Lawyer SEO is hard work, and ranking on the 1st page of Google is never easy. Contrary to popular belief, there is more to law firm SEO than simply cramming keywords into your website that you want to rank for. With a wealth of online information available pertaining to SEO, some of which is very outdated or just plain wrong, it’s easy to get mislead into thinking you’re doing the right thing when in fact you’re not.
Considering that 93% of clients begin their search on the internet, it is crucial to have an effective and up-to-date SEO campaign. As such, this article takes a closer look at SEO for lawyers and how to perform it correctly, ensuring you gain the visibility you need, along with the clients you want, without expending too much effort.
1. Optimize for Local Search
Generally, law firm SEO can sink or swim depending on whether or not a campaign is targeting geographically-appropriate keywords. In the past few years, Google has incorporated more localized listings into its search engine results. This means that it is much harder to rank nationally for a broad “short-tail” term, such as “law firm” or “injury lawyer.” On the other hand, it also means that when someone residing within the same city of your law firm searches for such terms, Google may deliver your website as part of the search results. It’s a win-win scenario, because you are able to appear only to a relevant audience.
How do you take advantage of local SEO? For starters, you should submit your law firm to online directories such as Google My Business, Yelp and Foursquare. You can sign up for tools such as Moz Local or Yext to help keep track of where you’re already listed, where you should be listed, and also to correct any issues with duplicate and/or inconsistent listings.
Quick Tip: Be sure to optimize your website for local search by listing the cities that you service somewhere on your website. There are varying opinions as to how to properly go about this, but you should have at least one page that lists your locations. You may also create landing pages specific to each city you target, which will allow you to more effectively target each city.
Google does not like low quality “doorway pages” that utilize “cookie cutter content.” This refers to when someone replicates the same content across several pages and only changes minor details such as the city names. This will get you in trouble with Google.
On the other hand, if you take the time to craft unique, specific and useful content for your landing pages, then you will see a positive effect in your law firm SEO and rankings. Take a look at this video by Moz’s Rand Fishkin on how to do city-specific landing pages the right way.
2. Analyze Your Competition
How do you really get started with lawyer SEO? If you don’t have previous experience with search engine optimization, the early going may seem daunting. You may not know where to truly start, and how can you be sure that what you’re doing is effective and will increase your rankings? The answer is actually pretty simple: Google it.
If you’re an injury lawyer in Tampa, Florida, then do a search for “injury lawyer Tampa.” Google will then show you your top competitors, and you can proceed to analyze their websites for clues about what you should be doing for your own SEO campaign.
Pay attention to the website’s content and how it is written. Does it contain key phrases that you would like to rank for? Where else do these key phrases appear on the website? Read through Moz’s guide to SEO and particularly pay attention to the On-Page Optimization section. Combine what you learn from this guide with what you find on your ranking competitors’ sites to determine your own strategy.
Quick Tip: In addition to on-page optimization, you should also look “under the hood” at a web page for more intel. Most web browsers let you view a web page’s source code by pressing Ctrl + U on your keyboard (⌘-Option-U for Macs). Look for the title, description and keyword fields toward the top of the page’s code. These fields will contain valuable key phrases that you can replicate into your own lawyer SEO strategy.
3. Optimize Meta Data for Search Engines and People
Meta data, particularly meta titles and descriptions, should not be overlooked when it comes to SEO for lawyers. These elements are what your prospects see when your website is displayed in the search results and are also valuable for SEO and rankings. You should insert relevant keywords into these fields for each and every page. As a general rule of thumb for lawyer SEO, always add at least two keywords to your meta title and the same amount to your description. Generally, you want your meta title to be less than 70 characters and your meta description should be 165 characters or less (or the text will be cut off in search engine results).
Here are examples of what your meta should look like:
<title>Personal Injury Attorney & Car Accident Lawyers Indiana | Company Name</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”Call Indiana’s number 1 personal injury attorney and car accident lawyers today. We give the best legal aid to victims of car accidents and automobile related injuries.”/>
It is probably best to avoid incorporating a meta keywords field on your website. Google simply ignores this element, it serves no ranking value, and it makes it easy for your competitors to see precisely which keywords you are targeting. There is virtually no benefit.
Quick Tip: Be sure to write meta descriptions in the form of a call to action. While meta descriptions carry less ranking value than they once did, it is still important to optimize them, because Google search results bold the keywords included, which helps draw the attention of users who are searching for relevant results. Your call to action should then be enough to encourage a user to click through to your website.
4. Research and Choose the Right Keywords
For any law firm, SEO is absolutely crucial to the success of the firm. While numerous law firms understand the importance of keywords, they may not know how to think like their clients, who are always searching to find something local and highly regarded.
As we touched upon in the 1st tip above, you want to start your campaign by targeting locally. While you can theoretically rank for broad keywords like “injury lawyer” within the localized results of your vicinity, you will definitely want to first target, and optimize your website for, keywords that do include relevant city names. This is because it is significantly less difficult to rank for “trial lawyer austin” if you are a trial lawyer practicing in Austin. Ranking for the broader term is something that will take longer and will likely come naturally as you begin to rank for the more location-specific keywords.
Use Google’s Keyword Planner to look up relevant queries and decide which ones are right for your campaign. The tool will show you which terms are being searched and which ones aren’t, so you don’t waste your time targeting keywords that won’t get you traffic. You can even look up search volumes by city, so you can know precisely how many people in your area are looking for a law firm like yours.
Quick Tip: You may also want to encourage your clients to leave reviews for you in online directories. Remember, your potential visitors are not only searching for something local, they want to know that they can trust you before they’re willing to click through or call you. Online reviews help assure them that you are respected in your community and provide a quality service. This may not seem like it’s directly related to SEO for lawyers, but believe us, a good reputation online can also help increase your rankings.
Also, rather than spending days searching for the right keywords, you can always analyze the websites of your competitors and get a great idea of what keywords to use. Tools such as SEMRush and Ahrefs can help you assess which keywords your competition are targeting. Ahrefs.com can even help you figure out what kind of backlinks your competitors are attaining and will rate them based on quality and value. You should definitely try and replicate the ones that don’t seem too “spammy” or unnatural. (I.e. Links that seem to be created for the sole purpose of increasing rankings — these are pretty easy to spot).
As mentioned above, you can also check a competing website’s meta keywords field, which very explicitly lists the keywords being targeted. Again, Google does not consider this element as a ranking factor, so we don’t recommend incorporating meta keywords into your own lawyer SEO strategy. However, this does provide an easy opportunity for you to figure out what your competitors are doing.
Search engine optimization can be a lot of work, but the reward is worth it. With the information above, you will be able to effectively implement law firm SEO and will begin to see just how powerful SEO for lawyers can be.