Why Attorneys Need Legal SEO
Getting a new client now is significantly different than how your law firm might have gotten a new client 10 years ago. At James Attorney Marketing, we have seen the legal industry transform from how interactions, business, and information is distributed between lawyers and their clients.
The Unique Challenges of Attorney SEO (and How to Overcome Them)
With more than 35 years of experience helping attorneys with their law firm marketing services, we understand that marketing for law firms is unique. Legal practices are their own breed of business that most marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) companies aren’t familiar with, especially when it comes to highly competitive legal niches and geographic markets.
That’s why we are sharing our knowledge on the subject. Below, we’ve outlined three of the greatest SEO challenges facing attorneys today, along with solutions for law firms of all types.
Challenge #1: Many Attorneys Don’t Have Enough Marketing Resources
Unlike businesses, law offices typically don’t have dedicated marketing teams strategizing about how to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).
For instance, link building—getting external websites to link back to the law firm’s website—can be incredibly time-consuming and difficult to do successfully without experience. Attorneys who try the DIY route usually end up become overwhelmed and frustrated at the lack of results, or find that they have to spend so much time on SEO that client management suffers.Solution:
Work with a legal-specific attorney marketing firm that understands how to best provide SEO support for your law firm. For instance, James Attorney Marketing & Attorney Marketing specializes in working with legal practices and has developed a network of more than 1,000 legal websites that can provide relevant citations, which hold greater weight than citations from websites that aren’t law-oriented.
Best of all, James Attorney Marketing provides full-service marketing services including attorney SEO, content marketing such as customized 100-page books, and Google+ Local optimization (Google Local is a local business listing that features a law firm’s contact information and appears in Google local rankings and on Google Maps) in order to create comprehensive strategies that work.
Challenge #2: SEO Services Often Take Advantage of Law Offices
SEO companies know that their clients aren’t typically experienced in the online marketing realm… and they take advantage of this lack of knowledge. They sometimes make promises that they can’t keep, taking payment while hoping their attorney clients don’t realize the results are less than ideal.
First, learn the basics of attorney SEO. James Attorney Marketing & Attorney Marketing’s blog is chock-full of free, helpful lawyer marketing information about everything from SEO and SEM (search engine marketing) to data security and workload automation.
After getting up to speed a bit, work with a partner you can trust. As the relationship continues, we provide monthly ranking reports to itemize the work being done, such as:
- Auditing your website and fixing errors
- Uncovering page-by-page recommendations for internal links, social engagement, and more
- Promoting search engine visibility
- Implementing search optimization strategies like maintaining your Google+ profile and creating additional citations
This open communication policy ensures that you always understand what’s being done to boost your law firm SEO efforts and how your budget is being spent.
Challenge #3: Law Firms Can Be Slow to Accept New Technologies and Strategies
We’ve heard it before: half of a law firm is on board with bringing on new technologies and new marketing strategies, while the other half digs in their boots—they don’t see the point of changing when business is “going just fine.” Legal practices can be notoriously slow to change, and it’s not uncommon for attorneys to experience pushback.
If you’re facing a wall at your law office, show them proof that dedicating resources to internet marketing and SEO works. James Attorney Marketing & Attorney Marketing’s own client, personal injury attorney Loren Etengoff, has more than doubled his caseload year over year by focusing on improving SEO through his website and content, as well as accruing positive online reviews that boosted his site rating.
Another client, criminal defense attorney Howard Snader, increased the number of prospect calls coming into his practice from 18-25 per month to more than 200 per month. Thanks to optimizing his website and adding quality content that could attract backlinks, revenue increased by 22% year-over-year.
Evidence like this can help to convince even the most reluctant team members that focusing on attorney SEO is worth the investment.
3 Simple Ways to Boost Your Law Firm SEO
No matter what type of law your firm specializes in—criminal, personal injury, patent—the term “search engine optimization” (abbreviated “SEO”) probably gets thrown around quite a bit during marketing roundtable discussions. But what does “search engine optimization” even involve? And what can lawyers do to boost their SEO efforts?
