In today's digital era, legal clients are increasingly turning to online searches to find legal representation. SEO for lawyers isn't just a trend; it's a necessary strategy to ensure your law firm’s long-term success. As competition within the legal sector intensifies, failing to utilize SEO means not only fading into online obscurity but also missing opportunities to assist those in need.
In this blog, I will define SEO, its importance to those in the legal field, and what you can do to best present yourself online.
What is SEO?
SEO is the practice of improving your website’s ranking in search results for keywords that are relevant to you and your firm.
An effective SEO strategy incorporates several different elements, including link building, content marketing, social media, and PR.
Why does SEO matter?
Where you rank in search has a tangible impact on the engagement your website receives online. Over 90% of user experiences online begin with a search engine and 50% of website traffic comes from search engines.
Generally speaking, the higher your website ranks, the higher your click-through rate (CTR); or, the more clicks you’ll get. The #1 result in search receives nearly 30% of clicks and is 10 times more likely to receive a click than the #10 result. It gets worse: results on the second page and beyond in search results see a sharp drop off in CTR.
In the world of SEO, if you’re not first (or second, maybe third), you may as well be last.
What’s more, if your website ranks well for one keyword (or search query), you’ll likely rank for several. The average top-ranking page for a particular search query also ranks in the top 10 search results for nearly 1,000 other related keywords.
With over 90% of people going online to learn more about a business, how you appear in search results - if you even show up at all - can have a real impact on audience reach, expanding in your industry, and the overall success of your firm.
Why is SEO important for lawyers?
SEO is important for everyone. But for lawyers, there are specific considerations that need to be taken into account:
- Where Clients Turn. More and more, when people want answers to legal questions or are seeking legal advice, they will turn to a search engine. In fact, nearly 60% of surveyed users reported going online to find legal representation. If your firm appears in results for queries related to their concerns, these prospective clients will be more likely to reach out to your firm.
- A Highly Competitive Market. The legal field is saturated, with many lawyers vying for a limited number of potential clients in any given area. An effective SEO strategy that helps you secure top-ranking positions for you and your firm will ensure that you stand out against your competitors. What’s more, lawyers and law firms that don’t implement an SEO strategy risk being outranked by competitors and losing prospective clients to these competitors.
- Local Searches. Even if your firm operates in multiple locations, making clear to your clients where your attorneys are located and what areas you serve can increase your visibility in search results and increase the likelihood of connecting with local clients. To be sure that it is easy for clients to determine where you practice, list the cities or regions where you practice on your website and be sure to claim any relevant Google My Business listings (don’t worry, we’ll get a bit more into that later).
- Traditional Marketing is Becoming Less Effective. Although some forms of advertising can still yield results for your firm, SEO can provide a more cost-effective, long-lasting option for bringing in new clients and establishing a brand online. For example, although Google ads and paid results occupy prominent positions on the Google results page, over 90% of users skip over these in favor of organic results.
- Protecting Your Reputation. SEO goes hand-in-hand with online reputation management (ORM). Even if a client has found you through means other than an online search, they will likely look you or your firm up online before making contact or committing to working together. If you have established a strong online presence, you can be more confident that what they find will represent your firm well.
Where to Start
Before you dive into the world of SEO, you will need to get a sense of: 1) where you are starting and 2) where you want to go.
Assess Online Presence
The first step towards establishing an effective SEO strategy is to take stock of your online presence and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.
First, search for your branded keywords (this includes your name, your firm’s name, etc.). Consider what you see. Are the results relevant, or do they populate results for other people and firms? If they are relevant, what ranks? Is it your website, social media, review platforms, or other properties? Are the results positive, neutral, or negative?
Once you have recorded what ranks for your branded keywords, search for keywords related to your firm that you expect or would like to rank for (such as “family law” if that is your area of expertise). Consider what you see. Do you rank for these keywords? Where do you rank? Are there keywords you perform better for than others? Are there keywords that you don’t rank for at all?
Assessing your online presence will be an iterative process as you begin working on it, but getting a sense of where you’re starting will allow you to track your progress.
