The short answer is: Yes. There seems to be precious few lawyers who have a practice so specialized that they take clients all over the U.S. or operate mostly on referrals. Local SEO should be the main focus of any legal SEO effort. We often find law firms that have not focused on their local SEO efforts being outranked by less experienced firms in their market. Law firms should laser focus on their local SEO rankings. Unfortunately, few understand how local SEO works and what needs to be done to get into the coveted three pack on the first page of Google.
A few key stats that should get your attention and interest you in reading this entire article.
- 88% of consumer local business searches on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours. (Nectafy)
- 46% of all searches on Google are seeking local information.
- 97% searched online to find a local business (Source: Hubspot)
Business litigation attorneys, personal injury attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, civil defense attorneys, family lawyers, employment law attorneys, and estate planning attorneys, and others, need to operate at least within the state whose laws govern their practice. Most clients like to meet their attorneys face to face. However, in cases where that isn’t possible (say a tourist gets into a car accident while visiting another state), they still need an attorney who is local to the area. So concepts like geolocalization are extremely important to attorneys and their law firms.
Here, we’ll discuss how it works. If you would like to discuss this in more detail with me or my team, click here to schedule a time that works best for you.
Google My Business
Google My Business is where localization begins. Without it, your business will not show up in “near me” searches and Google itself will do precious little to help along the way. The first step is claiming your listing. How do you do that?
Supposing you don’t have an SEO firm doing everything for you, the process is relatively simple. You’ll want to make a specific Google account for your business. This process is free and simple. Everything you need to accomplish can be done so here. Google will ask you some rudimentary questions such as where you’re located and what kind of business you are and then you’ll be set up with a page. Please note that it could take up to three days for Google to publish your business and make it searchable. This is a quality control check.
The process doesn’t end with your GMB listing, but since Google has an 87% market share when it comes to searches, it’s definitely the best place to start.
Understanding Local SEO
Search engine optimization involves making your business eminently more searchable (and thus easier to find) over search engines like Google. When someone types in “car accident lawyer”, you want to ensure that your website is at the top of the list. There seems to be very few people who will look beyond the first page of hits. More traffic to your website means more cases for you and that translates into more money for your firm.
Google automatically sifts through results that are local to the searcher although “near me” searches remain valuable.
Aside from basic “organic” search results, Google offers a number of options that law firms can familiarize themselves with to improve their standing in local searches.
Google Snack Pack Results
“Near me” searches remain a large part of local Google SEO, yet the organic search results you’re likely to find on Tripadvisor links and then, down the list, you’ll find actual businesses. However, at the top of the search engine box, you’ll find a list of three results. Google considers these the top three options for your search.
As an example, try a search for “delis near me”. You’ll notice that the top three delis listed in your area are probably not the only delis within a 10-minute drive of your location. Not only that, but some of those delis may actually be closer than the ones listed in the snack pack list.
Now, research has shown that Google searchers will choose an option off the snack pack list 33% of the time while 40% will choose from the “organic” listings underneath. The best play is to rank highly in both.
Lastly, these results look different on different devices. Therefore, it’s important to consider the experience of searching over different kinds of screens. You can rank well regardless of device, but it takes a little effort. It means developing a site that looks right for both mobile and desktop/laptop searches. Google supplies a tool for testing how mobile-friend your site is. You can find it here.
Keyword Research and SEO
In the early days of SEO, sites could saturate content with keywords in order to artificially drive up their search engine results. However, the content itself was abysmal and the visitor experience of the content was unpleasant. Today, keywords still matter, but the user experience of the content matters now too. Google can analyze things like how long a visitor stays on your site or the number of interactions. For instance, if they click around a site or send you a message, Google will recognize that the search result was worthwhile to the visitor and rank it higher.
How can you be sure you have the right keywords?
SEO specialists use common sense tactics and SEO tools to make such determinations. First, let’s take a simple example. If you’re a personal injury attorney, then one of the keywords you’re going to want to rank for is “personal injury attorney”. This is obvious. If you type that into Google, you can scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will find other related searches. These can give you some indication as to what other search queries are worth ranking for.
In some ways, attorneys have it lucky when it comes to SEO. Lawsuits are stressful events and when people feel stressed, they want to seek out knowledge related to their situation. That’s why you’ll find “personal injury calculators” on websites that attempt to answer the question “how much is the average personal injury case payout”. It’s not that these calculators give an accurate answer, it’s that people are curious about that question.
Potential clients also have other questions related to their lawsuit that they’ll desperately want answers on. These include: Do I have a case? Defenses against DUI; How to win a case; Understanding insurance settlements; and so on. It’s fairly easy to predict what kinds of questions your clients will have given your area of practice. By answering them, you set them at ease and generate a good rapport. Google rewards you when their interaction with your site is good. That’s why having the best content results in better local SEO rankings which results in more business.
