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Google Maps SEO for Lawyers
Here’s 5 Local SEO Tips for Lawyer (2020)
Tip #1: Be a mobile first law firm
Google is now a mobile first index. As such, your law firm website needs to be build first for the mobile web, and optimized for mobile search.
Tip #2: Add Schema to your law firm website
Schema markup for lawyers is critically important. When it comes to local search, Schema markup can help lawyers get additional information and data points integrated into the search results. The more data and information you can provide to a someone searching, the more likely they are to call your law firm.
Tip #3: Add legal Q&A’s via blog posts
When people are searching for lawyer, they typically start by asking a question about their particular case or their unique situation. As such, if you fill up your blog with great question and answer based content, your law firm will start showing up for the hundreds or thousands of legal related questions your local clients are searching.
Lawyer directories serve a lot of purposes. Most importantly, they act as a citation distribution source for your law firm’s local business data. The more citations you can build, the more trust and authority you build back to your law firm’s location. Lawyer directories are also great sources for backlinks. Not all are do-follow, but a lot of them are. Regardless, just getting backlinks from these high DA legal directories can add a lot of authority to your law firm rankings in Google.
Tip #5: Account for multi-lawyer law firms
This means, if your law firm has multiple lawyers or partners, then your website should account for them accordingly. Each lawyer should have a detailed attorney profile page with a lot of great local business data and information. Also, attorney profiles are a great place to post highly rated client testimonials.
Update: Saturday, February 1st, 2020
It’s now 2020, and improving local rankings for lawyers has never been more important for generating new clients and growing your practice.
Today, over 65% of all Google searches are now mobile searches.
Local Rankings for Lawyers
One the keys to implementing effective attorney SEO strategies is to understand that proximity, or the distance of the searcher to your law firm, weighs heavily now, more than ever, at influencing the search results your potential clients see in Google mobile search.
Most people see the top 3 local search results on their phone and assume those are the 3 best law firms in their city.
And Google is getting better, every day, at discrediting backlinks that are spam and coming from toxic link environments.
All of this comes together and quickly separates the wheat from the chaff so to speak in the search results.
The top 3 law firms for any local search are getting the majority of the phone calls.
Effective lawyer SEO in 2020 means your law firm needs super clean data (citations) distributed far and wide across the web, and without a single glitch in discrepancies.
Your law firm needs super high DA (domain authority) backlinks pointing to your homepage and other top tier pages.
Each of your top tier pages within your law firm website needs long form, LSI rich content that answers a lot of your potential client’s questions.
Along with a large portfolio of high quality citations, your law firms needs a lot contextually relevant citations from legal specific directories (yes, this is super important).
There’s a lot of attention and buzz around getting great reviews for your law firm.
Now, I would never discredit the importance of the brand impressions can give your law firm.
But I just don’t agree that reviews are a huge ranking factor Google Maps / Google local search.
There are many examples where personal injury lawyers in large metro areas are nowhere to be found in Google local search, yet have 10X the number of reviews vs. the top ranking law firms.
So I think it’s misguided prioritization if you are focusing more on getting reviews than the other factors mentioned above.
In large metro areas, local SEO for lawyers is the difference between getting found and getting phone calls from new clients, or being completely obsolete in Google local search… which is where the majority of new clients will come from.
Law Firm SEO Strategies – How To Grow Your Law Firm With Search Engine Optimization
Law firm SEO 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.
3 Components to Law Firm SEO
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
Location Authority for Law Firm SEO
Location authority is the driving force for your law firm getting found in specific geographic markets or metro areas.
Location authority refers to two types of SEO for your law firms:
Local SEO / Google Maps
Organic SEO / Organic search results
For law firms, both of these types are heavily influenced by the location of the person searching.
More on location authority coming soon…. stay tuned!
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: 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:
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.
Law Firm Websites are Highly Fragmented
Today, more than ever, law firm websites are highly fragmented with content.
For example, if you are a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta and you have 10 pages within your website that are about “Atlanta personal injury lawyer”, then your website is highly fragmented.
Less is more for law firm rankings in 2020.
You need to use Google site queries, identify your fragmented pages within your law firm website, and work to consolidate that content to one top tier landing page.
And then once you consolidate content, 301 redirect that redundant URL to your main top tier page.
We have fixed some law firm websites lately that have dozens of redundant pages (fragmentation) for each practice area.
When you defragment your law firm website, you shore up the authority and relevance to your one top tier landing page.
This unlocks massive ranking power, traffic, and total number of keyword phrases that are driving high quality traffic to your website.
Domain Authority for Law Firm Websites: The “Secret Sauce” To Higher Rankings in Google
Law Firm Website Tips To Increase Rankings in Search
One of the benefits to working with law firms over the years is the insights we’ve gained into effective content strategies that get pages ranked in search, even for their most competitive keyword phrases and practice areas.
Law firm websites are typically made up of the following structure:
core practice area pages (personal injury, DUI, criminal defense, etc…)
admin pages (homepage, free case evaluations, attorney profiles, etc…).
And the pages that most law firms are interested in getting ranked in Google are their core practice area pages.
