SEO for law firms is challenging, especially in large metro areas where thousands of people a day are searching for the best lawyers to meet their needs.  More than likely there are hundreds of competing law firms in your market, and rising above the crowd requires a purposeful, definitive strategy.  Here’s how savvy law firms succeed in search.

There are two key components to successful SEO for law firms that result in top rankings in search:

  1. domain authority
  2. brand authority

Law firms that succeed at both are the ones you see at the top of the organic and local search results over and over again, and their lawyers are called the rain makers, as a result of the inbound traffic and calls coming in from new clients.

How to build domain authority for your law firm

Let’s start with building domain authority for your law firm website.

Domain authority has two major components that fuel your rankings in search and inbound traffic to your website.

These two components are inbound links and site structure.

Building inbound links for law firm SEO

Since the fallout of the Panda / Penguin algorithm updates from Google, law firms have been petrified to build backlinks to their websites.  In fact, I’ve had many clients come to us for the purpose disavowing (removing) large groups of backlinks pointing to their website.  This idea of disavowing links is relevant, but only where you know for certain that you have backlinks in toxic environments.  Low value, spammy link farms are a great candidate for disavowing.

Otherwise, I’ve seen situations where people have gone overboard with disavowing backlinks.  And by doing so, they end up removing a backlink that’s providing substantial amount authority for their domain.

So what’s a backlink strategy for law firms that will actually build domain authority and contribute to growing your presence in search?  Here’s a technique we use that has been delivering powerful results for clients for nearly 10 years.

First, we turn to Google and search a keyword phrase we know to be highly competitive.  And we target that search to a large metro area in the U.S.  For example, “houston car accident attorney”.  Here’s what I see in Google when I search that phrase:

law firm SEO

You’ll notice how I overlooked Findlaw that’s sitting in the #1 organic search result.  I did this because Findlaw is a directory, not a specific law firm website.  In this exercise, I’m only interested in law firm websites that are actually achieving top rankings in Google.

We look at both the local and organic search results to identify the #1 ranking law firms, then grab their website URL and start analyzing their backlink portfolio.

The main tool we use for this analysis is Moz SiteExplorer, which will show you the backlink portfolio for any specified URL.

In the local search results above, Attorney Charles J. Agento is the #1 local / Google Maps search result, and Smith & Hassler are the #2 organic search result, outranked only by Findlaw.

Let’s see what happens when we look at Charles J. Agento’s URL in SiteExplorer:

SEO strategy for law firms

Looking at the Page Link Metrics, you see this domain has a total of 50 backlinks coming from 20 root domains.  If you look under the “Link Type” column, you’ll notice I’m only interested in only follow backlinks.  Also, under the DA column, I sorted the list by DA (Domain Authority).  Translating this, I’m saying I want to see the most authoritative backlinks pointing to this URL that are also “do follow” links.  In the screenshot, I’m showing the top 3 most authoritative do follow backlinks pointing this URL.

Next, I’m going to visit each of these backlink resources to see if they are a good fit for my clients.

As you can see, the #1 most authoritative do follow backlink is coming from Anaximander, which is a business directory with a Moz Domain Authority of 50 – which is pretty strong.  So this is definitely a backlink resource that I would consider for my clients.

** Important note:  before I end up submitting one of my clients to a directory like this, I perform the same type of analysis on the directory itself, to include researching its reputation on the web.  Even though a directory has a strong domain authority, there’s still a chance it has been pegged by Google as a toxic or spammy link environment.  Ultimately, doing your due diligence on backlink resources is how you protect your website from penalties, and maximize the ranking power of the back link.

Site Structure for Law Firm SEO

The second component to building domain authority for your law firm website comes down to site structure.  Site structure refers to how well organized the pages are within your domain name.  Here’s a quick drawing I put together to help illustrate the concept of site structure, or the overall organization of the pages within your law firm website:

law firm website SEO

If your website is made up of hundreds of pages without any organized structured in alignment, then your website will have a very low level of domain authority due to the lack of structure.

However, if you group your pages according to top level categories, and then link to additional pages of content that support that top level category, then your website will be seen as having a high level of site structure, which translates in to strong domain authority.

In order to understand site structure, think in terms of the way files are organized on your computer.  If you have a desktop that’s cluttered with random files, then your computer would be perceived as unorganized and of low quality (relating it in terms of a website).

