me.” Unless you’re on a food challenge, you’re not likely to choose the three-star restaurant, much less the one-star. You’re looking for not only an establishment with a five-star rating, but one based on a considerable quantity of reviews: you want to go somewhere that you expect to give you the same experience and treatment. Consumers do the same thing when looking for legal representation.
Of the attorneys listed in the reviews below, the firms with a greater quantity of reviews look more attractive than the one firm with only a handful despite having a higher average rating.
The secondary (and massive) benefit that isn’t always discussed is that if you have a high rating (5.0, for example), you can rank in the map pack for superlative-related queries, such as “best” or “top.” If you have a low review rating, Google simply won’t consider you for those type of searches. Again, back to the restaurant analogy: a search for “best restaurants near me” is unlikely to give you places with one- and two-star ratings in the map pack.
To summarize, reviews not only affect conversions through social proof, but they also impact your ranking position for some queries.
Why You Should Reply to All Reviews
A common misconception is that you need only reply to negative reviews. It’s understandable: you want to defend yourself and your practice, especially in public. However, there is absolutely value in replying to all reviews, positive, negative, and in-between. There are three main benefits to this:
- Think of reviews as content. We’ve all read the studies that longer form content tends to rank better. Likewise, when your local directories receive a review, it strengthens their position in search engines. Every review is an opportunity to create additional content for the page and make your overall web presence more robust.
- Responding to reviews makes you look like a human being. It’s difficult to convey empathy or establish a rapport digitally. However, saying please and thank youworks just as well online as off and it goes a long way towards the customer experience. If someone had a great experience, they may be more likely to recommend you to others in the future.
- By responding to Google My Business reviews, you initiate a notification to the user who left the review. This further keeps you top-of-mind and it’s important to take advantage of every simple brand advancement strategy that you can.
What Are the Best Review Sites for Attorneys?
We’ve said it before, but prominence means being everywhere. It not only helps with your rankings, but also the overall perception of quality for your firm. It’s a psychological trigger.
Here are some of the most beneficial sites on which to get reviews:
- Google My Business
- It can be difficult to get GMB reviews, because it requires a Google account. However, it’s the highest weighted site in regards to your local search engine optimization, so I always emphasize to attorneys to try and get a review here before the others. One caveat: even if you have a client who is an evangelist for your firm, make sure that they only leave a review for the location at which they had a client experience. If that individual leaves a review in multiple locations, all reviews could be filtered or trigger a manual review.
- Facebook has the lightest TOS. They don’t mention anything about conflicts of interest, peer endorsements, etc. It’s also a very authoritative site and there’s a high likelihood of your consumer having a Facebook profile. They may not have a Gmail account, but they almost certainly have an account with Facebook, so that would always be my second recommendation.
- Yelp is a beast as a review site. However, it has explicit policies against review solicitation, so here’s your warning: if you get caught, there’s a chance to be banned from Yelp or penalized (and show up at the bottom). Trust me on this, I know of a few firms who’ve had this happen to them. That said, Yelp reviews are incredibly important, so I wouldn’t send a direct link, but I would send a link to Yelp and allow them to navigate to your profile; this has a lower chance of being filtered. Yelp aggregates reviews to multiple sites, so it has a lot of impact and shouldn’t be ignored.
- Better Business Bureau (BBB.org)
- The BBB is a great place for somewhat-anonymous reviews (first name, initial of last name). If you’re a criminal defense or bankruptcy attorney experiencing the added challenge of acquiring reviews, this can be a great resource for you. BBB is also referenced several times in Google’s content quality guidelines, so it’s reasonable to assume that Google views them as a trusted authority.
- Avvo is important because it typically ranks well for your personal branded searches. You also have the option of making and receiving peer endorsements. If you’re struggling to obtain a 10.0 rating, even after thoroughly filling out and optimizing your profile, I highly recommend leaving peer endorsements to encourage reciprocity.
- Yellow Pages
- Yellow Pages tends to rank well and the review rating shows up in search. It has a ton of indexed pages and high traffic count. It’s a site on which I would try to get at least one 5-star rating review. With one 5-star review, the star rating will display in search results.
Another important tactic is to Google your firm’s name, see which review sites appear on the first page of results, and try to receive 5-star ratings on as many of them as possible. Put yourself in the position of your prospective client: they’re going to look at the results on the first page and are likely to ignore any second-page (or later) results.
Local data aggregators are a method of dispersing your business information (name, address, phone number, images, etc.) to thousands of sites. There are four main data aggregators (Neustar Localeze, Factual, Acxiom, and Infogroup). In order to submit to them, you have a few options: Moz Local, BrightLocal, and Yext (although this last recommendation is conditional, subject to your agreement).
The key thing here is you need to submit to data aggregators. Because they disperse your information to so many sites, it’s important to the extra effort and time to thoroughly optimize your profile (tons of images, usage of video, accurate descriptions, operating hours, proper categories, etc.). Of the three, Yext has some inherent advantages, if you are utilizing their API effectively. From a cost standpoint, BrightLocal is the best.
There’s no question that this is all needed. The thing to ask yourself is if you have the time to perform a similar strategy manually or if you’d rather cut out the middleman and use one of the tools listed above for less than $100. Your mileage may vary, but I value my time too much not to use an aggregator, particularly when the cost is so low.
From Steven Kang, Founder of SEO Signals Lab
“In a super-competitive market, everything adds up as everyone is playing with a high budget to compete.
The name of the game is maximizing the signals while being holistic.
For the clients I’ve helped, I tap into every known local and geo-relevance signal first such as reviews, maps embed, citations, driving directions, links to GMB listings, etc.
What seals the deal for me is links from high traffic sites with site authority to give that push once relevancy signal requirement has been met.”
What is a citation?
It’s an online reference to your firm’s NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). Similar to a backlink, they’re a ranking factor that Google considers when determining the authority of your site. The key difference is that a citation (unlike a backlink) does not need to be directly linked to your site for you to receive a benefit from it.
Top Citation Sites
Here is a top 10 list for local citations in the U.S. BrightLocal provides a nice listing that can be found here.
Here is a list of the top local citations, as sorted by city. These will, of course, differ from location to location, so be sure to check your specific geography.
Lastly, here’s a top 10 list for legal. If you’d like to see a full listing, it can be found here.
- Justia (see our complete review of Justia here).
- Law Guru
- Best Lawyers
How to Make the Maximum Impact
The same advice applies here as did above: make sure that your profile is optimized, complete, and accurate. You should also ensure that all attorneys at your firm have completed and optimized personal profiles. In some cases, your directory placement is determined by how well your profile is optimized; this is particularly important for legal directories, as they may be a source of leads.
Don’t Let Google My Business Spammers Take What Should Be Yours
Most individuals try to do the right thing and play by the rules when it comes to their Google My Business profile: they optimize their profile and abide by Google’s explicit terms of service (TOS). The problem with this approach is that it leaves them defenseless on a very important flank: they are not addressing the spammers who claim “real estate” (virtual though it may be) that should rightfully belong to the firm itself.
Here’s How to Fight Google My Business Spam
- Monitor your primary keyword phrases in the local three-pack. This includes keeping an eye on your competitors’ rankings.
- Identify and take action on those violating Google’s TOS (such as fake reviews/listings/photos, keyword stuffing, or using virtual offices without attorneys on-staff).
- Submit a complaint directly to Google here.
- Report frequent violators here.
Here’s what local SEO expert Joy Hawkins has to say on the matter:
From Joy Hawkins, Sterling Sky
“One of the most effective tactics an attorney can do to gain higher rankings in the local results is to actively keep track of competitors and report listings that violate the Google My Business guidelines.
I’ve seen many cases where doing so resulted in an almost-instant ranking increase for the business that was following guidelines.
Here are the most common types of violations I see with attorneys:
- Keyword stuffing: In 2016, Local SEO Guide published a study that looked at over 100 factors for 30,000 businesses to understand which factors appear to influence ranking in the 3-pack. They found that having the keyword in the business name causes you to rank about 1.5 spots higher. Thus, it’s widely abused by those who want a ranking advantage. Getting the keywords removed from your competitors’ listing names will help them not have a ranking advantage that you don’t have.
- Fake listings: Listings that use a mailbox or virtual office address are not allowed per the Google My Business guidelines. Listings using another firm’s office address is another tactic I see used a lot. Often showing a photo or video of the location is enough to prove to Google that there aren’t multiple firms at the one address. Multiple listings for the same business. For example, an attorney might have one listing for Bob & Bob Motorcycle Accident Lawyers and another for Bob & Bob Car Accident Lawyers. Multiple listings for the same firm are not allowed.
- Fake Reviews: Google reviews have an impact on ranking, so this is another tactic I see abuse. The most common types of ineligible reviews I see with attorneys is review swapping (attorneys reviewing each other) and having their clients review all their locations. Both are not allowed and will be removed by Google if caught.
If one of your competitors is using these tactics and ranking well as a result, you can report them on the Google My Business forum or by reaching out to Google on Twitter or Facebook.”
Chapter ROI by Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io
Attorneys need to place a lot of emphasis on local search engine optimization because they often serve local markets. Consistent information across the internet, a strong GMB profile, ample reviews, and local links are all areas that need to be fortified in order to rank well in local search.
Links are perhaps one of the most important factors in ranking web pages. They are at the very foundation of Google’s algorithm and are the key method of navigation from website to website all over the globe.
In SEO, there are numerous different ways to acquire links. Some strategies do not involve a lot of effort, whereas others require significant amounts of time, effort, and ingenuity (although they offer big rewards).
This post is a compilation of sixteen proven attorney link building strategies, along with best practices and implementation tips for each one.
What is link-building?
At the most basic level, link-building is the practice of obtaining links from external websites that lead to a target website. A link (or hyperlink) is typically text wrapped in an HTML anchor tag with an “href” attribute.
Links can also be images, or entire block-level HTML elements.
Lawyers can place links manually on other sites they own, on social accounts, directories, forums, and other sites that allow for direct access to place links.
More sophisticated link-building involves generating content that compels other site owners to link to. It may also involve clever strategies for creating scenarios where other site owners must place a link to an attorney website.