SEO in a Nutshell
SEO is the method of adjusting a law firm’s website traffic arising from organic searches (unpaid searches completed by search engine users). Basically, search engine optimization for lawyers relies heavily on keywords and keyword phrases searched by Internet users. The general goal of SEO is for lawyers’ websites to rank as high as possible on the list of search results in order to receive the largest number of visits, which can obviously lead to more business.
Use the following three tips to possibly enhance your approach to SEO and land on your potential clients’ radars more often.
1. Implement the correct keywords to establish your law firm’s presence.
Law firms should carefully examine which keywords and phrases to include in their online content and associate with their brand, as all keywords are not created equal. For example, the term “personal injury lawyer” is a great basic keyword to branch off of when brainstorming a list of effective keywords to associate with your law firm, but the phrase may be too general to generate much online traffic.
A law firm’s search engine optimization should focus on utilizing more specific terms that include geographical tags, such as “personal injury lawyer in South Orange County” or “DUI defense lawyer in Manhattan”. Keyword phrases that feature location information can be much more powerful than generic keywords because potential clients are likely to search for services within their local communities.
2. Tailor content to keywords, but don’t force keywords where they don’t belong.
It’s not a good idea to overstuff your webpage content with chosen keywords. Oftentimes, search engines can tell when you’re simply utilizing articles as vehicles to push keywords and increase SEO (and they may even punish you for seemingly unscrupulous tactics). Nevertheless, any and all webpage content should feature keywords scattered naturally throughout in order to elevate your law firm’s standings on the search results page.
3. Use various online platforms to guide outside traffic to your webpage.
Experts can explain that law firm SEO strategy should encompass social media. Posting on Facebook, blogs and e-newsletters, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter, and including hyperlinks to guide viewers back to the original content on your law firm’s website or blog can lead to a significant climb in your firm’s ranking on the search results page.
If you need help with SEO for your attorney website, contact us to see how we can help you.
Top 3 Lawyer SEO Lessons to Learn the Competition
Differentiating your firm from the competition lends you a competitive advantage over the other practices in your area, of course, but that doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel on lawyer SEO. Sometimes it’s best to try what is already working for others. Learn these three lessons from your competitors and reach SEO success that much faster.
- The keywords you should be implementing online
You know the five biggest competitors in your space. Let’s say that three of these competitors experience greater revenue than your law firm, mostly due to better lawyer SEO strategy and a consequently higher level of traffic on their website than yours.
The key to grabbing some of their search traffic is to rank higher on specific keyword phrases searched by potential customers. That way, when web users use Google or Bing to search terms like “bankruptcy lawyer in Dallas,” your website will appear among the top results on the search engine results pages and receive more clicks.
Use tools like SEMrush (a free resource, with the option to upgrade) to uncover the keywords that your competitors rank highest for. Simply visit the website and enter your top competitor’s website URL. You should see a small table labeled “Top Organic Keywords.”
If the data applied to your top competitor, for instance, you could make it a point to include phrases like “Orange County law firms” and “law firms in Orange County” in your website copy and blog content in order to rank higher on these highly-searched keyword phrases. Or, you could choose to boost your ranking for similar keyword phrases that have less competition, such as “Orange County law practice” or “Orange County legal.”
- Where to find backlinks
SEMrush and other tools can also help you discover which websites provide backlinks (links from outside websites) to your competitors’ websites. More backlinks pointing to your site means better lawyer SEO and greater website traffic.
Underneath the Top Organic Keywords section on your competitor’s SEMrush analysis page, you’ll find a Backlinks section like the sample below (assuming that the data is available for SEMrush to pull; if not, the site will say that they haven’t found any backlinks data).
Once you know the websites that are providing backlinks to your competition, you can reach out and request backlinks to your page as well. For instance, if an online legal publication is featuring blog articles from your top competitor’s website in their monthly newsletters, offer to guest blog for them as well, which can earn your website backlinks that promote your lawyer SEO efforts.
- Topics that engage potential clients
On the topic of blog articles, exploring your competitors’ blog pages is a great way to gather topic ideas that potential clients want to read about. If you notice that an article about qualifying for workers’ compensation has received dozens of comments underneath the article and hundreds of shares on social media, it may be a hot topic thread to explore on your blog. Eventually, this could result in greater lawyer SEO for your site.
