Law Firm S.E.O

Ultimate 2019 Actionable Guide to Search Engine Optimization for Law Firms.

by Chris Lancaster

Updated August 9, 2019


Image

Share this Page

Google Search Result Breakdown

The Yellow boxes are Pay Per Click (PPC) advertisements. The Red box is the local map pack associated with Google Maps & Google My Business. The green box is organic search placements by Google.

This is just one example of a Google search results page. Google has rolled out dozens of variations. The search result layout below is most typical for a law firm.

Image
Sections included on this page:
  • Why is SEO important?
  • What is SEO, really?
  • E.A.T – Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness
  • Law Firm Client Reviews
  • Common SEO mistakes to avoid
  • Importance of linking
  • The Utimate SEO tools
  • S.E.O focused Google Chrome Extensions
  • Google Search Console
  • Local Business Marketing / S.E.O
Summary This page will cover on page SEO, Off Page SEO, Website Development, Reputation Management and Lead Conversion.

On this page I explain in detail how you can use a solid Search Engine Optimization (attorney seo marketing) strategy to give your law firm the edge in 2019. We have worked with large firms with many partners and small law firm SEO strategies with a solo attorney and an assistant.

Google provides a broad Search Engine Optimization starter guide. On this page I will explore in depth strategies that have worked for my law firm clients.

Lancaster Marketing Co. has created, implemented and improved on search engine optimization for lawyers since 2014. We have created, tested, measured, and improved on seo services that have consistently increased revenue for law firms.

We are currently employed and contracted for monthly S.E.O by our first client. (The Watt Law Firm)

HubSpot offers introductory training courses on SEO.

S.E.O (defined by Wikipedia) is a multi faceted subject that includes the largest and most valuable companies (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Linkedin, Facebook, etc..) in the world.

Recommended articles about SEO:

News sources that cover Search Engine Optimization

Google and Facebook will far surpass traditional TV and Radio combined in ad revenue in 2019. Deservedly so because that's where the eyeballs ad attention are so that's the opportunity.

S.E.O covers all your law firms online marketing efforts. S.E.O has evolved from ranking well in search to an overall online reputation. This covers your law firms website, business listings and citations, links from other credible industry sources, business listings and citations,  Google My Business and even having an established presence on the social platforms.

It's a lot to maintain and extremely nuanced due to competition want those top spots. That said if you can do it right the reward is quit unbelievable. A small one person law firm can compete and even dominate in a metro area that has decades long established law firms.

Any time there are hundreds of billions in revenue ran by some of the most educated people in the world there will be complication. The great news is once you understand SEO and online marketing there are no limits to your level of success.

Latest S.E.O Updates

If they have a major impact on Search Engine Optimization we will post them here

Why is SEO important?

Before we do in depth research of what SEO is, I will establish why SEO is so important for your law firm.

Google is often the starting point for people who are needing services or help from a law firm.

Google and other search engines are the first step to finding an answer to searcher's problem.

They are looking for an optimal solution to their specific problem.

SEO in a nut shell is establishing your reputation through matching your online content marketing and and your law firm's offline services.

Google has recently made the shift from just answering problems to rolling out products and services that serve the searchers "buyer journey".

Google is using AI to understand where each searcher is at in their journey.  In the beginning searchers are looking for answers to their specific question, the next step is likely finding the best law firm that can handle their specific type of case.

The latest 2019 evolution of Google is to go from answering questions to ushering every searcher through a "Buyer Journey".

We can establish expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness with the strategy outlined below.

Lancaster Marketing Co. breaks your law firm free from from obscurity and establishes authority through SEO strategies.

What is SEO, really?

SEO in 2019 has evolved far beyond the traditional definition.

Search Engine Optimization (S.E.O) is the process of creating a comprehensive great user experience for a searcher with your law firm online. S.E.O is not just your website and it's content. It's become much more than that.

