Are you trying to win new clients for your law firm?
Potential 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!
Don’t believe me? Check out these stats…
Additionally, your 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.
Don’t expect your SEO competition to reflect that of 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 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.
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
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
Step 17. Outbound Links
Step 18. Inbound Links
Step 19. Tools to Use
Step 20. KPIs
Structure your 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.
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 website and put this either on the homepage or make it easy to access from the navigation bar.
For example, if someone is looking for a personal injury attorney in Miami, they may search your website for practice areas, office location, reviews, and the about section.
Look at how this site 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.
For any practice area, it’s a good idea to have those items in your navigation menu because:
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 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 firm made their navigation menu each to access and use on mobile.
This is referred to as the “tap area” of a button. 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.
Google also uses the structure of your site to determine what content is important and relevant. Here are a few ways to help Google crawl your website more effectively.
Ideally, your website as a whole should be structured like a pyramid, with your homepage 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 your site.
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 site.
The placement of navigation items is important 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 site, you’ll be sending strong link signals to search engines and helping them understand what these pages are about – because of the anchor text.
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
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:
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.
So, how do you get listed on Google Maps?
By creating a Google My Business listing.
Google uses information from Google My Business to display information for searches that have local 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.
Here’s how to optimize your firm’s Google My Business account:
If you’re interested in seeing how users behave with your listing, check out Google My Business insights.
Google is now mobile-first, which means they assume users are accessing your site with a 4G connection.
They want to provide users with a great experience. Presenting users with slow websites doesn’t accomplish this.
Due to its impact on user experience, website speed is one of the most important SEO ranking factors.
If a website takes too long to load, the user will click back to Google, and Google will simply think the user didn’t find what they were looking for and your rankings 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 4G connection. This tool will give you insights into any issues you can address to make your site faster.
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:
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.
Ever come across a website and see something like this?
Or worse, this?
Do these websites encourage trust or make you feel that your data would be safe?
As an attorney, you know that trust between you and your clients 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:
Before you start optimizing your law firm’s website, you need to know what kind of keywords you’re going to go after.
In 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:
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.
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.
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 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 keyword –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.
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 longform article on plumbing.
When formatting your page, there are a few things that need consideration.
Let’s go over each of these.
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 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.
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:
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 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:
Your homepage is the most valuable page on your site. Here are some ways to make it drive results.
As far as search engines are concerned, your homepage 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 continue to put effort into SEO, it will climb closer to the top.
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.
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 audience and how you can help with those.
A clear, consistent call-to-action is what generates leads.
When writing your CTA, you want to keep 3 things in mind.
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.
After your homepage, your practice area pages are going to be the next most valuable.
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:
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 on your topic.
Consider your practice areas and think about how you can create high-quality, 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 ideas by:
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:
When writing your content, while it is important to intersperse your keywords throughout, it’s more important that the topic is covered in full. The primary objective should be that your content fully addresses the needs of its audience.
What are zombie pages, and why are they bad for SEO?
Zombie pages are those that exist on your website but provide no value whatsoever – meaning they don’t bring you any traffic.
They usually take on one of the following forms:
These pages are often indexed by Google, but rank poorly because they provide no value to users.
Because search engines use metrics like pages viewed per session and dwell time on a page, thin pages and zombie pages can give Google the impression your site is low-quality.
If you can’t bring a zombie page to life by improving the content and making these pages useful to users, then redirecting the page to more useful content may be the best alternative.
Redirects are especially important if a page your are deleting has any links pointing towards it from other websites.
Links pointing to your site from others are referred to as backlinks. We’ll touch more on these later, but in short, Google counts links as votes of confidence to your site and uses them to help determine rankings for a page or pages of a domain. Any high ranking web page likely has lots of links pointing to it.
In most cases, since zombie pages provide little to no value to your users, it’s unlikely you’ll find any backlinks pointing to them.
However, if you do, you should redirect these pages to another relevant page on your site to retain whatever search equity the page had acquired.
The best way to redirect pages on your site is using 301 redirects.
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. They essentially send visitors and search engines to a different URL than what they clicked on from a search engine page or typed into their browser.
Let’s put this into practice.
If you click on either of these URLs, you’ll be directed to www.google.com:
That’s because google.com 301 redirects to www.google.com, since Google wanted that to be their primary domain.
Here’s a step-by-step video showing you how to set up 301 redirects in WordPress.
If you don’t have any pages on your site that you can redirect your pages towards, and the page in question has no backlinks, then deleting those pages may be your best option.