Instantly go from no blog to “on the map” with our custom content services. We use a mix of English grads and lawyers. Find out more now!
The Changing World of SEO
Google dominates the search engine world and so that company’s algorithms tend to drive the art of search engine optimization. There have been so many tweaks and added filters in the Google algorithm over the past few years that many great SEO tricks have since become defunct. In some cases, SEO tricks that could once get you to the top of Google’s search results will now get you penalized. For these reasons it can be a good idea to review your law firm’s SEO strategy from time to time. Reexamine exactly why a specific aspect of your digital marketing effort seemed like a good idea and check that the advantages it was supposed to bring still accrue. Search Engine Watch,Search Engine Journal and the Quicksprout blog have some good advice on the changing world of SEO this week.
SEO guru, Neil Patel, opens this enlightening article on his Quicksprout blog with the news that keyword stuffing is no longer a good idea. Not so long ago, the main tactic of content marketing revolved around keyword density. You identified the keywords you wanted a page to rank for and then you repeated those phrases as often as possible in the text on that page. There were also coding tricks that can hide the keyword repetition inside the HTML that makes up each page.
Over at Search Engine Journal, Lee Wilson, gives more information on schema markup. This guide has lots of links through to schema.org, which manages the standardized tags you need in order to add this feature to your law firm’s Web pages. All of this information, together with Patel’s article on the topic should be enough to get you familiar with schema markup.
This is a long article that extends over three pages, but it is well worth the time it will take you to read it all. Number one on the list of old SEO tactics that are now bad is keyword optimization, so that chimes in with Neil Patel’s opinion on the topic. Number four on this list of bad ideas concerns the “nofollow” attribute on links. You will probably find this all over the HTML of your law firm’s website, but you shouldn’t go to too much effort to remove it – it doesn’t help your site at all, but it doesn’t harm it either.
If you planned your law firm’s digital marketing strategy more than three years ago, chances are you probably haven’t worked in much input from social media. Google has been examining the impact of social media a lot over the past few years, so this guide will help you examine how to get social media working to get you clients.
The two Google filters that keep SEO consultants awake at night are called Panda and Penguin. Panda focuses on quality of content and Penguin is more about the quality of links. Penguin covers various aspects of links but is particularly aimed at link farms. Unfortunately, a lot of directories got hit by Penguin as well. This article gives an interesting rundown of the history of Penguin and relates how a consultant strove to recover a site’s rankings after getting hit by it. Root out all of the links that feed into your law firm’s website and disavow any that look spammy.
During the course of 2015, SEO developments were driven by changes in Google’s algorithm. The major move of the year occurred in April, when Google introduced its mobile friendliness algorithm weighting. This move caused consternation in the digital marketing world and we covered the run up to the move in the SEO Trends column.
Content Marketers have had a rough year. Google Authorship was binned, Knowledge Graph made an appearance, giving Google the top spot in its own results pages and a seemingly ineffectual release of the Panda filter in July left all content strategies in limbo. Link builders had a good year, with two reports on ranking factors published in August showing that links have risen in importance, contrary to previous forecasts of their demise. Social media continued its rise in importance throughout the year with social signals increasing in importance in Google’s ranking factors.
In this review of the year we look back at how we reported the major SEO trends through 2015. Look out for some last minute tips for your law firm’s digital marketing strategy mixed in with our review.
This branch of digital marketing has probably had the worst time of it in 2015. There had been whispers through the spring of 2015 that a new release of Panda was on the cards. As Google never announces what changes it has made in its algorithms and what it’s filters contain, SEO practitioners tend to put their strategies on hold until the new version can be analyzed and a new direction formulated. The release of Panda 4.2 finally occurred in July, but it was no help. The rollout was reported to be slow and had no effect on anyone’s rankings. Google reports that the implementation of Panda still hasn’t finished, leaving everyone guessing about the future of content marketing. We recommend working with different aspects of content on your law firm’s site, such as content formats, outreach content and content improvements until the dust settles. Over the last week, however, some fail-safe direction on content quality has emerged with Google’s own content assessment standards leaked on the Web.
