What Ranking Factors Are Most Important When it Comes to Law Firm SEO?
Google will favor content that’s helpful, high-quality, and related to a user’s query. After all, its goal is to provide users with the best information possible.
So, what is Google placing the most emphasis on when deciding what’s the “best”?
- Domain factors
- Core web vitals
- Page- and site-level factors
- Backlink factors
- Brand signals
- On- and off-site webspam factors
- User interaction, and
- Other Google algorithm rules.
What on earth should you focus on for SEO success if Google is looking at hundreds of different factors?
Fortunately, Google gave us a direct answer back in 2016.
During a Q&A, Google Search Quality Senior Strategist Andrey Lipattsee acknowledged that content, links, and RankBrain are the three most important ranking factors for SEO.
- Content: relevant, high-quality information
- Links: authoritative links (resources)
- RankBrain: user intent
At the end of the day, that’s what law firm SEO really boils down to. A smart SEO strategy will hone in on each of these things and really take them to heart.
We’re going to cover a few specific ranking factors in a little more depth to give you a better understanding of how Google views your website. You’ll notice that many of these factors overlap or play into each other.
1. Domain Authority
Think of domain authority (DA) as your website’s reputation. When your website is filled with quality content that addresses your audience’s needs, you’ll have higher domain authority. The higher your DA is, the better Google will rank your content.
Moz, an SEO software company, came up with a rating system that ranges from one to 100 to predict a website’s ability to rank on search engines.
The higher your score, the greater your ability will be to rank. Moz considers over 40 factors to calculate this score, including inbound links and root domains. You can add MozBar to Chrome for free to view the DA of any website.
When someone is searching for an attorney – or just on the hunt for some basic answers to legal questions – there’s a lot at stake. The answers that a user gets could have a huge impact on their life, well-being, and/or finances. Google has a special name for the content that addresses these types of searches: “Your Money or Your Life” or YMYL.
Specifically, it’s defined as “any page or topic that could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”
Several different types of businesses and services fall into this category, including law firms. In other words, your law firm’s website content is likely YMYL.
If YMYL content is inaccurate, deceitful, or not delivered in the best possible way, the consequences for the user could be disastrous. So, Google has special rules that apply to YMYL content and places extra emphasis on E-A-T for these types of pages. (More on that in a minute).
Here’s the takeaway: Potential clients are seeking help with legal issues – divorce, criminal charges, liability after an accident – that could have a massive impact on their life and wellbeing. Google really takes this to heart and wants to be sure that users are getting information that will help – not hurt – them.
So, in order to make sure that the best results are displayed, Google will up-rank pages with YMYL content that’s
- (a) backed by specialized expertise,
- (b) recognized as a source of authority by others on the web, and
- (c) trusted and a constant source of positive user signals.
You can create quality legal content that complies with Google’s policies regarding YMYL pages and increases your DA by employing the E-A-T method.
3. E-A-T: Create Great Legal Content
Good content marketing is about more than just finding a keyword and maximizing its use. Instead, it’s about building what Google has termed E-A-T: Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.
- Expertise, in this case, means creating content that Google recognizes as matching the searcher’s intent. That includes not just the keyword itself, but the heart of why a Google user might have used it. Google uses metrics like time-on-page and site engagement to measure expertise.
- Authority means not just showing expertise but having that expertise recognized by others. Links from high-quality websites, including shares on social media, increase a page’s authority. We’ll talk more about link building and off-site SEO later in this guide.
- Trustworthiness is about minimizing negative user feedback. Negative reviews, high bounce rates, an insecure HTTP domain, and a bad user experience for mobile users can all decrease this metric. We’ll discuss many of these more technical on-site SEO factors in a later chapter as well.
In short, creating great content is about answering and anticipating audience questions, building value that gets recognized by others, and minimizing negative questions. That’s how a blog post can turn from a nice but isolated piece into a crucial cog in the larger content marketing machine.
4. User Experience
User experience (UX) is how visitors interact with your website and content. If your website has a good UX, it will lead people seamlessly through the buyer’s journey. Visitors will find what they’re looking for quickly when they land on your site. You’ll directly address pain points, so users don’t get confused and leave prematurely.
With Google’s Page Experience Update – rolled out in 2021 – user experience became an even more important ranking factor. How important? Among SEO experts and specialists, only content and links carry more weight.
Google itself explained that content will always be king, but that “page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search” when multiple pages offer similar content.
There are a number of metrics that can help you determine how good (or bad) your user experience is. Two you should definitely scrutinize include bounce rate and dwell time.
- Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your website after viewing one page. You want this to be as low as possible. A high bounce rate could signal poor user experience.
- Dwell time is how much time visitors spend on specific pages. A long dwell time means your content is highly relevant and engaging.
Good UX design engages visitors, empowers them to find what they need, and leads them to the next step of their journey without any issues. The better UX design you have, the more engaging your website will be and the longer visitors will remain on your site.
5. Quality Content
For your website content to be “high quality,” it must be written for people and optimized for search engines. To develop quality content, you should conduct keyword research and optimize each page for onsite SEO (covered in later sections).
Your content should also consider the intent of the reader. In other words, make sure you understand what prospects are looking for when they’re browsing online. What do they intend to do? What’s their goal when they enter search terms and queries on Google?
There are three types of search intent:
- Commercial: The consumer is researching with the end goal of buying something or performing a specific action online (e.g., “Atlanta car accident lawyer”).
- Navigational: The consumer is looking for a specific website (e.g., “LawRank”).
- Informational: The user is seeking information to educate themselves on a topic (e.g., “do I need a lawyer after a hit and run”).
When you know a user’s intent, you can create highly relevant content that gives them exactly what they want. If you accomplish this with your content, Google will connect you with more users that fall into your niche.
If people are engaged when they visit your website, your rankings will increase. Engagement tells Google your content is relevant, interesting, and useful.
6. On-Page SEO and Website Structure
Optimizing each website page will help improve your overall rankings on search engines. You should optimize content with header tags, title tags, alt text for images, internal and external links, and more. Your site should also be fast, responsive, and mobile-friendly.
Having a secure website is also vital. That means it has a valid and updated security certificate (SSL). You should see “HTTPS” and the padlock icon at the front of your URL. This ensures users that your website is safe for them to visit. HTTPS encrypts data transferred between consumer browsers and your server.
7. Quality Backlinks
Backlinks are formed when other websites link to your site. The more authoritative and relevant backlinks you have, the more “SEO juice” you gain from search engines. Google will see that others trust your content and consider you an authority in your space.
What factors play into link quality?
- Location within the content (versus in the footer or sidebar)
- Authority of the linking website or page
- Number of outgoing links the external website has
- Anchor text (the words used to link back to your site) and the context of surrounding text
- “Do-follow” links (versus “no-follow” links)
Your overall rankings should improve when you build more backlinks. Just ensure they’re from reputable sources that have high domain authority. See the “The Power of Link Building for Attorneys” section to learn more.
8. Mobile Usability
63% of U.S. organic search traffic on Google originated from mobile devices in 2019. Understandably, Google has shifted from desktop-first to mobile-first indexing. That means they predominantly use the mobile version of your website for indexing and ranking content.
If your website doesn’t have a responsive version for mobile users, you could see a negative impact on your rankings. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
Up Next: Understanding RankBrain