Your potential clients are already looking for you online. It’s time to meet them. These lawyer SEO best practices not only help you bring in new clients—they can also improve your reputation in your community and keep you top-of-mind with current and potential clients. Our comprehensive guide will help you make sense of law firm SEO, setting the stage for you to dive deeper into content marketing and other areas of digital marketing.
Done well, these efforts can help your law firm get the attention it deserves. In this guide, we’ll cover:
The basics: what lawyer SEO is and why it matters
A brief glossary of key terms and the different types of SEO marketing
How to optimize your website for search engines
How to build out content on your website
The best practices for developing a local SEO strategy
Let’s get started.
What is lawyer SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) for lawyers is the practice of making your website more accessible and searchable for people who are looking for businesses like you online. But what does this actually mean?
It focuses on two main goals:
Setting up your website in a way that makes it easier for search engines to understand
Creating content that people actually find useful and relevant
To start, search engines “crawl” millions of websites every day, looking for relevant, high-quality information that could answer their users’ questions. These sites index whatever they find that’s useful, assigning it a rank (more on that later) in relation to the other websites they crawl and index. We’ll talk about search engines in general in this post, though it bears noting that most of your efforts should be on optimizing for Google. With ~90% of the market share worldwide, most people are looking for you on this site. Other contenders include Bing and DuckDuckGo in the U.S.
Law firm SEO is equally about the people on the other side of the screen (or speaker). Simply put, your website content needs to answer the questions your clients are asking. You know your clients, you know your area of law and community, and you know what potential clients might be looking for. SEO for lawyers makes sense of this information, distilling it into the most on-topic and targeted content that you can create based on your firm’s expertise and goals.
The how behind doing this is something we’ll cover in much more detail throughout this post.
Why is lawyer SEO marketing so important?
You got into law to help your clients. Lawyer SEO marketing is an extension of that—serving your current and potential clients in an online way. It’s also one of the best ways to turn those prospective clients into a paying one.
Specialized law firms rank higher on Google. Why? Because they have a clearly targeted audience, and they tailor their legal SEO to that audience.
The most important part of legal SEO, no matter how complicated it seems, is that the goal is very simple: to better serve your clients.
The legal arena can be complicated and feel confusing. Your clients may be intimidated and unsure of how to proceed, or they may not know what constitutes quality legal representation. Lawyer SEO practices help simplify this complicated information, explaining difficult concepts in a clearer way. Once you earn a client’s trust by sharing your knowledge, the client will be much more likely to trust your firm with their complex legal matters.
Key terms to understand legal SEO
Fluent in complicated legal language but utterly flummoxed when it comes to SEO terminology? A quick list of key terms can help before we get started.
Traffic: The amount of users visiting your website (hopefully looking for legal representation or with a question about your practice).
Organic traffic: Organic traffic comes to your site without the use of ads, social media, or another website. For example, they may have been looking for “family law firm in Tucson” and found your practice with those four words alone on the first page of Google.
Query: Not always a question, these are words entered into a search box (or spoken to a smart device). Examples could include: “DUI defense attorney” or “how to set up a trust in Texas.”
Ranking: This is an ordered list of websites that best meet a user’s query. This is based on a variety of ranking factors.
Ranking factors: Ranking factors determine the overall relevance of your website’s content for a user. Google—the largest search engine—uses about 200 to establish a website’s overall relevance. They include the frequency of updates, your site’s mobile-responsiveness, other websites linking back to you, the speed your website loads, and more.
Conversion rates: Conversion rates measure how many site visitors actually take an action, like filling out a contact form or calling your office.
Keywords: Keywords are the what—the focused terms or phrases you use to signal to search engines what your content is about.
SERP: SERP stands for “search engines result page” and it’s the page you see whenever you type something into a search engine. The closer to the top of a SERP your site is, the better. On average, up to a third of all traffic goes to the site in position #1.
Featured snippets: These are the short answers that sites like Google use to answer a user’s query without leaving the search engine.
Backlinks: Backlinks point directly to your site from another website and are an important ranking factor.
Content: Content is the meat of your site: service pages, blogs, lawyer bios, educational articles, videos, graphics, FAQs, and more.
