SEO for Lawyers – An In-Depth Search Engine Optimization Guide for Law Firms
I’ve been in the SEO industry for over fourteen years and the legal SEO vertical for seven. In that time, I’ve seen the digital landscape change dramatically. The days where a few e-zine articles1 could rank a site, much less the old school link building strategies (compared to today’s complex architecture), are long gone. While there certainly are ebbs and flows to SEO strategy (which is to be expected, in such a dynamic field), there are specific elements that have remained time-tested and reliable.
My company only does SEO for lawyers, which lends us a unique perspective on generating leads in the legal vertical. We know, from our bird’s eye view, what affects search visibility for this very competitive vertical. We have an additional edge in that nearly ⅔ of our clientele is in personal injury, which is even more aggressive.
Unlike many other fields, the legal vertical is flooded with digital marketing agencies, so there’s a greater need for expertise. This creates a unique situation, where both customer and agency are under pressure: pressure for an agency to deliver and stand out from the pack (many of whom are fly-by-night) and pressure for a firm to do their due diligence and find the right agency on the first try.
In my day-to-day, I see two types of agencies: what Drew McClellan2 calls “artisan bread” agencies and “Bunny Bread factories.” Artisan bread agencies hand-craft (for quality) each campaign based on that specific client’s unique needs and situation. The Bunny Bread agencies attempt to apply a “one-size-fits-all” approach to every client, regardless of situation. This is not to say that the Bunny Bread SEOs can’t deliver some results; just that, over the long-term, their potential to make a sustained impact is limited. Simply put, in order to continue to make organic improvements, you have to iterate on your strategy…or die (i.e., rank on any page other than the first).
Without further ado, here is a collection of my thoughts I’ve compiled into a comprehensive guide based on my personal experiences with marketing law firms on the Internet.
Why is Law Firm SEO Important?
The way consumers find, research, and choose a law firm has changed dramatically in recent years. Search is a primary channel that people use to find information online and since Google’s founding in 1998, it has grown to command more than 60%3 of market share in the search space.
That means if you run a law firm and want to generate new clients, much of your success hinges on whether or not you can be found in Google search.
What is Attorney SEO?
It’s already pretty clear that for most people, search is their go-to for finding legal services. Social and word of mouth certainly play a role, but online search almost always dominates the research phase.
Some elements of SEO also have the ability to compound or increase their benefits over time. Content, for example, presents two opportunities: the first is the potential to rank for more keywords and the second is that, through an exceptionally well-crafted piece of content, the potential exists for natural link building to occur.
91% of online adults are using search engines
The most recent data4 on search engine usage from the Pew Research Center states that 91% of online adults use search engines to find information on the web.
Granted, this data is from 2012 (six years on the internet might as well be a hundred), but it’s worth pointing out.
Search engines (especially Google) have only gotten better at understanding the meaning behind the phrases we type into them and are therefore used even more on the internet to cut through all the noise.
With so many people using search, it makes sense that lawyers marketing themselves online should ensure their websites are built and configured to be found easily using these tools.
If you’re not ranking on the first page, you don’t exist
It’s already pretty clear that for most people, search is their go-to for finding legal services. Social and word of mouth certainly play a role, but online search almost always plays a role in the research phase.
Type in a phrase for which you think your firm should be ranking and see what comes up. The real estate in the local results, for example, is extremely limited. Other than paid lawyer ads, the rest of the results page only has 7 spots available and those are highly coveted.
Studies have shown5that the percentage of traffic from searchers drops to around 2-3% on the second page of results and then peters out from there.
Why does my law firm need a website and SEO?
7 Reasons Why Attorneys Need A Website
- A website is the foundation of all online marketing activities including SEO.
- It can be used to build trust.
- It gives you credibility as a lawyer.
- It makes you reachable and can help capture leads.
- It can be used as a marketing tool.
- It can be used to portray social proof.
- It allows you to better serve your clients.
5 Reasons Why Attorneys need SEO
- Leasing visibility: if all attorneys are doing is paying for advertising, that visibility disappears as soon as they stop paying for it. SEO pays dividends long into the future.
- The compounding phenomenon of SEO: The optimization work done for search is long-lasting and will continue to drive traffic and leads, even after work has ceased.
- An expanded web presence: Much of the work done in an SEO campaign also helps expand an attorney’s presence across the internet.
- Lots of people use search engines: The most recent data6 show that 91% of online adults use search engines to find local businesses.
- Local search: Data shows7 that 87% of smart phone owners use a search engine at least once a day.
Chapter ROI by Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io
While SEO’s growth potential is typically more gradual, its value compounds. PPC and sponsored directories can drive more immediate traffic, but their value added is somewhat temporary and subject to continued payment. SEO is an investment and PPC is a cost, the same way that a healthy diet is an investment vs. the cost of plastic surgery.