Link Building Tools
It also helps to know which tools are helpful for link building campaigns. If you’re at a loss as to where you should start, check out this post on the best link building tools by Wendy Dressler of Outreach Mama.
It gives a pretty good snapshot of all the link building tools worth knowing about on the internet.
#1: Guest Posting
What is Guest Posting?
Guest posting is a strategy where attorneys can publish content on another person’s website and obtain a link in the process. It may involve reaching out to and/or collaborating with other attorneys, other business owners, or industry associations and groups to land guest-posting opportunities.
Guest Posting Best Practices
Guest posting has been in the spotlight as being negative for link-building. Lawyers need to be careful not to overuse the strategy. Follow these best practices for a good experience with guest posting:
- Only publish content on reputable websites.
- Look for opportunities with people you already know.
- Do not use the same uncommon anchor text phrase too much (site owners do not naturally use target keyword phrases that a lawyer is trying to rank for, and they definitely do not do it over and over again).
- Try to get links placed in the body of a published post as opposed to the footer, blog roll, or byline.
Contrary to what you might think, the first step in guest posting is finding an audience for your content; that is, identifying a website accepting new content/guest submissions whose audience mirrors your own. Start with your own sphere of influence — for example, associates, other firms you might refer cases to or get cases from, other business owners, etc.
You can use simple Boolean queries to aid in your search (note: “lawyer,” “legal,” “attorney,” or another appropriate related keyword can substitute for “law firm” in the examples below):
law firm ”write for us”
law firm ”write for me”
law firm ”contribute to”
law firm ”submit” + inurl:blog
law firm “submit a guest post”
law firm “/guest-post/”
law firm “guest post”
law firm “guest post by”
law firm “accepting guest posts”
law firm “guest post guidelines”
law firm “guest author”
law firm “guest article”
law firm “guest column”
law firm “become a contributor”
The best way to do outreach is to email your contacts and offer to collaborate on content. In any form of collaboration, there needs to be a mutual exchange of benefits. Obviously, no one knows your network of contacts like you, so this will require some judgement on your part. Just bear in mind that cash is not the benefit I’m recommending, but it can be something like collaborative content.
Remember to choose the sites you guest blog on wisely. Check out their backlink profiles, DR (Domain Rating), DA (Domain Authority), indexed pages, organic traffic, etc. If possible, publishing content with the same topical relevancy (i.e., other law firm sites) is ideal. However, if you can naturally link to an internal resource (such as car accident statistics on a car safety blog), that approach will also work.
Here’s a simple framework to follow when producing your content, whether you are having someone produce it for you or doing it on your own:
- Consider your audience: Lawyers should remember that any content produced should answer some consumer intent. After all, most searchers will arrive at your content with some question in mind (even if it’s hypothetical), so the content needs to address that query in some way to be of use to them.
- Content should be in-depth: Do not just submit guest posts that are low quality. Google now considers metrics (such as traffic from the originating source), so if content is of low quality, the authority of the link may be minimal. Look at similar pieces of content on the web and enhance yours with many more resources, angles, arguments, and other elements that make it truly useful to your audience.
#2: Lawyer-specific Directories
What are law firm directories?
Directories are basically listings of websites, similar to the Yellow Pages of days past. There are numerous lawyer-specific directories on the web; they vary, from subscription-based, free, or even one-time-fee based services.
In terms of links, some legal directories are extremely authoritative. They often have areas for firms to submit names, phone numbers, practice areas, links to social profiles and, of course, links to websites. Lawyer-specific directories are topically relevant links for attorney websites.
Lawyer directories are one of those linking opportunities that are relatively easy to obtain but also easy to get into trouble with. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Look for directories that have a high DR and/or DA (Domain Rating from Ahrefs and/or Domain Authority from Moz)
- Find directories that are actively being curated. If you see missing images or broken links, beware.
- Decide if a directory is reputable before listing your website. If it looks low-quality or suspicious, it’s probably not a good idea to list your site there.
The type of directory determines the process for submission; however, every directory is different.
Paid Directories: Typically, there is a review process for websites. Lawyers have to fill out a form, submit a payment and then their site will be published after a brief review process by the directory owners. Sometimes, however, all lawyers need to do is fill out a form, submit their payment — and that’s it.
Free Directories: The standard for inclusion in a free directory is generally a bit more lax. Lawyers merely need to fill out basic information, add their website, and submit. There may also be an approval process.
#3: Scholarship Programs
Editor’s Note: John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, has stated that this tactic has been abused and Google is devaluing links on financial aid pages. See John’s comments here. That said, I want to bring your attention to the word “devaluing,” as this doesn’t mean “without value.” Think of video games: if you have a weapon in a competitive game that’s overpowered, the developer may “nerf” it…but that doesn’t necessarily make it useless, just less useful than it once was.
@JohnMu sir student edu pages like this -> http://strategicplanning.dartmouth.edu/working-groups/students-of-the-future/students-q6-innovations … passing PR and providing back-links to lots of spammy sites. pls have a look, comment section.
Because of the misconception that .edu links are more valuable, these sites get link-spammed quite a bit, and because of that, we ignore a ton of the links on those sites. Ideally, they should just nofollow all of those links instead of us having to ignore them.
What are they?
This link building strategy involves creating a scholarship, then contacting university financial aid departments to have the scholarship listed on their site. In return, you receive a source of .edu links (still authoritative, even if they are somewhat devalued), as well as the positive PR from philanthropic work.
As mentioned above, digital marketers have really abused this tactic and these financial aid pages now contain thousands of scholarships, where they once held dozens (at most) only a few years ago. This, in turn, dilutes the value of the authority from the page.
Here are some tips to use as a guide for starting a scholarship program for link-building:
- Create criteria for application to the scholarship.
- Build a page on your website to promote the scholarship.
- Generate a large list of schools you can contact for outreach.
- Customized outreach converts better than a generic broadcast.
This one will require a relatively minimal financial investment, as well an investment of time for outreach to colleges and local communities.
Step 1: Create a Scholarship
Come up with a scholarship that has a name, an award amount, rules or criteria for applying, and a submission and review process, as well as a page on your website explaining all of this. Creating a scholarship that speaks to a hot-button social issue is a great way to gain more traction.
Step 2: Create a Page
This is the page you will ask schools to link to. It should contain all the information about your scholarship, including what it is, how students can apply, deadlines, application materials, etc. This page should live on your attorney website and be linked to all other pages on the site.
Step 3: Curate a List of Schools
Attorneys can use search operators to find lists of schools in search engine results pages. Simply type in site:.edu “Keyword” + “resources” or site:.edu “Keyword” + “scholarships”. This will produce a list filled with .edu domains that have scholarship pages or resources pages (which typically contain links to financial resources for students).
Use a tool like SEO Quake or another tool to export search results from the SERPs. Once you have all those sites in a spreadsheet, it’s much easier to manage them and add contact information.
Step 4: Getting Contact Information
In the next step you’ll be doing outreach, contacting these institutions to tell them about your scholarship. It will be at the discretion of these universities to decide if they will post your scholarship on their financial aid site.
The key component is not to ask for the link, but rather to provide value to the university and their students. By offering tuition assistance to students, the link should follow organically. Again, this is an exchange of mutual benefits.
Step 5: Outreach
The final step is actually sending emails to schools to telling them about your scholarship, where to find it, and how students can apply.
Portions of your email can be templated, but you’ll have better success with a personal touch. Be sure to thoroughly explain the scholarship and provide a link to the scholarship landing page.
One common misconception is the idea that .edu links inherently carry more authority than .com, .net, etc. The reason .edu links are typically more powerful is that many universities, through marketing and prominence, have authority generated by the number of links pointing back to them. Smaller universities (i.e., those who do not market themselves heavily) are not necessarily all that authoritative.
#4: Link-Building on Reddit
What is it?
Reddit is a very active social forum with all sorts of different topics (including law-related ones). Link-building on Reddit involves building a profile as a trusted account and consistently placing links to your website’s resources (where applicable). Lawyers can either submit links or text posts (with hyperlinked text in them) on Reddit, but there is a specific strategy that should be followed.
The one thing you should avoid is just showing up and posting links. Even if those posts are helpful, lawyers need to first become a helpful member of the community. To do that:
- Interact with other members without posting links first.
- Find and respond to legal questions at least a few times per day on Reddit.
- Participate in other discussions that may not relate to legal-specific posts.
- Comment on other member’s posts at least a few times per day.
- For every handful of posts you respond to, you can then post a link to your own website.
- Be careful, as the community is very sensitive to spammers and you can find yourself banned quickly for posting too many self-promotional links.
I’ve mentioned this previously, but again, consider the mutual exchange of value. By helping consumers (in this case, Reddit users) solve problems, you can strategically incorporate links back to your website’s resources in a natural way. This lends itself to a more evergreen (permanent) type of link vs. jamming in links that will eventually be filtered and removed through moderation.
The first step is to create an account on Reddit. Once you do that, fill out your profile on the site by creating a user name and setting your preferences.
For the most part, lawyers can just begin reading and posting. As time goes on, you may develop preferences as to how you like content to appear or how you want to configure notifications, for example. Other than that, the main thing to keep in mind is to not be a salesman on the platform.
What are They?
An infographic is a graphical representation — such as a chart or a diagram — of data. They are essentially big images that combine otherwise data points (that may be dry to read in text form) into a visually appealing and interesting piece of art. Infographics inform people about a topic, but do it in a way that makes it entertaining and easy to digest.
Some infographics are interactive, while others are just static images. They can be posted to pages, blog posts, or social-media sites.
Here are some tips:
- Find data that is appealing to your audience. For example, here’s an infographic on car accident statistics.
- The data used in the infographic should be interesting or helpful.
- Use a designer to help you or one of the many tools available to generate infographics.
- Keep your topic simple and focused.
- Use as many visual representations of data as you can.
- Promote your infographic aggressively in social and on your website and/or other’s websites.
- Make it a reasonable length (do not make a huge image 10,000 pixels long).
- Add adequate spacing so that the information is easy to digest.
- Craft a catchy headline for the top of the infographic to grab the reader’s attention.
- Ensure your data is accurate and up to date.
- Cite your sources at the bottom of the infographic.
