Unless you have a background in digital marketing, you’ve likely heard of search engine optimization (SEO) but aren’t entirely sure what law firm SEO actually is.
In essence, SEO is the science of providing your website with the necessary ranking factors to rise to the top of the search engine results.
With the information provided in this guide, you’ll discover exactly what those ranking factors are and how to best implement them on your law firm’s website.
SEO success requires properly implementing the three spheres of SEO on your law firm website:
If you follow this legal SEO guide, you’ll discover what each sphere consists of, why it’s important, and how to put it in action on your website.
The first step, however, is determining exactly what keywords your website needs to rank for organically in order to bring in relevant traffic that converts into leads and potential clients.
SEO is a marathon and not a sprint. It requires a substantial upfront investment of both time and resources. This investment pays off later when your website starts to rank in the top organic results for the keywords you’ve targeted.
This only pays off if you target the right keywords from the start, however. You don’t want to put all your time and effort into ranking for a keyword you thought was valuable only to later discover that no one ever searches for that term.
You need to make certain that the keywords you target all have regular monthly search volume. This is the number of times each month that search engine users search for that exact phrase.
The best keywords for your law firm might have search volume that see thousands of monthly searches, while less valuable keywords might only be searched a handful of times each month. Still other keywords that at first seemed valuable to target might turn out to have no regular search volume at all!
Finding search volume is simple with the right SEO tools. Google Keyword Planner, AHREFs, and SEMRush are just a few of the tools attorneys can use to identify keywords that get searched on a regular basis.
For example, imagine you are a personal injury attorney based out of Chicago and you want to increase the number of car accident cases your law firm takes in. At the beginning of your keyword research, you compile a list of potential keywords you think people might search while looking for a lawyer for their car accident case.
Running your keyword list though a tool like AHREFs’ Keyword Explorer, you discover that the following three keywords all have very different search volumes:
From this data, you can see that the bulk of your ranking efforts should be put toward ranking for “Chicago car accident lawyer,” as ranking high in the organic search results will yield the most cases for your law firm, while a smaller amount of resources can be applied toward ranking for “Waukegan car accident lawyer” and its 20 monthly searches. “Windy City car accident lawyer” can be skipped entirely, as no one seems to be searching for that phrase at all.
Search volume isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to identifying the best law firm keywords, however. You also need to consider the user’s search intent.
With attorney keywords, user search intent can generally be broken down into informational keywords and intent-to-hire keywords.
Users searching informational keywords are looking for just that: information. These users are looking for specific information that will help them decide what they want or need to do. They might be trying to determine if their car accident case is serious enough to justify hiring a lawyer, for example.
Informational keywords can be good keywords for a law firm to target if the purpose behind gathering the information ultimately leads to hiring a lawyer. If nothing goes beyond the information-gathering stage, however, it might be best to skip that keyword.
On the other hand, keywords with intent-to-hire are excellent keywords to target, especially when they see solid numbers of monthly search volume. For example, someone searching “Chicago car accident lawyer” is likely past the information-gathering stage and is now researching specific attorneys and law firms hoping to identify the best lawyer to hire.
On-page SEO consists of all the ranking factors that are visible to users on your website. Your content, its structure, images and videos on the page, internal links . . . these are all elements of on-page SEO.
On-page SEO forms the foundation of all your other SEO efforts. It’s what makes your page relevant to the keywords you’re trying to rank for. It’s essentially what allows Google and other search engines to understand what your page is about and how thoroughly it covers its topic, and therefore, how likely it is to answer a user’s search query.
This is the baseline requirement that needs to be met in order for your site to rank. If your site isn’t highly relevant for the search terms you want to rank for, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your SEO work is.
It’s also important that your content be unique. Google wants to see content on your site that isn’t simply stolen from another site. Similarly, you don’t want to reuse large chunks of content over and over again throughout your site. The presence of duplicate content will make search engines trust your site less, even if the content is highly relevant.
The short answer is that blogging can be important to search engine optimization, but it’s actually very easy to do wrong.
