7 Need to Know “SEO” Tips for Law Firms, Lawyers & Attorneys

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Ryan Stewart

Marketing expert

I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate.

UPDATED: 1.20.2017

Google is hands down the easiest way to drive clients to a law firm.

The problem is, every law firm know this and invests heavily into their website and SEO.

This has made the legal space one of the more competitive verticals in SEO.

Hopefully, this post will save you time:

  • Learning the small tweaks you can do yourself for big ranking increases.
  • Using these as “must see” points to screen bad proposals from SEO agencies.

Ahem, you can also set a time on my calendar to chat directly.

Quick Navigation

  1. The evolution of Google results for legal queries
  2. Selecting the “right” keywords
  3. Creating optimal website structure
  4. Ranking in Local Search
  5. Building valuable on site content
  6. Generating powerful inbound links
  7. Measuring the impact of SEO

 

chapter1

Google’s search results are changing. There’s currently 19 result types that dominate Google’s top spots.

search result type

This applies to the legal space as well. When searching for “Miami DUI attorney“, there’s a lot of noise:

  • 7 paid ads (4 on top, 3 on the bottom)
  • 3 local results (“Maps” pack)
  • 10 organic results (“blue links”)

Think about that – of the 10 organic results, half of them are aggregator sites (Avvo, Yelp, etc) – only 25% of organic results are really available.

The competition for those spots is tough – you need to be realistic about your campaign and adjust strategy accordingly.

Aside from just ranking your website, there’s other tactics that will increase your overall organic exposure.

My best piece of advice is instead of fighting aggregator sites, leverage them. Avvo, Justia, Super Lawyers – they’ve done the hard work, they rank for everything.

Avvo SEO

The beauty of these sites is they have their own internal algorithms to rank profiles.

If you optimize your profile to rank in Avvo, you’re essentially ranking for your “money” keywords right off the bat.

avvo-ranking

On top of that, you can pay for ads within Avvo. These are a great way to bypass the ridiculous CPCs for legal keywords in Google, and capture that traffic through Avvo.

The point is, in competitive spaces, you have to realistic about your goals. The competition is only getting stronger, keep your mind open when it comes to capturing “organic traffic” – it doesn’t have to come from Google.

 

keyword-research-attorneys

I’m not going to cover how to find keywords – others have already done that (see Brian Dean’s guide).

Instead, I’m going to cover keyword mapping.

Keyword mapping is the process of optimizing pages and based on keyword intent.

We like to visualize using the “funnel” model.

the seo keyword funnel

“Money” keywords.

  • Intent: Looking for your services.
  • KW examples: Hire a Miami DUI attorney, Boston defense attorneys near me.

“Discover” keywords.

  • Intent: Looking for information on your services.
  • KW examples: Miami DUI attorney reviews, Miami DUI attorney cost,

“Attention” keywords.

  • Intent: Looking for information on their case.
  • KW examples: How to fill out EB-5 Visa, DUI prison sentence length.

The main goal is to rank your “money” keywords. But … we want to dominate and rank for everything.

This strategy allows you to triple your organic exposure and get traffic in the door much faster.

To do so, you need to clearly understand how your keyword list maps to intent.

KW intent mapping

It’s a tedious process, but it helps you clearly understand how your website should be setup and the type of content to populate it with.

 

website-structure

It’s important for rankings and user experience to have an easy to use site.

That means grouping content, navigation and URL structure into organized buckets. Sounds easy, right?

It gets a little more complicated depending on your firm. Speaking strictly from a website perspective, there are 3 types of law firms:

  1. Single service (i.e. DUI attorney)
  2. Multiple services (i.e. you offer contract law, corporate law, criminal law, etc)
  3. Multiple locations (i.e. you have offices in Miami, NYC, LA and London)

1. Single service law firm website

If your firm specializes in 1 type of law (DUI, criminal, etc), structure your site as follows:

Use exact match domain (EMD) for your website URL.

  • Example: www.miamiduilawyers.com
  • I generally discourage the use of EMDs because it cuts down your ability to rank for additional keywords. However, if you only perform one service, EMDs are the way to go.

Add services pages that drill down into your main niche.

  • Example: www.miamiduilawyers.com/our-services/bui, www.miamiduilawyers.com/our-services/criminal-dui, etc
  • By adding these additional services page you’re eligible to rank for niche searches. The more pages/content you create, the more niche traffic you can capture.

One Service Attorney

 

2. Multiple service law firm website

If your firm offers multiple services (i.e. criminal law, corporate law, business law and more), this is how to structure your site:

Use branded domain – NOT exact match domain (EMD).