However, if the desktop on your computer has one master folder that opens up to well defined sub folders, and then under each sub folder you have highly relevant and organized files, then your computer would be perceived as being highly organized and structured.

Bringing this analogy back to your website, when Google crawls and indexes a website, the crawlers always start at your top level / root domain (i.e. your homepage URL).  From there, it starts looking for a second tier level of folders, which can be represented by your main navigation bar or links on your homepage.  Then, the crawler starts looking for all of the pages that are under these sub-folders.

In fact, if you login to the server where your law firm website is hosted (via FTP), you will actually see that your website is made up of a folder structure that’s very similar to the way your computer organizes files.  Back to the analogy of your computer, Google would see your computer as your website, and the folders on your computer as the folder and page structure within your website.

Building a highly structured website takes a concerted effort on your part.  You cannot just launch a website and expect to have a high level authority from your structure.

One of the techniques I use to organize client websites is to simply use a spreadsheet to start organizing pages.  I start by logging all of the pages within a website in a spreadsheet, then I look at the website to understand where the second layer of structure would come from.  With law firm websites, this is typically represented by practice areas.

So if your law firm practiced personal injury, criminal defense, and social security disability law, then the second layer of structure would be made up the most relevant pages for these practice areas.

Finally, moving to the third layer of structure, we would start placing supporting pages underneath of your second lawyer, and so on…

Once we have the law firm website mapped out on our spreadsheet, we turn back to the site itself and start implementing the structures and bringing it live.

I’ve seen the powerful impact that site structure can have in driving rankings for law firm websites.  In some cases, the only thing we did to get our law firm clients into the #1 ranking in Google was to simply organize their website in a highly structured fashion.

Brand Authority for your Law Firm Website

The second key ingredient to successful SEO for law firms is brand authority.  Brand authority is a function of traffic and exposure to your website, and the overall distribution of your brand through channels like social media.  Brand authority equates to how many people see your website and recognize your brand.  The more brand authority you build, the more you open the door for natural growth in back links, social media traffic and distribution, and overall exposure for your law firm in multiple channels on authoritative websites.

How to build your law firm’s brand authority

One of the most effective ways to build your law firm’s brand is to start a blog.  Running a consistent, high quality blog from your law firm’s website will build brand authority in several different ways such as:

  • increased traffic to your website
  • increased crawl rates from Google
  • more content to share through social media
  • increased traffic from social media

And the increased traffic and exposure to your website always results in growing your law firm’s brand.

Blogging for law firms

When it comes to blogging for your law firm, there are a few different angles you can take.  You can write general topic articles around your practice areas, how to articles, and Q & A based content.

But one of the most effective strategies we’ve implemented for our client’s law firm blogs is to cover local news and information.

For the majority of our law firm clients, their clientele comes from the metro area where they offices.  As such, our strategy has been to grow the law firm’s brand directly in the local market where the majority of their clients are.

And covering local news and information has proven to be one of the best ways to drive maximum branded exposure for our law firm clients.

Here’s an example of law firm blogging by leveraging local news and information.

One of our clients is a prominent brain injury attorney in Wisconsin with offices in Milwaukee and Madison.  Our goal in building brand authority for their law firm was to drive maximum traffic and exposure directly from the Milwaukee and Madison markets first, and then from the greater Wisconsin market.

Since our client focuses on brain injury cases, we needed to figure out a way to drive traffic from their markets and associate their law firm’s brand with the topic of brain injury.

So we launched their law firm’s blog with the goal of publishing news and information about brain injuries and head injuries that occurred in Wisconsin as the result of someone else’s negligence.  And we also publish national level news and information on brain and head injury research.

The results?  Here’s a quick snapshot of the impact blogging has had on this law firm’s website over the past 6 months:

Total pageviews:
  • Total pageviews:  54,227 vs. 19,512 (increase of 177.92%)
Organic search traffic (Google)
  • Total organic search traffic:  increase of 7.22%
  • Total organic search in U.S.:  increase of 14.98%
  • Organic search in Wisconsin:  increase of 17.07%
  • Organic search in Milwaukee:  increase of 26.85%
  • Organic search in Madison:  increase of 38.91%
Social media traffic (referred from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, G+)
  • Overall social media referrals:  increase of 1,016.14%
  • Social media from the U.S.:  increase of 1,083.33%
  • Social media from Wisconsin:  increase of 539.68%
  • Social Media from Milwaukee:  increase of 564.00%
  • Social media from Madison:  increase of 916.67%
Other key metrics:
  • Pages viewed per visitor:  2.81 (increase of 87.44%)
  • Average time on site per visitor:  1:21 (increase of 46.84%)
  • Bounce rate:  -65..25% (which means we improved by 65.25%)
Facebook Insights:  over the last 30 days, here are some additional insights into the performance of your Facebook page:
  • Total pageviews (Milwaukee page):  117 page views (increase of 56%)
  • Page likes in past 30 days:  15 (increase of 67%)
Past 7 days of Facebook page insights (Milwaukee page):
  • Post engagement:  109 (increase of 107%)
  • Reach:  5,153 (increase of 359%)

