What is Attorney SEO?
Attorney search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the quality and quantity of your website traffic to a law firm's website or a web page from search engines. SEO traffic comes from unpaid (organic) sources rather than direct traffic or paid traffic from channels like Google Ads.
Why is SEO for Law Firm Websites Important?
More people than ever turn to Google when they need to hire a lawyer. Search trends for personal injury lawyer have grown by 4,000% since 2015, with 60 million+ searches occurring every year related to personal injury.
The same growth trends are seen across other practice areas.
The revenue organic traffic can bring your firm compounds over time, making it one of the most effective digital marketing channels your firm can invest in.
But it takes significant effort if you want to rank high on Google. The legal services industry is hypercompetitive, and the ranking factors in Google’s algorithm are anything but static.
But you can't afford not to. In a recent survey from 2022, 64% of people said they would search on Google to find an attorney.
Your potential clients use Google to find and hire people just like you. If you're not there, you can't get the case.
That's why SEO is so important for law firms.
The Benefits of SEO for Law Firms
Only two marketing channels are capable of providing compounding returns over time: SEO and word of mouth.
Other channels are more transactional and volatile. You put a dollar in, and you get two dollars back out (which happens to be the average return of pay-per-click channels like Google Ads, according to Google).
Your traffic and online presence will begin fading the moment you stop spending money on advertising or posting on social media platforms like Facebook, X (or Twitter as we still call it), and LinkedIn.
SEO behaves the exact opposite. It takes time to get the engine running, but once you do, your traffic will grow and compound over time. These three law firms are an example. Organic traffic grew over time despite their publishing cadence staying the same or reduced.
That's the power of SEO.
On average, 27.6% of clicks on Google go to the first organic result on the first page, according to a study done by Brian Dean at Backlinko.
The drop off curve is dramatic as well—with over 76% of clicks going to pages ranking in the top three organic search results.
We've seen the same thing across the 100+ law firms we've helped grow through both law firm SEO and Google Ads.
These personal injury attorneys get an estimated 183,000 monthly visits from the work we do. It would cost them an estimated $1.6M per month to get that much traffic from Google Ads or PPC.
Other practice areas get just as much, if not more, traffic. For example, criminal and family law keywords have massive search markets available to tap into. And while they may not return as much traffic value, the nature of their practice offsets this in the form of faster revenue recognition.
The Fundamentals of Law Firm Search Engine Optimization
SEO is all about getting to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). To do that, SEO efforts usually go into one of five main categories:
- Keyword Research. Figure out what topics people search for.
- Content. Create high-quality content that people can find when they search online that demonstrates your expertise.
- On-page SEO. Make your content easy to understand for people and search engines.
- Link Building. Get endorsed by other websites with high-quality backlinks.
- Technical SEO. Make it as easy as possible for search engines to discover, crawl, and index your website.
- Local SEO. Get a Google Business Profile set up so you're eligible to rank in the local search results.
We break down each of these in separate chapters within this guide.
If you need to hire an agency that specializes in law firm SEO services, these are what they should provide.
It's worth noting that these are all tactics, however, and should not be confused with SEO Strategy or Marketing Strategy.
In our years of working with firms, fewer than 5% have ever had a documented strategy to win.
Nearly every article you find on the internet shows their lack of understanding by confusing tactics with strategy.
If you don't have a well-defined strategy for winning, you should start there first. Learn how to develop a real strategy, read Law Firm Marketing Strategies: A Coherent Guide.
The Pre-Requisites of SEO Success
The following are pre-requisites you should have in place before you ever start an SEO initiative. Without these, you're building a house with no foundation.
Get a Domain
You probably already have a website domain. If so, there's no need to change it now without consulting with an SEO expert first. If you don't have one yet, consider the following two things.
Select a domain that's easy to remember or recognize. Avoid hyphens in your domain name.
Some SEO agencies may recommend trying to secure what's known as an exact match domain. An exact match domain is one where the primary keyword you want to target is in the URL itself.
While this can help from an SEO perspective, it won't do you any favors in the long run.
Any SEO who recommends isn't thinking about the impact it has on brand because most SEOs mistake the blogs they read online as an adequate replacement for a formal marketing education and live in a world where they're a hammer and everything's a nail.
If they argue an EMD is better, just remind them that John Morgan's domain is forthepeople.com, and his firm is doing just fine on the SEO front.