When you delete a page, make sure you set the HTTP header to “410 content deleted.”
This tells users – and search engines – that you intentionally deleted the content, and will result in Google removing it from their index sooner.
You can use this plugin to do this on WordPress.
71% of people looking for an attorney believe it’s important to have a local one.
This means that they’re likely looking for lawyers within their specific geographic area using the name of a town or county that may otherwise be underserved.
If other law firms aren’t targeting these smaller towns or counties, this could be a great opportunity for you.
Just look at how Morgan & Morgan creates specific pages for the small town of Tavares just outside of Orlando, Florida.
You won’t receive as much traffic for these pages as you will on your homepage, but if you target enough areas, it adds up.
Just look for nearby cities, counties, or towns and create pages tailored specifically to each of them with a customized page title, meta description, and page copy.
Do this with 5 surrounding areas for 10 practice areas and that’s 50 new pages that can attract a very targeted audience!
Finally, make sure other pages on your site link to these pages to help improve their link signals. For example, if you write a blog post about car accidents in Los Angeles, California, link to your “Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney” page.
If you serve local clients, quality citations – mentions of your business name, address, and/or phone number – are important.
Google considers citations from relevant, reliable websites when as an important ranking factor in local search results.
Not only that, but lots of people still find lawyers through directories.
In fact, legal directories often rank for competitive search terms in the legal industry.
Getting citations from targeted directories add credibility, context, and authenticity to your law firm, and allow you to be found by search engine users who click the directory listings in the search results.
The best places to get cited in are prominent legal directories and data aggregators.
A good way to think about directory placements is to go after ones that you think you can actually get clients from.
The best way to find these directories is to type all of your target keywords into Google and simply look at the directory listings on the first page. Anything here is worth getting listed in because you can potentially grab second-hand search traffic – i.e. people will click the directory listing in Google, then find your firm
Some of the most popular legal directories worth getting listed in are:
For a full list of directories, check out this page from Moz that organizes citation sources by city. Remember to look at nearby cities as well
You also want to make sure your information is correct with all key data aggregators because search engines pull data from these sources.
Most search engines get their data from:
…who pull their data from:
So it’s important to make sure your information is always up-to-date in these sources. Otherwise, your rankings can drop if any out-of-date information is passed along.
Reviews are important for Google rankings, click through rates, and creating a perception of trust.
This is true for your Google listings and your law directory listings.
According to Bright Local’s Customer Review Survey:
Needless to say, reviews are an essential part of your law firm’s SEO strategy
Here are some ways you can get reviews on Google, Yelp, and law directories of your choice.
If you’ve given excellent service to a client, a great way to earn reviews is to simply ask!
Amazon does this through email, so why not do this with your clients as well?
Just send them an email explaining how you want to hear more about their experience with a link to your preferred review source. If you’ve given them great service and have developed a strong relationship with the client, they’ll be more than happy to do this.
Keep in mind that you want to make sure you ask happy clients for reviews since they’re more likely to leave good ones.
In some areas of legal practice, clients are likely to revisit your website frequently
In these cases, leaving links to your preferred review sources can encourage repeat clients to share their experiences.
Take a look at how Johanson Law Group does this.
Just link the “write a review” button on your site to Google, Yelp, Avvo, or whatever your preferred directory is.
There are tools that can help automate the customer feedback process to make it easier.
These tools handle client follow-ups on your behalf via text or email which frees you up to handle more important things.
While these are great, if your firm is relatively new, I’d recommend calling or emailing each client individually until you have a consistent inflow of clients to ask for reviews.
Linking out is a great way to show Google that you’re interested in providing value to your users.
When Google analyzes links, they look at them like neighborhoods. If you’re linking out to lots of high quality sites in your industry, and lots of high quality sites are linking to you, Google considers your site as part of a good “link neighborhood.”
The opposite can also be true. If you link out to low quality sites and lots of low quality sites are linking to you, this is a bad “link neighborhood.”
Linking to non-competing legal sites can help enhance a reader’s understanding of a topic you may be writing about on your own site.
This will improve user experience on your site – which will lead to better rankings.
For example, Yavitch & Palmer’s site links out to a number of legal resources related to their areas of practice.
The rel=”nofollow” tag is a value that can be added to a URL that tells search engines not to follow the URL.
In the code for a URL, it looks like this:
This was introduced in 2005 by Google to stop people from blog comment spamming in an effort to get links to their site that would influence their rankings.
This tag should only be used if a link is paid for or can be easily added by the public (such as in comments or reviews).
Otherwise, you don’t really need to worry about it.