  • Example: www.smithlaw.com
  • Using an EMD will send mixed signals to Google. For example, www.miamiduiattorney.com/our-serivces/corporate law/ crosses two service categories. It’s best to use your law firm name as the root domain

Add service pages for each offering.

  • Example: www.smithlaw.com/our-services/contract-law/
  • How can Google rank your home page for 10 different services? Creating a separate page for each service affords the ability to rank for multiple offerings

Add sub-service pages to capture additional traffic. 

  • Example: www.smithlaw.com/our-services/contract-law/drafting
  • Drilling down further into your services will help to capture long tail searches

Attorney Website Setup

 

3. Multiple location law firm website

If your firm has multiple office locations (i.e. Miami, NYC and LA), this is how to structure your site:

Add city into URL for each office location. 

  • Example: www.smithlaw.com/miami/our-services/; www.smithlaw.com/nyc/our-services/
  • Most sites with multiple locations add a page for “Locations”. In a competitive niche, this cuts off your ability to rank in multiple cities
  • To rank for local searches, it helps to have the city within the URL string. This requires you to essentially create a new site for each city (within your existing site)
  • This also will require you to rewrite content on your site to avoid duplication penalties

Include a menu navigation to switch between cities. 

  • Example: (see screenshot below)
  • There needs to be a way to inject the city into the URL. Some sites do this via footer, I like to add it above the menu (see below)
  • The way this works is simple – when a user clicks on the “Boca Raton” link, the URL shifts to example.com/boca-raton. This creates the proper hierarchy for search engines to understand your site and rank for multiple locations

website-navigation-multiple-cities

Multiple Location Websites

 

 

local-seo-lawyers

Most of “Local” SEO is covered by the traditional SEO discussed throughout this guide.

However, there are a couple of additional actions you’ll need to take to make sure your site is optimized for local search as well.

Google My Business

GMB plays a HUGE role in local SEO. In fact, GMB listing titles get displayed in localized results, not websites:

Google Local Results Miami Attorney

Your GMB page needs it

Get Verified

If you haven’t already, set up and verify your Google+ Business page: https://www.google.com/business/.

Google will send you a post card in the mail with a verification code. Until you verify your page, you won’t be eligible to show up in localized / maps searches. Do it as soon as you get it!

Optimize Your Page

After you’ve entered the code, click the big red “Edit” button from your “My Business” screen:

set-up-google-business-local

First, edit the title of your page:

  1. Click the pencil icon next to”Business Name”
  2. Name the page with your main keyword first, followed by your brand/business name
    1. For example: Miami DUI Attorney – Smith / Stewart P.A.

Edit Google Places Page

This is important for 2 reasons:

  1. It jams your main keyword into the title (huge ranking boost)
  2. It creates a more click-able title for when you’re ranking

 

Google Local Results Miami SEO

Next, we’re going to edit the description of your page:

  1. Click the pencil icon next to”Introduction”
  2. Write 150 – 200 words about your law firm
  3. Include a description of your services
  4. Link directly to those services pages

Edit Google Business Title

This creates valuable deep links to your service pages (more on links later).

Reviews

Reviews not only help your website rank for local searches, but they pull through valuable stars in the SERP listing.

I’m not going to cover how to get reviews in this post because I wrote about it depth in a previous guide.

Read the guide to reputation management and online reviews.

Local Citations / Directories

Local citations and directory listings are business profiles on websites like FourSquare, Yelp, Yellow Pages and Brown Book.

These citations are valuable to local SEO because they’re essentially online phone books that associate your website with a physical location.

Example of a Local Citation

There are hundreds (thousands) of potential sites to build your firm’s listings in.

It’s a mind numbing process to manually create these listings and it’s easier to outsource.

 

 

content-marketing-for-attorneys

I hope you’ve stuck around to this point – your SEO success hinges on the ability to create and distribute content.

You’ve heard it before: “content is king”.

I hate it.

This buzzword has sites launching blogs with content adding no value. In fact, it’s driving potential clients away.

Allow me put it in perspective.

Let’s say you’re in the market for SEO services. You do a Google search for a couple of agencies in your area and you click on the first couple of results.

Let’s be honest, they all say the same thing. How can you tell the difference?

Every business’ website claims to be an expert . A great blog proves it.

You think I enjoy spending hours on end in front of my computer writing?

I live in Miami. On the beach. Trust me when I say I have better ways to spend my time.

Great content is why I’m able to live in Miami. On the beach. It fuels my business.

