Essential Law Firm SEO Strategies

Tyler Roberts |

January 26, 2019

When it comes to law firm SEO, there is a lot of competition. In fact, the legal industry is one of the most competitive on the web. Depending on your practice area and market, you could be going up against hundreds of heavy hitters who have been at the law firm SEO game for years.

You may be wondering, “what can I do to stand out from the crowd?” While the web is saturated with legal SEO content, it is never too late to get in on the law firm SEO game. In fact, with a long-term legal SEO strategy, you can pull ahead and rank at the top of Google search results.

So, how do you get started? It’s simple. Start with your ideal client in mind. Create content that is helpful and clearly answers your ideal client’s questions. Legal SEO can be highly technical (which we will discuss below), but it all starts with creating engaging and informative content.

That being said, there are countless SEO strategies your law firm can deploy to make sure that your legal content is generating value for you (i.e. new clients). Below we demystify law firm SEO by showing you a few free SEO tools and proven SEO tactics that can help your law firm compete in search engine marketing.

Design Responsively

All law firm websites should be mobile responsive. If your law firm’s website is not mobile responsive, you could be losing out on reaching these potential clients. Not only that, but your static site could be sabotaging your law firm’s SEO.

Designing a responsive website does two key things that boost law firm SEO.

  1. A responsive law firm website will help you obtain the “mobile-friendly” tag in online searches.
  2. A responsive law firm website provides a better user experience and ensures functionality across a variety of screens.

Law firm digital marketing can be reduced down to a two-part process. You need to get people to visit your site, and you want people to have a good experience once they are on your website. Designing a responsive law firm website helps you accomplish both.

Research Keywords and Write Optimized Content

Pretty much every lawyer knows that in order to rank high in search results, their law firm needs fresh, original legal content every month. With this tidbit of knowledge, many law firms begin cranking out blog posts, building new practice pages and peppring content with keywords. They may even hire an SEO “expert” to create this content. Then, after months of posting new legal content, they don’t see a return on their time and money.

Why?

Where a lot of lawyers, law firms and legal content writers go wrong is keyword research. Many times, they cast a wide net, trying to rank for highly competitive keywords. A successful law firm SEO strategie does require good content, but it also requires specific content.

Before you begin writing, you need to perform a keyword search to discover what terms your prospective clients are actually searching for. Keyword research may sound daunting, and maybe even a little expensive. In fact, we pay a hefty sum of money each month for access to top of the line tools for our clients. But, there are other (and free) ways to perform basic keyword research that can be helpful when deciding what type of legal SEO content you will publish on your law firm website.

1. Google Search Suggestions

If you’re just getting started on your law firm SEO journey, reach for the low-hanging fruit first. Possibly the easiest way to get ideas for keywords is to head over to Google and begin typing.

Let’s say that your law firm helps small businesses with LLC formation, and you want to write a blog on forming an LLC. Start typing “Forming an LLC,” and here is what you will see:

Using Google Search For Law Firm SEO Keyword Research

In less than 1 second, you now have several topics that you can turn into interesting blog posts. With a little more effort and experimentation, you could come up with countless more topics.

2. Google Trends

Once you get a few ideas from your Google search, you can go one step further and check out Google Trends. Once you are there, enter the same terms that Google automatically suggested. You should see something like this:

Google Trends For Law Firm SEO Keyword Research

As you can see, you’ll find much more detailed information regarding the topic you entered. At the top, you can see interest over time, which helps you gauge the relative popularity of the terms you searched.

Why is this helpful? For one, you can begin to decide which content your law firm should prioritize. Also, the info will give you an idea of how difficult it may be for your law firm to rank for these keywords.

Another interesting insight is the interest in topics by region. As you can see, keyword popularity varies by jurisdiction. Though people in New York may be looking for the same information as people in Florida, the terms they use to search for that information is different. As you plan out your SEO strategy, keep in mind what people in your region are looking for.

Lastly, this tool provides “Related Searches,” giving you even more topic ideas for your law firm website.

3. Adwords Keyword Planner

Google’s Keyword Planner provides incredibly useful information for law firms looking to strengthen their standing in search engine results. For example, this tool can tell you things such as:

  1. The average monthly search volume for each keyword
  2. The average cost-per-click for keywords
  3. The level of competition for keywords.