For example, if you are a personal injury law firm in Chicago, then you probably have landing pages optimized for the following keyword phrases (as an example):
Chicago Car Accident Lawyer
Chicago Brain Injury Attorney
Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer
Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
For each of these landing pages, your goal would be to rank in Google for their related keyword phrases, as this is what would drive the highest quality traffic and new business to your law firm website.
The problem is, for each of these core keyword phrases, the search results are highly competitive as many other law firms are also fighting for top rankings in Google.
So how can your law firm differentiate itself in the search results, get higher rankings in Google, and ultimately attract increasing amounts of high quality traffic to your law firm’s website?
Here are some tips to remember when building out your core practice area landing pages within your law firm website.
Learn more about how your law firm can compete in search for your hyper competitive keyword phrases.
1) 1:1 relationship between targeted practice area and landing page
If your law firm wants to rank in Google for “Chicago Car Accident Lawyer”, then you need a landing page designated to this specific topic. The search results are entirely too competitive for you to combine multiple practice areas on one landing page and expect to compete.
This means, for each targeted practice area, you need one designated landing page optimized for that practice area.
This would include your title tag, description tag, and all on-page content being highly focused on that one specific topic or keyword phrase. And not just repeating that keyword phrase over and over again, as this would been seen as keyword stuffing, but creating a high quality, well researched page of content centered on the topic. Taking this approach would naturally create a high quality page of content, and Google would see your keyword phrase in the meta data and use that as the signal for ranking.
We’ve worked with many law firm clients who optimize their homepage for many different practice areas. As such, they struggle to gain any substantial traction or presence in the search results. Or they create a personal injury landing page and attempt to optimize many different sub-practice areas within that one page.
For example, we’ve seen law firm websites with a personal injury landing page attempt to rank for car accident lawyer, personal injury lawyer, and brain injury lawyer, all within the same page of content.
This approach will dramatically dilute your topical relevance for any one practice area. Which is why they struggle to gain any substantial amount of traction and rankings for their most valuable keyword phrases.
The most effective approach is to create a 1:1 relationship between your targeted practice area (core keyword phrase) and landing page.
2) Word count for practice area landing pages
One of the more interesting studies on the relationship between content length and position rankings in Google came from Capsicum who put together a great infographic on content length. They found that the top 3 search results in Google all shared a common trait, which is a word count / content length of at least 2,300 words.
Here’s a screenshot from their research (via Quicksprout):
Notice the correlation between word count and rankings in Google.
I decided to do my own test with legal practice area related keyword phrases, and for the top ranking law firms have a similar correlation.
For the keyword phrase “car accident lawyer”, as an example, the law firm Morgan & Morgan had the #1 ranking in Google with this page.
The word count on this page is only 946 words, which is far less than the 2,400 words as the optimal content length from the Serp IQ research.
Another highly ranked page from Morgan & Morgan for this keyword phrase is their non geo-targeted page here.
This page has a word count of 1,873 words. Again, far short of the optimal 2,400 words.
What I see from the Morgan & Morgan example, as it relates to the research from Serp IQ, is the huge opportunity for law firms to rank in Google who produce landing pages consisting of at least 2,400 words.
But for each of the pages mentioned from Morgan & Morgan, even though the content length is much shorter than 2,400 words, the content consists of 100% unique, high quality, well researched content.
So you want to avoid producing content for the sake of achieving a certain word. Including filler content for the purposes of word count would easily be detected by Google and would ultimately work against you in the rankings.
But if you produced at least 2,400 words of high quality, well researched content around a specific practice area, your landing page would be very difficult to beat in the search results.
3) Silo structures for law firm websites & practice area landing pages
Finally, creating one page of content for a specific practice area that’s at least 2,400 words in length may not be enough to drive you into the top rankings of Google search results. You may need some help from supporting pages within your law firm website.
This is where the concept of siloing comes in to help elevate the relevance of your practice area landing page and help Google understand which page specifically to rank for any given keyword phrase.
The silo strategy is designed to emphasize a core landing page in search through the use of related sub-pages within your law firm website.
Here’s an example of a silo structure designed to emphasize a landing page targeting “Chicago Car Accident Lawyer”:
Main landing page for Chicago car accident lawyer
supporting page 1
supporting page 2
supporting page 3
The main landing page represent the page your law firm wants to rank for the keyword phrase “Chicago Car Accident Lawyer”.
The supporting pages are additional pages of content that provide support to emphasize your main landing page.
From an internal linking structure perspective, which is where the term “Silo” comes from, each of your supporting pages will link up to your main landing page, and link diagonally across to each supporting landing page.
So your main landing page would be a stand alone page.
Your supporting pages would each have a link pointing up to your main landing page.
And each supporting page would have an additional link that ties all supporting pages together.
Here’s a quick sketch I put together to help illustrate this concept of siloing:
As you can see, the emphasis is on the main landing page with each supporting page providing internal linking to help increase the relevance and authority around the targeted keyword phrase on the main page.
Also notice how the main landing page is not linking down to the supporting pages. The supporting pages link up to the main landing page and then across to one another.
This creates a substantial amount of relevance and bouyancey to the main landing page as Google will see the highly organized internal linking structure and place the majority of the emphasis on the main landing page.