Types of SEO
Beyond this, there are two main types of legal SEO that contribute to your business getting noticed:
Onsite SEO: This is everything that goes onto your actual website. Not only your custom content (e.g., blogs, profiles, and educational articles) but also keyword selection, use of headings and title tags, images, videos, meta-description, the actual structure of your website, and more.
Offsite SEO: Think of offsite lawyer SEO as the aspects that are a bit more out of your control. For example, backlinks are other websites that connect to yours directly – they liked what you wrote and have cited you as a source.
Onsite SEO is the main factor that you can control to impact the growth of your law firm’s website. In addition, you might also consider whether your focus will be towards local SEO (targeting searchers in your immediate community) or national (a broader focus that might be a good option for your practice).
The list of SEO terms goes on. With these lawyer SEO terms, though, you’ll have a good start to understanding how your website is located and cataloged online.
Website optimization for lawyers: How to get started
Website optimization for lawyers is crucial to drive clients to your website (and in through your door!). Here are some basic tips to get your website up, running, and ranking – fast.
1. Collect data from the beginning
Whether you are starting from scratch or re-building your website, it’s important to start collecting data immediately.
Get Google Analytics up and running quickly with the following steps.
Start with Google Tag Manager: Website tags help you to see which posts are attracting the most attention.
Set up your Google Analytics account: This keeps all of your traffic data in one place and is linked directly to your website.
Set goals on your Google Analytics dashboard: Do you want to focus on contact form completions, newsletter signups, chat messages, or phone calls? Start tracking these from the beginning so you can monitor growth over time.
Connect to the Google Search Console: This step tracks how often your site is crawled, which sites link to yours, and which of your keywords are featured in queries.
If you want to stick with the very basics, set up your Google Analytics account first, then add the other steps as you can. The best lawyer websites are targeted and focused because they collect data from the very beginning.
2. Think mobile, first
On March 5, 2020, Google announced that they would be “mobile-first indexing.” Previously, Google used a desktop version of your site to gather information to index, but by September 2020 they will look first at the mobile versions of websites.
Why does this matter?
If you are re-designing your website completely or using new themes on an old site, make sure that these themes, plugins, graphics, and fonts are all mobile-responsive. Check for speed, proper layout, and views on tablets and mobile devices. This ensures that Google continues to crawl and index your website properly.
Website optimization for lawyers most frequently focuses on conversions. You don’t just want people to visit your site—you also want them to get in touch with questions or to make an appointment for a consult.
You can prioritize conversions by:
Including headers or footers with contact information on each page
Designing an easy-to-use contact page or contact forms
Building a call-to-action (CTA) into all content
You might also consider adding a chatbot or a pop-up that prompts visitors to connect if they have more questions. No matter what you choose, these tools should be easy and intuitive for visitors to use.
4. Build out relevant website content
Website content for lawyers is also important as it positions you as expert and trusted counsel. To start, your website needs content about your practice areas, services, and approach. You should also include bios on the members of your team, from office staff to legal counsel.
As you continue to build out your website, you can add more long-form content written with your clients in mind. This might include blogs or articles on the litigation process, definitions of complicated legal terms, or other content that serves your current and potential clients.
The best websites for lawyers avoid spammy or pushy sales tactics in this content. You are building not only a website but also a relationship with your clients. If you aren’t sure how to develop content (or what that even means for your law firm), you can work with specialized content creators to get you started.
5. Focus on user experience
You’ve created a gorgeous site with helpful and engaging content. You’ve set up your analytics and have solid goals. But, why aren’t people visiting?
One of the main reasons visitors stay away is simple: page speed.
You have about three seconds before 30% of your visitors click away, and five seconds before you lose 90% of them. Google offers a great site to speed test your page. Use it and make adjustments as needed.
As you review your website, try to look at it from the user’s perspective in terms of ease of use.
6. Keep your URL structure simple and organized
Your URL (uniform resource locator) structure, also known as your web address or hyperlink, should be simple. Your domain name is the first part of your URL, and everything that comes after it is part of the URL. The more complicated your URL, the harder it is for search engines (and people) to figure out what your site is about.