The first stage is gathering data and creating your infographic. Lawyers have access to lots of data in a variety of different places. Here are some sites where you can mine information for your infographic:
- American Bar Association
- Governmental agencies, such as the Department of Transportation
- Northwestern Law Legal Research Center
Lawyers may also have access to their law schools’ research library and/or databases. These are treasure troves of data that can be used for infographics.
We mentioned some infographic creation tools earlier and those are great for creating an infographic yourself. For lawyers doing it on their own, it’s best to use one of those services unless you have a knack for design.
The best route is to have a designer do the work for you. It will save time and come out looking much more professional.
Once you have your infographic, it’s time to promote it. The first place attorneys should place it is on their website or blog. After that, it’s just a matter of sharing the link for the infographic.
Encourage people to share the infographic and try to get it placed on other websites. If you have the image on a page of your own site, you can place embed code so that people can easily paste it into their own websites.
#6: Link-Building with HARO
What is it?
HARO is an acronym for Help A Reporter Out and is a free service in the North American market. It helps reporters get content and leads for stories and also helps users get publicity. HARO is owned by Cision and content sourced by the service is used by the AP, American Express, Gannet, Fox News, and other major news outlets.
Lawyers can use HARO for building both links and authority online. News stories submitted through HARO get distributed all over the web, helping attorneys get exposure for their firm or private practice. They can also include links in content that takes readers to their site.
The key to HARO is submitting references from a unique perspective. At the end of the day, HARO is trying to create content that engages the audience, so offering dry quotes gives you a very small chance of getting quotes. Being interesting and offering a fresh point-of-view is the best way to stand out in the crowd and have your quote used.
You can sign up for HARO here.
#7: Testimonial/Review Link Building
What is it?
Remember that exchange of value that we’ve mentioned several times? Businesses need social proof to aid in their conversion efforts and one strategy for acquiring links is to write reviews or testimonials for products and services that you actually use. Oftentimes, the company will link back to the attributing source. Not all websites allow this, but many have a field where a reviewer can leave a URL as a reference for their testimonial. An ancillary benefit of this tactic is that even if they don’t allow a link, the good will engendered may make them receptive to future collaboration.
Virtually any service a firm uses can potentially be a target for this strategy. For example, office supply, staffing, and cleaning companies (or any other services a firm uses) usually love getting reviews.
- Reach out to any service company or affiliate the firm uses and see if a review can be left on their site.
- Use a link to your home page. Links to other pages may look questionable to site owners, so they may not want to post your review.
- Consider the unique selling proposition or value that you received from the service (not just how great they are) and incorporate that into your review/testimonial.
Link Building for Small Businesses: 7 Tactics That Really Work
What is it?
A blog is an online publication (typically conversational or informal), focused on a specific set of topics. Blog topics may range from the general (sports) to the very specific (just curling). You are reading a blog right now.
For lawyers, blogs are positioned to attract inbound links, build a brand, and support social engagement/community-building. Attorney blog content is frequently supportive of the top of the funnel (e.g., “Steps to Take After a Car Accident,” “Car Accident Safety Tips,” etc.).
Blogging for your firm should be tailored to your audience as well as the firm’s business objectives. Here are some high-level best practices that should apply to most blogs:
- Content should be posted consistently, in terms of both scheduling and quantity.
- Write about information that is helpful to your target audience.
- Blog posts should be long enough to support your topic and to cover it with sufficient depth.
- Posts should link out to external resources when necessary to validate information.
- Posts should link internally to other posts or pages on the site where necessary for maintaining reader engagement or helpful for answering user intent.
- Blog posts should be easy to read and scan. Formatting (headings, short paragraphs, and images) should be used to break up the content and make it more digestible.
So, how should attorneys be blogging? Brian Dean (of Backlinko) says:
From Brian Dean of Backlinko
“Your best bet is to create content in a Shoulder Niche.
Most attorneys that I’ve worked with create content strictly about what their law firm does.
And it leads to boring content that no one would ever actually read (like: “5 Tips for Finding the Right DUI Lawyer”).
Instead, you want to find content in a related niche that people would want to share and link to. In other words, “Shoulder Niches”
For example, let’s say you run a law firm that specialized in DUI cases.
Related shoulder niche topics include:
-A compilation of drunk driving statistics
-Data on DUI cases by state
-A guide that includes DUI laws in different states
When you create content that provides value (and promote it), you can find yourself with high-quality backlinks, which help ALL the pages on your site rank.”
Regarding implementation, Harsh Agrawal has a great comprehensive resource on starting a blog that you can read here.
#9: Local & Citation Directories
What are they?
Local/citation directories are websites designed to provide website and other related contact information for local businesses to a local customer base. These directories are not specific to law practices. Even though a directory may have a national presence (such as Yelp or Yellowpages.com), they deliver localized results for users.
Local directories serve an important function on the web. They are often some of the first websites people see when searching for local service providers like attorneys. They often have elements like reviews, navigation, descriptions and contact information that make locating local businesses easier. In fact, Google specifically calls out directoriesas a means of improving your local rankings.
- Join as many high-quality location-based directories as you can find.
- Fill out profiles completely with contact info, biography, images, keywords, video, etc.
- The key here is to make your profile strong (so that it has the ability to rank); this, in turn, improves the authority of the page and the quality of the link.
Go after the well-known local directories first. They include:
- Apple Maps
- Google My Business
- Bing Places
- Facebook Business
- Merchant Circle
- Better Business Bureau
#10: Legal Article Contribution
What is it?
Legal article contribution is the strategy of creating content to answer specific queries of consumers, providing a resource for learning about specific legal issues. Many popular legal directories offer this service. However, only a few (e.g., lawyer.com, lawguru.com, personalinjury.com) allow you to include a dofollow link back to your website. Again, beware: some sites (like Avvo, Nolo, HG.org, and others) allow you to contribute legal content, but do not provide a dofollow link back to your site.
One strategy that I highly recommend is linking to the most topically relevant article on your site. For example, if you’re contributing content on legal implications of car accidents, link to a car accident landing page. I regularly see attorneys link back to their home page; this is a mistake, as linking to a relevant page is more helpful to the consumer.
- Perform a “submit legal articles” (and other similar variations) search to identify outlets that accept contributions.
- Once you identify a candidate that accepts legal content, evaluate previous submissions to see if they allow backlinks to be included.
We’ve referenced this article previously, but our Legal Directories post contains many sites that will accept legal content contributions.
#11: Sponsorship Opportunities
What are they?
Law firms and attorneys can sponsor organizations, events, sports teams, charities, and/or foundations. These entities often have websites where links can be placed. This is an example of an existing relationship that can be leveraged for SEO purposes.
Here’s an example of an extremely authoritative sponsorship opportunity. It’s not for the faint of heart (at $10000/year), but the link itself is a powerful DR 94.
Here are some tips when looking at sponsorship opportunities for linking:
- Look at your existing relationships first.
- Make your linking strategy with sponsorships part of a broader branding campaign.
- One word of caution: this link building practice can be seen as toeing the line between white and black hat SEO. A donation is typically to support a cause, so I don’t see this as an exchange of goods, but you could make an argument that this qualifies as a link scheme (which Google prohibits).
#12: Crowdsourcing & Legal Roundups
What is crowdsourcing?
Crowdsourcing involves using the internet to generate buzz and solicit support from a large number of people. Fundraising platforms (like GoFundMe) are a good example of crowdsourcing, but it can also include sites that have nothing to do with raising money.
A personal favorite of ours is bountify.co. All questions are indexed and promoted to receive crowdsourced replies; any URL included in the body of the question is a dofollow backlink. If you’re bottlenecked with a web development issue, you can get assistance with the problem, as well as a nice backlink for your trouble.
Lawyers can leverage crowdsourcing websites to get links in a couple of innovative ways: they can insert links on crowdsourcing sites that call on a community to answer questions or use crowdsourced content to get links. An example of this would be a legal roundup.
What is a legal roundup?
A legal roundup is a post that gathers input from professionals in a given field on a single topic. They are meant to provide varying viewpoints on a popular question that a consumer might have.
For lawyers, content roundups can help portray their firm as an authority in its space. Legal content roundups can be about virtually any topic, from when you should hire a DUI attorney to how assets are split during a divorce.
Case Study: The Dolman Law Group Content Roundup
The Dolman Law Group is a personal injury firm in Clearwater, Florida. Ranking for car accident-related terms has proven extremely competitive for law firms like theirs, so it can take a creative approach to SEO in order to get them ranking on the first page of Google.
So how do we do it?
We reached out to numerous attorneys asking them to participate in the roundup and answer this question:
“When do I need to hire a car accident lawyer?”
Here’s a sample of a similar email that we used to reach out to these attorneys (thanks to Shane Barker for the modified content).
After compiling and formatting those answers, we assembled them into a blog post, then promoted it in collaboration with Dolman Law Group.
Legal roundups are a great link building tactic, because they promote trust with website visitors, create useful content that visitors actually want to read, and encourage links from contributors and other site owners.
One hypothesis that I have in regards to why this post performed so well is that Google is actively seeking experts on a topic. What better source could you find than having 16 qualified experts weigh in on a given topic?
Here are some additional tips from Josh Fechter on how to gather participants for a legal roundup:
From Josh Fechter, of BAMF Media
“A law firm should focus on collecting relevant emails of potential prospects using LinkedIn. Rather than scraping, they should connect with their prospects, then export their emails from their LinkedIn settings. They can then use these emails for remarketing purposes across Facebook, Quora, and Instagram to help generate brand awareness.”
#13 — Publishing Books
Does book publishing garner links?
Writing a book opens up linking opportunities on sites where you can submit your book as well as third party news recognition.
Obviously, writing a book simply to acquire some links is a poor use of your time. However, if it’s something you’re already doing or have done, you can leverage that content for links.
Case Study: The Hackard Law Firm
Michael Hackard of The Hackard Law Firm is an experienced elder law attorney. He wrote a book on the subject and featured it online and on Amazon.com.
Submitting to Amazon
Amazon.com is a great place to get links after submitting your book. As a part of this process, you can create an author profile.
Authors can submit Author Updates on the platform; these are direct links to their website, including blogs, practice pages, and other content.