The product of a successful S.E.O campaign is that your law firm will show up high on search engine result pages consistently for the keywords relevant to your practice areas.

For example if a person was to search for "Criminal Defense in Kansas City" a successful S.E.O and content marketing campaign will result in your law firm being on the first page of Google search results.

S.E.O has evolved into scoring your law firms reputation, matching online content with offline services and how well your law firm's reputation online.

Your law firms online reputation is influenced by many factors including:

  • A great user experience on your website with quick loading pages, highly relevant educational text and informative media.
  • Mobile friendly website design. Google announced in 2018 they crawl the mobile version of your website for search ranking and NOT the desktop version. 
  • Inbound links from other reputable industry leaders to your law firms website.
  • Optimized Google My Business listing for placement on Google Maps.
  • Client reviews for your law firm on Google My Business.
  • Social networks and business listing platforms with consistent law firm name, address, phone number, hours, etc.
Image

Here's an article about 2019 ranking factors 
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-guide/ranking-signals/

A big part of that reputation will be your website where your law firm controls every aspect of the brand.

Highly relevant content includes includes text, images, videos, info graphics and polls. Your website should use these elements in a well thought information architecture that starts with a heading, sub headings and then the subject text.

This layout makes it easy for Google and your website visitors to understand information. Media is added to relevant areas to further help the website visitors understand content and context.

Ultimately your goal should be to educate and answer the website visitors questions. If you can do this better than the competition then you have a good start on establishing expertise, authority and trustworthiness.

E.A.T - Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness

Google's strategy to match real life experts with an online reputation.

Google uses an AI algorithm called RankBrain and Neural Matching. These bots have become extremely intelligent and unbelievably good at piecing together information that establishes real world authority.

Google released an acronym called E.A.T.

Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness are three metrics that Google uses to decide where a law firm will be ranked in search result pages.

A website with a great user experience and highly relevant content is a great start and half the battle but there are other factors that Google considers when ranking an attorney's presence online.

Google is moving toward being able to establish who real world experts are and matching them with their online content.

The reason for this is Google wants content written by those with authority to be served to searchers.

The information on this page and our marketing service provides optimization strategies that makes that connection.

This page goes into great detail on how to establish your law firm as the trusted experts with authority in your practice areas in your geographic market.

What are some of the factors and indicators supporting E.A.T ?

I'll get into that now.

Law Firm Client Reviews

Using Google MyBusiness, Google Maps and social reviews to establish E.A.T

5 star review iconReal 5 Star Reviews.

Law firm client reviews are one of the top 5 influencing factors on E.A.T

Legitimate 5 star client reviews build trustworthiness with searchers and potential clients.

Google puts a lot of trust into client reviews specifically those left on your Google MyBusiness listing.

That's because Google has multiple ways to verify the legitimacy of a review.

The can cross reference many factors to spot fake and real reviews.

Has this email address wrote other reviews? Are the reviews from the same I.P. address? Are the emails related to the same domain name ?

These are just a few ways to spot a fake review.

Never hire someone to write fake reviews. Google is no dummy and becomes increasingly more intelligent by the day.

We have tools that are easy to send out to clients that encourage reviews. It is a smart decision to make asking for reviews a part of your business process.

The best time to ask for a review is immediately after a win for the client.

The best place to receive a review for Google search engine optimization is on your Google My Business listing.

5 star reviews on Facebook are helpful if you run a lot of Facebook ads.

Negative Reviews. How to turn a negative into a positive. 

Lawyers can feel like a less than 5 star review will be harmful or damaging to the law firm's reputation.

That's not necessarily true.

Even if the review is negative that does not mean a searcher will necessarily see it as terrible.

A negative review gives us a chance to respond swiftly, politely and professionally to the review.

When we reply to a negative review we follow these steps

  1. Reply quickly
  2. Apologize for the experience
  3. Ask the review how can we make their situation better or how we help them now.
  4. Give the review direct contact information.

