If your law firm doesn’t have a dedicated marketing department, there are a few things your business probably isn’t doing right when it comes to selling your legal services. However, with a few simple tips and a little knowledge of SEO, your law firm too can do the same kinds of marketing as a larger firm with the resources required to keep an in house marketing department.
A basic knowledge of SEO is hugely important to marketing your firm. Why? Because SEO can bring your law firm clients on autopilot.
What is SEO?
SEO means “Search Engine Optimization.” It is the art and science of making a website appealing to search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing so that it ranks higher in searches for important keywords (such as “Divorce Lawyer in Topeka”) in those engines’ search bars.
SEO marketing can have a huge impact on any type of business, but is especially important for lawyers. This is because many consumers research businesses they’re going to either spend a lot of time with or spend a lot of money on, such as law firms, a lot more thoroughly than they’re going to research where they get their next $10 pizza.
That means that your potential clients will likely be using search engines a lot to find lawyers and get information on those lawyers. If there’s more content about you and/or generated by you higher in the SERPs (industry abbreviation for Search Engine Results Pages, the pages that appear after a search term is entered), that means that potential clients will be reading about your law firm more than about your competitors.
How to Make SEO Work for Your Law Firm
There are several things you can do to make SEO work for you. You have two main options: do SEO yourself or hire a professional SEO marketer.
A professional SEO marketer will cost money, but will do almost all of the relevant work for you when it comes to SEO. The best SEO marketers will spend a good bit of time getting to know you and coming to understand your needs, and will use that knowledge to get you the types of clients you want and to increase your web traffic (the number of people that come to your site).
Of course, you can also choose to put the SEO work in yourself. This will save you money, but will likely take a bit more time. Also, there is a steep learning curve when it comes to SEO, and the SEO industry is always changing (as are Google’s and the other search engines’ regulations and rules). Reading our blog is a good place to start, and there are other great SEO resources such as the Moz blog.
If you can read and understand the content these and other important SEO blogs regularly, you might be able to learn many of the most important SEO skills yourself.
Google alerts is one of the most popular services the search engine giant offers to webmasters and ordinary users alike.
Never heard of Google Alerts, or have you just never signed up? Believe it or not, the popular tool offered to any Google user (at no cost, I might add) can work wonders for your law firm’s SEO.
Of course, it doesn’t affect your SEO directly, but it can be a huge indirect help by letting you keep track of how well your business is doing SEO-wise.
You can set up Google Alerts for any search terms you could type into the regular Google search bar!
Sounds great… but what does a Google Alert actually do?
When you’ve set up a Google Alert for a given search term or phrase, Google will let you know (“alert” you, hence the name) whenever the SERP for that term or phrase changes. You can use this as a great big-picture way of looking at how well your law firm is performing for a variety of keywords.
For example, you want to make sure you stay at the very top of a SERP for your business name. You’ll also want to make sure you get close to the top of the SERP for “lawyer in [your town]” or a similar search phrase.
They’re useful whether you’re just starting out with SEO or you’re already at the top of the SERPs. If you’re just starting out, you can check every week or so to see if the SEO work you or your marketers are doing is having any effect on your SERP ranking. If you’re already on top, you can use Google Alerts to make sure you stay there.
How do I set up a Google Alert?
If you go to the official Google Alert page (we linked to it at the beginning of the article for your convenience), there are instructions to set up there. I also found a very helpful article earlier that gives you all the steps in great detail.
What search terms and phrases should I set up Google Alerts for?
You should set up Google Alerts for any SEO keywords or search phrases you want to appear in the SERPs for. However, it can be a bit overwhelming to get a lot of Google Alerts at once, so you might want to only set up Alerts for the most important phrases and keywords first, so that you can get used to managing all the extra information you’ll have pouring in.
You can also choose how often you get Alerts. It might be safe to get Alerts for stable or unimportant search terms or phrases once a week, but for very competitive keywords you’ll want to be updated once per day at least.
You can set the Alert to notify you as soon as something changes in the SERP as well. This is highly recommended for search terms that are both important to your firm and highly or moderately competitive.