These are high-quality, do-follow links from an extremely authoritative domain.
As a side effect, attorneys can also get natural links from media sites based upon the value that they provide to consumers. If your book addresses or solves a problem (particularly one of timely importance), then links from media sources should naturally follow. Check out the link earned below for Hackard’s site on Foxbusiness.com.
More than any other tip, I can’t stress enough how valuable a PR specialist will be in garnering media attention when you begin outreach for your book.
You also should have a landing page that discusses your book. This will allow media sources (such as those who interview you or promote your book as part of your PR outreach) a place to link, rather than simply sending consumers directly to Amazon’s listing. The key here is you want the media to link to you, not Amazon.
#14 — Podcasts
What is podcast link building?
Producing a podcast is a great marketing strategy for lawyers. In addition to that exposure, you can earn a link for your site. There are two primary methods of acquiring links from podcasts: 1) from podcast hosting companies/profile pages and 2) from podcast blog transcriptions.
Podcast Hosting Companies/Profile Pages
There are many podcast hosting companies on the internet. When you create an account, you’re typically allowed to make an author profile page, which you can link to your website. It’s not as easy any more to get links on notable sites like Apple or Stitcher but there are still opportunities out there.
Below is Lawyerist’s podcast syndicated on another site which includes a link:
Podcast Blog Transcriptions
Many podcast owners actively promote their blog by transcribing interviews into content for their site. Frequently, they’ll include reference links back to the interviewee. Here’s an example of a popular podcast utilizing this tactic:
#15 — Ultimate Guides
What is an ultimate guide?
As you might expect, an ultimate guide is a piece of content that is all-encompassing on a subject. They’re typically over 10000 words and cover the subject matter in a very thorough manner.
Ultimate guides are great for link building because of their versatility in a marketing space. In other words, they can be used in a variety of different scenarios and re-purposed over and over to promote a law firm.
They are also excellent for ranking web pages for highly competitive keyword phrases: these phrases often need something that sets them apart from the other pages ranking for those terms. One of the main benefits of an ultimate guide is that it naturally includes related phrases and synonyms (for which you can rank). This creates a natural incentive for sites to link to you (because of the added organic reach). Simply put, more people will see the post and have the opportunity to link to it.
Many times, these are repurposed into ebooks and downloadable guides. In those situations, you can submit ebooks and PDFs to their respective directory type.
“Here’s how it works in a nutshell:
- Find a relevant piece of content with lots of backlinks;
- Create something way better;
- Ask those linking to the original piece to link to your superior content instead.”
An attorney’s ultimate guide should:
- Be at least 10000 words.
- Incorporate related words and phrases into the subject matter.
- Cite sources.
- Answer common consumer questions.
- Include some element of additional navigation (e.g., a table of contents).
An ultimate guide needs to be just that: the ultimate, all-knowing, final say on a topic piece of content.
#16 — Legal Awards & Associations
How can legal awards and associations help your SEO efforts?
Frequently, legal awards or associations will include a profile page for their recipients and/or members. The criteria for inclusion varies: some are peer-nominated, others are based upon years of experience, and even others are gleaned from minimum case values (such the Million Dollar Advocates Forum). These can be great links because of their topical nature, but they also improve website conversions due to perceived value derived from social proof.
- When you’ve identified a quality legal award, nominate your peers and let them know of the nomination. Without asking, this may be a method of naturally getting reciprocal nominations or setting up future collaborative opportunities.
- There are many legal award scams out there. Do your due diligence to evaluate the quality of the link and its legitimacy…unless you’re Zippy the Chicken, of course.
Here are a few legal directories and associations:
- National Trial Lawyers Top 100
- Million Dollar Advocates Forum
- American Association for Justice
Chapter ROI by Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io
Links are one of Google’s most important ranking factors. Imagine Google’s rankings are an election. If you want to win an election, you need more votes than your opponent. In SEO, links equal votes, so if you want to “win” the first page of Google, you need quality links.
In this final chapter, we will discuss how to measure the success of your SEO efforts. This includes:
- how to ensure you get traction from your website optimization efforts
- how to analyze your link acquisition strategies
- how to track keyword rankings with actual search volume
- how to cut through the noise and review the most important traffic analytics
- how to measure conversions and be assured of your firm’s ROI
Reviewing Traction from On-Site SEO Endeavors
If you start a new exercise regimen, it’s probably with some specific goals/targets in mind (be it weight, cholesterol, etc.), so you check in regularly to see how progress is being made towards them. However, it’s also important to measure the impact that each individual exercise is having on those ultimate goals. You want to be sure that you’re doing the right routine, in the right repetitions; otherwise, you’re not maximizing your energy and time.
Likewise, you can make thousands of granular modifications to a website and all of them have some impact…but it’s crucial to be sure that the actions that you’re taking are the ones that most efficiently address the overall goals of your firm’s SEO efforts.
In the case of measuring your law firm website’s performance, we recommend Ahrefs Site Audit.
Why Ahrefs Side Audit?
Ahrefs Side Audit is a cloud-based diagnostic tool (so there’s no software to install). It provides detailed reports on the health of your site. Those reports filter to display the most common SEO issues, but they’re also sortable, allowing for a large degree of customization and drilling down to the fine details. You can also schedule the tool’s crawls of your site, letting you generate regular progress reports at your convenience.
Ahrefs is a paid tool, so if you’re looking for a free diagnostic, check out Google Search Console and Screaming Frog.
How to Hold Your SEO Agency Accountable for Link Building
As the owner of an SEO agency, I frequently see a lack of link acquisition and/or acquisition of low-quality links. As mentioned previously, backlinks are the #1 ranking factor, so it’s imperative that this aspect of SEO be done properly and on a regular basis.
Link building in the legal vertical is difficult, but there are effective tactics (which we outlined in Chapter 7). Even if you’re generating content and have a well-optimized site, without link building, your visibility will most likely suffer.
Don’t let parasitic agencies leech off of your hard-earned money. What should you do?
Get an account with Ahrefs.
I don’t have an affiliate link to offer and I am receiving no consideration for making this recommendation. This is genuinely my professional opinion about the best tool for the job (measuring link acquisition).
How to Use Ahrefs Site Explorer
I primarily use Ahrefs Site Explorer to evaluate the quality of backlinks and to measure link acquisition progress.
When evaluating the quality of a link, I look for:
- the DR (Domain Rating)
- I tend to look for the highest DR sites I can find and avoid sites with less than 30 DR
- the number of keywords indexed
- I put more emphasis on this metric, as opposed to organic traffic, the estimates of which tend to be unreliable; a website with a high number of keyword indexed is likely healthy
- the total backlinks
- Fairly self-explanatory: I’m looking for large inbound link profiles.
- the UR (URL Rating)
- This takes into account both internal and external links to give a weighted score (between 0 and 100) to a given page
A thorough explanation of all Ahrefs’s metrics can be found here.
Ahrefs’s head of marketing and product strategy agrees. He says:
From Tim Soulo, Head of Marketing & Product Strategy at Ahrefs
“When evaluating link quality, the basic rule is to ask yourself a very simple question: ‘Is this website legit?’
And by “legit” I mean that the website should be actually valuable for its visitors, and not exist for the sole purpose of selling links to other people.
Now if that’s a legit quality website, the metrics I would look at are of course Ahrefs’ DR and RD, which stand for Domain Rating and Referring Domains respectively.
By looking at these two metrics, you can get a very rough idea of this website’s “link popularity” compared to the rest of the internet. Because as a general rule you want to get links from “popular” websites.
One other thing I highly recommend you factor in is how fast is this website acquiring new backlinks. In Ahrefs there’s a graph that shows you how many referring domains this website is acquiring over time. If that graph is plateauing — then the “value” of your link won’t really grow over time. Moreover, there’s a good chance that this website will be eventually abandoned, and your link will simply vanish in a few years.
But if the graph of new referring domains is going up — it means that this website is gaining more and more popularity over time, so the value that you get from your link will only grow over time.
These are the very basics that you can check in about 15 seconds.
And if you want to go deeper in assessing the link quality of a website, there’s nothing better than actually digging into the websites that link to it.
I mean Domain Rating and Referring Domains may seem high, but these metrics can surely be manipulated. So, if something seems sketchy — always dig deeper.”
Track the Keywords You Actually Care About
Tracking your keywords is essential for any campaign. You want to make sure that your efforts, both on-site and off-site, are having an impact on your SEO.
Google Search Console is a nice free tool that can give you a granular look at keyword queries, their impressions, and total clicks. However, it does not allow you to insert the keyword for which you’re striving to attain and improve rankings, so important phrases can be lost in the midst of this clutter of data.
That’s why our preferred keyword rank tracker is Agency Analytics.
You can read our case study here.
To give you a brief overview of why we prefer Agency Analytics:
- you can segment your rankings by organic, local, mobile, etc.
- rankings are updated every 24 hours
- they have a clean, customizable dashboard
- their UI features numerous integrations (Google Analytics, CallRail, etc.)
Don’t Let An SEO Send a Report with All Traffic Voodoo
When it comes to measuring traffic for an SEO campaign, you need to be primarily looking at organic traffic. Oftentimes, there are individuals that will send “all traffic reports,” but these can be arbitrary when measuring the impact of SEO implementation. If your report contains referral, direct, and social traffic, it’s very likely that the agency you’ve hired is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. SEO strategies are geared towards organic results, so the reporting should reflect that.
Our tool of choice in this area is Google Analytics (free). Here are the main views you should use:
- Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Organic Search (primary dimension: keyword)
- Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Organic Search (primary dimension: landing page)
- Audience > Geo > Location (primary dimension: city) > (secondary dimension: source/medium)
The first view will look at your organic traffic in the keyword queries that Google will provide. This information is limited and you can get more queries within Google Search Console.
The second view provides a look at the destination URLs that are generating the most organic traffic. Sometimes a report may show a spike in organic traffic. However, it’s important to measure where those spikes occur: if they are happening in a page without the proper intent, they’re unlikely to result in a growth in the number of cases.
The third view allows you to look at the city in which search sessions are originating. Not to belabor an obvious point, but you want your SEO efforts to impact your actual locale. If your organic traffic is increasing in Chicago and you’re in Philadelphia, this is of little worth to you and your firm (although you may want to consider looking for a referral partner in Chicago; if you can’t find one, let me know). This view also has the advantage of allowing you to consider strategically opening offices in new locations.