How Law Firms Can Compete in Google And Drive Increased Traffic To Their Websites
For today’s modern law firm, the ability to drive traffic and exposure to their website is becoming increasingly more difficult, especially when your highest quality prospects begin their search in places like Google.
The initial problem is the top search results in Google are becoming filled with directory sites such as Avvo and FindLaw. And for the few law firms that do find their way onto page one in Google, there are hundreds of more that fall to the second page and beyond. As a result, law firms are increasingly turning their budgets to pay per click platforms like Google Adwords. However, as they soon discover, the competition in paid search traffic is even more fierce than the organic search results.
As an example of the competition in paid search for law firms, the keyword phrase “personal injury attorney atlanta” receives an average of 4,680 searches per year. Which, according to Google, falls in the medium range of competition. But one look at the suggested bid, and you’ll see the average cost law firms are willing to pay for just one click is an astounding $102.18. This means, if you are a personal injury law firm in Atlanta and you expect to compete in the upper echelon of the paid search results, you better be willing to spend over $100 per click!
Take one look at the front page of Google for this keyword phrase, and you’ll find 4 out of the 10 organic search results are directories, not law firms. This leaves 6 of the 10 front page search results made up of actual law firms in Atlanta. But then ask yourself, how many personal injury law firms are there in metro Atlanta? According to Avvo, there are 1,114 personal injury lawyers in Atlanta. Granted, a portion of those work in the same law firm. But you quickly see the point here… for every 1 law firm on the front page of Google, there are easily 100 or more that are not. Again, the front page search results in Google is a brutal environment to compete.
Local Search Results
The competition is even more fierce when it comes to the local search results in Google. Again, using “personal injury lawyers atlanta” as the example, you’ll find only three local search results appearing on page one Google, which is also the case on mobile phones. To be fair, the 3 pack of Google’s local search results is not exclusive to law firms. Back in August of this year, Google made a sweeping change in the local search results for all business categories to show only the top three local search results on desktop and mobile devices.
So where the organic search results at least gives you 10 positions to compete for on page one, the local search results in Google gives you only three. Now for every 1 law firm on page one in Google local search results, there are upwards of 300 that are not. The competition for page one rankings just got exponentially more competitive.
Increasing law firm website traffic
So what’s a law firm to do? If the odds are stacked against you in the organic search results, and even more so in the local search results, is there any hope to driving increased traffic and exposure to your law firm’s website?
Luckily there’s a lot you can do, it just requires some careful planning and a concerted effort over time. In other words, persistence is the key ingredient to competing in Google search and driving increased traffic to your law firm’s website.
3 ways to drive increased traffic to your law firm’s website and compete in Google search
There are 3 ways for a law firm to drive increased traffic their websites and compete in Google search:
Articles and blogging
Social media distribution
Blogging for law firms
The most effective way to drive increased traffic and exposure to your law firm’s website from Google is to start a blog. The advantages to running a blog for your law firm are vast, but the most important is realized in the traffic gains from Google search. For one of our law firm clients, we write one news article per day (30 per month) on their blog, and as a result, they have increased their organic search traffic by over 152%. This particular law firm went from a steady decline in website traffic, to now receiving triple digit gains in organic search traffic month over month. And not only is this law firm receiving month over month gains in traffic, but they have received more leads and contacts over the past 30 days than the entire 60 months combined.
Blogging for a law firm can take many different angles on content strategy. But the one strategy we find to be most effective is local news coverage. Using the “personal injury lawyer atlanta” market as an example, this implies that my law firm is located in the metro Atlanta area. And likewise, my highest quality prospects would more than likely live in the metro Atlanta area. So we would produce Atlanta based news articles that focus on topics such as injuries and accidents. When you focus on local area news coverage as the content for your blog, you naturally attract readers who live in your target metro area. The more consistent your news articles are published on your blog, the more your traffic will increase over time. The impact here is that all of the traffic is coming directly to your law firm’s website to read the news articles. And while reading the news, your law firm is achieving 100% of the brand equity and exposure to the visitors.
This strategy is equivalent to taking out an ad in your local area newspaper. Except with your newspaper, and the online version of that publication, your ad would compete with several other advertisers. And this would dramatically decrease your overall brand equity for each pageview. But, when the news articles are published directly on your law firm’s blog, your law firm now receives 100% of the brand equity per pageview. In other words, driving traffic to your law firm’s website through the use of blog means your law firm is the exclusive advertiser for every pageview.
The reason running a blog on your law firm’s website translates into more traffic and exposure in Google is because you are no longer attempting to compete for the hyper competitive keyword phrases such as “personal injury lawyer atlanta”. Instead, you are leveraging the search volume around the long tail phrase variations of keywords that are either directly or indirectly related to your law firm. The point is, you go from competing for one hyper competitive keyword phrase to driving increased traffic for a wide range of keyword phrases. And ultimately, the most critical component here is that your law firm retains 100% of the branded exposure to your visitors for every resulting pageview.
Social Media Distribution for Law Firm’s Blog Content
Building off the content being published in your law firm’s blog, each new article should distributed throughout all of your law firm’s social media profiles. Your law firm should at have a Facebook page, Twitter profile, LinkedIn company page, and Google+ business page. This alone equates to four key social media profiles for any given law firm. And again, whenever you publish a new article on your blog, that articles needs to be distributed to each of your law firm’s social media profiles.
