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Law Firm SEO – A 20 Step Action Plan for Attorneys

BLOG POSTS Local SEO SEO
By Manick Bhan
May 15, 2021

Are you trying to win new clients for your law firm? Prospective customers are already using search engines to find you, and having an effective SEO (search engine optimization) plan for your law firm is the best way to take advantage of this!

Need proof? Check out these stats

  • 96% of people use a search engine to seek legal advice.
  • 38% of people use the internet to find an attorney.
  • 62% of legal searches are non-branded (for example, Miami car accident attorney).

Additionally, your law firm website is a great spot to generate new leads for your firm. 74% of consumers who visit a law firm’s website end up taking action, such as contacting the firm by phone.

Also, the lawyer SEO competition doesn’t necessarily reflect the legal market you’re in. Only 35% of law firm websites have been updated in the last 3 years, and 40% of law firms don’t even have a law firm website.

In short, by applying an effective law firm SEO strategy, you’ll leap ahead of most of your competitors.

To help you put together your own SEO campaign, I’ll show you how to rank your law firm #1 in Google – step-by-step.

ARTICLE CONTENTS

TECHNICAL SEO
Step 1. Determine Website Structure
Step 2. Setup Your GMB Listing
Step 3. Improve Your Site Speed
Step 4. Mobile Optimization
Step 5. Implement SSL
KEYWORD RESEARCH
Step 6. Understand Search Intent
Step 7. Find the right keywords
PAGES & CONTENT
Step 8. Identify User Content Goals
Step 9. Format Your Pages Properly
Step 10. Optimize Your Home Page
Step 11. Create Practice Pages
Step 12. Rank Better with Blog Posts
Step 13. Fix Zombie Pages
DOMINATE LOCAL SEARCH
Step 14. Tailor Pages to Markets
Step 15. Legal Directory Citations
Step 16. Claim & Manage Reviews
LINKS
Step 17. Outbound Links
Step 18. Inbound Links
MEASURE RESULTS
Step 19. Tools to Use
Step 20. KPIs

TECHNICAL SEO FOR ATTORNEYS

Step 1. Determine Your Website Structure

Structure your own website so your users (and Google) can find everything. Your website needs to have a defined structure. Without one, it’s difficult for users to navigate and difficult for search engines to crawl and discover your web pages.

Structuring your site for your users

Users need to be able to easily find what they’re looking for. This means that you need to understand what information people seek out when visiting your law firm’s website and put that important information  on the homepage or make it easy to access from the navigation bar.

For example, if a prospective client is looking for a personal injury attorney in Miami, they may search your firm’s website for practice areas, office location, reviews, and the about section.

Look at how this law firm’s website quickly addresses those needs with their navigation bar.

Putting critical items in the navigation bar makes them quick and easy to access. Take a look at these three examples of law firms ranking on the first page for “personal injury attorney” in NYC, and you’ll notice they include each of the items above in their main nav.

EXAMPLE 1

EXAMPLE 2

EXAMPLE 3

For any practice area, it’s a good idea to have these items in your navigation menu :

  • Practice areas, either directly on your navigation menu or as a dropdown if you have multiple services. This gets your law firm’s services based keywords on every page of your site, sending strong relevancy signals to Google crawlers.
  • Location information, either directly on your navigation menu or as a dropdown if you have multiple locations. This gets your location-based keywords on every page of your site, sending strong relevancy signals to search engine algorithms about the geographic area you serve.
  • A link to your attorneys or about page, which should give an overview of the years of experience of your whole legal team.
  • A link to your reviews or testimonials page – to build trust.
  • A link to your “Contact Us” clearly labeled with a unique color where visitors can contact you via phone number, email, or an embedded contact form. This is a call to action.
  • Your phone number. This is another call to action. Even if you already have a “contact us” button that links to a contact page, 74% of people who land on a law firm’s website are likely to contact you via phone, so making this form of contact as simple as 1 click is to your advantage.

If you’re unsure about what users are likely to look for on your website, search Google for your practice areas and look at the top ranking competitors sites to get ideas for your navigation and site layout.

Finally, it’s important to make sure your navigation menu is usable both on desktop and mobile.

In fact, 31% of all law firm related website traffic comes from mobile, so a large amount of your leads are likely to come from a mobile device.
Take a look at how this law firm’s website made their navigation menu easy to access and use on mobile phones.

You’ll notice that the area between the buttons is large enough that everything is easy to touch – even if you have a small screen and big fingers.