Keywords are a hugely important part of SEO, but keyword research is one of the hardest and most time consuming pieces of the SEO puzzle. However, there are a few opportunities out there to help lawyers and other small businesspeople get assistance doing their keyword research, from people and computer programs.
The tools out there can essentially be divided into two main categories (though there is a lot of diversity within the categories): human tools and automated tools.
Automated Keyword Research Tools
There is a huge range of automated keyword research tools out there on the internet with different functions and levels of effectiveness. Many of them can be had for free, but the best of the best are often very expensive – meaning that they’re almost exclusively used by SEO marketing firms like ours, because the cost is completely prohibitive for anyone not doing SEO for more than one business (unless it’s a large corporation).
Luckily, there are also plenty of keyword tool lists and reviews out there to help you find the tool that’s right for your combination of needs and financial and/or temporal resources.
One of the most popular tools was actually offered by Google until relatively recently, but since it has been merged with the Google AdWords Traffic Estimator – meaning that you must have a Google AdWords account in order to use it. While it’s certainly effective, and may have an unknown advantage because it is under the Google umbrella, you will have to decide whether or not it’s worth it for you to sign up for an AdWords account. This tool, which used to be known as the Google Keyword Tool, is now called the AdWords Keyword Planner. There’s also plenty of advice on using Keyword Planner available.
One of the most lauded completely free keyword research tools is WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool. There are also very good paid options at Moz and SEMrush, both of which are often available for free on a trial basis.
Automated keyword research tools are a popular choice because they are often much cheaper than human help, and in most cases provide instant results. However, don’t settle on an automated tool (especially one you have to pay for) unless you’re sure you can use the tool to do all the keyword research yourself, and that you don’t need human help (like you would get from an SEO marketing firm).
Human Keyword Research Tools
There are firms that will sometimes consult with you on keyword research alone for a fee. However, most of the time, if you want to hire another person to help you with your keyword research, you should simply hire an all around SEO marketer, preferably one with a focus on law firms and the unique challenges that come along with marketing them online.
Professional SEO marketers will do most of the work for you, not only finding you keywords, but optimizing your site in various ways to appear in the SERPs for those keywords.
Just a few shocking but 100% true statistics about online reviews.
You know that local SEO is hugely important to your law firm, and you know sites like Yelp and Facebook (including Facebook’s review feature) are important to that – but how much do reviews matter for law firms? It’s not like you’re a restaurant and your clients are making snap decisions about which firm is better than another, right?
That’s right to an extent – but wrong in that it assumes reviews don’t matter. The simple fact of the matter is, online reviews matter for lawyers and virtually every other type of business that deals directly with an end consumer.
In fact, because hiring a lawyer is such a big decision, customers may even put more time into reading lawyer and law firm reviews online than they would into reading shopping or restaurant reviews. Your potential clients know that they’ll be spending a good deal of money on and time with a lawyer, and they want to be sure it’s worth it.
What’s the upshot of all this?
It’s simple – but often harder to implement than it sounds: you need reviews. You need a lot of them, and they need to be overwhelmingly positive.
There are a lot of quick, unethical ways to get reviews for your law firm, but the fact is that those methods very rarely pan out very well in the long term, and can often get you in big trouble with Google and/or the site hosting the reviews.
The best way to honestly and effectively get good reviews is to provide excellent service to each and every one of your clients and to make clients aware of your presence on review sites and how important reviews are to you.
You should particularly let clients know that you’re on Google Reviews, Yelp, and Facebook, as those are the three most frequently used and widely trusted review sites. Also, Google Reviews’ relationship with the rest of Google’s web properties may help boost your ranking in the SERPs directly, though there’s no way to definitively prove that Google prioritizes its own content. The evidence is there, though.
What if I lose a client’s case?
This is a particularly problematic situation that obviously affects lawyers and not the rest of the business owner population. However, here’s a quick and handy guide as to how to make sure you don’t get negative reviews when your firm inevitably loses cases.
Always do your best for your clients and establish a meaningful personal connection with each of them.
Do not overinflate client expectations or use unethical sales techniques to get clients to purchase your services if there is little hope you’ll win their case.
