If you want to show up in Google search results – and show up high enough to get traffic – then you need to care about law firm SEO.
Do you need to be a legal digital marking expert to do law firm SEO? No (though that does help). But, you will need to:
- Be comfortable with various digital platforms and technology,
- Understand the basics behind search engine optimization (“SEO”), and
- Know how to develop an SEO strategy for your law firm.
That’s why LawRank created this SEO Guide for Lawyers – everything you need to know about getting your law firm to rank on search engines like Google and achieve SEO success.
After reading our guide, you should understand the fundamentals of legal SEO strategies and tactics, like:
- Key ranking factors and what Google considers when choosing which websites are featured in organic, local, and paid search results
- How to do keyword research and find the best search terms for your practice and geographic area
- How to develop a content marketing strategy that incorporates your most common keywords and drives traffic to your law firm’s website
- Smart and creative ways to build links from authoritative websites
- The importance of website design and on-site SEO, and steps you can take to truly enhance the user experience
- Why off-site SEO is critical if you want to rank higher on Google SERPs and how to leverage things like social media, Google My Business (GMB), and attorney directories to boost your authority and grow your brand
- Best practices for local search engine optimization to help you rank in the local pack and show up on map search results
- The benefits of supplementing your organic efforts with LSAs and/or a pay per click (PPC) campaign, and
- How to track your efforts and measure your ROI, whether you’re doing it yourself or hired an SEO company.
Keep in mind that successful SEO takes time. And, while you can do SEO for your law firm, you don’t have to.
Whether you’re too busy with your law practice or don’t feel tech-savvy enough to tackle the more technical components of SEO, LawRank can help.
The legal marketing industry is competitive and you’ll want an agency with a proven track record. Just send us a message or give us a call to learn learn more about what we do and the digital marketing services we can provide for your practice area.
Now, let’s dive into what attorney SEO is and why it matters.
Table of Contents
What is Attorney SEO?
Attorney search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the strategies used to improve the quality of your law firm’s website to improve search engine rankings. A law firm’s site of higher quality will rank better in search results when potential clients conduct a relevant search.
That’s SEO for law firms and attorneys, in a nutshell.
So, what makes a website attractive to Google? According to the search engine itself, “search engines exist to help people find what they’re looking for.”
So, the search engine strives to deliver results that are:
- High-quality, and
- Presented in the most helpful order.
At its core, legal SEO means producing helpful, high-quality content and delivering it in an appealing way. If you can master that, you’ll reap Google’s rewards. That’s what the best companies for lawyer SEO have mastered.
Why is SEO for Law Firms Important?
Gone are the days of flipping through the Yellow Pages or calling 411. If someone needs a lawyer, there’s a high probability that they’ll conduct their search online.
According to a survey by the National Law Review, 96% of people in need of legal advice do an online search.
And, when most prospective clients sit down to do find a law firm, they use Google. That’s why law firm websites and dynamic SEO marketing strategies are increasingly important.
Where you rank is directly linked to your caseload and, in turn, your firm’s bottom line.
The higher law firms and attorneys rank on search engine results pages (SERPs), the more visitors they’re going to get. And, since most people only contact one law firm, you’ll want to make sure that you’re visible when they’re looking.
Only about 2 to 3 percent of people visit the second page of Google’s organic search results. Less than one percent (.78%) click through to a site once they get there.
So, if you want your law firm website to get clicks – meaning visits from potential clients – you really want to make sure that you rank on the first page.
And, it’s not just about ranking on the first page. It’s about where you rank on the first page.
Most Google searches clock in at under a minute. That’s less than 60 seconds spent considering the search results before settling on a firm to call.
If you want the phone to ring, you need to rank at the top of Google’s first results page.
The page that ranks 1st organically (we’ll get to that shortly) is up to 35 times more likely to get a click than the page that ranks 10th.
Vying for that first position on a SERP has never been more important. Research conducted just a few short years ago – circa 2018, 2019 – found that the first ranking position was 10x more likely to get clicks than the 10th ranking position.
Today, more people are choosing the first search result and fewer are scrolling to see results further down the SERP.
In fact, data for April 2021 shows that first position has an average click-through-rate (CTR) of anywhere between 31.17% (desktop) and 25.68% (mobile). CTR measures how many people see your ad online versus how many actually click it.
After the first result, the CTR drops quickly. The decline is steeper and more noticeable on desktop searches than on mobile. However, one thing is clear: statistically speaking, half of all users choose one of the first three organic results.
When you run a law firm, you should absolutely care about SEO and how your website ranks. Your competitors – and the companies doing the best SEO marketing for law firms – certainly will.
Understanding Google’s Ranking Factors
There are four primary ranking factors that your website will have to prioritize in order to rank in top spots on Google and achieve SEO success. These factors are:
(3) technical SEO,
(4) user experience (UX).