Service in Location Queries
Service in location (SiL) queries follow all variations of the format “ in location”. For instance, “personal injury attorneys in Atlanta”, “Atlanta personal injury attorneys”, “personal injury lawyers Atlanta”, “personal injury lawyer in Atlanta” and so on. There are even tools that exist to generate all variations of SiL queries from a given prompt. Some tools provide more information like statistics related to the search query and the cost related to purchasing an ad using the search query.
Interesting Ways to Find Relevant Keywords
SEO specialists use a number of industry patented methods to uncover all of the glorious keywords that you want to rank for. One of the most common is using Google’s predictive/auto-complete text to find common searches. These are searches that others have put into Google enough times to warrant them easing the process of searching by offering it as an option. The technology to do this is called n-grams. It creates a statistical model of the most common searches and then ranks them according to frequency. For those interested, tools like Ahrefs provide a number of options for predicting keyword searches related to your law firm.
Local NAP Citations
“NAP” refers to Name/Address/Phone. It is a typical listing that includes your business. Sites like Tripadvisor have NAP citations and so does Yelp and other such sites. All search engines (not just Google) regard NAP citations highly as a top indicator for your business. They bolster Google’s confidence in your GMB listing, and they figure into whether or not you’ll be listed in the “Snack Pack” results.
One important thing to consider here is that the information should be consistent. In cases where you move your business or change your phone number, the NAP listings should be corrected as quickly as possible. Google does not like inconsistent NAP listings.
SEO specialists will scour the web to ensure listings in any and all business directories contain consistent NAP information.
Another technique that is useful is to build more NAP listings in various business directories across the web. You can find many of the most important local business directories here. For attorneys, FindLaw and Nolo are two obvious places to list your law firm.
SEO in Content and Geolocalization
For obvious reasons, you want to understand the basics of SEO keywords in the content you use on your website. For instance, if you want to rank for the query “DUI Defense” there are certain spots where you want to have your keyword. Those are:
- Your title tag
- Your first heading (H1)
- The URL
- The meta description
This is also important when trying to rank locally. In fact, it’s one of the most important things to bear in mind when creating content.
It is also the reason why websites will have multiple landing pages for different areas in which they operate. You don’t need to go crazy creating landing pages for every city in your state, but you will want landing pages for major suburbs. Or if you operate in a smaller town and want to do business in a major city, it helps to have individual landing pages for those cities.
Link building remains one of the most important factors for ranking in local searches and Snack Pack listings. However, directory listings won’t (necessarily) factor into those. When your site is listed on another site and someone uses that link to access your site, the interaction is recorded and the link. Additionally, link signals can be generated from basic questions asked over Google such as: “car accident statistics in ”. These sorts of queries strengthen your site’s Google ranking. They can be only indirectly related to your area of practice. For instance: Safe driving tips or How to reduce your car insurance can work for a traffic accident attorney.
Other ways to build links include:
- Guest blogging – Attorneys have a great opportunity here because their knowledge is both invaluable and esoteric.
- Improve well-performing content – Simply giving blogs that are performing well a better look readability wise or adding a more comprehensive amount of information can improve your visitor’s interaction with your site.
For more information on link building, have a click here.
The oldest form of advertising is word of mouth. In today’s market, it has become even more important. With the speed at which information travels, good results for clients result in higher rankings for your webpage. You can respond to customer reviews or concerns (or not). With GMB, you can also keep them in the loop as far as your latest results and updates by creating new posts.
Adding fresh content keeps your web page in the public eye. You can share this content over social media and it also lets Google know that your page is being actively maintained. This is good for local SEO. Whereas once, SEO specialists believed that quantity trumped quality, today, it is largely regarded that the reverse is true. High-quality content encourages visitors to read about situations that are similar to their own. Moreover, Google keeps track of that interaction and weights it positively helping your website.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that local SEO is extremely important for 99.9% of the law firms in the U.S. Consider the digital profile of your business quite carefully. You need fresh, exciting content that is updated on (at least) a monthly basis that ranks for important keywords relative to your business. You also want content that indirectly relates to your law firm and draws visitors who may possibly be interested in various aspects of your practice. Taking the measures listed above ensures that your site out-competes other sites in your market. Which in turn brings more cases to your firm, and keeps your visitors reading for more information that may help alleviate some of their anxiety concerning their situation.
If you would like more information on our local SEO services schedule an appointment with our team today. We are happy to review your current local SEO strategy and give you recommendations to improve your rankings.