Assigning Keywords to Content

Start by heading back to your list of keywords separated by intent.

  1. Use keywords tagged with “Purchase” in “Services” type pages.
  2. Use keywords tagged with “Info” in “Blog” posts.

Using “Purchase” Intent Keywords

This is SEO 101 – I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it.

Keywords with purchase intent should be targeted at sales / service pages. Each page should be themed at one main keyword. Include that keyword in:

  1. The URL
  2. Title of the page
  3. <h1> tag
  4. 1 image title
  5. 1 image alt tag
  6. 2 – 3 times throughout the content (page should include at least 350 words of relevant content)

I’ll use the keywords from my “Miami DUI Attorney” as an example.

Main KW: Miami DUI Attorney:

  1. Page URL: www.miamiduiattorney.com
  2. Page Title: The #1 Miami DUI Attorney – Stewart, P.A
  3. Heading 1: Drunk Driving Arrest? Hire The Top Miami DUI Attorney
  4. Image Title: miami-dui-attorney-stewart-pa
  5. Image Alt Tag: Miami DUI Attorney Ryan Stewart P.A.
  6. Content: Write out 500 words on Miami based DUI attorney services. Include 5 – 6 high volume keyword variations as well

Repeat this on every page for every “Purchase” keyword you’re targeting.

Using “Info” Intent Keywords

99% of SEO agencies will stop at “purchase” keywords.

Thing is, you need more than words on a page to get Google’s attention. You need social shares, brand mentions and a lot of high quality links.

Why would someone share your homepage? Why would a website link to your services page about DUIs?

They wouldn’t. I know this. You know this. Google knows this.

If your website has a ton of links pointing to 1 page it looks like spam and your website is going to get bitch slapped by Google.

“Info” type content is what generates real shares and links. That’s why you need a blog.

Let’s go back to the “Info” keywords I generated earlier. Keywords like “DUI trial”, “DUI first offense” and “DUI trial questions” generate a good amount of monthly searches.

These are the keywords to build content around.

That’s the easy part. The hard part is creating content people actually care about.

People don’t care about “10 Reasons to Hire an Attorney”. Give them something they can’t find anywhere else.

You paid $300,000 for an education – show us what you learned!

  1. In depth guides – “What to do When Arrrested for Your First DUI”
  2. Case studies – “How to Beat Your First DUI Arrest”
  3. Infographics – “Visual Guide to Getting Off Your DUI Arrest”

Don’t skimp on the details. Prove you’re an expert. Show why you’re worth $300/hour.

This content drives social shares, links and traffic. More importantly, it establishes your firm as a trusted voice and industry leader for legal advice.

 

link-building-for-attorneys

Links are still the #1 ranking factor. However, it’s not as easy as it used to be.

14 months ago I could rank a site with click of a button. Literally – it was that easy.

Unfortunately, those days are over. Now, you need more than a handful of links.

In competitive verticals, Google ranks sites with authority and trust. Authoritative and trustworthy sites don’t have 1 type of link pointing to 1 page.

Attorney Link Building Process

Building trust with Google is a process. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Social media and forum links to blog content
  2. Link outreach to blog content
  3. Internal links to money pages
  4. White hat link building to money pages
  5. Link buying to money pages

This is a long process – it takes a lot of time, resources and effort. I promise you – if you do what I’m telling you, it will pay off.

1. Social Media and Forum Links

It’s not enough to post links to owned accounts. You’ve got to build a buzz around your site.

The best way to do start is get your content in groups and forums.

The mistake most make is pushing content in front of their target audience.

No one with a DUI is going to share an infographic about a DUI. However, if the content is good enough, your peers will.

Google+ Communities

I’ve generated hundreds of vital +1’s and shares on my links from Google+ Communities.

Google+ Communities

I’ve also gotten banned from hundreds of Google+ Communities.

Moderators are a pain in the butt and will boot you out if they think you’re spamming links. You’ve got to be careful about how and what you post.

Finding Communities are easy. Head to the drop down menu, select “Communities” and search for your keyword in the search bar.

Finding Google Communities

 

Join a few that are related to law. Interact with people and get a feel for what they’re posting.

After a couple of days drop an introductory note with a link to your best piece of content (NOT homepage!). Be consistent and active in these Communities and you’ll get valuable social signals you need for your site.

Quora

Quora is a high visibility question and answer site. I’ve driven thousands of visits in the last few months alone using it.

The key to Quora is finding threads related to the content on your blog.

Let’s say you took my advice and wrote the guide: “What to do When Arrrested for Your First DUI”.