In contrast to the difficult year that content marketing experienced, link building reclaimed its position as the most influential factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. Two important industry reports on ranking factors, published in August this year, both put backlinks at the top of their lists of influences. Our Link Sources post in that month gave you some solid tips on how to beef up your link profile. Two more reports, from Moz and SMX, at the end of September, also discovered that links are major influences on rankings. Although 2015 was a very busy year for lawyers who tried to keep up with the headline topics of mobile and local search, we paid regular visits to the topic of link building throughout the year. The tips contained in our posts: Backlinks, Links, Linking Strategies and Link Sources are still well worth reading. Our report on External Influences last week highlighted that an update of the Penguin filter is on the cards. As Penguin penalizes bad links, that is an article worth reviewing.
Social Media Marketing
Social signals occupy an ever-increasing slice of the ranking algorithm. We have been following this trend in digital marketing since 2013, and by now, you certainly should have a social media strategy for your law firm’s marketing presence. If not, take a look at our SEO Trends post from January on social media marketing – it contains some great 101 advice on the topic. Our Social Media Strategies post in March will help you evolve your platform memberships into a coherent plan. Our Changes in Social Media report explains the risers and fallers this year in social media communities.
This has been the hottest topic of 2015. Google’s push for mobile-friendliness throughout the spring started with an announcement in March that they would skew rankings to favor mobile-friendly sites. We stayed on that topic for the whole of April. If you didn’t get caught up in the panic and you still don’t have a mobile-friendly version of your law firm’s website, our last minute guide on mobile-friendliness topics is worth a look. When the update finally happened, it turned out to have less impact than forecast. This was because so many websites were updated for mobile friendliness that everyone got the same rankings boost. Google hasn’t left mobile search alone, however. A technology called Accelerate Mobile Pages, or AMP: this is the new frontier in mobile search and we first spotted it in the Winning with Low Rankings post in October. The main topic of debate back then was whether anyone would actually bother implementing AMP. However, just a few months later it seems that you had better get knowledgeable about AMP. We touched on the topic earlier this month in the Rankings Boosters report. Google has announced that it will change its ranking algorithm to favor AMP sites in February. So, you really need to start learning this topic now, so you can have your law firm’s site AMP-ready for the change. Thankfully, Moz has noticed how important AMP has become and they have published an excellent guide on the topic this week.
Google’s drive towards creating local search results started back in 2013 and the SEO Trends column has been reporting on these developments ever since. This year, mobile search has dominated the headlines, but as local search is closely linked to mobile search, this topic has never been far from our thoughts. Small law firms get most of their clients from their immediate vicinity, so this avenue of digital marketing is very important. Getting into the “local pack,” which Google introduced last year at the top of its search results is very important. We gave you tips on how to achieve that in our Local SEO post in March. We gave Multi-Location Enterprises tips on how to use local search to their benefit back in August. Our Local Search, Local Marketing Tactics and Finding Local Audiences posts kept you abreast of the local search topic. Local search is going to get hotter over 2016 as Google smartens up its new “nearby” search method. You can read about this developing technology in our Mapping post.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but SEO advocates try to stress the importance of gaining visibility without paying. Sometimes paying for a position on results pages, or just advertising on other sites, or on TV or print media is worth the money. Our March Pay Per Click article introduces many of the acronyms that PPC experts bandy about – this is worth a revisit so that you can understand what PPC consultants are talking about. The SEO Trends report in September about Pay Per Click explained the integration of YouTube campaigns in Google AdWords – YouTube could be a very useful outlet for your paid advertising campaign. Remarketing, also known as “retargeting,” is probably the hottest trend this year that doesn’t have the word “mobile” in it. We first noticed this marketing marvel back in May, with a mention in our Sales Conversion post. We came across this strategy in relation to Facebook marketing in our Changes in Social Media post in September. Remarketing featured heavily in our November post, Developments in Advertising. By this point, the subject was becoming very hot indeed. Keep your eye on remarketing – it will be the main advertising force in 2016.
You have probably noticed that everywhere on the Web, and in magazines, and even on TV there are lists of things. Every title and headline has to be a list of a number of things. It’s annoying, but everyone does it, so you could give it a try for your law firm’s website.