By sharing your blog content across all of your social media profiles does, in essence, create a highly effective social media marketing strategy for your law firms. If you look at any social media marketing strategy for a law firm, you will find the core tenets being consistent content shared across a maximum number of social media profiles. Well, whenever your law firm produces a new article on your blog, that’s a new piece of content that can be shared across of your social media profiles. In essence, by running a blog on your law firm’s website, you are also flipping the switch on to a highly effective social media marketing campaign.
For the law firm client discussed above where we are publishing 30 news article per month on their blog, each of their articles are automatically distributed to their social media profiles. This particular law firm client has six social media profiles combined. They have two office locations, so they have two Facebook pages, two Google business pages, a LinkedIn business page, and a Twitter profile. And by sharing each article across all six of these platforms daily, the social media side of their business has been ramped up exponentially.
To put it in perspective, traffic to this law firm’s website from social media referrals has increased 225% over the past 3 months. That’s combining all of the inbound traffic to the law firm’s website from all six of their social media profiles. Combine this with the 152% increase in traffic from the organic search results in Google, and you are talking about a fundamental shift with inbound traffic to this law firm’s website.
Not only does social media distribution directly impact the inbound traffic to a law firm’s website, but each new social share includes a link pointing back to the article. This builds a large, growing portfolio of inbound links pointing to the law firm’s website. Granted, I understand these social media sites are more than likely no-following every link, but Google will still account for the referral traffic coming to your site from these major social media environments. And that carries a substantial amount of weight over the long term.
Plus, knowing that Google ranks websites based on competitive analysis, how many of your competitor law firms are producing 6 new social media posts each and every day? Probably very few, if any. So in another way, you are differentiating yourself in your law firm’s market by sending signals that you are extremely active in the social media.
Ultimately, in order to succeed in driving increased traffic and exposure to your law firm’s website through blogging and social media is you have to be persistent. The good news for most law firms is that very few people are willing to put in the time and effort to build an audience. Most law firms will figure out a way to get started, produce blog posts for a couple of months, but then slowly dissipate in their efforts, and eventually the new articles stop altogether.
From Google’s perspective of relevance and authority, here’s the how it unfolds:
Google sees the new law firm website, or the site that’s been rebuilt, and comes to crawl and index the news pages. Great, you’ve got your new website crawled and indexed by Google.
As you consistently publish blog posts over time, Google sees the increased content velocity and likewise, comes back to your site more often to crawl and index the new content. The proportion in which you create new content on your law firm website drives the frequency in which Google comes back to crawl and index your website. And when Google crawls and indexes a website, it doesn’t typically just index your new article, but attributes relevance to your website as a whole. So the more content you create over time, the more you are building authority in your top level domain – or, your entire website.
But then your frequency dissipates and / or stops all together. Because Google is a “crawling and indexing” search engine, as you decrease the frequency of new articles, the search engine follows suit and starts to decrease it’s consumption of your new website. And again, since Google attributes authority to your website as a whole, the decrease in the “crawling and indexing” starts to negatively impact the authority and relevance of your website as a whole.
Finally, after months or years have gone with no new content, Google no longer has a reason to see your website as different or authoritative. In fact, your website then becomes normal, and you are back to no longer competing for the upper echelons in the search results. And as a result, the traffic and exposure to your law firm’s website suffers.
The good news is that the overwhelming majority of law firms follow this path. Or, they never even get beyond creating and publishing a new website. Meaning, they never even take the first step in producing new content on a consistent basis. Since this is the norm, when your law firm steps up and starts a proactive blogging campaign, you are positioning your law firm for long term traffic growth and exposure. Couple this with social media distribution, and (again, over the long term), you are positioning your law firm to achieve the highest levels of traffic and exposure that your market can deliver. But all of the above requires persistence, and a long term view on the growth prospects for your law firm’s brand through the use of your website.
Building a dominant brand for your law firm is possible. And never before in history has the opportunity been so readily available as it is through the use of your website and social media. However, in order to capitalize on this opportunity, your law firm has to take a proactive approach to content creation through the use of blog coupled with social media distribution. By being consistent in your efforts and placing a priority on building your brand, your law firm can rise to the top of the search results in Google for a wide range of high impact keyword phrases. And in turn, your website (and your law firm) can experience exponential growth and market dominance.
Top Rankings for Law Firm Websites
Want better rankings in Google and more traffic for your law firm website?
Of course you do!
But one thing I hear all the time from clients is how frustrating it is for lawyers to see their competitors ranking above them in Google!
Let’s dive in and find out how you can increase your law firm’s website rankings in Google by building domain authority.
Building domain authority for your law firm website
Getting your law firm’s website to rank better in Google search is usually the #1 priority for any marketing strategy.
From the smallest practice with one or two attorneys, to the largest global law firms serving corporate clients around the world, getting found quickly in Google search is a really big deal.
And from my experience, nothing makes a lawyer want to throw their phone across the room faster than seeing their competitors ranking #1 in Google for their high value keyword phrase.
Even worse is when that same lawyer sees their staunchest competitor ranking #1.
