How Important is SEO for Law Firms?
In 2013, a Google survey was conducted to find out how people use the Internet when researching a lawyer. According to the survey, 34.6% of respondents first heard about a law firm by asking their friends. However, when asked what their first action is after searching a lawyer on Google, 29.5% of respondents visit the lawyer’s websites, while 27.6% read reviews on Google. That adds up to 57.1% of people finding law firms on the Internet.
SEO has clearly become an important way for law firms to gain clients and develop the best public perception.
We’ve covered Search Engine Optimization many times in the past. But still, the topic is so grand that it differs depending on the industry. What does this mean for a law firm? Is SEO for law firms any different from SEO for any other industry?
Many of the basic principles, such as the importance of a website and good content, are the same. But there are still some important considerations to be made for law firms. Perhaps a more useful question is how SEO for law firms is different.
Focus on Local SEO
People need help from firms they trust and have access to. Someone in Chicago would be more likely to seek out consultation from a local firm, than from the best firm in Seattle. It’s important for a law firm to consider their locations, not just physically, but online. Make sure your business can be found through local searches by registering your firm with Google. Keep in mind, however, that this is just the beginning. Just because your firm is on Google, doesn’t mean it will show up when people search for it.
Make sure to focus on localized keywords. Most law firms would love to rank first for terms like “personal injury” or “accident lawyer,” but the competition is so high, that it just isn’t realistic. Even then, it would be pointless to rank for this term unless you served every location in the country. The same challenge might also apply for ranking for popular cities, so “chicago child custody lawyer” might be just as competitive. Instead, focus on local regions, like “cook county custody lawyer” or be even more specific, like “gold coast custody lawyer.” If the area is somewhere you practice in, find a way to include that location in your web content, whether it’s in blog posts or in an article. Remember, people don’t just look for the best law firms, they look for the best firms that are close to where they are.
Register on Directory Listings
Search engine crawlers, the bots that belong to Google or Yahoo! that find and analyze web pages, rely on data aggregators and online directories. These directories tend to differ on location and industry. For lawyers, some popular directories include Avvo, AttorneyDirectorydb, and FindLaw. For some other directories, check out this list by AttorneyRankings.
Write Useful and Informative Content
Content is still king. Ensure your website has professional copy, and makes use of keywords that are most relevant to your firm. Law firms are in a good position for SEO, because there are numerous ways to write content searchable by Google. For law firms looking to create content, here are a few pages to have:
- Lawyer Bios
- Case Studies
- Relevant law news articles
- Awards/ Accolades
- Company/ Firm Blog
- Press Releases/ Press Coverage
- Specialty guides (e.g. “Things you need to do once you get hurt” for personal injury firms)
There are several other ways to get content out there. Some law firms make use of informative videos, others have tools and resource pages that benefit visitors, while others look to educate on the law. Provide value to your visitors and they’ll repay you with loyalty.
Optimize your Content
You’ve written some interesting posts, or created some great content. What’s next? Optimizing for search engines. If you’re working within WordPress, there are a couple plugins that make this process a lot easier, like Yoast. In any case, here’s a few things you should keep in mind when writing content:
- Focus on a specific topic. If your firm specializes in auto accidents, your clients might be searching for “how much does a car accident lawyer cost.” Your blog post should contain this sentence, or at least some keywords like “car accident lawyer” or “accident lawyer cost.” Once you choose your topic, make sure you insert relevant keywords in the right places. This can include:
- the URL
- Post Title
- Body text (must be used naturally)
- Meta description (the description for your webpage)
- H1 Headers (the main headers in your post)
- Image alt-tags (the description for your image)
- Image title
Of course, it should be noted your keywords should be used naturally, as Google might interpret an overuse of a keyword as spam.
- Keep an eye on word count and character limit. While there’s no right amount of words a post should have, the post should have a minimum of 300 words and a target for 1000. You’ll also want to study how long your competition’s posts are- if another law firm is writing 1000-word posts, you should be making 1500-word posts! Google is good at telling whether a page is padded with content. The page title should be over 40 but below 70 characters. Last, the meta description should be between 120 and 170 words.
Silo your Website by Practice Areas
If you want your firm to rank higher, it’s important to consider how to group your web content. Siloing refers to the practice of grouping several related pages in order to distinguish its main theme. There are two kinds of siloing: physical and virtual siloing.
If you look at most URLs, you’ll notice that they’re structured and organized like a book in a library- you start with the building, then the right aisle, then the row, until you finally pull out the book and land on the right page. URLs are similar.
What do you notice about the URL? It starts off with the domain (in this case CNN), followed by the date, then the category, and finally the article itself. It goes from general to specific, like how most sites should be structured. Different sites structure their links in different ways.
On the other hand, virtual siloing refers to the links between pages. By ensuring that one page links to similar or relevant pages, you create a theme around them. This strengthens both your site structure and the relevance of your keywords. According to Bruce Clay, Here are a few ways to silo your website, by practice areas.
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Petty Theft
- DUI/ DWI
Personal Injury Attorneys
- Bike Accidents
- Car Accidents
- Traumatic Injuries
Pay attention to how you link to other pages within your own site. It can be a relatively simple way of boosting the integrity and strength of your pages.
Create Citations Everywhere
Citations, sometimes known as your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number), are mentions of your law firm on other sites. This could be from an article detailing your latest case, a referral from a legal directory, and social networks you may own. Some examples include your Yelp business page, or Yellow Pages listings. Make sure that your citations remain consistent and accurate, otherwise Google may see it as a separate business.
Link through Social Media and Community Boards
Social linking benefits your firm in two ways: first, visitors get social proof of your firm. They learn how professional and legitimate it is, how you treat your clients, and what the alternatives might be. Second, when visitors click on social shares, they should be lead back to your website. Owning these accounts isn’t enough, you have to generate enough of a discussion so that people discuss your firm without your involvement. This requires content, whether that’s through blog posts or case updates, or any of the other possibilities mentioned above. Make sure to hit the most important social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.
Another important place to get links from is a community board. Forums, question-and-answer websites, and special interest communities are a great way to build authority and generate conversations. One way to do this is to Google search a question or phrase that your clients may realistically type in. For example, if your prospective clients are looking for help with collection agencies, they may type “how do I get collection agencies to stop calling.” Focus on boards that allow you to post, like Quora. Once you find someone asking this question, then you can reply with a helpful response, followed by a link to your site.
This is just an intro to SEO for law firms. Of course, there are many other methods and techniques law firms could use to improve their presence online, such as information architecture or user experience design. Know of any other SEO tips or resources for law firms? Let us know in the comments!