Regular blog posts keep the content on your site fresh, and these new pages keep the search engine crawl bots (also known as spiders) coming back to your site and checking for new posts.
This is fantastic as long as what you’re blogging about is topically relevant to the keywords you want to rank for and in line with the purpose of your site. It’s easy to go wrong here, however, especially for law firms.
For example, if you’re a personal injury law firm that wants to rank for car accident keywords, you might think it makes sense to blog about major car accidents that happen in your area. You’ll probably even see large spikes in website traffic as people Google the wreck looking for more information on what happened.
In many ways, this type of blogging is actually counterproductive. Yes, you’re getting lots of Google users on your law firm’s site, but the search intent of this audience is wrong for your site. These aren’t people looking for a lawyer; they’re people looking for information on a car accident in the news.
The key to remember here is that a law firm site is essentially a local business site offering a service to potential clients. Post after post about random car accidents in your area might start to confuse search engines into viewing your site as a news site instead.
However, if you keep your site’s purpose and target audience in mind when you blog, then it can be a major boon for your law firm’s SEO strategy. Blogging about things like “how to prepare for car accident court,” “questions to ask a lawyer during a consultation,” and “laws that could impact an injury case” could all rank your law firm website for relevant keywords and bring in traffic that actually turns into leads for your attorneys.
How you structure your law firm’s website content is critical to your on-page SEO efforts. Think of your title and heading tags (also known as H-tags) as guideposts that allow search engines to quickly understand what your page is about at a glance. In short, they are essential to your page’s relevance to a given keyword.
You can also think of your title and heading structure as the outline for your content. These are all the topics that your page needs to cover in order to be comprehensive. Your H-tags should include keywords that are relevant to both your website’s topic and location.
For example, the page “Dallas personal injury lawyer” should include topics that are relevant to both the city of Dallas and the services provided by a personal injury lawyer. This might include laws unique to the Dallas area that could influence an injury case, as well as information about courthouses in the area that handle civil claims.
When it comes to keywords in your H-tags, the key is not to be too heavy-handed. You don’t want to simply jam your target keyword into every single heading on the page. Instead, your headings should include partial keywords and lots of related keywords that make sense with your topic.
It’s a good idea to check out the pages that are already ranking for your keywords and follow a similar plan for your content (this will tell you what Google is looking for). More on that in a moment.
Entity SEO has been quite the buzzword in search engine optimization and digital marketing circles in recent years. The ideas behind entity SEO sound more complicated than they truly are in practice.
Understanding entity SEO requires a brief history lesson: When the Internet was young, SEO was fairly simple. Just cram a keyword you wanted to rank for onto your page a bunch of times and odds were you’d start ranking.
Of course, this was back when search engine algorithms were far less sophisticated than they are now. Keyword stuffing, as this practice is known, didn’t necessarily mean that the piece of content was good, comprehensive, or informative—it just meant that the keyword appeared on the page a bunch of times.
Nowadays, Google knows better. Google and other search engines don’t just want to see a keyword on your page a bunch of times; they also want to see a good, diverse number of related keywords on the page, as well. The more additional keywords on your page that have a relationship to your target keyword, the more comprehensively you’ve covered the topic that is your target keyword.
In short, the more context your legal content provides for your target keywords, the better you’ve written about the entity that makes up Google’s understanding of that keyword. The better you cover the entity in its entirety, the more relevant your page is to the keywords you want to rank for.
But how do you determine how Google understands a keyword’s entity? One option is to use SEO tools like Surfer SEO and On-Page.ai. These tools will provide you with a list of keywords that make up your target keyword’s entity.
The other option is to do the research yourself. Simply run a Google search for a search term that’s valuable to your law firm’s success.
If you want to rank for “Los Angeles criminal defense attorney,” then run that search and review the content of the top-ranking pages.
What topics do they cover?
What keywords are in their title and heading tags?
These are the related keywords that make up your target keyword’s entity (i.e., what Google understands your keyword to mean).
Your law firm website’s content word count does matter for on-site SEO, but not as a direct organic ranking factor.