We never

  • Not reply.
  • Reply after a long period of time.
  • Reply in a defensive way.
  • Start an argument.
  • Place blame.

When a searcher finds you law firm's reviews the will most likely logically understand not every client will be 100% satisfied. We all know a busy company with many clients can't satisfy everyone every time.

It can also make your reviews appear more authentic. Family and friends will give 5 stars every time. Real clients may give 4 stars and still have had a fantastic experience.

The most important factor is that your law firm shows that you care.

You care enough to reply quickly and try to be reasonable, polite and professional. If you can do this for other clients you will do it for the searcher who has found you online and that's comforting to them because we all know mistakes happen.

A negative review can give your law firm a chance to showcase your client service skills.

Common SEO mistakes to avoid

Mistakes are almost unavoidable but we can help with common missteps.

1. Website is not optimized for local search.

Fix: Be sure that your website has your law firm name, address, phone number and email in the footer. Also be sure that this information is stated clearly on your contact page. Your law firm should also be listed with all the major business listings and citations. Another common problem over looked is that your law firms contact information needs to be uniform across all platforms.

Example: If you use Suite in your physical address on your website do not use the variation STE in other business listings or citations.

2. Dates in website URLs for evergreen content. 

Fix: If your website pages display

www.examplefirm.com/2019/4/estate-planning

Google will assume the date is crucial to the content of that page. It will be far less likely your website will be ranked for a broad topic such as estate planning.

The correct website URL would be

www.examplefirm.com/estate-planning

This will need to be 301 redirected to the correct website page URL and fixed in permalinks settings assuming your website is built in WordPress.

301 redirects can be easily created with a Redirection Plugin. I discuss this in detail on the WordPress Plugins section on this page.

3. Missing H1 tags

Fix: I discuss the importance of website architecture here. H1 tag establishes the main topic for a website page. H1 should include the keywords you want that website page to rank for. Sub headings and text content should always support the H1 tag (main topic).

4. Not linking relevant content within your website. 

Fix: Pages on your website that have relevant information to one anothers topics should be linked together in appropriate places making it easy for website visitors to find information that can add value.

Linking from page to page within in your website eliminates duplicate content. Duplicate content often receives a search penalty from Google.

5. Your website has "Thin Content". 

When Google crawls through your law firms website they need content to analyze. If your law firm provides very little information on a topic Google will give your website a "thin content" search penalty.

Example:

A law firm website has a page about "Child Custody" and the text is only 500-1000 words on the page but your competitors have 3000-4000 words Google will consider your website to have thin content.

Google will rank websites that go deep into a subject high on search engine results.

When Google serves your website to a searcher they want that searcher to find everything they need on that one website. Google is trying to avoid searchers having to go to multiple websites just to get the information they need for whatever topic they are researching.

If you are searching Google and you have to go to 5-10 different websites to get all the information you desire that would be a terrible user experience.

Fix:

By doing a deep dive with detailed content on your websites page main topic you are providing visitors with all the information they are looking for in one website visit.

If your law firm website can provide that experience for searchers Google will promote your website to the top of search engine result pages.

6. Your Website is not mobile friendly.

Example: When a searcher visits your website on a mobile device they are redirected to a "mobile version".

When mobile became popular a lot of websites created a seperate mobile version of their website that somestimes looked like

m.examplewebsite.com

or

mobile.examplewebsite.com

Google prefers that a website is built mobile first. That means your website should load fast and be mobile friendly.

Google prefers one website that work across all device types.

Fix:

A modern website should be built with "Responsive Design". Responsive design responds to all size screens by stacking content columns on top of another.

A mobile first website means that your main website should be as easy to use on a mobile device as a desktop.

Lancaster Marketing builds all law firm websites with mobile first design.

We don't use outdated Flash. We optimize all images and use a content delivery network to help media load quickly. We take mobile device limitations into consideration and our website rank higher on Google search ranking pages.