Start by doing a Google search command: site:quora.com what to do dui

Quora DUI Search

This search brought back 6,350 results. Click through and find questions you can answer with your content.

Quora DUI Attorney

Write a response (150 – 300 words) of advice and drop a link at the end.

Rinse and repeat.

2. Link Outreach

Link outreach is great because you can score high powerful “white hat” links for free.

Link outreach only works when you’ve got content worth linking to. You can write perfect emails but no one is going to link to your home page.

3. Internal Linking

Linking pages internally passes link equity and ranking signals. You can use them to pass that valuable juice from your blog content to your money pages by interlinking them.

I’ve written extensively about internal linking in another post: How to Set up Internal Links for SEO

4. White Hat Link Building

Resource Pages

These are dedicated pages listing links to useful resources. To find these pages, use Google search operators:

  1. legal inurl:resources
  2. law inurl:resources
  3. law intitle:resources
  4. legal intitle:resources
  5. legal “resource pages”
  6. law “resource pages”

You get the point. I like to add a city into the search as well. Here’s what I found:

search-result-legal-3

Brought up this result:

search-result-legeal-4

Bingo! A perfect opportunity.

resource-page-link-building

Reach out with a nice note about your law firm and what you should be included in their list of resources.

“Borrowing” Links

Well, not borrowing, stealing. I love this technique because it evens the playing field.

If you land the same links as your competitors you can neutralize their advantage. From there, all you need is a few additional links to easily push past them.

It’s extremely easy to do. In fact, you already did the leg work in your competitive analysis. Remember this?

Hunting for Links for Attorneys

  1. Google your main keyword
  2. Click on the first result
  3. Run Majestic SEO browser plugin
  4. Click through to the Majestic site
  5. Click on the Backlinks tab

You’ll now see a list of the website’s linking to your competitor’s. Simply click through on to each site and look for opportunities to drop a link. These usually come in the form of:

  • Blog comments
  • Guest posting
  • Resource pages
  • Link round ups

The majority of sites will be tough to get links, but the ones you can will give you a huge boost.

Guest Posting

I don’t care what Matt Butts says – guest blogging is a great way to build quality links to your site. Use advanced Google search operators to find opportunities:

  1. legal “accepting guest posts”
  2. legal “write for us”
  3. legal “submit guest post”
  4. legal “guest post opportunities”
  5. legal “guest post courtesy of”
  6. legal “guest bloggers wanted”
  7. legal “contributor guidelines”
  8. legal “contribute to our site”
  9. legal “become a guest writer”

I strongly suggest you write the content yourself – don’t outsource it. It will be a complete waste of your time. Here’s a snippet from a legal website that accepts guest posts:

Guest Blog Example

Any website worth posting on will have high standards. Read through their articles, get a feel for what they publish and replicate it.

Local Press

I’ve been using this technique for a while but have yet to share it.

SEO agencies have been taking out “press releases” for clients for years.

These are merely syndicated statements on sites like PR.com that have little effect on SEO and zero effect on traffic/PR because nobody sees them. They claim that they get sent to real news sites, but never do.

I go straight to the source. Newspapers make money from 2 sources:

  1. Subscriptions
  2. Ads

Since more people turn to the web for their news, revenue models have shifted towards selling ad space.

I’ve landed dozens of links on MiamiHerald.com by reaching out to their advertising team. You can find contact links in the footer:

Links from Real Papers

CALL them, don’t email. Email responses generally get ignored or they tell you they don’t offer that service.

When you call them directly you can negotiate with a sales person. Simply tell them you’re with XYZ law firm looking to drum up online PR and you’re not interested in traditional media buys.

Everyone has a price – it generally ranges in the $400 – $600 range.

It’s expensive, but you get a high quality link, traffic and exposure for your firm.

 

Lawyer SEO Tracking Data

Organic traffic is not free – there’s a considerable investment of time, resources and capital to get results.

To justify the cost, we need to understand the outputs of SEO.

  1. Overall search engine visibility
  2. Overall organic traffic
  3. Organic traffic to “target pages”
  4. Leads and phone calls from organic search

The following sub sections will outline everything you need.

1. Overall search engine visibility

It takes a while for your site to reach the top of Google and start getting traffic (6 to 12 months).

In the meantime, we can measure “SERP visibility”.

SERP visibility = the total number of keywords your website is indexed for.