Be sure to educate customers about the ins and outs of the legal system and the possibility of failure.
Respond courteously to negative reviews on forums that allow you to do so – never defensively. Let your former clients know you’re fixing any problems they may have with your firm.
Consider working with a reputation enhancement service if negative reviews get out of hand or start to impact your bottom line.
If there’s one thing every SEO marketer will agree on, it’s that a website needs great content. But what makes content great?
Good content is both SEO-friendly and engaging to users. Meeting both of these criteria is important; if you meet only one, your content will fail.
I recently read an article on how to write great content, and it got me thinking about how I could distill that advice to our loyal lawyer readers and clients here at PromoteLaw. Although it’s from a site that’s a bit more focused on blogging in general than on SEO, I think it’s a pretty good source for anyone looking for advice on content creation.
In case you’re looking for quick, lawyer-focused advice, I’ll break down the most important bits right here.
1. Make your content SEO-friendly.
The biggest thing to think about when you’re writing content you want to be SEO-friendly is your use of keywords.
You’ll also want to make sure to use an image or two that will attract customers and is related to your content. Sites and pages with images tend to do better in the SERPs.
However, you’ll also want to make sure you don’t overuse images, as this can cause pages to load slowly (especially on mobile devices). This can have a negative impact on SEO.
One way to create a highly image rich post without bogging down your load time is to use smaller images.
You’ll also want to link out to other sites when possible, and to other pages on your own site, to give each of your pages and/or blog posts a sense of organization and legitimacy – both to Google’s spiders and to your end users.
2. Make your content user-friendly.
One of the biggest things to consider here is making your writing scannable. Many readers online don’t take the time to read every word – they should be able to speed through it and get the general gist of what you’re saying (unless it’s an especially complex topic).
You should also consider the length of your piece. Blog posts designed to get traffic could be 400 words or fewer, while more in-depth posts detailing the ins and outs of your law firm could be up to 2,000-3,000 words. You’ll want a good mix of different content lengths, because each length will appeal to a different type of person.
You should be sure to break your content into sections – and the longer a page or post is, the more important this is. It makes the reading much more manageable for the average end user.
You’ll also need to be sure that the post’s or page’s topic is relevant to your site (which most likely means it will have something to do with the legal system).
Catchy titles are also a must – and if you use keywords in them correctly, they can also give your SEO a big boost. Many SEO gurus believe that keywords used in titles (especially towards the beginning of a title) are up to three times as effective as keywords used in the main body of your content.
A perfect example of the kind of boring, computer-focused link that won’t help your site’s SEO.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog then you know we’ve recently posted on the importance of mobile friendliness and explained how backlinks boost your site’s SEO – so it only makes sense that when the two are combined, a huge SEO boost comes out of it.
If you haven’t read about mobile friendliness and backlinks in general yet, please do that first – this article is about an advanced SEO tip that will send your law firm SEO through the roof, but to do it, you’ll need to have a firm grasp of the basic concepts first.
Now that you understand the basics, let’s march ahead.
The big thing lawyers need to know about SEO is this: backlinks from mobile friendly sites have the biggest impact on your SEO – bigger than keywords, bigger than links from other sites, and definitely bigger than internal links. There are a lot of factors that determine a site’s SEO, but backlinks from mobile friendly sites are the biggest one.
What that means for you is simple: to boost your SERP ranking, you’ll have to aggressively pursue links from mobile friendly sites – especially mobile friendly sites that are also very popular and seen as legitimate by Google’s spiders and the general public.
Why does this work? Because Google prioritizes backlinks to your site based on the sites they come from – anyone can get backlinks from sketchy, pay-for-a-link type doorway pages, but if you have backlinks from sites like Wikipedia or the web versions of major news outlets, then your site is something Google thinks its viewers will likely want to find in searches.
While that may mean a lot of work for you in the beginning of 2017, there is some good news too – links from your social media accounts and external properties related to your site are very good for your main site’s SEO because essentially all of these sites are hugely popular and are at the forefront of mobile development.
Making sure your SEO is proficient in those areas is a great place to start a new mobile friendly link building campaign to boost your law firm’s SEO – and once you’ve ensured that all external properties are up to date and registered in your firm’s name, you can move on to trying to get the big links.