We’ll take a deeper look at each one of these below. We will also discuss these factors again in the next section, “Google Ranking Factors.”
Content refers to the
- practice area pages,
- images, and
on your law firm’s website.
It’s how you convey information to potential clients and is a critical factor in ranking highly on Google’s search engine result pages.
Below we discuss how to create compelling content that will improve your website’s rankings and appeal to users.
Your content needs to address users’ keyword searches and queries.
Your law firm’s website should contain high-quality, helpful content that answers potential clients’ questions and keeps them engaged.
What search terms are they using when researching your area of law?
Does your website clearly answer questions they may have regarding your practice areas and legal services?
For example, if you’re a personal injury lawyer in Tampa, think about what an accident victim in your area would search for on Google. When you’re creating content, consider the following:
- Does your website conspicuously indicate that you practice personal injury law in Tampa?
- Do you list and explain your personal injury law practice areas (e.g., car accidents, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, premises liability, etc.)?
- Is it evident that your law firm has successfully handled personal injury claims in the past? You should list past case results, client reviews, and credentials.
- Do you discuss your legal fee structure (e.g., contingency fees)?
- What would a potential client visit your website to learn? Make sure you answer their possible questions clearly and concisely (e.g., how long does it take to settle a personal injury claim?).
- Is your content up to date? For example, if your site lists car accident statistics, update them regularly.
Google places authoritative, relevant content at the top of its search engine rankings. If you address the topics above, your website will be useful to users – and Google will be more likely to feature it higher in search results.
You need to optimize your content with keywords.
Listing helpful content that answers prospective clients’ questions is essential, but you need to consider how Google evaluates a user’s intent when searching for something online.
Google uses the RankBrain AI system to understand and interpret user intent. It scans websites for keywords (e.g., “Tampa personal injury lawyer”), positive user signals, and relevance. It uses this information to figure out what people want to know and the results it will provide.
Therefore, each web page needs to indicate the target keywords clearly so that users and RankBrain know what they’re about. A properly optimized page should include your target keywords in the title, the content, the meta tag, the headings and subheadings, and the URL.
You should also use tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics to further optimize your page.
Your content should address multiple keywords within the same category.
Not everyone searches for topics the same way. One person may search for a “Tampa personal injury lawyer,” while another may search “do I need a personal injury lawyer in Tampa after a car accident?”
If optimized correctly, your content will have a primary keyword and include variations and long-tail keywords to direct more traffic to your website and help you get more leads. Blogs are a good way to implement long-tail keywords on your site.
It’s important to remember that great content is at the heart of any SEO campaign and could require a significant budget.
You may have great content, but how is Google supposed to know it’s great? Moreover, how does the search engine know that other users find your content is trustworthy and authoritative? One key way is through “backlinks.”
Backlinks arise when another website links to your content and points users to your site.
Google views backlinks work as a vote of confidence for your content.
The more high-quality backlinks your website gets, the more trustworthy your content appears to Google.
A backlink is high-quality when:
- It is placed within the content — not a sidebar or footer
- It comes from a website with a high domain authority
- The linking web page has a low number of outgoing links (a backlink from a website with dozens of outgoing links is less valuable than one from a website with a few outgoing links)
- The anchor text linking to your site is relevant to your content
If your website has minimal or low-quality backlinks, Google may view your website as having low credibility and authority.
You can elevate your local SEO through link building.
Backlinks provide a valuable way to elevate your law firm’s local SEO. The contact information for your law office is likely displayed in many places online.
You can optimize your local SEO by obtaining backlinks from sites and platforms that contain your contact information, including:
- Social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter
- Legal directories, including Avvo, Justia, and Martindale-Hubbell
- Google My Business
- Reviews on third-party websites
This local SEO can enhance your efforts to appear in Google’s local map pack.
3. Technical SEO
Technical SEO refers to strategies to make your website content more friendly or recognizable to search engines. You should optimize each web page to help improve your overall rankings.
This means using:
- Header tags
- Title tags
- Alt text for images
- Internal and external links
- URL structure
- Site architecture
- And more
You can consult Google’s SEO guidelines for ways to improve your technical SEO. Site structure tends to be one of the most important components of technical SEO because it influences everything else. Google may fail to crawl and/or index your web pages if you have a poor site structure.
A flat structure tends to be best for SEO. A flat structure ensures your site’s pages are only ever a few links away from one another, which makes it easier for Google to crawl all your web pages and content.
4. User Experience
Another SEO ranking factor Google considers is user experience (UX). User experience is a broad term that encompasses how a potential client will feel and respond to your website.