7. Website navigation is difficult. 

8. Lack of call to action.

9. Missing Alt tags for images.

10. Images are too large and slow loading.  

This page goes into great depth on all these problems how they can be avoided and/or fixed.

Links to and from highly credible industry resources are a way of building your law firms online reputation.

The way Google bots travel around the web is through links. Google bots travel from link to link.

When you build or receive a "do follow" link that as if the website is passing on it's reputation to another website.

Typically a link will be linking from a website to supplemental information to their own content.

If a website writes an article they will often reference another by a mention and a link to that website.

The link can look two ways

  1. Direct link -  https://lancastermarketing.co/google/google-customer-journeys-what-it-means-for-your-law-firm/
  2. Anchor text - Google Customer Journeys

Until very recently Google would just read the anchor text and consider those keywords for the link.

Some anchor text looks like (Click Here) which was always far less effective.

The newest development as of March 2019 is that Google stated they are reading the text around anchor links for more context.

Such as

Google Customer Journeys: What it means for your law firm (Learn more)

Google claims it now understands the text before the "Learn More" link is the correct intent and not the actual words "Learn More".

In m experts I would strongly suggest using the anchor text link

Google Customer Journeys

If you are interviewed by a local news station your law firm is loaning credibility to the story by giving your professional opinion. The news website should link back to your professional profile on your law firms' website.

Search engines will see this link from the news website to yours as building credibility and passing reputation.

That's why linking to and from highly relevant credible websites give your law firm a better search engine ranking.

Reputation management has become a big part of S.E.O

Establishing that links are a very important part of any S.E.O strategy I can discuss what types of links are available.

Types of links include:

  • Back links (from another source crediting your law firm)
  • Internal Links (from one page of your website to another page in your website)
  • External Links (from platforms, business listings, citations, etc...)

Your law firm as a local business has great opportunities to build credible links from business directories and local citations.

Lancaster Marketing will build and monitor business listings from the top 70 business listing websites for your law firm.

This gives your law firm exposure, builds reputation and credible links for better S.E.O.

Business listings include (but not limited to)

    • Amazon Alexa
    • ChamberofCommerce.com
    • Citysearch
    • CitySquares
    • EZlocal
    • Facebook
    • Foursquare
    • HotFrog
    • Insider Pages
    • Local.com
    • MapQuest
    • TomTom
    • Uber
    • Yahoo!
    • Yelp!
    • Bing
    • Gooogle My Business
    • YP
    • Thumbtack

Sophisticated software allow us to analyze your competitors that are currently ranking high in search engine results. This allows us to build a better content and media strategy. It also allows us to "see" what search engines already prefer to rank on top of search engine result pages.

The Utimate SEO tools

Companies that provide software as a service that help in all areas of SEO

SEMRush logoThe current SEO software we use is SEMRush.

SEMRush is too complicated to cover entirely on this page. We do use this SEMRush for all of our clients so we will go over the basics here.

SEMRush is a suite of dozens of SEO tools that cover just about every aspect of content marking, technical on page SEO, off page SEO, and Pay Per Click advertising.

For more information and to see just how much value SEMRush provides you can visit their blog here: https://www.semrush.com/blog/

The depth and complexity of each tool makes using SEMRush time consuming and difficult to master.

We work on the SEMRush platform and watch their educational material daily.

The platform is sectioned into seperate dashboards for each project and these include:

  • SEO Toolkit

    • Competitive Research
    • Keyword Research
    • Link Building
    • Rank Tracking
    • On Page and Tech SEO
  • Content Marketing Toolkit

    • Topic Research
    • SEO Content Template
    • SEO Writing Assistant
    • Brand Monitoring
    • Post Tracking
    • Content Audit
  • Competitive Research Toolkit

    • Traffic Analytics
    • Domain Overview
    • Ranks
    • Organic Research
    • Keyword Gap
    • Backlink Analytics
    • Backlink Gap
    • Brand Monitoring
    • Topic Research
    • Post Tracking

These sophisticated tools allow us to analyze your competitors that are currently ranking high in search engine results. That allows us to build a strategy to provide better content and media. It also allows us to "see" what search engines already prefer.