If people can find what they’re looking for on your site, they’re more likely to stick around.
This includes when you give them what they’re looking for by linking to it.
So if you’re writing a blog article and mention a resource that readers may want to learn more about, link to it!
Peterson Watts Law Group does this regularly in their blog articles.
When you do link out, make sure the pages you link to open in a new browser tab when clicked so users can easily come back to your site. Here’s how to do this in WordPress
Follow these same guidelines with internal links – links from one page on your site to another – to help search engines better understand the structure of your site.
One of the best ways to increase your rankings in Google is to get other sites to link to yours.
Google counts links as votes of confidence. If other reputable sites are linking to you, Google trusts your site more and pushes you up in the rankings.
These are known as backlinks (i.e. another site is “linking back” to you), and the process of trying to get these backlinks is known as “link building.”
A lot of sites pay for backlinks, but this is against google’s guidelines and is known as “black hat” SEO.
“White hat” link building is done leveraging methods that follow google’s guidelines. Often, these methods require a lot of time and hard work
Two of the best ways to get high-quality backlinks for your site are guest posting and HARO.
Guest posting is a great way to get other sites to link to you. It basically works like this.
Let’s break down the steps.
To find sites that accept guest posts, we’ll use Google.
Simply enter search terms like these:
Make sure you maintain the “”. This tells Google to only find pages that contain this exact phrase.
When you find a site that looks like a good fit, you’re ready to craft your pitch.
For each of the sites you find, look around at the types of articles they write and come up with 3 similar ones that they haven’t covered yet.
Once you have your article ideas, send them an email that looks something like this:
My name is [Your Name] and I’m [Your Company and Role]
I’m contacting you because I’d love to contribute a guest post on [Website].
Here are some ideas I’ve come up with that I think your readers would get a ton of value from:
I’ll make sure the piece overflows with information that can’t be found anywhere else.
To give you an idea of the quality I’ll bring to your site, here’s a link to a guest post that I recently published on [Other Website].
[Your First Name]
Once you hear back from a site, it’s time to write and send your article to them!
When you write your article, make sure it provides real value to their readers and isn’t just an article written in an attempt to get a link. Any good site will see right through this and will reject your article once they get it.
Make sure you link to your site within the body of the content – ideally to a blog post you have. Most sites will link to your site in your bio, but Google usually doesn’t count these.
HARO (or Help A Reporter Out) is a great source of links and press mentions.
Basically, they send you 3 emails each day with a list of topics reporters are writing about and need some help with – like this:
All you need to do is scroll through the list of topics, pick one out where you can offer value, and write your reply.
Here’s an example of one that’s fit for attorneys.
Just click on the query to be taken down to the section of the email where you can read it in full.
Finally, just click the email address listed with the query and draft your response!
Remember, with HARO, the more helpful information you can provide, the better. Often times, reporters will take only part of what you say, so giving them more to work with gives you more of a chance at landing a placement.
In order to measure your SEO results, you need to install the correct analytics tools.
Google Analytics is important because that lets you see how much traffic you’re getting and gives you insight into how your users are using your website. You can leverage this data to make improvements to your user experience.
Here’s a video that walks you through how to set up Google Analytics for your website.
The second tool you’ll need is Google Search Console.
This tool lets you analyze ranking data and gives you a look at your position for different keywords as well as how many impressions and clicks you’re getting from search.
Here’s a video that walks you through how to set it up for your website.
Once you have your tools installed, it’s important to start measuring your SEO performance over time.
Specifically, you want to look at the following key performance indicators (KPIs):
Here’s how to look at each of these.
The best way to look at your keyword rankings is with Google Search Console.
If you log in to Google Search Console, click “Search Results” on the left. This will show you a report of all the keywords you rank for and your position over time for those keywords.
Don’t look at rankings over weeks – look over a period of months. SEO work takes a while to kick in.
Traffic can be measured in Google Analytics.
If you open your Google Analytics account and go to Audience -> Overview, then scroll down and select the “Organic Search” option, you’ll be able to see all of the traffic that comes from search engines.
Again, make sure you measure this over a period of months – not days. The nature of SEO is that it takes time for search engines to react to your efforts.
As well as simply looking at the traffic, you’ll also want to look into:
There you have it – a 20 step action plan to dominate the search results!
Hopefully this gave you lots of valuable insight into the inner workings of search engine optimization and how they’re adapting to favor sites that give users what they’re looking for.
A solid SEO strategy is something that every digital marketing campaign should include. These strategies have worked for hundreds of other websites, so they’ll work for yours too!