In other words, if you take the top ten ranking pages for a given lawyer keyword and find that they average out to 1,450 words each, it’s not that Google is looking for pages that are exactly 1,450 words long, so much as that’s approximately how many words are needed on a well-written webpage to comprehensively cover the keyword’s entity and satisfactorily answer the user’s search query.
Now, it is true that Google and other search engines tend to prefer longer pages over shorter pages. Pages short on word count are known as “thin content” in the SEO world. Google abhors thin content, as it rarely provides enough information to satisfy a user’s query.
Thin content is normally understood to be content that contains less than 300 words, but that doesn’t mean you should be satisfied with a page that contains 350 words.
Instead, you want to scout the competition that’s already ranking for the keywords you want to target and determine how long their pages tend to be. This will tell you how many words you’ll need to get on the page to fully cover your keywords and their entities.
Yes, absolutely, yes. Internal link building is a great way to reinforce your attorney site’s entity SEO strategy.
An internal link is when one of your website’s pages links to another. This is in contrast to outbound links, which occur when one of your pages links to a page on an entirely different site.
With an internal linking plan, you want to keep in mind your keyword entities and the anchor text used on your internal links. We’ve already covered SEO entities, but you might be wondering what anchor text is.
Anchor text is simply the words used to make the link. For example, if I use the words “help from a lawyer” to link to a page on my website, then “help from a lawyer” is the anchor text I used on the link.
Anchor text is important because it gives context to why the link is being made. In the above example, the anchor text tells the search engine that users can expect to find information about getting help from a lawyer on the page being linked to. This can then make that page rank better for that term.
The page’s being linked from matter, as well, which is where your target keyword’s entity comes into play. If your entity is “Georgia divorce attorney,” then in addition to having a target page for this keyword, you should also have several supporting pages about various entity topics, such as splitting assets, child custody, and alimony.
Your target page should link to these supporting pages at relevant points within its content. This gives users the opportunity to check out these pages and read more about these topics, which makes for a good user experience, something that Google and other search engines appreciate.
These supporting pages should then link back up to the target page, as well, preferably within the first one or two paragraphs and using relevant anchor text. This back-and-forth internal linking comprises a powerful internal linking strategy that reinforces your entity SEO, making it easier to rank for your target keywords.
Yes! Images, videos, and infographics all make great additions to your on-site SEO strategy. These elements provide points of interest for your website’s users that can deliver information in effective ways that differ from plain text, and they provide an opportunity to use Schema (more on Schema later).
Images also provide an opportunity to include alt-text on your page. Alt-text is text that is displayed when an image fails to load or whenever a website’s user hovers their mouse over an image.
Alt-text should always be two things: keyword-rich and an accurate description of the image. For example, if you’re trying to rank your page for “New York car accident lawyer” and have included an image of a car accident, don’t make the alt-text “New York car accident lawyer,” as a car wreck is clearly not an image of a lawyer (and believe it or not, Google’s algorithm is smart enough to understand this).
Instead, use alt-text like “car wreck in New York.” This is alt-text that is both keyword-rich and accurate to the image, all while being relevant to the target keyword you want to rank for.
Videos are great to include in your on-site SEO strategy because they provide an opportunity to use Schema and because they give your website’s users something to watch, which increases their time on page.
More time on the page tells Google that site users are engaging with your content, which makes the search engine more likely to rank your content and show it to its users.
Meta titles and descriptions are the page titles and brief page summaries that Google shows to users on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Your website’s meta titles are a direct organic ranking factor while the meta descriptions are not.
For the meta titles, it’s generally best to use your target keyword paired with something that’s working for ranking pages. For example, if you notice that all of the ranking pages for your target keyword are including their law firm’s name in the meta title, then something like “Family Law Attorney | John Doe Law Firm” could be a great approach to your website’s meta titles.
While meta descriptions are not themselves a ranking factor, they can affect the clickthrough rate to your page, which most certainly is a ranking factor. Because of this, you’ll want to include your target keyword and something actionable that will make search users more likely to click on your page from the search engine results page.
