Lawyers in private practice face an extremely competitive environment in Google search. These challenges are compounded by the fact that there is an overwhelming amount of information about SEO on the internet, and very little of it is tailored specifically to law firms.
Search can be complicated, and like any modern technology, it’s always changing. This post boils down some of the most basic law firm SEO tactics — specifically those that are most likely to generate results for attorneys.
Perform An SEO Audit
An SEO audit is an in-depth analysis of a site, done before any optimization. It will show you the areas that need the most improvement, which means you won’t waste your time working on things that are already working.
Software designed for SEO auditing can give you specific recommendations to focus on. We use SEMRush to get suggestions on which pages have issues, but some other popular optimization tools include Screaming Frog (for on-site optimization) and Ahrefs (for finding and evaluating link opportunities).
One of Google’s top three ranking factors is content. With the staggering volume of articles published online every day, Google works hard to find the most relevant and comprehensive content on a topic.
When optimizing for search, attorneys need to focus on being the authority in a topic area. Any content should be created with the goal of being the most authoritative of its kind on the internet. It sounds simplistic, but a good way to do this is to see what types of pages are already ranking for a keyword phrase and make content that’s better (e.g., more in-depth, more explanatory or simply more readable) than those pages.
Ideally, content should be written in your own voice. There are many pages on the web for law firms, but only yours has your point of view.
One really effective way of generating long-form, valuable content is to do a roundup that answers a common question from your target audience. For example, get multiple non-competing law firms to offer their advice on when to hire a car accident lawyer, and then compile their answers into a single post.
Claim And Optimize Your Google My Business Profile
Google My Business (GMB) profiles are some of the most prominent directory listings online, so optimizing them is important. With so many people using Google search and related search services, it’s crucial to show up in the top three of GMB listing results.
Here are some priority optimization tips for lawyers on their GMB profiles:
• Choose an accurate category (e.g., “personal injury attorney” instead of just “attorney”).
• Gather as many positive reviews as you can (as long as your state bar regulations allow this).
• Leverage service descriptions and posts to rank for target keyword phrases.
• Add as many images and videos as possible (and at least more than your competition).
• Link your profile to a relevant location page instead of just your homepage.
A 2016 study showed that two-thirds of consumers surveyed were more likely to hire a lawyer with online reviews. The percentage of millennials relying on reviews to evaluate potential attorneys was even higher: an overwhelming 81%.
As part of an SEO campaign (assuming your state bar permits the practice), attorneys should focus on getting as many reviews as they can on leading platforms like Google, Facebook and Yelp, as well as leading industry directories.
Reviews provide a form of social proof that is hard to match. They help establish trust with consumers.
Backlinks are arguably one of the most important ranking factors in search. Focus on links your competitors are not able to match. For example, sites where you have a personal relationship with the site owner, where membership is exclusive, or for organizations like universities or professional/trade associations.
Another good strategy is to see what links your competitors already have and match them. Look for competition that is outranking you in search, and then use a tool like Ahrefs or Moz’s link explorer to see what links they have in their profile.
As a rule of thumb, always incorporate links into your content that add value to users and enhance the content. Avoid linking to service pages, and instead link to content such as blogs or articles. You can always funnel that link equity to your service pages later on with internal linking practices.
Dominate Legal Directories
Legal directories are websites that list legal professionals and their contact information.
Attorneys should join leading directories and remain active on them by responding to questions, getting reviews and submitting content (if possible). Many of these directories are already ranking on the first page of Google search, so lawyers can piggyback on that authority simply by building out a profile on select sites.
Always check to see if you can add a link to your site in the description sections of profiles. Not all directories allow this, but for the ones that do, it’s a nice opportunity to choose your anchor text.
Law firm SEO can be tricky and uber-competitive, but if the right tactics are used consistently and aggressively, attorneys can claim dominance in the search results.
Essentially, you need to evaluate your sites for weaknesses, optimize your overall web presence through high-quality content and link acquisition, and ensure your online reputation is top-notch. Doing all these things can create barriers to entry for your competition and ideally secure first-page rankings for your firm.