❌ Exact Match Domain: houstonpersonalinjurylawyer.com
✅ Brand: forthepeople.com
Top-Level (TLD) Domain
Your TLD is the piece that comes right after the domain name. For example, .com. TLDs have no impact on SEO but try to get a .com version if you can. It's more common, and people are more likely to type it in right when trying to visit your site directly.
Choose a Reliable Web Hosting Service
Most law firms use WordPress and host their website themselves through a third-party hosting provider. Your web host is like an online hard drive that stores your website and the system you use to manage it.
If you haven't selected a hosting provider already or are getting fed up with the one you have, focus on finding one that meets the following criteria:
- SSL Certificate Included. SSL certificates are recommended by Google and enable your website to send information back and forth over the web encrypted.
- Easy to Install CMS. Most web hosts make it super easy to install WordPress these days. It's still something you should check, though. It's a plus if the host makes it easy to manage your WordPress plugins from their dashboard.
- Backups. Choose a web host that provides daily automatic backups. WordPress plugins can sometimes crash your whole website, and being able to roll it back can make getting back online easier.
- 24/7 Support. Most well-established hosts provide 24/7 support. If they don't, I wouldn't use them. It's really nice when you need it and really frustrating when you can't get it.
Use a Website Platform with a Robust CMS
Don't make your life harder than it has to be. Just use WordPress. It's the most popular for a reason. Webflow is okay as well, but Webflow's CMS isn't as flexible as the native version WordPress uses called Gutenberg.
Don't confuse wordpress.org with wordpress.com either. The latter is a managed hosting service, and while that's not the end of the world, you sacrifice some flexibility when you use a managed provider.
Give Your Target Audience the Best User Experience
Google maintains its market dominance because it consistently helps people find what they're looking for faster and more reliably than other search engines.
Providing searchers with a great experience will help you rank and, more importantly, will also help you convert them into clients.
You can learn exactly how Google defines good user experience in their Google Quality Rater Guidelines (click that link will download the guidelines as a PDF).
Use the HTTPS Protocol by Installing an SSL Certificate
We mentioned this earlier. Make sure your website has an SSL certificate installed. If it doesn't, it'll often look like this when people try to visit it.
Would you stick around on a website if you saw that? Of course not. So make sure your website is secure.
Build Trust and Credibility with Good Web Design
Good web design isn't just about the layout, colors, and pictures. It's about usability, function, and clarity.
Whether we want to admit it or not, our outward appearances impact how people perceive us. The same is true with your website. If you don't keep your design up to date with the times, people are going to assume you aren't keeping your knowledge of the law up to date.
That being said, choose your web designer carefully. Here are two things to watch out for:
Do User Research If You Like Money
First, if they're not conducting user research, they're not a professional web designer.
Plenty of people know how to make things look pretty, but that doesn't mean they know how to get people to become clients. Find a designer that treats the craft with the level of professionalism it requires.
And remember, you are not your client. Your web designer's job is to create the website your prospective clients will like, which isn't necessarily the website you like. If you find yourself disagreeing with something in the data and are okay with not making as much money, then it's okay to overrule what your market wants.
Your Web Designer Is Not a Copywriter
Your web designer is not a copywriter. And neither are you.
Something is wrong if your web designer is writing copy. You shouldn't be writing it, either. You, or your designer, should hire a professional copywriter to craft all of the copy for your key conversion pages (basically everything that isn't your blog posts).
A professional copywriter will conduct interviews with your target audience and turn the insights they discover into words that will literally print you money.
If you, or your web designer, aren't hiring a real copywriter—you are leaving a lot of money on the table.
Make Your Website Mobile Friendly
Talking about the importance of mobile-friendly websites in 2023 feels like beating a dead horse—but as long as Google is still talking about it, we will be too.
Google prioritizes the mobile version of your website over the desktop version because over half of all website traffic (57%) in the U.S. is done from mobile as of April 2023.
So if you're still behind the times and want to catch up, make your website mobile-friendly.
Use a Font Size that's Readable
When in doubt, go with 16pt to 18pt size font. This will make your text readable across a variety of device sizes, from mobile all the way to super retina 8k displays.
Avoid Annoying Pop-Ups and Interstitials
Most law firms don't have annoying pop-ups, but some implement their live chat in a way that's frustrating for users. If your live chat takes over the screen, starts making noises, or pops up over and over again on every page—you're doing it wrong.