Define Your Audience
In most cases, lawyers and law firms have specific focuses. As such, identifying the audience you aim to serve can help you establish yourself online in a way that will best reach your prospective clients.
Consider previous clients and those who tend to need help in your particular area of law. Once you have gathered this information, prioritize channels that tend to cater to these audiences. For example, firms that tend to work with clients in a specific demographic may have a more focused online strategy, whereas firms that work with a wide array of clients may have a more multifaceted approach.
Conduct Keyword Research
Conducting keyword research involves identifying the search queries that prospective clients will use to try to find a lawyer. These are the keywords that you will want to rank your website for, and identifying them will help you cater your website copy and additional content toward those topics.
SEO for lawyers tends to focus on keywords that target their specific service lines. In addition, local SEO is a huge factor when considering keywords for lawyers.
Below are examples of keywords that might be utilized by lawyers or law firms, but it's imperative to remember that crafting an effective SEO strategy goes beyond merely choosing relevant phrases. It's crucial to consult keyword metrics — such as search volume, competition, and cost per click (CPC) — to ensure that your selected keywords align with your digital marketing objectives and budget.
Broad Legal Keywords:
- Personal injury lawyer
- Divorce attorney
- Bankruptcy legal advice
- Employment lawyer
- Criminal defense attorney
- Family law specialist
- Intellectual property attorney
- Tax lawyer
- Immigration attorney
- Estate planning lawyer
Localized Legal Keywords:
- [City/State] personal injury lawyer
- [City/State] divorce attorney
- [City/State] bankruptcy advice
- [City/State] employment lawyer
- [City/State] family law specialist
To conduct keyword research, you can utilize tools such as Google Keyword Planner (a tool within Google Ads) and Google Trends. You can also consider terms relevant to your areas of expertise, terms that have come up with previous clients, or phrases that can lead someone to you (such as “car accident lawyer in Austin”). Look at the terms competitors rank for to get some ideas as well.
Establish Your Goals
Obviously, the general goal of SEO is to rank your website for keywords that will bring prospective clients to your website. But that’s a big goal! An effective SEO strategy requires long- and short-term goals to create benchmarks for success and ensure that you are taking a focused approach to your online strategy.
These goals will be contingent on your industry, your resources, and where you’re starting from. They may look like ranking on page one for a particular keyword, achieving a certain number of followers on a social media platform, receiving a specific traffic increase to your site month to month, etc.
SEO Strategy for Lawyers and Law Firms
Once you have gotten a sense of where you are starting, what’s working for you, and where you need to improve, you will need to begin carrying out your SEO strategy. If you don’t feel you have the experience or the bandwidth to carry out your own SEO strategy, you can contact Status Labs for a free consultation to determine if we can help you achieve your online goals.
Remember that effective SEO strategies are multifaceted, iterative, and goal-oriented. SEO is always changing, so in addition to keeping a focus on your own progress and strategies, you will want to stay up-to-date on industry trends.
Claim Any Relevant Properties
The more assets that you control online, the more you can use to your advantage. As such, the first step is to claim or create any properties that you haven’t already. These include:
- Social media profiles (Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Google My Business
- Directory listings
- Any other business profiles that can be claimed
Once you have claimed these assets, you will want to do one of two things:
- Fill out the listing to be as accurate, up-to-date, and built out as possible. The more information, helpful and relevant links, and pictures you can include, the better. If it’s a social media profile, be sure to choose a username that includes your name or the name of your law firm and establish a consistent posting schedule.
- If you do not have all the necessary information, or are not able to carry out a posting schedule on social media, simply claim the profile and make the profile private. An inactive, inaccurate, or sparse profile can work against you, but claiming the profile for the future will ensure that you have your desired username and profile ready when you are able to maintain it.
Optimize Your Website
Having a website that works for you can have a substantial, positive impact on where you rank in search results. When creating and maintaining a strong website, you want to consider user experience.
There are a couple of ways to think about user experience, including the functionality of the website and the content that users will find on your website.