Consider this example: www.greatestlawyer.com/legal-definitions vs. www.greatest-lawyer.com/the-five-best-words-in-the-legal-profession/tips vs www.greatestlawyer.com/061720-why-we-care.
Which will be easier to remember? Which clearly indicates what the page is about?
7. Make it secure
The information you collect via forms needs to be transported safely from your client’s computer or mobile phone to you. Without getting too technical, HTTP information is not secure, and HTTPS information is. The type of port each configuration uses, as well as the added layer of a security certification for HTTPS (among other factors), makes HTTPS the best option for sensitive communications.
Remember, the goal is to build client trust, and a safe website goes a long way towards that goal.
How to build out website content for lawyers
As with legal proceedings, building out website content for lawyers has its own set of rules and best practices. Here’s how to get started.
What do you want to write about?
The hardest part about developing website content for lawyers is narrowing down what you want to write about. Complex legal topics are your specialty, but how will you choose from all the possibilities?
Start by asking yourself a few questions.
What is your key practice area?
Within that, what are your passions?
What types of cases do you want to do more of?
What do you want to be known for?
Brainstorm a long list of answers to these questions. This brainstorming session can also help you generate a list of topics to refer to as you build out your website.
Narrow it down to a few key service areas
Once you have a brainstormed your list, look for patterns that emerge. These patterns may focus on a few key service areas. For example, maybe you are a family lawyer but you really want to specialize in adoptions or representing special needs children.
Try to generate three to five key service areas that you want to be known for and focus your content on those. This helps position you as a thought leader and trusted expert in your area. This narrow focused can also help better position your website in search results by homing in on the legal keywords that direct the right types of clients to you.
Find the right SEO keywords for lawyers
Legal keywords are like a beacon that shines right from your website out into the furthest reaches of the internet to tell everyone that your content is worth looking at. Search engine optimization (SEO) keywords for lawyers make finding your site possible among the millions of other websites.
How do you find the magical SEO keywords for lawyers that will guide your website content creation? There are a variety of tools online that can help.
Moz:Moz offers free keyword analysis and other SEO tools to help you select the best legal keywords for your site. It also offers a free domain analysis to see what’s working on your site and what needs improvement.
SEMRush: The Keyword Magic tool gives you data about the topics you want to write on. Type in your target keywords and get a detailed analysis of the highest-performing keywords closest to your search.
ahrefs:ahrefs has a full suite of SEO services for lawyers that you can explore for free with a seven-day trial.
Google also has a keyword planner that is tied to Google ads but can be helpful in creating website content for lawyers. Explore each option to see which one is easiest for you to use, then get started building your keyword bank.
Build a bank of the best legal SEO keywords
Part of your legal keywords bank will be certain “core” keywords that appear in every piece of content on your site. If you are a divorce attorney in Louisiana, for example, you want to be on the first page when someone types those words in the search bar. Those core keywords should be laced within your content, but they won’t make up the bulk of it.
Instead, once you identify your core keywords, you will get more specific. For example, as a divorce attorney in Louisiana, you might then use long-tail keywords like “How much does a divorce cost in Louisiana” or “Louisiana child support calculator.” These keywords then become topics for your website—think articles, blogs, or videos.
The crucial part of the best legal SEO keywords is that you learn to speak the same language as potential visitors to your website. Essentially, you are looking at patterns from the resources above, along with an understanding of what potential clients want, to predict what people are looking for.
The best legal keywords are:
Longer (referred to as “long-tail” keywords that are three or more words on average)
Location-specific (i.,e., “divorce in Louisiana” vs “divorce”)
It can take some time to nail down solid keywords, but it’s time well-spent when it comes to driving traffic to your site.
Write high-quality content that fulfills searcher intent
Turns out, no matter how good your keywords are, you have to create high-quality content that actually delivers on the keyword’s promise when people visit your site.
Website content for lawyers is most effective when it meets the following criteria.
Word count is between 500 and 2,000 words: Longer form pieces of content get the most views and shares
Language is down-to-earth: The content takes a complex topic and breaks it down into easy-to-understand language for a wider non-legal audience
Content organization promotes understanding: Use headers, lists, and bullet points to hit the high notes and keep readers moving through your text
Graphics, videos, and pictures are used: These break up the “text wall” and keep readers engaged
Writer’s “voice” is clear and distinct: Your content is like your first meeting, so let your potential clients know you and your firm through your writing
When you organize your content, don’t neglect optimizing for mobile devices. Mobile device users account for 60% of all traffic online. Many of these screens are small, so content should be organized in a way that allows searchers to find what they need, quickly.