Getting a Return on Your Investment Through SEO Conversions
Everything that we’ve mentioned above is a leading indicator for what’s most important to you: conversions (or new case acquisitions). It doesn’t matter how optimized your site is, how many backlinks you acquire, etc.: if you aren’t getting new cases, you won’t care.
The real question is, how do you know if your SEO efforts are affecting your conversions?
There are three primary methods that we recommend: tracking your contact form submissions (using Google Analytics Goal Tracking), your live chat conversions (using a service like Ngage), and your phone call conversions (using call tracking, such as CallRail).
Google Analytics Goal Tracking
While useful and accurate, Goal Tracking through Google Analytics does require a bit of fine-tuning in the setup phase. Here’s how you set it up:
- While logged into Google Analytics, click on Admin > Goals > New Goal > then fill in the “Name” field and click the box marked “Destination.”
This goal will resolve on a “Thank you” page after a contact form is successfully submitted. Google will log a conversion once a prospective client enters a contact form and then redirected to the “Thank you” page.
The “Thank you” page is the destination URL.
Here’s a video that shows in more detail how to set this up properly.
Live Chat Conversion Tracking
You’re probably familiar with live chat already, but in the legal vertical, there are two primary providers: Ngage and Apex. Live chat is an additional tool for capturing conversions. You can set up goals for live chat similar to how we’ve mentioned above (each provider has a different method for connecting with Google Analytics). Many of the popular tools will also integrate with your case management system.
Phone Call Conversion Tracking
In principle, tracking conversions from phone calls is a fairly simple task. The goal is to take different phone numbers that you own and task them to different purposes, allowing you to track the success rate of calls coming into each.
There are two ways to set up call track: static and dynamic.
Static call tracking involves using a single number for all website interactions, while dynamic takes a pool of numbers and assigns them to individually to each referral source
We recommend dynamic call tracking, simply because it allows for a much more detailed breakdown of the data. The caveat to this recommendation is that the wealth of data generated by dynamic call tracking can be overwhelming if it isn’t managed properly, so you’ll need to be sure to filter out repeat callers and referral sources to get an accurate look at your conversions.
Chapter ROI by Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io
Properly measuring the success of a campaign is critical, so it’s important to consider multiple metrics/KPIs. Contact form submissions, calls, live chats, rankings, and organic traffic are just some of the leading indicators of a successful SEO campaign.
“If you were working with an attorney to improve a law firm’s search engine optimization, what would be your #1 tip to get results?”
Introduction by Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io
This is the question we posed to more than 50 SEO specialists who have done SEO for lawyers. Their answers will provide you with good direction whether you’re formulating your own law firm SEO strategies or just looking for general advice.
If you want to improve your own website rankings or your clients’ website listings in the search engines, then this expert roundup blog post is what you’re looking for.
Enjoy and share it with others.
Your links and social votes are more than helpful.
Let’s start off with…
Having worked with plenty of law firms, I would say typically the thing they fall short on the most is producing high quality answers to questions their potential clients might have about their services as a means to attract would-be clients.
There usually isn’t a lot of local competition for these types of phrases and typically, visitors are pretty intentional when it comes to law, so they usually convert well once they’ve read content like this.
There are plenty of other law firm SEO strategies, but this is just one where I see firms fall short.
Regardless of the client, I always start with an audit. This tells me a lot about the client, their specific practice areas, as well as the competition they are up against. From this initial analysis I’m able to quickly identify the opportunity areas that will provide quick wins for the client, and solidify enough upfront trust to establish an ongoing relationship.
Most of the legal clients we work with are local SEO projects, some with multiple locations, others with multi-lingual targeting within a single geographic location. We are even working with a defamation attorney right now that has international clients. As a result, the strategy and approach varies a bit. That’s why I always start with the audit. The insights save us a lot of time spinning our wheels, instead of of getting shit done.
All that said, we look across the following areas:
- Google My Business
- Website & landing pages
- Content audit
- Link analysis
- Social media
- Structured data
- Competitor analysis
From there, we can usually find quick win opportunities. Knowing that this is kind of a “duh” answer so far, I’ll list out the tactics that move the needle the most for legal clients. Each of these tactics fall under what I like to think of more as a single “framework” that delivers short and long term results.
Content audits: Basically — we analyze all the indexed content on the site, and look at 4 key metrics — links, organic traffic, conversions and engagement. We map data points across these 4 areas down to the page-level and make one of 4 recommendations…(1) Keep, (2) Remove, (3) Improve, (4) Consolidate. After we have executed on this, the client will often see immediate organic traffic gains, and have a really solid content base to build all ongoing efforts from. We recently did this with a client in the defamation law space. In 7 months there site has gone from ~3,500 organic visits and 130 online leads a month, to ~10,000 organic visits and 299 leads in August. And, that was without writing a single new post or page on the site.
This strategy works well in legal, because clients often come to us with a ton of content already on their site after working with other companies for years on their SEO.
Existing KW research: Once we have established the base, we identify all the low hanging fruit on the website. I’ve written in-depth about the process here. Basically, we emerge with a shortlist of pages with existing rankings 6–20, that with a little promo can make some quick gains.
Citations & Reviews: Citations have long been known as a staple in the local SEO ranking factors. We get the client listed or updated on the top 50 directories, then run a manual submission campaign using Bright Local to build out the profile and get some more niche relevant listings.
On top of that, we use our in-house review management system to collect positive reviews across the major review sites and sync a live feed to the client’s site. This social proof is massive for conversions.
Google My Business: It amazes how many clients come to us with a poor GMB page, or none at all. This is the centerpiece of the local search presence. We spend a lot of upfront time optimizing that profile, and building links to it.
BONUS: Legal is an incredibly competitive space. So, if a client has some budget, while they are working on SEO, I often recommend running a small local PPC campaign to get immediate visibility in the SERPs, and get the phone ringing. This is particularly effective now that you can run ads in the map pack. I usually start with Click-to-Call only campaigns on mobile devices.
“If you were working with an attorney to improve their law firm’s search engine optimization, what would be your #1 tip to get results?” Invest in videos that provide value to prospective clients.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is often considered one of the most important strategies to utilize when marketing your law firm. If you’re not on the first page of Google, chances are potential clients won’t even end up on your page- in fact, less than 10% of internet users even venture to the second page of search results.
SEO differs from paid marketing in that it relies on organic growth, which relies almost exclusively on targeted content marketing. To have an effective content marketing strategy, you must first have valuable, desirable content — that’s where video comes in.
Video marketing is a proven strategy to enhance your brand, but that’s not all it does. Videos have become a dominating force in online activity, and companies are responding by making their content more visual and interactive. HighQ predicted that 2017 will be the year of video marketing, and there’s a reason for that.
Generating website traffic can be a tough component of your firm’s marketing strategy, especially in the age of paid advertisements. With an average of 3 to 4 homepage ads coming from sponsored companies, getting your company to the first page of Google can be a daunting task. However, having relevant and high-quality videos on your site is proven to boost your search rankings more effectively than organic content alone. Google rewards relevance and quality, so if your firm adds videos to your site, it could significantly improve SEO. Here are a few statistics to highlight the positive impact videos can have:
- Video drives a 157% increase in organic traffic
- Video leads to a 105% increase in time spent on your site
- 65% of decision makers will click through to your site after viewing a branded video
- Embedding a video in your firm’s landing page can increase conversion rates by 300%
Video can also influence metrics such as your bounce rate — by improving the overall content on your page by including quickly digestible content like video, you can increase the odds that visitors stay on your page.
Numbers don’t lie, and search rankings don’t either. Videos are truly an impactful way to gain the upper hand in the competitive law industry, and can exponentially increase traffic to your firm’s website.
From a business owner’s perspective, I would want to promote my law firm through marketing instead of the individual lawyers promoting themselves. What happens when you do this is the firm has a much better chance of longevity because the firm controls the inbound leads. This is because people will have the name of the firm as top of mind rather than the name of the lawyer. They also control the leads by showing up when people are searching for the type of firm they want.
This is a fiercely competitive industry. So getting the basics of your Local SEO and on page work dialed in is essential here. But it won’t be the competitive difference maker.
The difference maker in competitive industries is always authority, so the most important tip is to focus on building authority. This, of course, is easy to say, but not always so easy to do in practice.
What I would focus on here is creating content that truly helps the law firm’s potential customers. Something that is truly useful and authoritative.
I would then concentrate on promoting and building links to that content to help raise visibility of that content piece (or pieces) and to build up domain level link authority. This is strategically simple but there can be a lot of moving parts. I covered this approach in more detail in a recent Search Engine Land column.
There are plenty of opportunities to comment on the legal perspective of current news. I would encourage members of the firms to write or dictate their perspective on this.
I would craft this into a blog post, with graphics and video where possible, get it signed off, and then promote it to local, national, and trade media to build links and grow the reputation of the firm. Or perhaps create a piece of content or an online app that translate legal speak to ‘human.’ There are many legal terms that be frightening or difficult to understand.
Making a dictionary that explains legalese using videos, gif, famous movie references, and visual examples would be strong promotional and consumer content that could be targeted to specific sectors such as students, families, immigrants, etc. depending on the law firm’s strategy.
Finally, creating top tips or mistakes to avoid lists for legal issues could work very well. For example, key things to know to maintain compliance with your O-1 visa. Top considerations for a prenup. How to save money on taxes when you are a dual resident.
All of these topics can be targets to particular audiences and linked to current news cycles, helping to grow not just domain authority but also brand awareness and conversions.
My advice would be to focus on local, local, local. From keyword research and content development to link building and citation building, it is critical for law firms to consider their local audience if they truly want to generate leads from organic search.
For example, if I was in a serious car accident on a busy New Jersey highway, I would want a personal injury lawyer from that surrounding area who understands the local court system and has experience in representing other individuals who have been in my shoes.
With this being said, when developing a law firm’s strategy, I put in place a SEO campaign that allows them to be first and foremost a legal expert in their geographic location so they can establish that trust and authority with the people who will need their services the most.