Some of the most commons questions I get from law firms are the following:
Why is my law firm not ranking well in Google?
Why are my (expletive) competitors ranking #1 when their website sucks?
How is this new law firm ranking #1 in Google local / Google Maps?
These are frustrating points to any law firm that’s looking to grow their practice. One looks at some statistics will show you why search is such a big area of focus for growing your law firm:
Last year over 350 billion searches were made
Over half of all Google searches are made on mobile devices
Nearly 80% of local searches result in a new customer (or client)
Placing a call is the #1 action a searcher takes when making a local search via a mobile device
Most importantly, one look at he click thru rates of top rankings in Google should be enough to solidify the decision to focusing on SEO for your law firm’s website.
As you can see in the chart below from Chitika, the #1 Google search result is getting over 30% of all the clicks, and the percentage of clicks spins off quickly as you move down the rankings.
The #10 position in Google is getting only 2.4% of the clicks and the #11 (top of page 2 in Google) gets only 1% of the clicks.
What is domain authority?
Now that you know how important rankings are to the success of your law firm, let’s talk about what influences your rankings (and your competitor’s rankings) in Google and see what you can do about improving your presence in search.
Domain authority is based on 100-point scale or grade that was developed by Moz and is used to predict how well a website will in search engines, mostly focused on Google search rankings.
Domain authority is most valuable when used to analyze how your law firm’s website is ranking relative to your competitors.
The metrics behind domain authority are based on several factors such as linking root domains (unique domains linking back to your website), total volume of links, and the overall trust factor of your domain which is determined by the quality and authority of the sites linking back to you.
Domain authority became a lot more popular when Google stopped updated their PageRank toolbar back in December of 2013. PageRank used to be a score that Google would give to each website, and the score was typically presented through the PageRank toolbar – something that was popular with SEO’s and online marketers.
PageRank used a similar combination of backlink analysis to determine the rating for any given website and was based on 10-point scale.
So if you had a PageRank of 1 (PR1) your website had a very low level of authority.
However, if you have a PageRank of 10 (PR10), then you were one of the most authoritative websites on the internet. It was common to see sites like Google.com, Yahoo.com, and Youtube.com carry a PR10.
Now with domain authority, it’s common to see these popular websites carry a domain authority of 100 (DA100), etc…
Why is domain authority important?
The important point to make here is there’s a direct correlation between your website’s domain authority and your rankings in Google. This is true for both organic rankings and local / Google Maps rankings.
We’ve been doing SEO analysis on websites and rankings for years, and we consistently see the highest ranking websites in Google carry the highest level of domain authority (and PageRank when we used that metric).
Just the other day I was talking with a personal injury lawyer from Los Angeles, and we were looking at their rankings in Google. They asked me the common question of “why am not on page 1 in Google, and this law firm has always been ranked #1?”.
My response, without even looking at the data, was that the #1 ranked website simply has more domain authority than everyone else. And once we started pulling the domain authority metrics, this proved to be true.
Another way to say it is that in order to increase your rankings in Google, you have to focus on building your domain authority.
Or perhaps even better, you can say in order to rank #1 in Google, you must have more domain authority than all other competing websites.
This is true for law firms and any other competitive business market, both local and global.
How to find your law firm website’s domain authority?
Before we dive into how you can increase your domain authority, let me show you how to find your domain authority and the domain authority of your competitors.
Once you on the site, simply enter your website’s domain URL in the URL box and hit enter (or click search).
Here’s what it looks like when I enter my website URL:
And once you’ve enter your URL and hit enter (or clicked search), you’ll now see your domain authority and other key data associated with your website.
Again, here’s what we get with our website here at Bipper Media:
Go ahead and enter your website’s URL and see what you get.
I realize I gummed up the screen shot with arrows, but let me help you understand a little bit about you are seeing, using my website as the example:
Domain authority: 28 / 100
This means my website URL (root domain) has a domain authority rating of 28 out 100, with a score of 100 being the highest possible score. The domain authority looks at the overall domain authority or value, not just the homepage of your website. We’ll look at Page Authority below.
Spam Score: 0 / 17
This is an interesting metric because it looks at the value or authority of the sites linking back to you. If your website was included in a low value, spammy link environment (think link farms, or low value spammy directories, etc…), then you would see a higher spam rating associated with your URL.
Page authority: 40 / 100
Along with domain authority, which measures the overall authority of your entire domain (site wide), you have Page Authority which looks only at the metrics associated with the URL (or web page) that you entered.
You can enter the URL for any page within your website to see the Page Authority of that page. And in most cases you’ll see the same domain authority metrics regardless of which page URL you enter.
As you can see with our website, the Page Authority of our homepage far exceeds the overall Domain Authority of our website.
Again, that’s because domain authority is analyzing the full extent of your domain environment, whereas page authority analyzes only that specific page URL.
The battle for domain authority: your law firm’s website vs. your competitors
This is where the fun begins! Along with analyzing the domain authority of your own law firm’s website, you can likewise analyze the domain authority of your competitors.
This is where we answer the questions mentioned at the beginning such as:
Why isn’t my law firm’s website ranking well in Google?
Why are my competitors outranking me in Google local / Google Maps?