S.E.O focused Google Chrome Extensions

Chrome extensions that uncover information giving your law firm the marketing edge over competition.

Extensions are small software programs that customize the internet browsing experience.

They enable users to tailor Google Chrome functionality and behavior to individual needs or preferences.

The Google chrome extensions I personally use while creating and improving law firm S.E.O campaigns are the following:

Google Search Console graph

Google Search Result organic keyword growth trend for local criminal defense law firm

Google Search ConsoleA free tool from Google that tracks keyword phrases and where they rank in Google.

So far we have explained about what and why SEO is important for your law firm. We covered how we build a high performance growth focused WordPress website that provides optimal user experience resulting in high dwell time and low bounce rate. We also showcased highly sophisticated SEO toolkits on the SEMRush platform.

This leads us to a few of the Google tools that really take our online marketing efforts to another level.

We use Google Search Console reports to track keyword phrases, where they rank in search engine result pages, how often they show up in search engine result pages and how many clicks each keyword phrase receives.

Google Search Console is a report for organic search rankings NOT paid ads.

Google Search Console needs to be set up for your law firm so Google can start creating these reports.

We submit a "Sitemap" that is basically a guide to your law firms website  information architecture.

Your website sitemap is a list of all website pages. It is also in order with parent pages and junior pages listed below. This sitemap makes it easier for Google to understand your websites intention.

Google search console provides the following:

    • See which parts of a site Googlebot had problems crawling your law firm’s website
    • Test and submit sitemaps
    • Analyze or generate robots.txt files
    • Remove URLs already crawled by Googlebot
    • Specify your preferred domain (www or non www version)
    • Identify issues with title and description meta tags
    • Understand the top searches used to reach a site (Impressions, Clicks and Organic Keywords)
    • Get a glimpse at how Googlebot sees pages
    • Receive notifications of quality guidelines violations and request a site reconsideration
Image

Local Business Marketing / SEO

As a law firm you are also considered a local business. Local business S.E.O can include Google My Business, Google Maps, Yelp!, Waze, Apple Maps and many others. Being included and ranking toward the top of search results can increase new client leads significantly.

On our social media marketing page I have included an very in depth section on Google My Business. Your law firms Google My Business is extremely important to your Google search placement.

Law Firms with a physical location near the area they serve have an advantage over their competitors if their S.E.O campaign is implemented correctly.

With so many searches being done on mobile with voice. "lawyers near me" and similar search phrases are becoming more popular every day.

The first step is to understand keyword phrases with geo location intent.

Keywords that are considered GEO-MODIFIED.

Below are examples. You can replace Atlanta with any US city.

Image
  • Non-Geo “Local Intent” Keywords

    • Lawyers
    • Attorneys
    • Law Firms
  • Keywords with “Implied” GEO 

    • Lawyer near me
    • Lawyer near by
    • near by law firms
  • Keywords with “Explicit” GEO 

    • Atlanta Lawyers
    • Lawyers in Atlanta
    • Lawyers near downtown

The Google services we use include

  • Google My Business
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Google Search Console
  • Google Analytics
  • Google My Business Optimization
  • Google Maps
  • Google Ads / PPC
  • Google Local Pack
  • Google Trends
  • Google Client Reviews
  • Link Building From Highly Credible Websites To Build SEO

Law firms we help win online

    • Corporate Law Attorney
    • Disability Attorney
    • New Business Incorporation Attorney
    • Consumer Attorney
    • Intellectual Property Attorney
    • Patent Attorney
    • Trademark Attorney
    • Copyright Attorney
    • International Law Attorney
    • Divorce Attorney
    • Medical Malpractice Lawyer
    • Social Security Disability Lawyer
    • Civil Litigation Lawyer
    • General Practice Lawyer