Working with attorneys, it is vital to look into the physical business location while considering their websites’ SEO signals. In legal business, prospective clients are most likely to search for a lawyer nearby.
The website needs to convey that important information to Google and users alike. Ensuring search engines understand the locality of the business is a crucial first step towards creating positive user signals before anything else.
Of course, in a vertical as competitive as the legal business, one fundamental signal will hardly suffice to achieve the goal of persistent visibility in search results for relevant, converting queries. It is, however, the first step towards providing a great user experience and to win the SERP game big.
I’ve done SEO for attorneys at one-person offices, five-person offices, and nationwide law firms. Successful lawyers have deep personal connections to their community, either their city or industry. The bulk of their business comes through connections (this means the best cases, incl. the best-paid cases). A successful lawyer with 15–20 years of experience doesn’t need much marketing: connections and reputation do the job. A young attorney however needs to be found by clients who don’t have connections.
So young attorneys should be seen wherever their clients are looking: Yellow Pages, bus stop benches, radio/TV, and digital marketing (SEO, Adwords, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). If they’re using digital media, then the website and ads must work on both desktop and mobile devices. All lawyers, young or senior, should have an up-to-date website that works for both desktop and mobile, plus be listed in Google Maps. With regards to SEO, the attorney should clearly state his/her name, area of expertise, location, and show credibility and authority. This allows Google to rank the lawyer’s website higher.
The legal services space is very challenging for SEO due to competition and investment in the space. Most attorneys have the budget to spend on SEO, so you quickly find that much of the low-hanging fruit typically available in SEO does not provide any real boosts, but simply helps get you closer to “par” with your competitors.
Having a mobile friendly site that is well structured, full of great content, easily accessible for mobile, free of errors, and efficient for crawlers is a norm in the space, and authority really becomes the key to setting you apart from competitors for search rankings.
To really be effective as a law firm, it’s important that you have the type of in-depth content that will support link growth by being an exceptional resource for others, and even more importantly…that you are seeking out opportunities to have your subject matter expertise highlighted in the media.
This is most often through guest appearances on local news networks, contributing legal opinion in articles on major sites, and increasingly by establishing a pro-bono service offering that identifies you as more altruistic than others in your space.
My #1 tip would be for the law firm to create some great content and publish it on its website or blog. Without content, it will be difficult to rank in the search engines.
The process would be to analyze the target audience and to find a sweet spot between the services that the law firm offers and the needs/wants/questions from the target audience. That will make it clear what topics need to be tackled.
Then it would be all about creating great quality content that answers questions that the audience has in order to attract them to the site, help them, inform them, and educate them.
The blog or the website should be optimized to get leads, too, so I would include live chat and other call to actions to get in touch for those who are tempted to take it further.
Create a Rip Off Report-like site that negatively reviews all of your competition. It’s not particularly ethical and probably risky legally, but you’ll get a lot of search engine traffic for people looking for attorneys.
Or hire an SEO consultant who knows what he’s/she’s doing.
I think before you do anything, you need to conduct research on your ideal client. Every law office has a niche and ideal client. Understanding the makeup of these clients goes a long way in developing an SEO and content marketing strategy.
You need to understand not only their demographics, but also what makes them tick inside. Once you do that and write documents like personas, it becomes easier to do everything else.
I have done a lot of work helping attorneys who have been the victims of bad SEO work. In the past, it was commonplace to see legal websites that had absolutely horrible link profiles because an SEO company had spent hours building low quality directory and article links. Many of these websites received manual unnatural links penalties or were negatively affected by Google’s Penguin algorithm.
Now, links are still very important, but the only links that really move the needle are ones that have real purpose outside of SEO. If you can figure out a way to earn links rather than build your own, then you have a formula that really should help improve rankings.
But who wants to link to their attorney’s website? That makes link earning hard. However, I have seen some attorneys earn some fantastic links.
One of the things that works the best is to do something that journalists want to write about. Examples could include doing some pro bono work for a community group, setting up a petition, or bringing awareness to a real problem in our society.
Once you have a case or situation that you can talk about publicly, then create content that people truly want to read that describes the situation.
This means that someone in the firm who has good legal experience needs to write this content as opposed to a journalist who works for your web design company.
Then, start spreading the word via traditional PR outlets, social media shares, etc. If you do things correctly, you’ll often get lots of people talking about this situation, writing about it, and linking to it.
A few good links like this can make a huge difference.
I would follow the legal news, such as new large and ground-breaking cases that change the industry, legal news in the media, etc.
I would comment on each development in blog posts and on social media.
In addition, I would write blog posts on longtail terms and create guides around the biggest service terms they want to rank for.
Finally, I’d make sure to have a conversion strategy around each segment of keywords.
My one SEO tip for law firms is to increase user satisfaction, user metrics, and the overall experience of your legal website — basically, build your brand. Creating a better experience that wows potential customers (and Google) includes the following:
- A Great Website Design and Experience
If the law firm is interested in building a brand strategy for SEO, then I would say make sure its website experience does not conform to what the industry considers a traditional law firm website. A traditional law firm site is typically outdated, is cluttered, doesn’t include social integration, has an inconsistent design from one page to another, etc.
Tip: One of the biggest mistakes that law firms make when designing their websites is assuming all web design firms are the same — so they base their decision heavily on price. This is a huge mistake.
- In-depth Content
The benefits of providing in-depth content that includes lists, images, data, and goes beyond the obvious, ranges from increased Google rankings to users seeing you as the leader in the legal field — thus building your legal brand.When creating content for your legal website, it’s important to understand what your visitors want and to provide in-depth information that goes beyond the generic content they can find on most other legal websites.
Tip: Remember, users scan content to find what they are searching for (they don’t read your content, sorry), so make sure your content is structured for that behavior.
- Video and Text-based Testimonials
Video testimonials are highly valuable for building social proof for a law firm. Social proof is simply proof that you do what you say you do and that comes from external sources. The more social proof you have, the more you’re trusted.
Tip: Don’t bury your testimonials on a “testimonials” page — this is not a great strategy when trying to persuade users that you are as great as you say you are. Testimonials should be placed on every page — when they relate to the content of the page — and ideally near the conversion point for the page (lead form/contact information)
One of the best ways to improve your SEO/content marketing is to build relationships with others in your field.
My Real Estate blog, Maximum Real Estate Exposure, would not be so well recognized and highly ranked online without help from others. Of course, you need to have exceptional content or all the networking will do very little for you.
People need a reason to want to share your content socially and link to it via their own site. When you have content that is worthwhile to others, building relationships should be easy. We all love to see our name in the spotlight.
When you can build a tribe of people who are willing to share your content, you’ll find your rankings increasing naturally. Over the years, I have built a network of people who are regular bloggers that want to achieve visibility online.
By being of mutual help to one another, the goal is far easier. Don’t think of those in your field as competitors, but as folks who can be mutually beneficial to one another.
#1 Build & curate NAP listings (name, address, phone)
#2 Generate content around each area of practice
#3 Acquire local link signals
There are a lot of tips I’d love to share, from claiming and optimizing local listings, to making their web pages suck less (no oceans of jargon, please!)
But…I’m a content guy, so that’s where my head goes right away.
A lot of lawyers think they need these big blogs full of content to attract links.
Rather than dump a bunch of money into a blog — which takes time to maintain that lawyers don’t have, and a constant budget to feed that could be spent elsewhere — focus on creating a handful of really strong evergreen resources based on what your clients are constantly asking during initial calls.
Think about it from a lead’s perspective: many have never hired a lawyer before. Content that helps them know what to expect isn’t just great for driving people to contact you, it’s also highly shareable.
If I had a law client, I’d tell them to build the best-written, most visually engaging resources for people considering hiring lawyers, and then share the hell out of those.
As a content marketer, I would suggest that lawyers survey their clients and prospects about the the most pressing questions or the most painful issues they have about the lawyer’s area of practice (i.e., “If my wife divorces me for cheating, will I lose custody of my kids?”). Lawyers need to pay really careful attention to the exact words clients use to describe their problems, since clients often describe legal issues differently from a lawyer would.For example, I may be a securities lawyer, but a client may refer to me as a “PPM Lawyer”.
I would then create very detailed content that answers those questions and provides actionable advice and case studies, using both blog copy and video. In these articles, avoid selling (i.e., if you cheated on your spouse and need to talk to a lawyer, call me). It just pisses potential clients off.
The title for each post and video would be the question their clients ask in their own words — even if the terms/words used by the client are not how the attorney would describe the issue.
By building a library of these question/answer posts, you begin to optimize your website for the long tail natural language search your clients will most likely use when they have a legal problem you can solve.
As a side note, I see a lot of firms who do a good job with search rankings, but then do a crap job of creating a user experience on their site that converts (obviously not the clients of Rankings.io). If you do a great job of driving traffic but your clients are turned off when they get there, you’ve just wasted a lot of effort.
Give the web searcher what they are looking for better than everyone else.
We work with 3 attorneys currently. My number one tip is to focus on building a solid taxonomy from aggregate competitor research (at the page-level) and to build as much supportive content under the primary practice area you are optimizing for.
We did this for slip and fall recently and came up with over 50 new pages we could create around places people slip and fall and causes of slip and fall accidents. The results a week into the content build out?
We work with a lot of attorneys so here you go:
There’s not just one tip which will get it done. They need to set up and optimize pages for each service they offer with 500 words of content and a video explanation, setup Google My Business, and get 20+ 5 star reviews, then get/build guest post backlinks to those service pages and the GMB listing.
Should be ranking within months depending on the budget.
The basic things are often overlooked. The first step in rankings is simply to make sure you indicate relevance, by using the target key phrase in the title, header, and body text. The easiest and fastest way to do this is with the “Control + F” test. Just go the page and search for the phrase using the “find” feature in your browser.
(image source: Orbit Media)
If you expect a page to rank for “business litigation services,” then you should see that phrase highlighted in the headers and body. You might also see it in the links on that page, but remember, link text doesn’t indicate the relevance of the page you’re on. Instead, it indicates the relevance of the page it links to.
If you didn’t indicate the relevance for the target phrase, don’t expect it to rank!