Imagine you just walked into a store, and a sales rep jumps in front of you the moment you enter, won't let you by, and just keeps talking.
Does that sound like a positive experience?
So don't do it to your website visitors either. If your chat pops up after someone has been reading through a page for a while or is visiting several pages, then that's fine. That's the equivalent of a rep asking if you need help when you've been down the same aisle twice in Home Depot.
And I know the dinging noise is meant to remind people that you're there. But trust me, they know you're there. They haven't forgotten. So cut it out.
Make Your Website Load Fast
People are impatient. They want web pages to load fast. While page speed is a ranking factor, despite popular belief, it's a tiny signal.
According to Google's own documentation, "[Our Page Speed Update will] only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries."
When it comes to page speed, there's a point of diminishing returns. You'll be fine if you get it aligned with your competitors on Google. Investing tons of time and money past that is a waste of resources.
Use a Logical Site Structure
Make it simple for people and search engines to find things on your website. The easiest way to do that is to use a logical hierarchy. For example:
If you take this approach, each connection between pages will create an internal link and tell Google how your site is organized. The better you do this, the easier it will be for Google to find new content, understand your website, and rank you where you deserve.
Keep Your URLs Organized and Simple
Most people run into problems here when it comes to the blog—which is usually the area of your website responsible for bringing in the most traffic.
If you're using WordPress, set your permalink settings to Post name. Other options are more likely to confuse people.
Note: If you already have a lot of content that's ranking on your website, don't change your permalink structure. Stick with what you have. It's rarely a good idea to change URLs if you can avoid it.
Install the SEO Plugin RankMath
RankMath is the best SEO plugin for WordPress. You may be using Yoast. It was popular years ago, but using Yoast today is the equivalent of using a Blackberry because you don't know iPhones or Androids exist.
No SEO plugin will magically help you rank higher in the search engine results. Many will try to give you a score. Ignore that; the scores are useless.
What they are good at, however, is making it very easy to implement basic (but fundamental) SEO activities like setting page title tags and meta descriptions, creating sitemaps, making robots.txt modifications, and redirects. RankMath also makes it easy to add schema markup (i.e. structured data) to your pages as well.
Get Your Website Indexed by Google
This is a straightforward but necessary process. Follow these instructions if you have a new website and need to get it ranking on Google for the first time.
- Locate your sitemap.xml file
- Log into Google Search Console
- Select Sitemaps
- Enter your sitemap URL and click the Submit button
For more detailed instructions, read How to Get Google to Index Your Site.
Set Up and Configure Your Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile (GBP) is what makes you eligible to rank in the local search results and Google Maps. Learn how to do this in our step-by-step Guide to Google Business Profiles for Lawyers.
The key things to get right with your GBP are your business name, business category, address, phone number, and hours of operation.
Do not try to game the system by stuffing your business name with keywords. If you do, your competitor's SEO agency will just flag it and get your GBP listing taken down while you fix it to abide by the guidelines.
If you've read anything about the concept of NAP consistency, this is where it matters most. Your name, address, and phone number on your GBP profile should match what you have on your site and across any directories you've added your business to.
Tracking the Results of Your SEO Campaign
Everything we've discussed previously covers the basics of SEO: what you should do to grow and what you need to do to get there.
We'll dive into the specifics of how to measure the results of SEO in Chapter 9, but it's worth noting now the key things you should be mindful of.
Organic Traffic Compounding Monthly Growth Rate
You'll know you're doing the right things when your organic traffic is going up and to the right.
You can easily track this in Google Search Console (GSC) for free. If you don't have GSC already set up, learn how in our Guide to Setting Up Google Search Console.
Target Keyword Rankings
Most pages you create will have a target keyword and a few supplementary secondary keywords. Track how your search engine rankings improve over time using Search Console or third-party rank tracking tools like Ahrefs or Accuranker.
Total Search Visibility
Visibility represents your coverage across your market. You can increase your website visibility by ranking higher on Google for more keywords. Measuring how your visibility trends over time is a great indicator of your overall SEO success.
Share of Branded Search
Share of Branded Search is the single most powerful leading metric you can track. It's the only metric that correlates with market share.
If you see your Share of Branded Search growing, your market share will grow too. If you see your Share of Branded Search diminishing, your market share will decrease too.