If you’re ready to undertake this endeavor and boost your law firm site’s SEO, head over to Google and check out their steps to a Google-friendly site – try to implement a few of these while you’re chasing big name, mobile friendly backlinks to give your site an even bigger boost in the SERPs.
When you think of things the average person is more likely, or at least equally as likely, to do on a mobile device as on her laptop or desktop, “get a lawyer” is probably not in the top ten – it is, after all, a bit more complicated and important than ordering a pizza or finding an Uber.
However, a website’s mobile friendliness, or its ability to load quickly and be easily navigated on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, is hugely important to its success for two closely related reasons:
Because of the virtual ubiquity and growing processing power of these devices, people are starting to do everything on their devices – and that includes getting a lawyer – and expect the same seamless experiences from every site that they’d get on a computer.
Because Google and the other search engine giants recognize this trend, mobile friendliness is hugely important to a site’s SEO.
So the long and short of it is this: if your site is mobile friendly, it will rank higher in the SERPs (meaning it will bring in more clients), and site visitors will have a better experience – meaning they’re more likely to choose your law firm because of the professionalism and polish of your site, whatever device it’s accessed with.
Mobile devices get more powerful and more popular over time, meaning that more people are using them to complete more complex tasks – when Google and its competitors in the search engine industry recognize this, they use their clout in the world of the internet to force webmasters to make sites mobile friendly, which in turn goes on to make mobile devices more capable, and more popular.
This cycle will likely increase the importance of mobile friendliness to SEO even more over time than it is doing right now as we pass from 2016 into 2017 – and that means that making your site mobile friendly now will not only win you more clients in the near future, but for countless years to come.
The advent of wearable technology has further increased the importance of mobile devices, as well – and who knows, soon we may have to make our sites wearable-friendly to get an SEO boost.
So, if your website isn’t already mobile friendly, you need to change that before you do anything else. Google has some basic instructions – if these are difficult for you, you may need to hire a programmer or web marketer.
You should also try to make sure that other sites you’re associated with are mobile friendly – something we’ll be sure to give you a post on in the near future.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock when it comes to SEO for law firms and other small businesses, you know that backlinks (also known as “external links” or “inbound links”) are important to a site’s ranking on SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) such as those that appear when a potential client types a query into Google or Bing. But did you know that backlinks can be the single most important factor when it comes to SEO?
That’s right: backlinks are not in any way a secondary consideration. To understand both what they are and their importance, please consider the following:
1. What a backlink is.
A backlink is a link to your site from another site. For example, if a former client posts a great review about your law firm on her blog and links to your law firm’s site within the post, that would be considered a backlink.
2. This is why backlinks are important:
The number of backlinks a site has is how Google and other major search engines (such as Yahoo and Bing) determine how popular, relevant, and legitimate a site is. Each backlink to your site from another site can be considered a vote of confidence in your site by each of those other sites.
Even though things like search keywords, location/local SEO, and all the new factors presented by the new prominence of semantic search also play a role, backlins may be the most important factor in determining where your site ranks in search results from Google and its competitors.
If it helps, think of it this way: keywords and other factors determine whether or not you’ll rank at all for a particular search, and backlinks determine where you’ll rank for that particular search. Although this isn’t exactly how it works in practice, this is a good approximation of how Google’s algorithm (and its competitors’ algorithms) works.
What does all this mean for your law firm?
It means that if you want your law firm to be successful in the age of 21st century internet marketing, you’ll need a lot of backlinks to your site. And while you might be able to get those backlinks by producing good content and then sitting and waiting, it’s not likely. You’ll need to do something a bit more proactive. Here are your options:
You could directly solicit either your competitors or objective law firm review sites and gurus for backlinks to your blog.
You could try to write guest posts for prominent law blogs on subjects of which you are deeply knowledgeable.
You could hire external SEO expert marketers to complete these tasks on behalf of your law firm.