How is this helpful to your law firm? Well, if you find that a keyword has a high search volume and a high cost-per-click, you can safely assume that there is going to be a lot of competition to rank highly for that keyword. Again, you should reach for low hanging fruit by targeting more specific search terms with less competition.

4. Write Keyword Rich Content

After you have conducted a keyword search and come up with a few relevant topics for your law firm, the next step is to actually write the content. All of that tedious keyword planning will finally pay off. Now you can be certain that your content will be focused on highly searched topics relevant your prospective clients.

When creating the content, your keywords should appear in all of the following:

  1. Meta Title
  2. Meta Description
  3. URL
  4. H1
  5. H2s

Let’s say you are going to write a blog post on forming an “llc for an online business.” You can start by writing out all of those page elements before writing the whole post.  When done right, it should look something like this:

  1. Meta Title: Why You Should Form A LLC For An Online Business
  2. Meta Description: Though there is no legal requirement to form an LLC for an online business, there are several advantages. Here’s why you should form an LLC for your online business.
  3. URL: mysite.com/ll-for-an-online-business
  4. H1: Why You Should Form A LLC For An Online Business
  5. H2: Reason For Forming LLC For An Online BUsiness #1 (#2, #3, etc.)

Finally, you should use the keyword or phrase as an anchor link on other pages of your website to link to this new content. For example, you may have an existing page or blog post about the advantages of an LLC. In that case, you should embed a link to the new content whenever the phrase “llc for an online business” appears.

Give Your Most Important Pages Priority

In the eyes of Google, your law firm’s most important web pages are those located at the top. Your top-level pages should be those that you want to perform well in searches.

Don’t know what “top-level” pages means? It’s actually pretty simple. These are the pages on your “root” domain level. In your firm’s case, root level domains may look something like this:

  1. mysite.com/about-us
  2. mysite.com/practice-areas
  3. mysite.com/case-results
  4. mysite.com/testimonials

These types of pages are important to your law firm, which is why you (or your website designer) put them at the top of your law firm’s website. And because they are at the top, Google will view these pages as the most important.

What this means for you is that if there is a page that you want to rank well, you shouldn’t bury it under a root URL. Though it is still possible for pages that are buried on a website to rank well, they typically do best for very specific search queries.

Use Subdomains Wisely

Subdomains can be great for law firm landing pages used in PPC ad campaigns and social media campaigns. But no matter how popular the content on the subdomain is, the content on your subdomain will not directly influence your law firm website’s SEO.

Why is that?

In Google’s eyes, your subdomain is a totally different website than your root domain. This doesn’t mean your law firm should scrap using subdomains altogether. If the subdomain has links taking people to your website, then it may actually help SEO. The key is knowing when using a subdomain is beneficial.

Under no circumstances should your law firm blog be placed under a subdomain if you want it to benefit your law firm’s website. Same goes for any other web page that is important to your flaw firm.

Optimize Those URLs, Meta Titles and Descriptions First

We briefly covered this topic above, but it deserves a deeper dive here. As we suggested, you should take care of your meta titles, meta descriptions, headers and such before you begin writing. This ensures that your new page is optimized before you even type the first word of your new blog post or page.

Trying to optimize a page after you have written the content is much more difficult. In fact, it can lead to a mismatch between your focus keyword and the topic your new page discusses. It’s not impossible to optimize after publishing, but it’s not ideal. For the busy lawyer, every minute counts.

Use Those 301 Redirects

Your law firm’s website should never feel static. Every now and then, you should make a few updates. Not only will it keep your content fresh, but it will tell Google to check out the cool things happening on your site. And you can go beyond content. Nothing is stopping you from redesigning your site and architecture to provide a more positive experience for your visitors.

There is one drawback, however. When you change the architecture of your site, you may end up deleting pages, moving them from one root URL to another, or even changing the title of a page. When this happens, links to those pages simply disappear. When visitors find their way to that page, they will receive a 404: Error message.

There is an easy way to prevent this from happening. It’s called a 301 redirect.

Whenever you delete a page, move a page or change the page URL, you need to redirect the original URL to the new one. The benefit of using a 301 redirect is the preservation of your law firm’s “link juice,” or the SEO equity the original web page has earned over time. Simply put, the new page will enjoy the same rank as the old page. If done right, the new page can rank even better.

Make Your Law Firm Web Pages Canonical

When creating new law firm SEO content, you’ll want to make sure that Google knows which URL represents the definitive version of a web page or content. You can do this with a HTML tag called “rel=canonical” placed inside the <head> tag of the page.

