Local SEO Tips for Law Firms, updated for 2017
Updates: added Legal Directories as a 4th local SEO tip for law firms (see tip #4 below)
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Local SEO for law firms has changed dramatically over the past 2 years. We have law firm clients that started with us over 2 years ago, and back then our local SEO strategies included things like Google authorship and video authorship. However, in 2016, local SEO for law firms is a whole new ballgame – so to speak… and the law firms that get it right, will reap the benefits of the coveted 3 pack search rankings for their most profitable keyword phrases.
Knowing that Google continually changes their local search algorithm, along with the way they display local search results, it’s imperative that the local SEO strategy for your law firm is optimized for what’s to come in 2016. Those who leverage the latest local SEO strategies will reap the greatest rewards, whereas the law firms that don’t, will continue to struggle with questions like “why can’t I get top rankings in Google local?” and “how do increase traffic to my law firm website?”
The tips below will help put you on the path to success with local SEO for law firms in 2016.
Local SEO for law firms in 2017 – 4 tips you need to know
#1: Mobile Is Key to local SEO for law firms in 2016
I’m going to share a couple of screenshots here in a minute, but law firms have to embrace the fact that more searches are being conducted on mobile phones than desktop computers today. This, according to Google’s own research on search behavior.
For one our DUI clients, the combined impact of local SEO and mobile is driving more new clients to his business than any other marketing source they’ve ever invested into in the past.
I shared some more stats on mobile phone usage, and it’s relevance to local SEO, in our blog post yesterday, but here’s the 3 key factors that make mobile so critically important to local SEO:
- ‘Near me’ searches: this is the automated search mechanism in Google’s mobile search app. As you start typing a word, such as ‘personal injury’, before you get too far down the phrase, Google’s mobile search app will pop up a recommendation for you to tap that reads ‘personal injury lawyers near me’. And by tapping this recommendation, you’ll instantly see the personal injury law firms in your city, driven exclusively by these law firm local SEO strategies.
- Voice search: perhaps one of the biggest game changers in mobile search is the rising use of voice search. Simply pull out your iPhone or Android device, open the Google search app, tap the mic, and then speak you search query. Voice search queries in the Google app has doubled since 2014. And according to research, teens (55%) use voice search more often than adults (41%).
- Location awareness: finally, to add even more power to the importance of mobile with local SEO, Google’s search app leverages your exact location in determining the search results. But the location awareness is the feature.
- Direct data: The way to maximize local SEO for law firms and location awareness is through the use of direct data. Basically, direct data is the granular level details associated with your law firm, and the more granular you get with your direct data, the more local SEO authority you’ll give your local search results. One of the best ways to leverage direct data is through the use of Schema language (see comments below). Here are just a few examples of direct data as it relates to local SEO for law firms:
- Specific practice areas by partner.
- Partner and team member names and rolls.
- Hours of operation.
- Fax #’s
- Phone numbers.
- Consistent address locations.
- Landing pages for each location.
- Payment methods.
- Areas served.
- Aggregated ratings from external sources.
Just to show you the impact that mobile can have on the productivity of your law firm’s mobile and local SEO efforts, here’s a screenshot from one of our law firm client’s mobile site:
#2: Schema Language to impact local SEO for law firms in 2016
Schema language is a collaborative effort by all major search engines (Google, Yahoo, & Bing) to read, interpret, and promote structured data on the web.
Schema language is also the primary way your law firm can maximize the local SEO impact of direct data.
Here’s a brief overview of Schema language from the Schema.org site:
Schema.org is a collaborative, community activity with a mission to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the Internet, on web pages, in email messages, and beyond.
Schema.org vocabulary can be used with many different encodings, including RDFa, Microdata and JSON-LD. These vocabularies cover entities, relationships between entities and actions, and can easily be extended through a well-documented extension model. Over 10 million sites use Schema.org to markup their web pages and email messages. Many applications from Google, Microsoft, Pinterest, Yandex and others already use these vocabularies to power rich, extensible experiences.
For the purposes of local SEO for law firms, the key is to leverage the specific attorney schema library of code or data sets.
Without making this post a detailed “how to” on Schema language (I’ll write that post later…), I’ll provide just a few tips to help you get started with integrated Schema for your law firm local SEO strategy.
If your law firm runs a WordPress site, you can implement the Schema Creator plugin to make it easy implementing the proper code structure. For any other law firm website, including WordPress, you can use the Schema Creator tool.
The main advantage to leveraging Schema language in your law firm’s local SEO strategy is due to the fact that so few law firm websites are implementing it. By your law firm website implementing and leveraging proper Schema code structures, you’ll be exploiting the lack of integration the competing law firm websites.
Schema language allows search engines to interpret the content of your site. Specifically, Schema helps search engines understand the direct data that’s unique to your law firm and the information you share about your practice directly on your law firm’s website.
#3: Blogging / News article marketing for local SEO for law firms in 2016
Finally, I’ll share what has delivered some of the most potent local SEO results for our law firm clients. And that is, blogging directly on their law firm websites.