The SEO news websites are big on lists, so the theme for this week’s SEO Trends report is just a list of list articles relating to SEO. Although this seems a rather random link, it is a good opportunity to funnel some very good SEO basics advice, and also drum the list concept into you to inspire you to write your own list articles about some aspect of your legal specialization. Today’s lists come from Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Watch.
The author of this article is super-switched-on. She has some really good ideas on working methods for SEO strategies here. The one that took me aback a little was her tip for “start your day by staying in the loop.” She sets up her analytical tools to email her reports on her website’s SEO performance so they arrive in her Inbox when she logs on in the morning. That’s such a good idea, it’s actually quite scary. She has a big theme about creating groups. She creates groups of keywords and content groups. This list really will give you a lot of ideas to try for your law firm’s SEO strategy.
If you are going to plan out keyword groups, you really need to find some snappy keywords for your law firm’s products first. This list covers some tools you can use to hunt down the right keywords. Of the four, the survey idea is probably the most original.
Although this article focuses on retailers and the holidays, much of its advice is universal. Few law firms are likely to get a Christmas rush, however, many areas of legal work do get peak periods – for example, tax lawyers and immigration work can get driven by deadlines and quotas imposed by the government. In this piece, the author starts off with “lists” of keywords, so that is probably just another way of saying “groups.”
The world and his dog is on Facebook. Everyone is there on Facebook just waiting for you to grab their attention. You probably hear about some marketing thing that “went viral” on Facebook, and wish you could get that for your law firm’s social media campaign. This article doesn’t really cover “going viral.” But it has some very well structured advice on how to plan a Facebook campaign.
These tips are simple, but they are slightly techie, so as a lawyer and not a Webmaster, you may struggle a bit. You will need to log in to your website’s Control Panel to implement most of this advice. If you’re not sure what you did with the account information for that, then you really are probably neglecting these straightforward oversights that can hammer your rankings.
Posting video commentary on aspects of the law is a really good idea for building a reputation and establishing familiarity with potential clients. You can post them on YouTube and then insert them from there into your own website. The library you build up on YouTube will become a channel. However, if you don’t organize your space there properly, you will miss out on the opportunity to catch new followers who use the YouTube search facility. This article gives some good advice on how to build your brand on YouTube.
As a sole practitioner, or partner in a small law firm, you may struggle with the technology-related issues dealt with here at the James Attorney Digital Marketing Blog. This week we take a break from computer stuff in the SEO trends column to take a look at a number of legal matters that have arisen over the last week in the world of SEO.
Search Engine Journal has a particularly interesting article this week that speaks directly to lawyers with websites. This SEO round up will also touch on articles from Search Engine Roundtable and Search Engine Land.
This Search Engine Journal article was written by a lawyer who specializes in the law relating to the World Wide Web, so you should have no trouble understanding the words of your learned friend. The article specifically covers the law related to copyright protection on the Internet and explains actions that can be taken to protect your original site content through the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.
Last week’s SEO trends review was based on news about the Bing search engine. The roundup featured an article on Bing’s Image Widget Tool. This is a snippet of code that can be included in a Web page and calls in an image gallery generated from a Bing search when activated. It seemed like a good idea. However, it has already got the search engine into hot water. Getty Images is suing Bing over the tool on the basis of copyright infringement.
It took just a few days following the filing of the Getty Images case for Bing to decide that discretion is the batter part of valor. They have disabled the tool for the time being, pending the outcome of the case. This is an annoying development for anyone who has already included the tool in their site because it will now result in an untidy error message displayed on the page in place of a slick gallery. Archive that page for now and reintegrate it once this case is settled.
This is a very interesting piece of legal news published in Search Engine Journal this week. Yelp was accused of manipulating reviews of small businesses on its site in order to empower its sales force. Aggressive sellers for the company explained to potential customers that the site would only allow negative reviews of that business unless they paid for advertising on the site. The case has been thrown out without reaching an examination of whether these allegations were true or not. The ruling concerns Yelp’s right to decide which reviews to post no matter what their selection criteria or motivation. This is bound to be an issue that will raise its head again given that reviews can make or break a business.