The content should also be designed with the “searcher” in mind. Once a visitor hits your site, it’s important to give them what they are looking for and to move them to further action. Maybe they are looking for some basic information on divorce and child custody but have specific questions about their own circumstances. Tell them where to contact you, urge them to do so (a “call to action”), and make it easy with a button or “contact us” tab.
And a word about “free” content. Sure, it’s possible that searchers will take your carefully crafted content and not become a client. This is the nature of content creation for lawyers. The goal is to build a relationship over time so that people will trust you and your services enough to book you when their legal matters become too complex for them to handle on their own.
Write high-quality content that fulfills search engine intent
You’ve written great content with the best SEO keywords for lawyers informing your text. The next step is to make sure your legal keywords and high-quality content are attractive to the bots that will “crawl” your site.
What does this mean, exactly?
Put simply, bots “crawl” your site at set times (it depends on the search engine) to see if there is anything worth noting online. The more that they find that’s attractive, the higher your website will rank. Basically, you want your site to be really, really attractive. Here’s how to make sure it is.
Feature keywords in your title
Other than the content, titles are the most crawled piece of website content. Quirky titles might make you laugh when you’re writing them, but they won’t get a bot’s attention. Make sure the title is linked to the content’s purpose.
Add keywords to your URL
The web address to your content should have the exact keywords in it. A blog post with the URL www.bestlawyer.com/maryland-child-support-calculator is going to rank much higher than www.bestlawyer.com/1976j3987.
Don’t sleep on meta-description
A brief description of the page appears underneath it on the search results page. This meta-description of your website page’s content (including legal keywords) can help searchers choose your site. Keep it to no more than 160 characters, and make sure it accurately reflects what searchers will find when they click the link.
Meta-description is like your online dating profile. You want it to be enticing and descriptive to draw potential clients in.
Associate keywords with pictures and videos
Tag pictures and videos with keywords. This helps them to rank in image-only searches (which then, of course, can point back to your website).
Bring in experts in website content for lawyers
Having someone who understands legal concepts, website content for lawyers, and legal SEO best practices can save you time and money.
NIVAN knows you may not have time to learn the ins and outs of content marketing for lawyers. Instead, we can help with full-scale management or consulting on the development of your website content.
Best practices for local SEO for lawyers
Of all the industries you can find on the internet, perhaps none is more location-based than the law. With different regulations and rules for each state, and sometimes each individual county or town, it pays to focus more on local SEO for lawyers than for many other types of fields.
Why is local SEO for lawyers important?
Local SEO for lawyers is a valuable tool for law firms reaching out to potential clients in their community. Why is optimizing for local search so important?
“Near me” and “near me now” searches have grown by 500% and 900%, respectively, in the last two years. Whether it’s a burrito or a divorce attorney, more people are searching on mobile devices, and they want results now. Local SEO for attorneys, especially when on websites optimized for mobile, means a better chance of bringing in those potential clients.
Before you get started, know this: local SEO for lawyers (as with all industries) is not a “set it and forget it” concept. Legal SEO is an ongoing process that needs to be responsive, especially when it comes to building reviews (more on that below).
One of the best places to start is with Moz’s basic guide to local SEO. This includes a free “presence check” that examines how your business appears on the internet. Based on this, you may need to ask that incorrect listings be removed or claim any business listings that already appear for your firm. You can also get listings updated and corrected for a fee.
This might seem like a pointless step, but seeing how your firm appears before you begin to improve your local SEO can be a useful baseline. Once you gauge where you’re starting, it’s time to make some changes.
1. Optimize your Google My Business profile
One of the best local SEO tips for law firms is to fully optimize your Google My Business profile. Geared especially towards the local “near me” searcher, your firm’s Google My Business page goes beyond just listing the brick-and-mortar location of your firm to give potential clients insights into the people behind the listing. This free tool can help bump you into the “local pack” at the top of organic search results, with eye-catching photos, a local map for directions, and links to your website. It’s free advertising that drives potential clients directly to you.