This is referred to as the “tap area” of a button and is a key component of converting on mobile devices. Make sure this is sized appropriately for phones and fingers of all sizes. Users can become easily frustrated if they have a difficult time tapping the correct button on a mobile device and may leave your site.

Structuring your site for Successful SEO

Google also uses your law firm’s website structure to determine what website content is important and relevant information. Here are a few ways to help Google crawl your law firm website in a more effective way.

Use proper page and URL Structure

Ideally, your website as a whole should be structured like a pyramid, with your home page at the top, your category pages (the ones in your navigation menu) beneath that, and your individual pages beneath your category pages.

Not only does this make it very easy for users to find relevant content on your site, but also makes it easier for search engines to index each page of your website.

When formatting your URLs, this means that any pages linked to in the main navigation menu are only one folder deep from the homepage.

This means that they should only have one slash after the .com, .net, etc (aka. the “top-level-domain”).

So, your about page should look like https://yourdomain.com/about

Any individual pages that are a subset of your category pages, like blog articles, should only have two slashes after the top-level-domain.

For example, blog articles would look like this: https://yourdomain.com/blog/how-to-hire-a-personal-injury-lawyer

Clear URL structure makes it easy for search engine crawlers to find pages on your law firm website.

Clear linking and navigation titles

The placement of navigation items is an important factor for users and search engines alike. While users are more likely to pay attention to navigation titles, search engines use the anchor text of these navigation items to determine the topical relevance of a page.

What is anchor text?
Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink.
Here’s what it looks like in your site’s code

With this code in place, the anchor text “Jon Wye’s Custom Designed Belts” would link to the URL “http://www.jonwye.com.

If we inspect the code on Harell & Harell’s site, we can see this in action. Here’s the navigation menu item’s anchor text for the user.

And here is the URL structure for the link the navigation menu item points to.

The anchor text of your navigation items is important because it sends “link signals” to search engines that tell them “Hey, these pages are very important!” By having these links on every page of your law firm’s website, you’ll be sending strong link signals to search engines and helping them understand what these pages are about – because of the anchor text.

These same link signals can be leveraged in the footer of your law firm website as well. Adding links to pages such as to your blog, privacy policy, or sitemap in the footer can help boost the link signals to these pages without taking up space in the main navigation menu.

Proper use of H tags – How to use H tags for SEO

Header tags (commonly called H tags) outline the structure of your page. Often times, an H tag is used as the title displayed on the page, while the page title is what’s displayed in the organic search results.

These tags are often followed by a number – H1, H2, H3, etc. This is to show where they lie in the hierarchy of your page structure.

Common H tag page formatting looks like this:

See how they outline the hierarchy structure of a page? H1 would be the page title, H2 would be a subtopic of the page, and H3 would be a subtopic of the H2 header.

Notice the difference between these 2 articles. One is using H tags properly, while the other is writing their headlines in plain text.

Header Tags Used Properly

Header Tags Not Used Correctly

Using H tags for your headlines helps search engines understand the structure of your page and makes it easier for your users to find what they’re looking for more quickly.

When writing your H tags, keep a few things in mind:

  • Only use 1 H1 tag on your page.
  • Use H2, H3, and other H tags to segment out the content of your page.
  • Use related keywords in your HTML tags.

Step 2. Create and optimize your law firm’s Google My Business listing

85% of people use online maps, such as Google Maps, to find legal services.

Google Maps is a huge part of local SEO. If your firm largely targets local clients, then getting listed on Google Maps is a must.

How to add your law firm to Google Maps

So, how do you get listed on Google Maps?
By creating a Google My Business listing.

Here’s how.

Google My Business best practices

Google uses information from Google My Business to display information for searches that have local area intent.

Not only that, but rather than listing information from your website on search results, Google often pulls business information from your Google My Business listing as well.

The information for Morgan & Morgan in the above screenshot is coming from their Google My Business listing.

Clearly, it’s important that this information is up-to-date, accurate, and fully optimized.

How to optimize your law firm’s Google My Business listing

Here’s how to optimize your firm’s Google My Business account:

  • Enter your business information correctly on the map so users can easily find you.
  • List the official website of your law firm.
  • Include your opening hours.
  • Make sure your business name, address, and phone number is EXACTLY the same as listed on your website. Google aggregates this information from across the web.
  • Choose the most appropriate and specific category for your firm so that you show up in the right search terms.
  • Add photos of your office, staff or anything else you’d like that’s relevant and professional.
  • Describe your law firm. Include links and relevant keywords in the introduction.