It usually takes only one look at the domain authority of your law firm’s website vs. your competitors to answer these questions.
However, it’s important to note that even though we can get quick insights using domain authority, this isn’t the end of the story for your law firm. As we’ll discuss below, there are definitive steps you can take to increase your domain authority and start competing at the top of Google search, both organic and local.
Let’s do a real world competitive analysis in the highly competitive “car accident lawyer” market. We’ll look at the search results in Google, both local and organic for the keyword phrase “phoenix car accident lawyer”, and let’s see if domain authority correlates to the rankings we in the search results.
I’ll be using a cleared cache instance of my Google Chrome browser in incognito mode in order to get the most accurate search results.
First let’s start with the Google local / Google Maps search results, since this is what most people would see first from both a desktop and mobile browser:
With local search results, there’s one interesting caveat to what drives the rankings that goes beyond domain authority, and that is citations. You can read all about local SEO optimization here.
In summary, with local SEO, the volume, consistency, and accuracy of your citation portfolio is highly influential when it comes to your local rankings.
And this is one reason why, I believe, you do not see the website with the most domain authority ranking #1.
The #1 local search results (Zacher Law Firm) more than likely has a more authoritative (both in volume, authority, and consistency) than their competitors.
Now let’s look at the organic search results and see how domain authority is influencing the rankings.
Here’s the top 5 organic search results for the same keyword phrase “phoenix car accident lawyer”:
It’s interesting to look at these domain authority breakdowns because it forces you to actually look at factors beyond domain authority. However, without a sufficient amount of domain authority relative to competitors, none of these websites would be ranking in the top 5 organic search results.
Another factor that’s influencing these rankings is my proximity to the location that I’m searching about.
One of the more recent Google algorithm updates has be to show more relevant results based on the location of the person searching.
In this case, I’m searching for something in Phoenix, Arizona, yet I’m actually located in Athens, Georgia. If I were to run the same test from within the Phoenix city limits, I would more than likely get a different set of top 5 ranking law firms.
A couple of other factors that could be driving Breyer Law to the #1 spot in Google, even though it doesn’t have the most domain or page authority than the others, are the following:
the landing page has 1,686 words
there’s a video embedded on the landing page
there’s multiple images throughout the page
there’s additional assets (reviews, downloads) added to the page
there’s support links at the bottom to additional resources
These list of items make the landing page more useful to a visitor. Although I do not have Google Analytics access to Breyer Law’s website, I’m guessing we would see strong numbers behind user experience factors such as:
time on site
click through rate from search
and bounce rates
These user experience factors also heavily influence the search results in Google, as Google strives to show the most “useful” pages to people searching.
If this page was nothing more than 1,686 words / text of content, I’m guessing they would not be the #1 ranking law firm the highly competitive keyword phrase “phoenix car accident lawyer”.
For example with word count — the total number of words on your page matter when it comes to getting top rankings in Google for your law firm.
People are typically searching for in depth, expert knowledge on any given topic. And higher word counts are usually indicative of more in depth research and information.
Of course, just having a high word count isn’t the only thing that matters. If you have 2,000 words of gibberish, then people will detect the low quality content and eject from your website.
This behavior of “quickly leaving” your page would have a big impact on your bounce rate. And bounce rate, as I mentioned above, is a strong technical factor that helps determine user experience.
Here’s a screenshot showing the correlation of word count and position rankings in Google from one of Brian Dean’s articles:
How To Increase Your Law Firm Website’s Domain Authority
Let’s now dive into some actionable steps you can take to increase your the domain authority of your law firm’s website.
One of the biggest factors influencing domain authority is the volume and authority of your backlink portfolio.
As we work through our client’s law firm SEO campaigns, domain authority is one of those areas that are continual work in progress.
We’ve researched thousands of law firm’s ranking in Google to uncover the factors that are most influential in their rankings. Basically we try to answer the question:
What’s making this law firm rank #1 in Google for any given keyword phrase?
And the most consistent factor we see what’s driving law firms to rank #1 in Google is a strong domain authority.
As we look to increase our law firm client’s domain authority, we try to find the most authoritative websites where we can earn both backlinks and citations.
Authoritative backlinks will help to influence your law firm’s rankings in both local / Google Maps and the organic search results.
Citations are focused more on the local / Google Maps search results.
We’ve put together an internal list of directories that we use for all of our law firm clients as we work to build their domain authority.
However, this isn’t an all inclusive list.
You’ll have other resources where you’ll want to get backlinks and citation placement from that are relevant to your location and practice areas.
For example, if you are a DUI lawyer in Los Angeles, there will be local directories relevant to Los Angeles and also “DUI lawyer” specific resources, that you’ll want to pursue.
So the internal list of directories we use is more of a base / starting point we use for all of our law firm clients.
Here’s the list of legal directories we use as our starting point to growing our law firm clients domain authority:
The interesting thing we’ve learned about analyzing thousands of law firm’s backlink portfolios is that the #1 ranking law firms in the largest metro areas typically have an enhanced profile in some of these directories, but not all of these directories.
That’s why we strive to get all of our law firm clients an enhanced profile in all of these legal directories as a starting point for our SEO campaign.
Again, leveraging these authoritative legal directories helps to build domain authority for organic rankings and also citation distribution for local SEO rankings.