It refers to:
- how easily a visitor can navigate your site,
- how visually appealing your site is, and
- how well your site is performing in terms of responsiveness, to name a few examples.
As it relates to SEO, Google makes it fairly clear as to what it is looking for when it comes to UX. There are four categories of considerations related to UX that Google mentions, which we’ll briefly cover here.
Core Web Vitals
Core web vitals are a set of performance metrics you can use to determine how well your website is operating. In essence, Core Web Vital measures the speed at which your site downloads and a user can begin interacting with it.
There are three primary tools you can use to measure your website’s performance in this way:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This tool measures the loading performance of your website. Google states that for a good user experience, you should aim to have LCP occur within 2.5 seconds of the page’s loading.
- First Input Delay (FID): This is a tool that measures the interactivity of your website. You should aim to have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds, according to Google.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This last primary tool Google mentions will measure the visual stability of your site. Google states that you should aim to have a CLS score of less than 0.1.
Google has also made this comprehensive guide available that offers further advice on measuring and monitoring your Core Web Vitals.
A mobile-friendly website is essential to UX in this day and age. Google offers this Mobile-Friendly Test which you can use to determine whether your page is working effectively for mobile users.
You’ll want to make sure that your website loads quickly and loads accurately on a number of different screen sizes.
You will want to make sure that your website is served over HTTPS, which you can verify by following the instructions on this page.
HTTPS improves the security of your website. If your website is not currently served over HTTPS, you can use this tool provided by Google to secure it.
No Intrusive Interstitials
The content on your website should be easily accessible to all users. Intrusive interstitials and dialogs are elements of your website that obstruct the user’s view of the content.
Intrusive interstitials are overlays that cover the entire webpage, while dialogs may only obstruct some of the content.
These can be detrimental to the UX of your website and may even frustrate users at times. In addition, these overlays and dialogs can make it harder for Google to analyze your site’s content, making it more difficult to achieve a higher SEO ranking.
UX is a critical component of your SEO and overall marketing strategy as a lawyer. An easy-to-use, fast-performing, visually-appealing website will help ensure that Google views your content favorably and that potential clients turn into actual clients.
Why Does My Law Firm Need a Well-Designed Website for an SEO Campaign?
On average, Americans spend eight hours a day online. When you’re not working, your law firm’s website should work for you.
It should be your #1 salesperson, on the clock 24 hours a day.
Websites for law firms should successfully:
- Draw in a specific audience,
- Deliver what they’re seeking, and
- Move them naturally through the buyer’s journey.
If it doesn’t, you’re missing out on critical opportunities to grow your business.
With strong online visibility, you can reach prospective clients you may never find offline or through traditional methods like word-of-mouth advertising.
Through inbound law firm marketing and search engine optimization, you can get in front of a much larger audience and prove you have what they need to solve their problems.
Moving Prospects Through the Buyer’s Process
The buyer’s journey is the process consumers go through to learn about a product or service. It involves considering how a purchase could solve a problem and making the decision to buy.
Your website should have dynamic content that guides them through this process.
The process consists of four main stages:
Stage 1: Awareness
A potential client is aware of the problem they have. For example, let’s say a contractor was injured on the job and needs to find a local attorney. They hop on Google to search “what to do if I’m injured on the job” and “what type of lawyer do I need if I’m hurt at work?”
The contractor is looking for valuable content that addresses his pain points. Good awareness-stage content may include educational blog posts, ebooks, guides, videos, and whitepapers.
Stage 2: Consideration/Evaluation
The contractor now understands what to do next and the kind of attorney he’s looking for. He wants to find a workers’ compensation lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, so that’s what he searches for online. He sees three options that look promising and spends some time researching each one.
Good consideration-stage content includes comparison guides, checklists, case studies, webinars, and reports. At this point, you’re trying to show that you offer the best solution to the consumer’s problem.
Stage 3: Decision/Conversion
Once the contractor reaches the decision stage, he knows who he needs to contact. He’s chosen a solution and is just about to pick up the phone or fill out a form to speak with a lawyer.
At this stage, helpful content may include case studies, free trials, pros and cons lists, and comparison tools. Through law firm marketing efforts, the goal is to position yourself as the best resource and solution available.
Stage 4: Advocacy
Just because a client has decided to hire your firm doesn’t mean that you should stop engaging with them or selling your service. The tail-end of one client’s process could be the beginning of a new client’s one.
If your client has a positive experience and sees that you’re engaged, they’ll be more inclined to refer you to friends and family members if and when they find that they need a lawyer.
Great advocacy-stage content includes responding to reviews, activity on social media, and direct-to-inbox newsletters.
You can learn more about the content marketing funnel for lawyers and the buyer’s journey in our extensive guide.
As you start your SEO journey, we recommend the following guides:
Up Next: Breaking down Google ranking factors