My #1 tip for improving a law firm’s SEO would be to get listed on industry-specific directories. A large majority of people look for a local law firm, so the Local SEO side of the project would be super important.
Not only do law firm directories rank pretty well, being associated with that business category also helps build Google’s trust with your business. It’s a super competitive industry, so small jobs like this can make all the difference in getting you ranking at the top of the search results.
My #1 tip would be to create helpful, problem solving content to lay a solid SEO foundation. SEO is about problem solving more than ever.
Whether the firm hired skilled freelance writers or boosted its credibility by having lawyers write articles, the smart way to build your SEO on a solid foundation is to patiently and persistently write robust, thorough content through a blog.
SEO and content marketing tactics have been widely adopted to the point that everyone has pushed out large volumes of decent content. Decent content on a subject matter is affordable on a weekly basis.
Any decent writer can produce it. As a result, we see the same five tips, best practices, and how-to blogs across every website.
You can try to make content that is 10x bigger and better. But that is costly and hard to do consistently. Instead, you can get more value out of the same resources by spending a bit more time on up front research.
Find out why your attorney is unique. Every attorney has special talents, connections, insight, history, and life lessons that go into their success as an attorney. And better yet, their passion to practice law. Have your writers and editors call in for a discovery meeting with the attorney that you treat as if writing a biography.
Give writers a chance to ask questions and dig into areas they find inspiring about their subject. If you get your writers inspired about a person and that person’s passion for practicing law, you will get that special thing that pushes your content beyond the everyday, every-website blog posts.
As my #1 tip, I’d highly recommend that any attorney or law firm website prioritize speeding up their website.
Google is hyper-focused on speed and getting users the information they seek as fast as possible, and that focus on speed as a ranking signal will only continue to grow. BTW here’s a fantastic list of 101 tips to improve site speed http://www.digitalexaminer.com/101-page-and-site-speed-optimization-tips/.
We’re seeing some pretty incredible results with organic traffic boosts across client sites when we’re able to improve load times.
Increasing site speed is also a scalable activity because many of the improvements you can make (like fixing render blocking CSS and JS) will boost load times for not just the page but the entire site.
What’s more, the majority of law firm sites I’ve worked on and seen are notoriously slow. So, given how important site speed is to Google (and users), if a law firm focuses on boosting load times they’ll be miles ahead of their competitors.
Don’t Overstep the Boundaries of Your Niche
When setting up a niche website, the most important thing to keep in mind is the audience you plan to attract.
People who look for the nearest law firm in Google are unlikely to require a blog post about 10 ways to tell a competent lawyer from a fraud. Instead, they’ll want help with a very specific problem, which will show in their search request: for example, “bankruptcy law firm London” or “criminal lawyer Manchester.”
Being a representative of your office, you know better than anyone what kind of services you provide. That knowledge is the foundation on which your site will stand. Aim precisely at the audience that wants what you have to offer.
A legal service firm is meant to help people with a narrow set of very characteristic problems that you may find only where the law is involved. Some firms specialize only in a certain area, such as family law, and therefore deal with issues like divorce, alimony and child support.
Other firms take on multiple areas; they cast a bigger net and occupy a wider niche. Takeaways: the content of your firm’s website must be optimized strictly for the issues you deal with. Act within your niche, or else you will attract an audience that needs something your website cannot provide.
Read my article for more tips:
I’ve implemented SEO on law sites both nationwide and worldwide since 1995. You might think that my #1 SEO tip might have changed in these past 20+ years. But unfortunately, my tip is the same now as it was in 1995.
Attorneys are notorious for writing and speaking in “legalese” (legal jargon). I understand that if they are marketing their law-firm website to other law-firm websites, it’s okay to write and speak in legal jargon.
However, if a law firm is targeting users who don’t understand legal jargon, then guess what? Lose the legal jargon…or use it in combination with the users’ keyword phrases. As we often say in the usability/UX industry, “Use the users’ language.”
Lawyers have to be careful when conducting keyword research. If they encounter “legalese” in the keyword research tools, they should understand that those specific queries are likely ones that other attorneys are doing. Use that data for legal-specific pages.
One example might be a family attorney. His or her target audience is unlikely to use the keyword phrase “spousal support” when conducting a search in the US. “Alimony” (without the quotes) is a more likely search term. Therefore, a family-attorney website should use BOTH terms on specific pages. Use the users’ language…but also inform them of what the legal term means.
Another example might be a corporate attorney. His or her target audience is likely to use some business jargon. This website should include business jargon in the right context on the website.
I’m certainly not saying that attorneys should never use legal keyword phrases on their websites. Use the RIGHT words in the RIGHT context. Use the users’ language on your websites. The result? More search engine traffic, more trust, and more conversions.
I’d say the most important gap in most law firms’ SEO strategy that I see is content.
Law firms either try to fit all of their practice areas onto a single page instead of breaking the practice areas out into their own landing pages, or they have a single practice area with only one page of content dedicated to it. Instead, they should consistently create new content with the help of their attorney experts.
My #1 tip is to lean heavy into content. The deeper and richer your content is, the more change you have to rank for short-tail and long-tail keywords alike.
Law is one of the most competitive spaces out there for SEO, so doing bare minimum optimizations only keeps you treading water. As a lawyer, you have an opportunity to write in-depth, expert content about your areas of practice.
While we generally advise 400 words minimum for most businesses, a lawyer should be looking at 1000+ words per page if possible, with a user-friendly layout and enticing CTAs throughout.
The trick to getting great results from SEO in 2017 is to think outside of the standard “content” box.
Most people look and fight for easy to think of topics and keywords because they can’t imagine how wide their net can be for catching potential customers.
Instead of just using content ideas that are tightly associated with your main topic, you have to “go wide” with your research.
People who might be interested in your products or services have lots of different problems and interests. And it is up to you to explore them and see which ones are relevant to your business.
Then you can write SEO optimized content to bring them to your website and slowly nurture them into customers.
If you want some ideas on how to start finding these ideas you can read a recent post I wrote on this topic.
First, I do a lot of legal marketing, especially with our own law firm located at https://www.milner-markee.com. My wife and mother-in-law are both immigration attorneys and so I’ve “seen it all” in respect to most legal marketing methods.
By far the most effective strategy that has worked for the firm has been using Avvo.com. Avvo, especially in select verticals like immigration, personal injury, and bankruptcy, dominate Google local search results.
These high local placements lead to a large amount of traffic to specialty referral pages on Avvo that local attorneys can leverage by buying “blocks” of impressions on those pages.
These blocks cover both specialties and geographical areas. The secret for attorneys utilizing this service, especially those paying for placement, is to fully fill-out and optimize their profiles.
For example, this profile for Attorney Tifany Markee
(https://www.avvo.com/attorneys/92127-ca-tifany-markee-298534.html) does very well competitively for three main reasons; she has fully filled out her profile and garnered a coveted 10/10 Avvo Rating, she has 20+ personal and professional referrals
and she has invested time on the Avvo site, contributing 160+ legal answers
to the community
These optimizations have allowed her, and in turn the firm, to leverage Avvo extremely well and increase both referrals and bottom-line traffic to their site at the same time.
Zero-in on “Near Me” Google Visibility
As a legal professional barred to practice law in a single state, there are very real boundaries to consider in SEO and marketing: they are called laws.
One way to achieve results in SEO without encroaching on legalities is to geo-target your keywords.
If you are a lawyer in Wynwood, Miami (where my SEO agency is located), you serve clients in South Florida, and the focus is on immigration, try employing geographic parameters, such as Immigration Delray Beach Lawyer or Immigration Palm Beach Lawyers or Immigration Key West Lawyer.
Make no mistake, I’m not advocating creating hundreds of “keyword stuffed” webpages for immigration lawyer plus every possible city and town in South Florida…unless you want to trigger Panda filters.
Rather, a smart marketer who understands how Google’s RankBrain works, can include these keywords in a long-term content strategy focused on geo-focused content and related topics.
A webpage with a case study about how the lawyer helped an immigration client in “Delray Beach” or an article covering the specifics of a newsworthy immigration case in Key West — the closest point in US territory to Cuba, actually — might be a good place to start. Through an expanded geographic target, you will have more referrals without a headache of unwanted contact.
There’s no one magic bullet answer to this, so my top tip would be to focus on the on-page SEO for the site. Things like citations and backlinks and all the other standard SEO work out there will only do so much, but with proper on page SEO, you can rank a site without any of the above. However, you can’t rank a site with citations and backlinks if the onpage is not right.
I think the biggest tip I could give would be to make sure Google My Business has been set up correctly. It’s difficult to get any success without this, unless you’re in a very weak SERP.
My #1 tip for is to focus on building relationships. I enjoy interviewing people for my podcast and summits because I get to learn more about my niche, and the interviews count as content. I publish these interviews, and the power happens when each guest shares the episode with his/her audience.
Repeat the process with hundreds of guests, and you’ll have a big increase in traffic over the long-term. In the short-term, you can get family and friends to review your podcast so it gets more traction.
My number one tip would be to build case studies around a firm’s clients. Not only would these case studies be great reading, but they would also connect with the target audience, help to build the site’s topical authority, and help the firm’s consumers.
Imagine that the person just charged with an assault charge goes online looking for advice and finds a case study on the very subject/charge they have been given. This is superb for building client trust, and the loved ones of those charged will also be searching for help/case studies.
The key is for these case studies to be in-depth. When it comes to talking about the law, we are often looking at potential custodial sentences. People want to read in-depth information when they could end up in prison
Most lawyers and law firms are usually “local,” therefore, local SEO tactics should be applied to rank well in the search engines.
Most users seeking the services of a lawyer would do so locally, and most of the time it is time sensitive and urgent. Below are my tips on ensuring your website is optimised for local SEO:
- Identify your target audience and location.
Do you specialise in a type of law? Family law? Property law? Corporate law? Criminal law? Where is your office and do you service an entire state? Limited locations? Specific area? Detailing these down will form the start of your target keywords.
- Optimise your website/webpages targeting these target keywords.
For example, if you offer family law and your office is based in Boise, Idaho. You will want to have pages to target keywords such as “family lawyer in Boise,” “divorce lawyer in Boise,” “estate planning in Boise,” “will & power of attorney in Boise”
- Apply and implement SEO best practices on your website.