If you’re interested in seeing how users behave with your listing, check out Google My Business insights.

Step 3. Make your law firm website as fast as possible

Google is now mobile-first, which means they assume users are accessing your site with a 5G connection.

They want to provide users with a great page experience. Presenting users with slow websites doesn’t accomplish this, so if you want higher rankings, your website needs to be fast.

Due to its impact on user experience, website speed is one of the most important SEO ranking factors.

If a website takes a long time to load, the user will click back to Google to find a better choice. Google will simply think the user didn’t find what they were looking for and your website rank will drop.

Amazon found clear correlations between page speed and bounce rate. Just a few seconds too long, and your users are 32% more likely to leave.

Google takes page speed and bounce rate into consideration when ranking your website, so it’s important to make your site as fast as possible.

To make your site as fast as possible, use Google’s PageSpeed Tool to see how your site loads on desktop and on a 5G connection. This tool is a simple way to discover any issues that you can address to make your site faster.

Step 4. Make sure your site is mobile friendly

Consider this – you’re a personal injury attorney, and a potential client just got into a car accident.

They try to access your site to call you, but they have a poor mobile connection.

Or worse, they’re nervous – their adrenaline is pumping – and they’re having trouble tapping their screen with accuracy.

Your website takes too long to load, and when it finally does, the user pushes the wrong button on accident, so they move on to the next listing in Google.

This is why mobile optimization is important for attorney websites.

At a minimum, you should make sure that:

  • Your website loads quickly on mobile.
  • Your buttons are sized well enough that people with small screens or big fingers can tap them without accidentally tapping a different button.
  • Keep important information above the fold – i.e. keep your call to action visible without requiring users to scroll down.
  • Have a click to call button for mobile.

Check out Lawrence Law Group’s site as an example of doing this correctly.

Finally, you should make sure your design is great. 57% of users won’t even consider your firm if the website is poorly designed on mobile.

This, and Google prioritizes mobile experiences when ranking websites.

Step 5. Secure your law firm’s website with SSL (Secure Socket Layer)

Ever come across a website and see something like this?

Or worse, this?

Do these websites encourage trustworthiness or make you feel that your data would be safe?

As an attorney, you know that trust between you and your target audience is important, so why would this be any different online?

This is what happens when a website isn’t secured with an SSL certificate.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and is essentially a form of validation for your website that confirm there aren’t any intermediaries between a page and the web host that could potentially steal a users information.

Basically, an SSL certificate proves that a website is who they say they are. This is shown by a site having https instead of http at the beginning of their domain.

Google has also confirmed that it is, in fact, taken into consideration for rankings.

Often times, you can get an SSL certificate through your web hosting provider. They’re usually available for an annual fee, and will fix all of the issues associated with “website not secure” popups or messages.

If you prefer to go the route of free, or would rather have your SSL certificate not tied to your web hosting provider, you can use a service like Let’s Encrypt instead.

Once you get your certificate set up, plug your homepage https URL into Why No Padlock? to have their tool crawl your site and make sure it’s implemented correctly.

A few things to note about getting your site SSL certified:

  • Google will treat this as if you’re moving your site to a new domain name, which means you may temporarily lose search rankings and organic traffic until Google crawls your site again and reindexes your new https pages.
  • You could end up with a lot of broken links, so it’s important to make sure you properly 301 redirect your http links to your new https links when migrating to https.

KEYWORD RESEARCH

Step 6. Understand searcher intent and keyword types

Before you start optimizing your law firm’s website, you need to know what kind of keywords you’re going to go after.

In attorney SEO, as in all SEO, a keyword is really just a search term that Google’s users type to find what they’re looking for.

What they’re looking for is described as searcher intent – and can be broken down into three categories:

  • Awareness
  • Evaluation
  • Purchase

Searcher intent addresses the question “what are the searchers really looking for?”
Let’s assume a musician is trying to copyright their music. Here are some search terms they might use in each stage.

  • Awareness – This is where the musician is looking for answers, resources, educational material, and insights. Example search terms (or keywords) may include:
      • How can I protect my music?
      • Do I copyright or trademark a song?
      • How to copyright a song
  • Evaluation – This is the middle stage where the musician knows what needs to be done and is researching options. Example search terms (or, again, keywords) in this stage may include:
      • Music lawyers near me
      • Who are the best copyright lawyers in Nashville
      • Copyright lawyer reviews
  • Purchase – This is the final stage where the musician is figuring out what it would take to become a customer. Keywords used in this stage are likely to be very specific:
    • Law firm name contact info
    • Lawyer name contact info

In this example, the musician wanted to protect their music, learned more about what’s involved, then narrowed down the options until they found the best one for them, then took steps to contact the appropriate firm.