Set up (and optimize) your Google My Business profile in a few steps.
Claim your business and set up your profile
Start by claiming your business listing and making sure you have placed a map marker online, either at a specific location or as a broader service area.
Also choose the proper service category. Get as specific as you need when defining your law firm specialty and area of expertise.
Verify your business
Google will send a postcard to your physical address to verify that you are, in fact, a business.
Don’t sleep on this. It takes about two weeks to get verified, and that’s downtime in terms of search results. Once you receive it, go online to easily verify your firm location.
Make your listing stand out
While you are waiting on verification, take the opportunity to fully optimize your listing. Not only does this provide crucial information for clients, but it also makes your listing more attractive to Google. This means better potential search ranking and a good shot at appearing in the local pack of results.
Focus on the following:
A complete profile (hours, physical address, and contact information)
Description of your business that includes years of experience, prominent attorneys, practice areas, locations served, and awards or recognition
Consider your listing as the first step in relationship building. It’s more than a dry listing of facts about your practice area and hours. Google My Business helps you to define your practice for clients who are actively seeking representation.
Whether you are an established firm expanding into new ways to reach clients or a brand-new practice, Google My Business can help you reach a broader local audience that is already looking for you online.
2. Get listed on other local search directories
Getting listed on local search directories other than Google is another best practice in local SEO for lawyers. Why? Even though Google search accounts for six billion searches a day, smaller and industry-specific searches can get you in front of potential clients when you can’t quite get to the top of Google search results.
Free local business directories also provide some serious benefits when it comes to building your presence in Google search results. The more local business directories you target, the more links point to your website. These “backlinks” are very attractive to Google bots. They can help move your practice to the top of the search results page.
3. Gather consistent, ongoing reviews
We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Getting consistent, ongoing reviews of your services is a crucial part of legal SEO.
You can put all the pictures up, optimize so your listing shows up in the local pack, and update your crucial information, but potential clients want to know how good you are at what you do. Reviews are the 21st century equivalent of asking a friend for a recommendation, and 84% of people trust online reviews just as much as they do a personal recommendation.
Make it easy for clients to leave a review by integrating requests for reviews in every piece of marketing material you send out: in email signatures, on social media profiles, and on your website.
4. Set up a comprehensive review strategy
Once the reviews start coming in, setting up a comprehensive strategy to organize and respond to them is a key part of lawyer SEO.
For example, maybe you have five positive reviews and one seriously negative one. All of these reviews pop up through local search, and guess which one will carry the most weight?
The fear of bad reviews is no good reason to shy away from getting them at all, though. Even bad reviews represent an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment to clients. Your response to reviews—or the lack thereof—gives potential clients a glimpse into your overall law practice.
Respond to each review, keeping privacy guidelines in mind. Answer questions, offer support, and thank each client for taking the time to review your business. Note that you’ll reach out directly to negative reviewers, when appropriate, and make sure you do to help resolve the issue. Your tone and thoughtful response, more than nearly anything, is the best advertisement for your practice.
5. Keep track of how you’re doing
With optimized Google My Business listings and positive reviews pouring in, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your website’s analytics. These will show you how you’re doing in terms of the number of visitors you receive, the length of time they are on your site, and what they are looking at. This valuable information informs the changes you need to make in the future.
Maybe your clients are looking for more information? Add high-quality content in the form of a blog or articles on the law. Perhaps the same questions keep coming through email? Consider using a chatbot or adding a “frequently asked questions” page to your site.
Whether you are a solopreneur or a partner in a large firm, the end goal is to engage with current and potential clients. Local SEO for lawyers helps clients get to know you and your law firm. It is an ongoing practice designed to build long-term relationships that grow over time.
Get help with lawyer SEO
You may have entered your practice to focus on legal matters, but legal SEO is crucial to the health of your firm. Whether you work with a company that specializes in SEO services for lawyers or take a DIY approach, lawyer SEO strategies can help you better serve your current clients while reaching out to new prospects.
NIVAN can help your law firm with specialized website optimization for lawyers, content creation, and SEO direction for all of your digital marketing needs.