Functionality: this includes loading times, if the website is optimized for mobile, ensuring there are no broken links and minimal redirects, that the website is intuitive and navigable, etc. You can utilize tools such as PageSpeed Insights and Google Search Console to improve your website.
Information: when considering the information you include on your website, consider what any prospective or current clients would want to know. The lawyers at your firm, experience, areas of expertise, cities or regions that you practice in, success stories, client testimonials, etc.
Content is an incredibly valuable resource when it comes to SEO. It can help you define your brand, increase your authority, rank for specific keywords, and establish you as a thought leader in your industry. Particularly for lawyers, the content you publish on your website can provide important information and context to prospective clients and can highlight your expertise and experience.
When determining what your content will cover, you will need to come up with three to five general topics that your content will fall under to maintain a focus on your site. These topics should be relevant to your work. When drafting your content, create content that is informative and answers questions that have come up with previous clients or that tend to be questions in your industry. Allow your keyword research to inform the topics you cover, and be sure to write for people, not for search engines.
A key factor to consider when creating content related to your legal work is what Google calls “Your Money or Your Life” topics (also referred to as YMYL). This refers to content that covers topics that can have substantial consequences for users, including health, finances, and legal content. As such, you can incur penalties to your site if you are not verified and trustworthy in your content, so be sure to reference sources when necessary and adhere to the Google guidelines.
Remember that content does not just refer to written content, but images, infographics, and video content as well.
Local SEO is an important focus for any business that serves a particular area, and this is certainly true for lawyers. As such, be sure to include any cities or areas that you practice in on your website, and emphasize that you are a local lawyer when relevant.
You will also want to claim and optimize your Google My Business listing. This listing allows you to display important information about your business, such as location, operating hours, images, common questions, and client reviews.
Remember local keywords when conducting your keyword research and drafting content, particularly if you work in one area.
Just like your website and social media profiles, claiming any listings on law websites and directories can help you ensure that the information listed is accurate and that you are putting your best foot forward on those platforms. As much as 31% of people look for lawyers on legal directories, further emphasizing the importance of that information being accurate. This can also benefit your SEO efforts if these sites allow you to include links to your website, blog, or social media profiles.
Some of the more popular law websites include:
Use Reviews to Your Advantage
98% of people report reading online reviews when learning more about a business, and over 80% report that reviews are “important” or “very important” in the legal sector.
Reviews can make or break whether someone decides to go with your firm, and a review strategy is key for a successful SEO strategy. There are three primary ways you can use reviews:
- Featuring reviews and testimonials on your website. By featuring positive reviews, you are allowing satisfied clients to speak for you, which can be more convincing than a firm pitching itself. What’s more, featuring positive reviews can make your firm appear more successful and trustworthy.
- Soliciting reviews. Reviews are about both quality and quantity. If you only have a handful of reviews, potential clients could be deterred even if you have a strong rating. To ensure that you have a good number of reviews, and new reviews coming in, be sure to have a method of asking customers for feedback during or after the process. If you are concerned about negative reviews, have a plan in place that encourages positive feedback to be posted as a review and negative feedback to be sent directly to you.
- Responding to reviews. Responding to reviews can improve your rapport with clients, your trustworthiness to prospective clients, and can even turn a negative review into a positive review. As tempting as it can be to leave negative feedback alone, taking the time to respond and do what you can to remedy the situation can leave a positive impression on people who are reading through your reviews.
Continue to Monitor Your Online Results
SEO is iterative. The best practices change, the search results change, and what users care about and how they use the platform can change. As such, you need to consistently stay aware of your online presence so that you are ready to respond and improve your SEO strategy.
Generally, this will include:
- Utilizing Google Search Console to monitor your website’s traffic and keyword rankings
- Regularly checking in with your review platforms to check on any reviews that have recently been posted
- Checking in with your social media profiles to stay aware of any conversations about your firm
- Utilizing tools such as Google Alerts if you expect any news coverage about you or your firm
If you have any questions, or want to talk to Status Labs about how to best improve your SEO strategy, you can reach out here.