The closer a user gets to a purchase, the longer the keywords usually are. This is where the phrase long-tail keywords comes from.

Step 7. Find the right keywords

Now that you understand searcher intent and know about how people use Google to make purchases, let’s dive into some keyword research.

To find new keyword phrase ideas, just head over to Google’s Keyword Planner, log in, and click “Discover new keywords.”

Next, enter your website or a keyword of your choice to get started. For this example, I’m going to enter a keyword.

Finally, click “Get Results” and you’ll be able to browse a huge list of keywords Google’s tool has generated for you!

You’ll notice that you have columns that show you the monthly search volume and the cost-per-click bid range if you were to run ads.

If a keyword has a high bid, that means advertisers are bidding high amounts for that search query in PPC advertising campaigns –likely because it drives sales.

That means these keywords are likely to have high purchase intent. These are the keywords that you’ll likely want to target with pages that have lots of call-to-actions.

If you want more keyword ideas, you can leverage Google. Just take one of your chosen keywords, plug it into Google’s search box, and look at the “People also ask” section.

If you click one of the questions, Google automatically generates more of them.

It can literally be an endlesssupply of keyword ideas!

When you find your keywords, remember to use your primary keyword within the H1 and title tags of your page. This gives the search engines a clear indication as to what the page is about. For more information on keywords and keyword research check out Keywords 101: A Beginner’s Guide.

PAGES & CONTENT

Step 8. Understand Google’s content preferences

Google prioritizes pages based on how it views search intent for different terms. You won’t be able to effectively rank a product page for an informational search.

Google often prioritizes long-form content, but content that meets a user’s need always wins out.

It’s the difference between “how to find a good accident lawyer” and “accident lawyer near me” searches. One will land on a blog post/long form content, the other on a directory or services page.

Think about it like this – someone with a broken faucet is looking for contact info for an available plumber, not a long-form article on plumbing.

Step 9. Format your pages properly

When formatting your page, there are a few things that need consideration.

  • Formatting your titles
  • Using H tags
  • Writing meta descriptions
  • Formatting your content

Let’s go over each of these.

How to write your page titles for SEO

The page title is the clickable headline of your page that appears on search engine results pages (commonly referred to as SERPs).

It also appears in browser tabs, like this:


In the HTML code, these are usually surrounded by title tags, which look like this:

In most website editors, including WordPress, you won’t need to actually access or write the code. They’ll automatically apply the title tags for you when you write the title of your page.

When writing your title tags, keep a few things in mind.

  • Keep your titles about 55-60 characters long. Too short and they aren’t detailed enough, but too long and they’ll be cut off at the end in search engines, meaning people won’t be able to read them.
  • Use your target keyword in the title as close to the beginning as possible.
  • Describe your page content in the best way possible.
  • Keep your titles unique to the specific page. Otherwise, multiple pages may compete for the same keyword.
  • Use your brand name wisely. In most cases, your brand name should be left to the end of the title.

Here are some examples of well formatted page titles, and one that’s not as well formatted:

While Gunster, Morgan & Morgan, and Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig, follows the above guidelines, Gibney Law made a few mistakes:

  • Their title is too long, which made it cut off at the end.
  • They didn’t use a searchable keyword in the beginning of the title. Instead, they used their brand name.

How to write your page descriptions for SEO

Page descriptions are the short paragraph of text placed in the HTML that describe the contents of a page. These are known as “meta descriptions” and will show under your page in the organic search results.

In your code, it will look something like this:

If you use WordPress or any other website editor, you won’t need to edit the code itself. You can easily control the meta description with plugins like Yoast SEO.

Google has specifically stated that they do not use the meta description as a ranking signal. However, the number of people who click on your website vs. others is a ranking signal, and the meta description influences a user’s decision to click on your website.

Because of this, the meta description indirectly influences your rankings.

So, when writing your meta descriptions, do so with the goal of convincing users to click on your listing rather than stuffing keywords in there.

Here are a few things that can accomplish this:

  • Keep your description between 135-160 characters so that it doesn’t cut off at the end.
  • Don’t duplicate your meta descriptions. Write unique ones for every webpage.
  • Use your keyword in the description. This is important not because search engines use this as a ranking signal, but because the keyword is often highlighted in bold, which can draw attention to your organic listing.
  • Treat the meta as an advertisement for your page. Make it compelling and relevant. It should match the contents of your page while being as appealing as possible.