Note: The only caveat here is if your Share of Branded Search is growing because of something negative that the media is saying about you.
We'll cover how you can calculate your Share of Branded Search in Chapter 9: How to Measure Results of SEO for Law Firms.
Leads and Signed Cases
Keyword rankings and organic traffic are leading indicators that you're doing the right thing. Getting appointments and cases from organic traffic are ultimately the primary revenue metrics you want, though. These are your lagging indicators to pay attention to if you want to understand your real ROI.
You can track how well organic traffic is converting for you in Google Analytics (GA4). Learn how by reading Chapter 9: How to Measure Results of SEO for Law Firms.
Key Points to Remember
- Attorney SEO is the process of growing your law firm's website organic traffic from search engines.
- Law firms need SEO because the vast majority of your market uses Google when they need an attorney.
- SEO is the only reliable channel that delivers compounding growth over time.
- You can grow organic traffic by creating high-quality content that gives people what they're looking for.
- A good law firm SEO strategy starts with keyword research and includes content marketing, link building, on-page optimization, and a solid technical foundation.
- To rank, Google must be able to find, crawl, and index your website.
- Good leading metrics to track include organic traffic, target keyword rankings, and Share of Branded Search.
- Good business metrics to track include booked consultations and signed cases.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Improve the SEO on My Law Firm Website?
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to improving the SEO on your law firm website. It all depends on the current health and status of your website. A detailed SEO audit will show you which actions you need to take to optimize your law firm’s website.
Some common activities to improve your website’s performance on Search Engines include:
- Producing high-quality content that targets relevant keywords.
- Optimizing on-page elements such as titles, meta descriptions, and images.
- Acquiring backlinks to your site from reputable and relevant sources.
- Conducting regular technical audits to identify and fix issues.
What Is On-Page SEO for Law Firms?
On-page SEO for law firms focuses on optimizing the content and structure of a website's individual pages. This involves tweaking content, meta descriptions, and other page elements to target legal-specific keywords.
The goal is to improve those pages so that they rank higher in search engines. This makes your site more visible to potential clients searching for legal services.
Why Is Local SEO Important for Law Firms?
Local SEO is critical for lawyers because of the way their clients search for attorneys online. Most people look for an attorney in their local area when they're ready for help with their legal issues. And most lawyers provide their services to a local or regional area.
These factors make local search one of the most competitive aspects of SEO for lawyers.
One of the most important aspects of local SEO for law firms involves maintaining an optimized Google Business Profile. This tool helps lawyers rank in local search results and in local maps.
Does SEO Work for Law Firms?
Yes. SEO works for lawyers when they work with a proven partner with a history of successful legal SEO campaigns.
Lawyers stand the best chance of getting more clients through search engines when they work with someone who understands both the legal industry and the details of SEO tactics. Look for someone with case studies showing their work with other lawyers like you to find a partner who can handle your campaign.
How Much Do Law Firms Spend on SEO?
The price of SEO for lawyers varies based on your practice area and your needs.
You can find some agencies that charge as little as $2,500–$5,000 per month for legal SEO services. But you get what you pay for with SEO. That budget is not usually enough to see real results.
Lawyers should expect to set aside at least $10,000 per month for SEO in their law firm in their law firm marketing budget if they want to see real results. Hypercompetitive niches like personal injury law can be more expensive if you want to outpace other lawyers in your practice area.
What Is an Average Cost of SEO Per Month?
The average cost of SEO per month also depends upon your practice area and the level of competition you face. For most lawyers, the cost of getting results starts at a minimum of $10,000 each month.
Lawyers should expect to budget 10–12% of their gross revenue toward marketing if they want to grow.
Many attorneys spend less than that, which skews the average down. But the attorneys who dominate their markets spend above that average to get an outsized ROI.
Is Paid SEO Worth It?
Yes. Paying an expert in legal SEO is worth it for lawyers who want to grow their client count through organic search.
Most lawyers do not have the time to handle all the small details of an SEO campaign. And that's before adding the effort it would take them to teach themselves everything they need to execute on their own.
Lawyers are better off working with a partner who focuses on legal SEO than trying the DIY route. Your law firm SEO partner will be able to optimize your site, create relevant content, and handle the technical details for you. That leaves you to handle the influx of new clients to your firm.