Inconsistent demand and conversion rates create challenges and opportunities
When you think about SEO, you probably focus most of your attention on the things you can control. Creating incredible content. Optimizing your on-site SEO. Boosting your authority with quality backlinks.
But SEO isn’t a game of solitaire. There’s always someone on the other side of the screen.
In the research phase of SEO, you learn a lot about your target audience. You discover what they search for and how often. You see the content Google rewards with high rankings for answering user queries.
But there’s something that gets overlooked by pretty much everyone: how do our audience interactions on search engines compare to those in other industries?
To answer this question, we turned to Yext, a company that provides enterprise search solutions using Natural Language Processing and AI. Yext has anonymized all of their client data into a sortable data hub. That hub is a goldmine of insights into consumer behavior.
To get a clear picture on how the legal services industry compares to all industries as a whole, we collected data on 7,249 legal services entities and 545,974 entities across all industries.
Our study showed us that law firms face two distinct challenges in winning their audience’s attention: visibility and attractability.
Legal services queries are a niche search
Google’s the big fish in the search world, but to gain insight into the larger picture, we included an extended network—Google maps, Google search, Bing, Facebook, and others.
The first data we looked at were impressions—how often a company’s pages were displayed on a user’s screen after a search.
As it turns out, legal services get a fraction of the impressions compared to companies across all industries. Average Google Maps views are 11 times higher per location for all industries as they are for legal services. Google Search results are better, but still lag behind somewhat:
The legal services industry’s search visibility challenge
These charts don’t necessarily mean law firms are doing anything wrong. On the contrary, it could simply reflect the fact that all industries lumped together have greater demand by the U.S. population as a whole.
It likely also reflects something that attorneys already understand very well: potential clients aren’t searching for you until they need you. You wouldn’t expect a law firm to get as much traffic as a restaurant or a retailer; after all, no one visits a law office recreationally or to treat themselves after a long week.
However, this does mean that with less overall volume, law firms have a smaller margin for error and need to be even more vigilant in the content they publish. With fewer opportunities to bring in organic leads, there isn’t much room for cutting corners or missing the mark.
Which brings us to the second challenge.
Legal pages don’t always drive action
The data we pulled from Yext also showed us that legal services can struggle to get clicks and other actions from users when they do show up on search.
This means law firms are already facing a situation outside their control (relatively low demand), then compounding it by failing to address something that they do control (how to properly draw in users):
Law firms aren’t clicking with their audience
Pages in other industries are 9 times more likely to get a click than a legal services page. It’s a reminder that you can rank your website to your heart’s content, but you can’t make people actually pay you a visit.
Longtail keywords are a missed opportunity
Even in longtail keyword search results, where law firms have the opportunity to answer very specific search queries, they frequently lag behind other industries:
Longtail keywords are the foundation of top-of-funnel content. It’s the kind of informational content that builds trust in readers over time. By not converting impressions into clicks on those keywords, law firms leave behind awareness-stage visitors, who could very well end up future clients.
If you’re willing to put in the effort, the legal industry’s CTR issues are actually good news. It means that with a little more care—a little more creativity—you can win the attention of users who yawn and scroll past the folks who forgot the golden rule:
Let’s talk about how to use this information to your advantage.
Leveraging an industry’s weaknesses
You now have two very critical pieces of information:
- The legal services industry gets less attention from searchers, relative to that of other industries
- Most legal websites do a lackluster job of drawing in visitors, when they do search for them
We can also infer two additional pieces of information:
- Effective legal SEO is clearly not the same thing as SEO for, say, an electrician or a retail location. This is the risk in hiring a generalist to do a law firm’s SEO: law firm SEO requires a different approach and a unique skill set. A generalist approach is a waste of money and time.
- With so many law firms failing to achieve significant results from their SEO efforts, it’s clear that even many agencies who specialize in legal SEO are frequently falling short of the mark.
With that in mind, here are some strategies that we recommend to help buck the trend and produce actual, tangible results from your hard-fought SEO campaign:
Start with SEO content strategy
When you’re looking at a potential five figures or more per lead, the last thing you want to do is adopt a ready, fire, aim approach to marketing. Taking the time to draft a solid SEO content strategy will pay off by helping you identify the most effective areas to focus on for your firm’s website.
Identify overlooked keyword opportunities. Dig deep to find those burning legal questions your audience is asking and your competition isn’t answering. Find as many of those topics as you can and start building a content calendar.
And here’s the golden ticket: make every single piece of content as easy to read and informative as possible. Tricks and hacks aside, Google and users alike reward businesses that publish the best content.
Create top-of-funnel content
Not all content needs to end with a prospect making a call or taking some other form of action. Top-of-funnel content educates visitors, builds trust and ultimately makes them problem aware. With engaging and valuable top-of-funnel content, your firm will be on your prospects’ minds when they look to book a consultation.
Those long-tail questions you found during your keyword research phase are perfect seeds for top-of-funnel content. This is your opportunity to channel your expertise and give readers a deeper understanding of the value you can bring them.
For building awareness about your firm, go for top-of-funnel content.
Strengthen your website with content hubs
Most of your content efforts will take place on your firm’s blog. But blogging for law firms doesn’t mean posting about anything and everything. Instead, you should be building content hubs, with long-tail content that supports your core topics.
Content hubs are what allow you to start ranking for those high competition keywords, like “personal injury lawyer” and “car accident lawyer.” Those high competition pages are hubs. More specific topics pertaining to those hubs are spokes.
A hub on its own doesn’t have much of a chance in ranking on search engines, but spokes do. And when your spokes all link back to your hubs, they pass on a little bit of that search engine magic.
Write attractive titles and meta descriptions
When a page ranks well but suffers from a low click-through-rate, the answer is almost always in either the title or meta description (or both).
When a user finds your page in the SERPs, they see your page title in bold followed by a short snippet of text, which is the meta description. This is your opportunity to convince the user to stop scrolling and click on your page.
Titles should align with the user’s search intent. If it’s for an educational page, the title shouldn’t read like a sales pitch. It should state a promise that the content will fulfill in an interesting way.
Meta descriptions are short, 155-character snippets. By default, meta descriptions just pull the first bit of text in your content:
The amazing thing about meta descriptions is that you can customize them to make your web page even more attractive to users. By sprucing it up, you can nudge them toward a click:
Legal services face an uphill battle when it comes to SEO and organic traffic, but for most legal firms, there are also ample opportunities for improvement and innovation. Creating compelling content around long-tail keywords and focusing on improving CTR can help turn your business into an outlier in a positive way.
During our study with Yext, we found some insights that went beyond the scope of this article, particularly around audience trends before, during, and after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re interested in reading more into the study, you can get the full report here [CHANGE HYPERLINK TO THE UPLOADED HTML FILE ON RANKINGS.IO].