You can also use SEO plugins such as Yoast and Rank Math to make it easier to quickly and effectively implement meta titles and descriptions on your site. These plugins can help you determine how strong your meta information is, as well as set formulas that will automatically provide meta titles and descriptions to search engines when you haven’t manually set them on a page.
If you’re new to search engine optimization, you’re probably wondering exactly what link building (also known as offsite SEO) is. Put simply, link building is the process of gathering high-quality backlinks and offsite citations for your law firm’s website.
Backlinks occur when another website links to your website. This link could lead to your homepage, an internal page, or a blog post. All of your site’s backlinks make up what’s known as the “backlink profile.”
For most sites, the homepage will have the lion’s share of the backlinks. Important and especially informative pages and posts will then each have a good number of links, while the less important pages on the site will only have a scattering of links.
The makeup of a backlink profile is important to know because Google and other search engines want to see a backlink profile that looks natural.
Link building is tough because your law firm site almost certainly won’t rank for competitive keywords without it, but—to be frank—Google doesn’t really approve of it. Doing a bad job with your link building is the single easiest way to get your site penalized and tank your organic search rankings.
Think of links to your site as votes in its favor. The page and anchor text used to link to your site are important, too. The anchor text tells the search engines what the vote is for, and therefore, what keyword the page receiving the vote/link should rank for. This gives the page and the site more authority. This means that the link needs to make sense and look natural.
For example, a seasoned personal injury lawyer might naturally accrue links to their car accident lawyer page with anchor text like “get legal help” and “call this law firm after an accident.”
Google likes to see these types of backlinks because they make sense and people actually write like this. What Google doesn’t want to see is a bunch of links with anchor text like “Miami criminal defense lawyer.” Hardly anyone would actually use that phrase in their writing, making it unnatural and a red flag to the search engines that the site is trying to game the search algorithm.
The type of sites linking to your attorney website need to make sense, too. You don’t want a bunch of links from spammy sites because that makes your website spammy by association. With link building, you really are the company you keep.
In SEO, website quality is usually measured using metrics like Domain Authority (DA) or Domain Rating (DR). The higher the number, the higher the site’s quality, and therefore, the more valuable a link from that site is to have.
The linking website’s relevance to your keywords is also important to consider. Google likes to see sites linking to you that make sense.
A law firm’s website should really be receiving links from other sites focused on law or from site’s focused on your firm’s geographic market. Because it makes sense that these sites would link to you, these links will be far more powerful and impactful to your rankings than links from sites focused on entertainment or sports, for example.
To summarize, your website’s link building plan is better off getting a small number of links from high-quality, relevant websites using natural anchor text than it is getting a huge number of links from shady, spammy or off-topic websites using exact-match keywords as anchors.
Offsite citations, on the other hand, are simply mentions of your law firm. In SEO, a good offsite citation includes all of your NAP: (business) Name, Address, and Phone number. And it’s especially important to make sure your NAP is both accurate and consistent across all of your digital business listings.
Your business name should be structured the same everywhere it appears, and if you changed your address or phone number at some point in the past, you want to be sure and track down every business listing you have and get them updated so they’re both current and consistent.
It can be difficult to track all of these citations down and correct them, but the impact these fixes have on your site’s law firm SEO makes it worthwhile. Tools like BrightLocal can be used to quickly locate inaccurate citations and correct them.
Think of your law firm’s digital presence as an entity. These offsite citations are critical to your law firm’s SEO.
The more Google and the other search engines encounter your firm’s business information on legitimate websites, the more authority your firm’s entity has. The more authority your law firm’s entity has, the more credibility and legitimacy it has in the eyes of search engines.
When Internet users turn to search engines to locate lawyers and other local businesses, the search engines want to send them to legitimate solutions. By increasing your law firm website’s authority through offsite citations, it becomes easier to rank for important keywords as search engines increasingly regard your firm as a legitimate answer to search queries.
Yes! Getting listed on legal directories is one of the first and most important steps you can take in advancing your law firm’s SEO strategy. On the surface, it probably seems like the main reason to get listed on directories is the possibility that they’ll funnel leads to you. This isn’t actually the case, however.