As you can see, the impact of blogging news and information on their law firm website has been substantial in driving increased traffic and exposure from search and social media.  All of this equates to increased branded exposure for their law firm, i.e. brand authority.

This particular law firm, as a result of continually posting brain and head injury news on their blog, has been featured as an authoritative resource in Alltop in their brain injury category.  The inclusion of this law firm blog in Alltop is a great example of how blogging can build brand authority.

Again, the more brand authority your law firm website carries, the more empowered it will be to rank for your most competitive keyword phrases in search.

Social media distribution for your law firm blog content

Another powerful component to building your law firm’s brand authority is social media.  Gaining increased exposure in places like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus are critical to building your law firm’s brand, and driving traffic and exposure to law firm’s website.

But, as I’m sure you know, it’s difficult to come up with content to share across social media on a regular basis.  You probably already know it’s important to get social media exposure for your law firm, but it’s a bit cumbersome trying to come up with something to share every day.

The way we solve this problem and drive substantial results for law firms, is to share each blog post / news article across all of the law firm’s social media profiles.  Since we are already publishing news and information on their blogs, this gives us the content to also share across their social media profiles.  And as you can see in the stats I share above, traffic from social media has grown exponentially.

Here’s the impact from social media on our law firm client’s traffic:

Social media traffic (referred from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, G+)
  • Overall social media referrals:  increase of 1,016.14%
  • Social media from the U.S.:  increase of 1,083.33%
  • Social media from Wisconsin:  increase of 539.68%
  • Social Media from Milwaukee:  increase of 564.00%
  • Social media from Madison:  increase of 916.67%
Facebook Insights:  over the last 30 days, here are some additional insights into the performance of your Facebook page:
  • Total pageviews (Milwaukee page):  117 page views (increase of 56%)
  • Page likes in past 30 days:  15 (increase of 67%)
Past 7 days of Facebook page insights (Milwaukee page):
  • Post engagement:  109 (increase of 107%)
  • Reach:  5,153 (increase of 359%)

For this law firm client, we are publishing 30 news articles / blog posts each month — basically one new blog post each day.

But remember I said this particular law firm client has two office locations, one in Milwaukee and one in Madison, Wisconsin.  And for each location, they have four main social media profiles:  Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google Plus.

So if you do the math, we are publishing one new blog post per day, which is 30 per month.

Then each blog post is shared across their 8 social media profiles each day, which equates to 240 social media posts per month.

Facebook Instant Articles for Law Firm Blogs

Facebook is by far the most effective social media profile for driving increased branded exposure and traffic to websites.

But remember, the goal is to not just drive increased traffic to your law firm website, the goal is to also build your brand authority.  As such, it’s critically important to offer a great user experience with your content on social media, and most importantly in Facebook.

That’s where Facebook Instant Articles comes into play.  Instant articles provides a way for Facebook users on mobile devices to “instantly” access your content.  Before Instant Articles, whenever someone clicked on a news article in their Facebook feed, it would take upwards of 30 seconds or more for the website to load on their mobile device.  With Instant Articles, when someone taps on the news article in their feed, the article loads instantly because the content is coming directly from Facebook servers, and not from the server the website is hosted on.

Here’s a quick video that shows you the amazing user experience that Facebook Instant Articles delivers:

Bringing it all together:  Effective SEO for Law Firms

As I mentioned initially, there are two key components to your law firm competing in search:

  1. domain authority
  2. brand authority

The combination of these two elements can come together to drive explosive growth in search traffic and rankings for your law firm.

The legal market can be brutally competitive, especially in large metro areas where many law firms are competing for just a few spots at the top of search results.

In order for your law firm to compete and connect with new clients through search, you’ll need to focus on building both domain authority and brand authority.

The law firms who are currently at the top of search results have, either directly or indirectly over time, achieved this potent combination.

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