News Article Blogging
The majority of law firms are highly targeted to specific metro areas. As such, one of the greatest challenges for law firm websites is attracting increased traffic and exposure in their specific markets.
One way to meet this challenge, and deliver phenomenal growth in traffic and exposure at the metro area level, is through what I call news article marketing.
With news article marketing, we are publishing news and information from their targeted metro areas directly on the blog within the law firm website.
The advantages of business blogging are vast, but when it comes to local SEO for law firms, the impact is exponential.
First, when you are covering local news and information, you’ll naturally attract visitors from those specific metro areas. This dramatically increases the branded exposure for your law firm in your desired markets.
News articles are also a flexible way for your law firm to gain exposure in adjacent markets – or metro areas that represent desired markets, but where you do not have office locations.
As you write more news and information on your law firm blog, Google sees the increase in content production and comes back to your law firm website more frequently to crawl and index the content.
This increase in ‘crawling and indexing’ allows your law firm website to build more authority over time, especially relevant for the targeted metro areas you are covering in your news articles.. And this authority translates into higher rankings in the local and organic search results for your targeted keyword phrases.
Here’s two examples of how we’ve seen news article marketing work extremely well in our local SEO strategies for law firms:
- Personal Injury Lawyers: let’s say you are personal injury law firm in Atlanta, Georgia. We would cover accident and injury related news that’s happening in metro Atlanta. Or perhaps you are more interested in premise liability cases. So we would cover news and information related to premise liability in the Atlanta area.
- DUI / Criminal Defense Lawyers: let’s say you are a criminal defense or DUI lawyer in Miami. We would cover news and information about crimes and DUI arrests that are happening in Miami.
But we don’t just cover general news and information. Again, the object is to drive maximum traffic and exposure back to your law firm website. So you want to chose the highest profile news cases happening in your specific category. The more polarizing the news, the more “return on your effort” you’ll see in the form of inbound traffic to your law firm website, branded exposure for your law firm, and more authority from Google due to the increased traffic, crawling, and indexing of your content.
Social Media Distribution
Finally, when it comes to news article marketing on your law firm’s website, you are also presenting with a new source of links and updates to share across your law firm’s social media profiles.
For our clients, every news article that we published gets shared across all of their social media profiles. We have a law firm client in Milwaukee that two locations, which equates to 8 different social media profiles spread across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.
The social media distribution impact has resulted in an average of 250% increase in traffic to this particular law firm’s website. And beyond just the traffic increases, the amount of links being generated from social media helps Google attribute even more authority back to your law firm website.
News article marketing, as a whole, creates substantial amounts of inbound traffic and links back to your law firm website. This translates into more authority from Google, which ultimately results in higher rankings for your targeted keyword phrases in the local and organic search results.
#4: Legal Directories to Build Domain Authority
The new local SEO tip for law firms in 2017 is the use of legal directories to build domain authority.
There’s a direct correlation between domain authority and rankings in Google search.
The most authoritative websites are typically found in the #1 search result in Google, both local and organic.
As such, in order to drive your law firm website into the top search results, you have to focus on building domain authority.
And as it is with domain authority, you have to build high quality and authoritative backlinks from relevant sources.
One of the most relevant sources for getting do follow backlinks to your law firm website is from legal directories.
There are 5 major legal directories that we leverage for our clients, and they are:
Law Firm Directory #1: HG.org
Law Firm Directory #2: Lawyers.com
Law Firm Directory #3: Nolo.com
Law Firm Directory #4: Martindale.com
Law Firm Directory #5: Findlaw.com
When it comes to getting your law firm ranked in Google local search results, or Google Maps search results, a lot of the local SEO ranking power comes directly from your citation portfolio.
What’s a citation portfolio?
Basically, your citation portfolio is the collection of all the places on the web where your law firm’s business name, address, and phone number are published. This is also referred to as your NAP citation (N = business name, A = address, P = phone number).
But not all resources or websites are created equal for citations. Which means, it matters where you create citations for your law firm local SEO strategy, if you expect to rank and compete in Google local search.
And I can assure you, with a lot of law firm local SEO experience under my belt, the legal market is brutally competitive in Google local search, andd you’ll need all the ranking power you can get to compete… especially in large metro areas.
80 / 20 Rule in Law Firm Local SEO Citations
I like to apply the 80 / 20 rule when it comes to creating citations for our local SEO law firm clients.
This means, 80% of the law firm’s local SEO ranking power will come from 20% of the total citation portfolio.
Learn more about The Economics of Keyword Phrase Targeting & SEO
So the overwhelming majority of your law firm citations published on the web will not carry much ranking power.
The 3 key strategies for local SEO for law firms in 2016 are as follows:
- Schema language (direct data)
- News article marketing
These three strategies, when implemented effectively and strategically for your law firm, will dramatically improve the authority and rankings of your law firm website. And the higher your position in the local search results, especially when you reach letter A, B, or C in the Google maps listings, the more inbound traffic, leads, and client conversions your law firm will experience.