Other factors to increase the domain authority of your law firm’s website
The overall site structure of your website is critically important to building domain authority. And site structure refers to the organization of the pages within your website, and also fixing inconsistencies and errors such as 404 errors, broken links, and irrelevant (dead, old, etc…) pages within your website.
We are constantly doing site audits on our client’s websites to identify site structure issues that need to be fixed.
Our favorite tool is SEM Rush’s Site Audit tool that quickly shows you the most pressing errors within your website.
Another key component to site structure is the overall layout / design of your pages.
Are your pages and navigation implemented in an organized fashion? Or do you have pages that are just randomly linking to each other throughout your website.
The more organized your pages are throughout your website, the better the user experience will be for your visitors. And as you saw above, increasing user experience can have a big impact on determining your rankings in Google.
Here’s a picture that helps illustrate a well structured website:
Keyword Phrase to Page Alignment
It’s important to remember that if you want to rank #1 in Google for a highly competitive legal keyword phrase, you need to focus on building the page authority (PA) of one single page.
One of the biggest mistakes I see law firm websites make is they have multiple pages optimized for their money making keyword phrase.
You need to shore up page authority one single page, and then use additional pages within your website as supporting pages to that one page (wow… lot’s of page talk there!).
We call this the “Silo” strategy, a term coined by Bruce Clay.
By implementing the Silo structure, you’ll ensure proper keyword phrase to page alignment as you’ll always have one top level page that you are trying to rank, and then several sub level pages that are acting as supporting agents to your top level page.
Here’s an illustration to help you implement the Silo structure into your own website:
How to increase domain authority for your law firm’s local SEO / Google Maps rankings
Finally, I want to quickly incorporate the local ranking factor into this discussion of domain authority.
For any law firm, regardless of your practice area, getting found in the top Google local / Google Maps search results is critically important.
Especially for plaintiff related practice areas, people simply pull out their phone > search for a lawyer that can meet their needs > and then hit the “tap to call” button right from Google search results.
Here’s what the local / Google Maps search results look like for the keyword phrase “dui lawyer in athens ga”:
Disclaimer: Attorney Mo Wiltshire is a Bipper Media client
As you can see, Google knows the #1 action someone will take when searching from their mobile phone is “CALL”.
And if you are the #1 ranked law firm for this keyword phrase, you are getting the majority of calls from people searching.
All of the steps mentioned above are applicable when it comes to local SEO and improving your rankings in Google local search results.
But there are a few additional steps you need to take to influence your rankings specifically in Google Maps.
Here’s a punch list of action items for you to take, along with those mentioned above, to improve your law firm local SEO rankings:
optimizing your GMB (Google My Business) listing to include:
ensuring proper, consistent business name, address, phone # (NAP)
ensuring proper website / URL represented as landing page
Ongoing management of your GMB listing
Ensure proper category selection on your GMB listing
optimize your website:
homepage / key pages meta data optimizing to targeted keyword phrases
integration of your NAP
NAP / Citation distribution: we have distribution partners that we use that syncs your local business date (NAP / citation) across the most authoritative local business sources on the web
Social media / syncing NAP: we ensure your social media profiles, especially Facebook pages, have a matching NAP citation to your GMB listing.
Adding Schema language to your website that enhances your NAP citation.
Adding your GMB listing embed (Google Maps embed) directly to your website
Google Plus “About” section: enhancing this section targeting your various keyword phrases relevant to your business and GMB listing
Obviously I need to update this article to include local SEO strategies relevant to 2017, but this is a good place to start.
Now its your turn!
I want to hear from you…
What do you think about these steps on building domain authority for your website?
Even this was specifically targeted to law firm websites, these same principles can be applied to any business website, large or small.
Or maybe you have a question about something in this article…?
Either way, leave a quick comment below and I’ll be around today to reply to your comment.
So if you have any questions or comments, just drop a quick comment below!
You might also be interested in clicking thru this Slideshare I put together called “3 SEO Tips for Law Firm Websites”:
1) Build authority & rankings in Google
This is a tip relating to the overall site design and structure of your website. I recommend that you turn your homepage into a base hub that links out to the more specific practice areas offered by your law firm. And then allow each individual practice area act at it’s own silo of content which will allow Google to shore up authority, from the supporting pages, around that specific practice areas.
Here are two examples of law firm websites that are doing this really well:
PDWLawFirm.com: when you click on the Atlanta page, notice how you are taken to a section within the website that covers nothing but the Atlanta area practices. This includes its own navigation bar exclusively for their Atlanta based practices and even has its own “Home” page for the Atlanta area. To get back to the main homepage, you have to click the header image at the top. This is an example of a site that’s using a silo of content built around a specific practice area – that being Atlanta.
JacksonWhiteLaw.com: here’s a law firm website that takes the idea of siloed content down to the individual practice areas. You’ll notice the various practice areas highlighted on the homepage, and then when you click each practice area, you then taken to a designated site that is specific that that practice area to include its own navigation and even blog posts.
This silo approach to site design built around each specific practice area helps each area have a more concentrated focus on that specific area of law. This helps the law firm build more authority for each of their practice areas, which in turn will help them rank better in Google and bring in more targeted traffic to their website.