To check overall visibility:

  • Tool: SEM Rush.
  • What it tells you: How many keywords your site is ranking for over time. It also estimates traffic and the cost of that traffic (if you were to buy it through PPC ads)

serp-visibility

2. Analyzing Organic Traffic

After a few months, your traffic from Google should be picking up. We can easily verify this using Google Analytics:

  • Tool: Google Analytics
  • How to view the report: Audience > Overview (add Organic Segment)
  • What it tells you: How many visitors are coming to your site through search engines

organic-traffic-law-firm

 

3. Organic traffic to “target pages”

While overall organic traffic is good, we want to make sure it’s meaningful traffic. We can dig into that by segmenting organic traffic reports to look at where traffic is going.

  • Tool: Google Analytics
  • How to view the report: Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages (add Organic Segment)
  • What it tells you: The pages on your website that are receiving organic traffic. These pages should be your “target pages”, i.e. important landing pages on your site.

organic-traffoc-landing-pages

 

4. Leads and phone calls from organic

Most importantly, we want to know how SEO is impacting your top line. It’s tricky, but we can use analytics to track your firm’s leads and phone calls from organic search.

  • Tool: Google Analytics
  • How to view the report: Conversions > Goals > Overview (add Organic Segment)
  • What it tells you: The number of completed goals from organic search. This should be setup to track both form submission and phone calls.

organic-leads-tracking

 

final-thoughts

 

SEO in the legal space is competitive and there’s so sign of this changing anytime soon. If you want to rank, you’ve got to do things the right way.

If you have any questions, you can reach me here.

About Ryan Stewart

I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate.

23 Comments

  1. Awesome post Ryan. Thanks for sharing real tactics that have been proven to work-not just rehashing Google’s “best practices” which should be taken into account, but will limit results if you take their suggestions literally.

  2. Ryan,

    thanks for the tips, I am currently helping law firms in Europe with their holistic digital marketing and SEO.

    I will put your method to work this side. Quite positive it will help my Legal clients rank – up to the top!

  3. Ryan,
    Thank you for your time in creating this great article. I have a couple legal clients who will benefit from these tips. I do have a followup question: I happen to have an English degree and law degree, so I can draft good content for my clients in the legal industry in order to focus on those “info keywords.” However, for some industries, I do not know where to begin and have no success in convincing clients that they need to blog regularly and blog well. In fact, most are just bad writers if they even try. Any suggestions?

  4. This is a really really in-depth article, and one that delivers the message in a very clear framework – thank you for sharing this!
    I have a couple of questions:
    1) I don’t understand the benefit of calculating the analytics conversion rate and the lead->sale conversion rate – I’m not clear on why this calculation should be used, because the one metric calculates visit->lead (someone who signed up on a form) and the second is lead -> sale – does this metric really measure the conversion of the entire sales funnel from visit to sale? I feel like there are missing steps along the way… so, i guess i’m just trying to figure out the logic behind this number
    2) you talk about the conversion rate from organic lead to client – do you not agree that most clients do not know which marketing channel generated which sale? Yes, we can see the leads in analytics, but how do we ‘help’ the client document to which marketing channel to attribute the sale (i’m having a lot of trouble with this, any ideas would be helpful)..because once the sale is closed offline, some data is lost…

    Thanks!

  5. Recently started following you. Truly enjoyed the article. Thanks for taking so much time to educate. Its nice to see someone digging into the nitty gritty. Its unfortunate that the whole concept of SEO has been bastardized by too many “web marketing” agencies who cut corners for a quick buck. Your content is very refreshing. Keep it up.

  6. I thought in Google My Business Page, You not suppose to use City Keyword in business name unless your business name is with that city keyword.

  7. Ryan you nailed it men, It’s the most comprehensive and complete guide I have ever read and at first glance an idea popped up in my mind to write a post but not on the same niche and not similar like yours.

  8. Thanks for evᥱry othеr informative blog. Wherᥱ else may just
    I am getting that type of info written in such a ρerfect method?

    I have a venture that I am simply now working on, and I have been on the glance out for such infoгmatіon.

  9. We employed a freelancer to do the search engine optimisation and within a
    month or two the blog had lost a lot of traffic, bad sign right?

    7 Need to Know SEO Tips for Law Firms, Lawyers & Attorneys – The newest
    addition to my weekly read

  10. Ryan, thanks SOOOO much for outlining and putting into clear words exactly what I do for my legal client. Everything you said here affirmed that what I’ve been doing is the “right” way. THANK YOU!!! Too many times, and too much fluff all over the web makes dizzy. I love when people say ‘how’d you do it?’….not only are there tasks to do, but use your eyes and your gut – be effective. Again…THANK YOU!

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