- Make sure that your NAP (Business Name, Address and Phone Number) is available on your website.
- Mark your NAP on your website with structured data (schema tags).
- Ensure that the website has all the necessary lead generation mechanisms and call-to-actions in place (Phone numbers, contact forms, testimonials, trust signals, etc.).
- Build local citations. Use a service like Whitespark — very important to make sure that your NAP is consistent across all your local citations.
- Pay special attention to Google MyBusiness. Ensure that you complete the listing as much as possible. Another platform to focus on in Facebook Business Page, set one up for your business and maintain it. Again, make sure that your NAP is consistent.
- The most important step is to get your clients and users to complete reviews on Google MyBusiness and Facebook Business. One of the most important ranking factors of local SEO are reviews.
Great question. For the past 7–8 years I’ve been doing SEO on one attorney or another, so I suppose I have a lot of experience on this. Before I did SEO, I did a lot of IT work and web design for lawyers.
On the other hand, I think my client would be pretty angry with me (maybe even sue) if I gave out the #1 tactic that I’m using on him right now. I will say this: before he hired us, he spent quite a bit of coin on having some videos produced. Having quality content on hand (a knowledge base, steady blog posts, videos, podcasts…even tweets and Instagram posts) can really help propel you into the SERPs.
I’ll also say this about attorneys and SEO in general: they all have big budgets and a lot of them are kind of shady, moreso than other industries. Depending on the industry, some of them throw ungodly amounts of money at SEO and local PPC, so if you really want to compete, it helps to work with some of these clients with the bigger budgets.
Build in-content links to your legal domain’s target pages. One way to do that is to create a scholarship program and publish a page targeted to legal colleges and universities.
This would allow you to get links from .edu sites that are still relevant to your brand and can tremendously improve the site’s domain authority. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Identify your working budget for the scholarship program (in my experience, the optimal scholarship price that can earn/build the maximum number of links is $1000).
- Spend time prospecting for available scholarship listing sites using Google search operators (edu“scholarship” “legal”).
- Expand your list by adding listing pages from other verticals but are still relevant to your industry.
- Reach out to them and ask to be included in their pages.
I will use buzzsumo to check the number one ranking site to see which article is the most shared on facebook, then rewrite those articles as part of the content marketing plan.
I will also use SEMrush to check the keywords using the number one ranking site keywords and then target them, too.
Start with prioritizing the keyword phrases that will give you the most returns. This means that all your content marketing and promotion work will revolve around just a small set of keywords and their landing pages.
– Local keyword phrases are great choices.
– Keywords that are already ranking (below the #1 spot) are also great choices as the work will be minimal and the returns will be huge long term.
A little optimization and some structured data added along with citations will go a long way to boosting these pages and getting you leads.
It’s easy to jump in and go straight for hard keywords, but that’s not the way to go right off the bat for extremely competitive niches like this.
Build the trust first with those types of keyword phrases as you build towards the larger, more competitive ones. You’ll find it easier to rank for them long term, especially if it’s local.
The #1 Tip would be to claim and optimize your Google Business listing for your firm’s key office location(s).
We have seen strong local visibility continue to drive consistent cases for law firms, but a firm must also have a strategy for earning new (positive) reviews.
Local visibility with a strong reviews rating (4+ Star) is one of the most powerful marketing tools on the web today.
I recommend studying your Google Search Console data and focusing on tactics that will have the most impact in your high priority practice areas. There is a tremendous amount of useful information in GSC. Use it to improve your search results and your lead generation.
Look beyond technical legal content. Previously, I worked as an in-house SEO at a law firm and at the time, we did not have a technical legal writer, so we focused on entertaining legal and personal injury-related pieces such as “10 Texting While Walking Accidents Caught on Video.”
Here is an action plan:
- Propose 5–10 possible topics.
- Analyze potential blogs to target during outreach to see if they reference external articles with links (in this example, we targeted sites that post outrageous videos).
- Quickly identify if the niche you are targeting is not viable. For example, mommy bloggers typically have a clear business model and will not meritoriously link out without payment, so you need a budget to target this niche.
- Start with 100 outreach actions which include blogs, social media accounts with a large following, and relevant communities, such as Reddit.
- If posting in relevant communities such as Reddit, you need to first establish yourself by contributing to the group instead of simply promoting your content.
I would first check the firm’s competitors, check what keywords they are targeting, and work backwards from the competitor’s most shared content to their backlinks.
I would improve further the value being presented by the client website by using social media as a platform to increase social validation and followers, and then I would create a weekly podcast where the client will answer questions about law.
Value = Service.
Remember that it’s not about you. This can be difficult, but the people who are coming to your site don’t want to be hit with information about where you went to law school and how many awards you have. Instead, focus on their needs. When someone comes to your site, they’re looking for information to help them — to solve their problems. They’re overwhelmed and in search of someone who cares and connects with them, so use your site as an entry point to build upon an educational, trusting relationship with them.
My number one tip would be [that] your on-site SEO is taken care of. I would focus on local citation building — this is the building of your listings within high quality niche specific directories that do not necessarily link to your website.
Why are these important?
The value of your business being mentioned with presence of NAP (name, address, and phone) means that Google sees your business as a legitimate one within the right directory. The more mentions of your business within these directories, the better you will rank with in local rankings.
The thing to remember here is that even though links are important for SEO, these citation listings do not need to have links, as Google views them differently than how it views normal website links.
Here is a link to high quality citations that are worth focusing on:
Also, do not forget the local directory site with in your local area.
My #1 tip would be to answer questions and solve the problems your prospective clients have using content. Maybe that means creating on-site content that’s worth linking to and sharing socially, or maybe it involves doing guest posting that drives links back to the relevant content on your site. Not only will this support both your SEO and content marketing campaigns, it’ll make the people who do encounter your content trust you enough that they’ll hire your services (or keep you in mind for future projects).
The number one tip I’d give an attorney looking to rank in Google is to first take the time to evaluate the competition in your local area and do your keyword research homework. Finding a bunch of keywords with less competition, but enough search volume will likely lead to more success than swinging for the fences and trying to rank only for “Personal Injury”. I’d recommend tools like SEMrush and Google Adwords to start.
The most important aspect will be localized SEO and getting your results into the local 3 pack.
That means getting your NAP (name / address / phone number) accurate and consistent throughout the many different localized search and citation services (there are many tools out there to help you with this, such as Moz Local) and making sure you create a simple and easy way for your customers to review you online.
Finally, make sure your content is localized to your market. Identify what the problems occurring in your neighborhood and address them with your content vs focusing on national or international issues.
Marketing your law firm can seem like a daunting task. If I had one suggestion for attorneys to take advantage of that would bring them results, it would be to create useful and substantial content based on frequently asked questions their firm gets. Start by asking yourself and your staff what questions people ask and make a list of these questions. Then brainstorm the related topics and answer these in a substantial and informative matter better than anyone else has done so.
Write the content in a way that represents your brand and the way you want your firm to be displayed online. Think of it as a part of your personal reputation.
Once this content is written you can post it on your website, optimize it, and make it visually appealing. The key, however, is to not stop there. One of the added benefits to doing this is that the content can be re-purposed. When potential clients email you or you have calls with people that don’t turn into clients, you can collect their email address and send them the information. This also acts as a positive brand building experience for your firm while increasing your visibility in the search engines.
Useful content like this can also be re-purposed for email newsletters or videos!
Have a plan to execute, which is different than an SEO plan. We do way too many consultations where the attorney says they are going to blog regularly, and then doesn’t write a blog for months. Or promises to track where intakes come from, but makes no changes to their processes. Or makes it a goal to double the number of Google reviews, but never puts anything in place to ask more clients. SEO has very few secrets. It is about implementation and consistency. And implementation and consistency is directly tied to accountability. Take the extra five to ten minutes to form an execution plan, that includes accountability measures, so that ideas become tangible progress.
Claim and fully complete your Google My Business listing and fill out all the details. This is your first step to showing up for relevant business searches in local, the more complete the more likely everything else will back it up and get you search results.
- Business name = what is on your business license, not Car Accident Lawyer or some other practice area fill phrase.
- Address = if in a suite or other space, make sure to list it as part of the address.
- Phone = that location’s main line that is answered by a receptionist or intake person.
- Hours = actual hours someone can walk in and talk to someone, not 24–7 unless you have people there 24–7.
- Category = as specific as you can get. If you are a personal injury firm, then personal injury; criminal would be criminal defense, etc.
With how localized the Google landscape has become, I would recommend focusing on both building local links, and creating local content that’s focused on setting the law firm up as an expert in its niche / areas that it serves.
There are a ton of local publications and blogs (this varies, depending on the city) that the attorney can reach out to and build a relationship with, which could lead to partnering on content, a column, Q&As, or other content to generate links/traffic back to the firm’s site. Links are definitely not a dead thing, regardless of what Google says.
Obviously, getting links from larger, national publications will be beneficial, but I think a strong local play is needed first and foremost, as that’s where their immediate market will most likely be.
There is also content that can be created on their own site to promote and earn links. The goal here would be to establish them as a “go to” resource for people who may be experiencing legal trouble and looking for advice, and hopefully convert them into clients.
To start with, I’d make sure their site is local SEO’d to the max. Local SEO is a very simple thing to do, so will only take them three minutes to complete.
My second tip is to create 4000 pages of the same content but change it slightly to target specific geographical areas. Example: create a page that targets the term “Lawyers for sex offenders in Florida” this term is low competition with 6000 searches a month! Bingo! Create the page and gather up the leads.
My final tip is to create resourceful content that people want. A guide on “how to get off a murder charge” or “legal advice for animal sex perverts” spring to mind as popular content that will people linking and sharing like mad.
Conclusion & Acknowledgements
I want to extend my sincerest gratitude to the following professionals for their contribution to this guide.
Content Promotion Strategy Expert
Founder at Backlinko
Owner/Founder at Sterlingsky.ca
Marketing Director at Virayo
Founder at Gotch SEO
CEO at BlogMutt
Founder of SEO Signals Lab
Founder of Mailshake
Co-Founder at BAMF Media
Head of Marketing & Product Strategy at Ahrefs