Step 10. Create a winning home page

Your homepage is the most valuable page on your site. Here are some ways to make it have a better chance of securing top rankings.

Optimize for the most competitive terms

As far as search engines are concerned, your home page carries the most weight in terms of value. Because of this, it’s best to optimize the page for your most competitive keyword.

Boyd Law does this very well.

It’s clear what their target keyword is.

Your page may not rank right away, but as you build your domain authority and visibility, it will climb closer to the top of the search results.

Feature reviews to build trust

You need to establish credibility and trust as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is featuring reviews or testimonials on your homepage.

Take a look at how Morgan & Morgan features powerful video testimonials on their homepage.

Use images or videos to boost engagement

Google uses dwell time as a ranking factor, so it’s in your best interest to keep users engaged on your homepage as long as possible. Using videos or other visual graphics accomplish this.

Look at how The Law Offices of Peter C. Bronstein does this.

In your video, address the key pain points of your target audience and how you can help with those.

Craft a compelling call-to-action (CTA)

A clear, consistent call-to-action is what generates leads.

When writing your CTA, you want to keep 3 things in mind.

  1. Use action words and be specific – Phrases that encourage users to do something are much more powerful than generic phrases. A CTA like “Call Now for a Free Consultation” is much more compelling than “Click Here to Call.”
  2. Create a sense of urgency – By simply telling users to do something now or that time is running out, suddenly your CTA seems more urgent. You can accomplish this without hard-selling by using the word “Now” or pointing out that users can “reap the benefits today.”
  3. Use contrast in your design – If your CTA is the same color as the rest of your website, it isn’t going to stand out. Use a contrasting color so users are quickly drawn to it.

Let’s look at an example of a good CTA vs. one that could use some work.

Notice how May Personal Injury Lawyers uses actionable language and tells users what they get from calling – a free consultation. The colors of the CTA contrast the rest of the design.

Contrast that with Law Offices of Peter C. Bronstein and you’ll notice that, while he has a compelling call to action, the CTA button doesn’t contrast the rest of the design.

Step 11. Create practice area pages

After your homepage, your practice area pages are going to be the next most valuable in your SEO efforts.

It’s important to make individual pages for each practice area because it gives you more opportunity to go after keywords related to those practice areas by addressing the specific needs of that audience.

If we look at Morgan & Morgan’s website, we’ll see that they have a dropdown listing all of their practice areas.

For each of those practice areas, they have a unique page.

On your practice area pages, you want to include the following:

  • The purchase intent keyword related to this practice area as identified in your keyword research (discussed above in steps 6 and 7).
  • Page titles and meta descriptions with the keyword’s searcher intent in mind (discussed above in step 9).
  • Answers to common questions about this practice area. You can identify common questions by typing your target keyword into Google and looking at the “People also ask” suggestions. Each question you address on this page should use an H tag so that search engines understand the structure of your page.
  • Testimonials from clients that you’ve helped in this specific area of practice.
  • A call-to-action that’s specific to this area of practice.

Step 12. Become an authority with epic blog content

You already have lots of legal info in your head from your experience. Creating high-quality content on your site that communicates this effectively to potential clients positions you as an authority in your legal space.

Consider your practice areas and think about how you can create great content and super-detailed blog articles that help potential clients.

Things like step-by-step guides, simplifying otherwise complex topics, or even simple blog posts on key pain points your audience may face are great examples of this.

Look at how Peterson Watts Law Group does this with their music copyright article.

You can come up with content marketing ideas by:

  • Looking into your clients most commonly asked questions.
  • Reviewing Google’s “People also ask” questions for related search terms.
  • Reviewing questions on Quora in your space.
  • Using tools like Google Trends to find topics that are trending online.

When you create your content, keep in mind that you’re writing for the internet – which means you should make your content easy to skim. Here’s how:

  • Write short, concise sentences using simple language. Try and keep your writing at a 10th grade reading level or less. Tools like Hemmingway can help you determine the readability of your content.
  • Use lots of white space by keeping your paragraphs 1-3 sentences long.
  • Use the right font size. A 22 point font provides the best reading experience online.
  • Use bullet points whenever possible.

When writing your content, while it is important to intersperse your keywords throughout, Google algorithms are getting better at understanding language and will understand synonyms related to the topi. It’s more important that the topic is covered in full, and keyword stuffing won’t work. The primary objective should be that your content fully addresses the needs of its audience.