2) Stand out from your competitors in Google
The next SEO tip for law firm websites is to leverage the use of video and Schema language. When you implement video, through the use of proper Schema language integration, you end up allowing your website to appear in Google search results with a video thumbnail image. This is the standard practice for all YouTube videos, and is something that any law firm website – or any website for that matter – can implement as well.
The benefit of video and Schema language is that you have the ability to customize the video thumbnail image that appears in Google search. By doing so, you are able to create a branded presence for your law firm and stand out from everyone else that’s appearing in the search results.
I’ve found this strategy to have many benefits to my client’s website such as increased click thru rates from Google search – again, because the site stands out more definitively in Google and so people see the search result faster than all the other results. And also in terms of branding for the law firm. Including the attorney’s name, and even phone number, directly in the image allows people who are searching to notice the attorney. And overtime, this has a strong branding effect as more people see this attorney’s name more often.
Here are a couple examples of this in action:
Google the phrase “brain injury attorney atlanta” (or click here). What you’ll see is Attorney Michael C. Daniel standing out definitively in the #1 position in Google. Here’s a screenshot of the search result:
Google the phrase “georgia self defense attorney” (or click here). You’ll see Attorney Mo Wilthshire standing out in the #1 search result in Google along with his branded video thumbnail image. Here’s a screenshot:
As the last example, Google the phrase “orthopedic injury attorney milwaukee” (or click here). Here you see Attorney Randy Rozek, along with a custom video thumbnail image, appearing in the #1 search result in Google. And here’s a screenshot of the result:
Again, all of the examples above are our client’s law firm websites that are leveraging video and Schema language in order to create a strong branded presence in Google. This not only improves the branding exposure at the keyword phrase / practice area level, but it also has a positive impact on the click thru rates and traffic hitting their websites.
3) Increasing traffic to your law firm website.
The final SEO tip for your law firm website is simply to start producing blog posts. I strongly recommend at two new blog posts per week, or even better, creating two new blog posts per week for each of your targeted practice areas. Again, this is possible when you follow tip #1 and create a silo within your website for each of your practice areas.
The long term affect of creating blog posts on a consistent basis is increased exposure on the web. The more content you produce, the more active your website appears online and the more frequent Google crawlers are coming back to your site to index your newly published content.
I hope these three tips have helped you as you consider strategies to improving your law firm’s website rankings in Google and overall inbound traffic.
Update: July 24th, 2018
6 Local SEO Tips for Lawyers video
Updated in April 2018: added a 5th local SEO tip which talks about local seo for law firms with multiple attorneys (see tip #5 below)
Updated in July, 2017: added Legal Directories as a 4th local SEO tip for law firms (see tip #4 below)
Local SEO for lawyers and 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.
#1: Mobile first local SEO for lawyers
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.
Consistent address locations.
Landing pages for each location.
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 Markup for Law Firm Local SEO
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 schemalibrary 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 Articles for Law Firm SEO
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 for Law Firm Local SEO
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:
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.
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.
#5: Local SEO Tips for Multiple Attorney Law Firms
Multiple attorney law firms have one of the greatest advantages when it comes to local SEO.
According to Google My Business policy, a law firm may have a Google Maps listing for the firm and for each individual practitioner (lawyer or partner) within that firm.
This policy applies to more business categories than just law firms.
Here’s a portion of Google’s policy regarding multiple Google My Business listings (full policy):
An individual practitioner is a public-facing professional, typically with his or her own customer base. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, financial planners, and insurance or real estate agents are all individual practitioners. Listings for practitioners may include title or degree certification (e.g. Dr., MD, JD, Esq., CFA).
Sticking with the law firm example, let’s say you’re a law firm in Atlanta, Georgia with 5 partners and 15 individual lawyers.
Also, let’s say for example your law firm specializes in the following 5 different practice areas such as:
So you can have one Google Maps listing for your main law firm which would be categorized as Law Firm.
And then for each individual attorney and partner, you could have a Google Maps listing categorized for their specific practice area:
Attorney 1: criminal defense lawyer
Attorney 2: personal injury lawyer
Attorney 3: lawyer
Attorney 4: estate planning attorney
Attorney 5: tax attorney
The 5 categories above in italics coincide with the 5 practice areas.
If this was your law firm, then you’d end up with a net total of 6 Google My Business listings. One GMB listing for your law firm. And 5 GMB listings for your 5 individual attorneys or partners for their respective practice areas.
Competing in local search with multiple attorneys
From our experience, and our client’s data, we’ve found that most people search for lawyers by category.
So most people search for lawyer as follows:
best dui lawyers near me
car accident lawyer in atlanta ga
divorce lawyer in nyc
chicago estate planning attorney
And according to recent data, the majority of searches today are conducted via mobile phones and voice search.
So the phrases above can just as easily be spoken in to Google’s mobile search app as they are typed into Google via a desktop.
Because people search for lawyers at the category level (i.e. ‘dui lawyer near me’), having multiple Google Maps listings for specific attorneys is a powerful way to get exposure to just the right type of client.
Couple this with law firm directories and a comprehensive local SEO strategy, your law firm can quickly dominate the most valuable real estate in search within your market.