While it’s certainly possible that you’ll get the odd lead or two from legal directories, you shouldn’t count on it being a regular thing. Instead, the real value in getting your law firm listed on as many legal directories as you can find is what it means for your offsite SEO strategy.
One of the most important and trickiest parts about link building is that it needs to look natural: the sites that link to you need to have a reason to link to you that makes sense. This is known as relevance in link building.
It makes complete sense that legal directories would link to law firm websites, making directories an excellent source of highly relevant backlinks.
Even better, legal directories almost always include your NAP information, as well. This means that your law firm is getting both backlinks and offsite citations from websites that can provide it with some of the best links available.
Local SEO for law firms focuses on optimizing your website and Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business) so that your site ranks well in local search results, especially the Google Maps results.
Local searches are slightly different from the standard organic search results in that the search engine takes your physical location into account. With local search, your law office’s proximity to the Google user can be a top ranking factor, along with things like mentions of local features on your website (such as courthouses or busy roads that see lots of car accidents) and positive reviews on your Google Business Profile.
While your website is still important to local SEO, your firm’s Google Business Profile takes center stage here. Local searches have become increasingly popular in recent years, as more and more people treat Google Business Profiles as a huge online business directory, using the reviews and information there to select a law firm or other local business without ever viewing their website.
Local SEO needs to be a key component of your digital marketing strategy, and your Google Business Profile needs to be completely filled out with accurate information, unique content, and plenty of geo-tagged images.
Your offsite citations will also go a long way toward helping your Google Business Profile rank well in local searches, and it’s crucial that your NAP across the Internet exactly match what’s listed on your Google Business Profile.
Properly optimized, stocked with positive reviews, and benefitting from a good citation plan, your Google Business Profile can easily capture just as many leads as your law firm’s website—or more!
Reviews absolutely matter to SEO (especially local SEO) . . . if you’re collecting them in the proper places. Your primary concern should be building up a large number of positive reviews on your Google Business Profile. The more, the better.
Reviews are the ultimate deciding factor for many Internet users in search of a law firm. Keep in mind that your star rating and number of reviews are prominently displayed in the search results, and your number of positive reviews can easily make you stand out from the pack.
For example, if you rank third in the maps for “car accident lawyer” with 250 five-star reviews while the first and second spots only have about 20 reviews each and only averaging four stars, it’s almost a sure bet that the majority of searchers will be clicking on your result despite it ranking lower.
Reviews are like currency in the search results. You have to have enough to “afford” the big cases. If you don’t have enough reviews, the cases you want will largely remain out of reach.
Another great thing about positive reviews is that the clicks they bring in can reinforce and even improve your ranking. Google tends to favor sites and Google Business Profiles that get lots of clicks, which makes reviews at least an indirect ranking factor.
While not a massive ranking factor, social media profiles for businesses do matter in search engine optimization.
In the modern digital age, Google expects businesses to have active social media accounts where they engage with their customer and client base. This is no different for law firms.
Having an active social media presence (with consistent branding and NAP) on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube are all strong credibility indicators for your law firm’s entity that prove your legitimacy to Google.
Of the three spheres of search engine optimization (on-page, offsite, and technical), technical SEO is easily the area that can seem the most vague and difficult to get a good understanding of.
The basic concept of technical SEO is quite easy to understand, however. Technical SEO is improving your website’s performance and structure so that it delivers a positive user experience. In a nutshell, your site needs to run well, be reliable, and make it easy for users (and search engines!) to find what they’re looking for.
Some good examples of the different elements of technical SEO include website speed, menu structure, sitemaps, whether a site is mobile-friendly, and something known as Schema.
The speed at which your law firm’s website loads can make a big difference in how well it ranks in the search results.
It’s a well-known fact that Internet users don’t have much patience for slow websites, and Google knows this. The search engine isn’t going to direct traffic to your site if it thinks users will just wind up frustrated and bouncing back to the search engine results page.
Thankfully, Google provides a tool that you can use to gauge whether your lawyer site passes or fails this test: PageSpeed Insights
Simply enter your website’s URL and find out what Google thinks of your site. It’s worth testing the different types of pages on your site, as well: homepage, internal pages, blog posts, media pages, and any other page templates your site might use.