This is important if you have multiple URLs pointing to the same page. To Google, this can look like your website is full of duplicate content (which presents a major SEO issue). Because each URL directs visitors to the same content, it may appear as though you have published multiple versions of the same content in an attempt to cheat Google’s ranking system.

You can avoid this by adding rel=canonical to the most definitive version of the URL. Here is what the code looks like on one of our sites:

Custom Code To Make A Law Firm Web Page Canonical

For lawyers who republish blog content on platforms like Medium and LinkedIn, it is essential to add the rel=canonical tag to the original post on their website.

Create A Sitemap For Your Law Firm Website

Sitemaps give Google a bird’s eye view of the structure of your website. It acts as a map, guiding Google’s spiders as they crawl through your website looking for helpful and relevant content. If you've never seen a sitemap before, here's a quick snapshot of the NOMOS Marketing sitemap:

One important function of your law firm’s sitemap is informing Google about pages that are buried on your website. Your sitemap can also tell Google how often a web page is updated, when the last change occurred and the importance of a particular page in relation to other URLs on your website. Once you have created a sitemap for your website, be sure to verify your website and submit it to Google's Search Console.

Submitting Law Firm Sitemap To Google Search Console

The priority of a page in your sitemap won’t really affect the ranking for that page. Remember, Google ultimately decides how a page ranks.

Design A Useful 404 Page

If a person lands on your 404 page, it means that a URL they used does not exist. They are possibly a little vexed, frustrated and not sure where to go next. Some law firms may try to alleviate that slight annoyance with humor (“Oops!”), but we suggest that you provide assistance.

Here are a few tips to make your law firm’s 404 page work for you:

  1. Tell your visitors that something went wrong. Yes, there may be a big old 404 right smack dab in the middle of the screen. But some visitors may not know what this means. Be clear that the page is missing.
  2. Provide a way off of the 404 page. For example, you can put a button linking back to the home page. You can also include links to other pages of your website at the top of the page.
  3. Provide a way to get feedback. A simple call to action requesting information about how the visitor landed on the 404 page will help your law firm identify the problem and fix it.

Here’s a screenshot from 404 page we recently designed:

Helpful Law Firm 404 Page Example

Alt Tag Your Images. Yes, All Of Them.

Alt tags are extremely helpful in boosting your law firm’s onsite SEO. Here’s why:

  1. Alt tags make images more accessible for visitors using screen readers.
  2. Alt tags give you another way to insert keywords

To use alt tags right, you’ll want to add descriptive alt tags to your images. They should describe the content in the image in a way that people with low or no vision can “visualize” what is going on.

This will help Google’s standard text-search engine find your page, but it will also help people using image searches find your site. In the past, designers and law firm SEO “experts” used alt tags to load up additional keywords. Now, Google penalizes people who abuse alt tags to jam in keywords.

Let Robots.txt Help You

You may want to control how Google crawls your law firm’s website. Fortunately, you can provide instructions to Google using your site’s robots.txt file.

For example, you can use a piece of custom code inside the <head> to prevent Google from indexing pages that you may be working on, or want to hide. For websites with password protection features, this can be extremely handy.

Here is what that code looks like on one of our websites:

Custom Code For Law Firm Site Map

Set Up Google Analytics

Setting up Google Analytics won’t in itself improve your SEO score, but it will give you insight on what is working and what is not working. For example, you can compare a web page’s historical performance to its performance after you optimize its content.  You can also see where your traffic is coming from. If you see an increase in organic traffic, that is a good indication that you SEO efforts are paying off!

Here is a quick look at the Google Analytics dashboard:

Google Analytics Dashboard For Law Firm SEO

And That’s Not All

SEO is a long-term strategy that can pay off with big long-term results. It’s not a one-time, quick-fix. There are no hacks. There are many SEO “experts” and digital products that fill lawyers with false hopes of reaching Page 1 with a few tweaks here and there.

The best law firm SEO strategies come down to knowing your client profile, identifying how they search for you and your competitors online, and then creating high quality, relevant content. But great content alone won’t be enough to get your law firm to number one on Google. Every aspect of your law firm’s website should be optimized - from URL structure all the way down to internal links.

By using the tools, tactics and strategies outlined in this article, you can begin to identify opportunities to increase exposure to your law firm through online search.

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