Number 1 has a high rate of failure. Number 2, if you are willing and able to put the work in (in addition to worrying about everything else that happens at your law firm), has a high success rate. Number 3, if you hire the right SEO marketers, has an extremely high success rate – and those marketers can often use their experience and contacts in the industry to take care of numbers 1 and 2 for you.
With Google Maps being utilized by every single smartphone and Yelp reviews mattering to customers more than ever, it’s important to make sure that external properties related to your site are fully set up and utilized if you want to win at SEO – especially local SEO, which is how your law firm will most often get customers.
Now that you understand the basics, here’s detailed information on how to use two of the most important external properties related to your law firm to help you succeed:
Yelp is one of the most trusted and widely accessed customer review sites on the web today. Having a complete Yelp profile and a few five star reviews can help any business rocket to success, and it may be even more important for lawyers than it is for other business owners – because potential clients know they are going to work very closely with you over a long period of time and because your services are more expensive than something like a haircut or meal out, they’re going to look extra hard at your reviews.
If your firm has been around a while, chances are you already have a few reviews on Yelp. If you’ve just started your firm or you don’t have any Yelp reviews yet, getting a profile on the site set up can help customers review you more easily.
If you go to the Yelp for business page, you can search for a business (your law firm) in order to claim it and set up a profile. If the business doesn’t exist yet, you can set up a profile from scratch.
Be sure to include and/or update all relevant information on your profile, including your firm’s location, business hours, phone number, and email address. Even if you don’t have a lot of reviews yet, your Yelp profile can steer clients your way!
Once you’re all set up on Yelp, encourage clients to write reviews for your firm. Be sure to provide five star service every time you interact with a client, and if you get negative reviews anyway, Yelp gives you the option to respond to them.
Unless a client or former client tells an outright lie about your firm (in which case you may take it up with Yelp or take legal action), be sure to reply to all negative reviews courteously and respectfully, and never defensively. Instead of attacking the client, show that you and/or your partners or staff are taking steps to fix the problem.
The next thing you’ll want to do is go to Google’s business setup page. Registering here puts your business on Google Maps, allows clients to write reviews on Google, and may help you rank higher on Google SERPs, especially for customers in your geographic area.
As with Yelp, be sure to fill out or update all the information about your business completely and correctly. Also, follow the same guidelines when viewing and responding to Google reviews as Yelp reviews.
With both of these major external properties set up, you’ve set up your law firm for more success (and more clients) than ever!
We promised in our last post to give you a more detailed rundown of what semantic search is and how to use it – so here’s a basic primer for using this new and highly important Google feature to the advantage of your law firm.
But here are the basics: semantic search is the “ability to put typed searches into context,” according to that SEJ article. What that means is that Google – since 2013 – has been making changes to its algorithm to make it better understand exactly what its users mean when typing things into the famous Google search bar, instead of just matching words and phrases while prioritizing more popular and respected sites.
This was a major game changer in the search engine industry – it’s essentially like giving Google’s algorithm a sort of artificial intelligence. It also completely changed SERPs when it was introduced – and since its big successes at Google, other search engine companies (Yahoo!, Bing) have been looking into semantic search as well.
How can I use it to benefit my law firm SEO?
The main thing that you need to know is that Google will now look at the phrasing of items typed into its search bar and that it will have deeper knowledge of keywords used in searches.
Here’s how the phrasing bit is a game changer – Google will try to answer questions or reply to statements its users type into search bars (or say with Google Voice Search). Searching on Google is now a bit like asking a friend a question, as opposed to punching buttons on a machine.
Your law firm can benefit from this in several ways: first, try to answer a lot of common legal questions on your site’s blog (“how can I get a divorce?” or “what do I do if I’m injured at work?”). Posts and pages answering these frequently asked questions could be more likely to appear on higher SERPs for Google and other engines.
You’ll also want to heavily emphasize your geographic location and the type of law you practice on your site – this is good advice to follow regardless of semantic search, but can be doubly important if someone tells Siri or Cortana to “find me an insurance lawyer in Chicago.”
Google’s deeper knowledge of keywords means that traditional SEO keyword stuffing will not work, though keywords have certainly still been a big part of the game since 2013 (and will continue to be in 2017). It also means that using synonyms of major keywords could help your site get even more recognition.