If you find that your law firm site’s speed and performance aren’t passing muster with Google, it’s worth having a developer take a look at the results and make some improvements to your site, or even consider investing in a new, cutting-edge legal website design.
People use the Internet on a multitude of different devices nowadays: Desktop computers, laptop computers, tablets, and mobile phones are all common.
Each of these devices uses a different resolution, and your website needs to look good and deliver a positive user experience on all of them. This is especially true of mobile devices, which have increasingly become the most common way people browse the Internet.
In fact, Google uses what is called a “mobile-first index.” This means that when Google crawls through and analyzes your site, it’s going to use the mobile version. If your law firm’s site doesn’t display well on mobile, it will impact Google’s ability to access and index your content, as well as negatively impact the ranking of the content that does get indexed.
In the end, if your site doesn’t work well on mobile, it’s time to invest in a new site design that does.
Your lawyer site’s menus should be set up in a way that makes it easy for users to find what they’re looking for without overwhelming them.
Your site’s users need to have ready access to the following four things from your main menu:
A good menu layout that covers these points would be something like this:
Try to keep what’s in your main menu succinct and easy to quickly take in. The more you cram into the menu, the more likely your site users are to have trouble finding what they’re looking for and bounce back to the search engine results pages.
It’s also worth noting that practice area pages linked in the top menu tend to benefit from the extra internal “link juice.” But if you pack too many pages in there, you can dilute this valuable link juice and weaken its impact on your organic rankings.
With technical SEO, you are most concerned with what’s called an XML sitemap, which is essentially a list of links to all of the pages and posts on your law firm’s website. This type of sitemap is generally used by search engine crawl bots to crawl your site and discover all of its pages and posts.
You’ll want to set up an XML sitemap and then add it to your site’s Google Search Console (more on Search Console later). This will ensure that Google’s crawl bot will have ready access to your sitemap at all times, which increases the likelihood that your pages will get crawled, indexed, and ranked.
Schema (also known as structured data) is an essential part of technical SEO that often gets overlooked. By leveraging Schema, you can give your website a big advantage over your competitors’ websites.
Broadly speaking, Schema is essentially code you can add to your website that makes it easier for Google and other search engines to understand what your site, law firm, and webpages are about.
There are many different types of Schema and they all vary in their complexity and the information they provide to the search engines.
Some Schema simply tags images, videos, and other on-page elements for what they are so that the crawlbot can readily identify all the different elements on the page.
Other Schema can go in-depth into your business, its location, what you specialize in, and what all of your different Internet properties are.
Schema can even be used to make different elements appear on the results pages that make your website’s listing stand out from the others. For example, it’s possible to add Schema based on reviews that make your star-rating appear under your meta description.
In the end, Schema makes it much easier for Google and other search engines to understand your website and its purpose, and Google tends to reward sites that make life easier for its crawl bots.
Google Analytics will provide you with a wealth of information about what website users are doing on your website, while Google Search Console will give you data regarding how your law firm website acquires organic traffic from the search results.
Both tools are Google properties that provide accurate data about your website’s actual traffic, both organic traffic and paid traffic.
There are also other excellent tools out there. Some of the best SEO tools include AHREFs, SEMRush, Surfer SEO, and Pro Rank Tracker:
While it’s certainly possible to run a successful SEO campaign without help from an SEO expert, it’s also certainly easier when you have one on your team helping with your marketing efforts. Even better, hire a team of SEO experts.
Between on-page SEO, offsite SEO, and technical SEO, there’s a lot that goes into delivering organic rankings. Working with an SEO company means you don’t have to worry about everything that needs to happen on your website and can instead concentrate on being a successful lawyer.
While SEO is definitely an investment, it’s like any other marketing effort: When done right, it will pay for itself and then some. Working with an SEO expert means that you can focus on the leads when they come in rather than having to stress about acquiring leads in the first place.
Good law firm SEO is how you win online when you’re an attorney.
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