By Jordan Stambaugh
The SEO landscape has changed so much since I first began over a decade ago. The entire digital landscape is constantly changing, and either law firms adapt to these changes, or they don’t. In today’s modern age, business is driven by the internet and the information people find on it. Because of this fact, Search Engine Optimization plays a major role in providing long term sustainability and growth for your law firm. I hope that this Definitive Search Engine Optimization Guide will answer every question you ever had about SEO, and how you can start implementing these strategies in your business today. And if you’re just starting on your SEO journey, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn if you have any questions on how you can start using SEO to grow your law firm.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is Law Firm SEO and why is it so important?
Law firm SEO is a set of strategies and activities that attract potential customers online to the website of a law firm. The overarching goal of law firm SEO is to rank a firm higher in the search results displayed on Google, Bing and other search engines.
Online search has become an integral part of our lives today. People take to Google and other search engines for guidance, information and helpful resources. This applies to legal help as well. The first idea people have when they need legal help is to look up the most relevant resources online.
According to the stats from Findlaw, 38% people were using internet to find an attorney ¹ back in 2014. Of these, an overwhelming 96% used search engines as their go-to resource for finding the right lawyers.
These numbers have considerably risen since – more and more people today rely on Google and other search engines to find local law firms, attorneys and legal services that are most relevant to their legal needs.
Law firms that have an online presence and are positioned suitably to be visible to these people stand to gain. By being able to connect to the right audience, they can see a massive increase in their clientele and business growth in the long-term.
But there’s a catch.
Being discoverable for potential clients through search engines offers a lot of opportunities – only if you are ranked sufficiently high.
Why online search is important for law firms
Online search is the go-to research tool for the vast majority of people today. Whether they want information on the local restaurants, the most relevant local law firm or simply how to make a cup of tea, most people will go straight to a search engine.
Google is the leader in online search space attracting more than 70% of the search queries ². Then there are other search engines like Yahoo, Bing and Baidu.
For law firms and attorneys, online search is of vital consideration. If your firm wants to attract new clients, you will be more successful when you are ranked well on Google. If you are ranked low, most of these potential clients will go to the competition. That is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.
What is attorney SEO?
Attorney SEO is simply a set of strategies and techniques that aim to rank a law firm’s website higher and make it visible to the relevant online searchers. In other words, attorney SEO is meant to help you attract prospective clients and grow business through better visibility on Google and other search engines.
How high rankings can help you?
As stated above, most people use online search to look for relevant resources.
Consider this scenario.
Your law firm offers estate planning legal services in Manhattan. If someone searched ‘Manhattan estate planning lawyer’, they are very likely looking for the same services that your firm is offering. So they are a potential client for you. When this client searches online using the keyword, he or she is displayed with a long list of search results.
More than 90% of the searchers focus on the results displayed on the first page. So if you can secure a place among these, you stand to attract a large portion of these 90% relevant searchers. If you are placed on the second page of results, you get a mere 2 to 3% of the searchers. From there on, the prospects of attracting online searchers are nearly non-existent.
So the higher you are ranked among the search results, the greater are your prospects of attracting new clients. Ideally, you should aim to have your law firm placed among the first page of search results for the relevant keywords.
Why law firms and attorneys should have a website?
There are many ways of gaining visibility for your law firm. You can get listed on prominent legal directories online or you can have your services registered on platforms like Findlaw. A far better way is to have your own website.
Having your own website has many distinct advantages. In fact, it’s a must-have for law firms in today’s world.
- A law firm that has an online website inspires authority and recognition. A firm that has no website comes off as unreliable or rather obscure to someone searching for legal help online.
- A website of your own gives you full control over its content. You can put your best foot forward and provide a good view of the legal services your firm offers. You can also customize, design and tweak the content to make it most appropriate and relevant for your target audience.
- Your website is the essential ingredient in search engine optimization. If you want to be visible to the right online searchers, you must have a website. The website is your home base – and if you are suitably positioned on Google search, the search results will route potential clients from Google to your website. Without a website, SEO makes no sense.
How to make the most of law firm SEO?
SEO is a broad field. Some take quick and shortcut approaches to it; others base their SEO efforts on a more long-term strategy.
A great SEO plan is one that combines both. You can get instant visibility and more traffic from search engines by investing in paid ads such as pay-per-click (PPC). PPC ads on Facebook, Google and other platforms can give you an instant hike and bring the right audience to your website.
However, this strategy works only as long as you keep adding money to it. Once you stop running the ads, the traffic drops.
In contrast, long-term SEO strategies focus more on sustainable techniques such as backlinks, quality content and guest posts. Quality content, in particular, is the cornerstone of long-term SEO. Such content offers genuine value to your audience and is evergreen.
Over time, as the body of content, backlinks and guest posts grow, you are able to reap generous dividends by seeing a steady growth in the traffic that is coming to your website and converting into clients.
Chapter ROI by Jordan Stambaugh, CEO of Cloudburst Marketing
Think of SEO fitting into your marketing budget this way – SEO’s growth potential is more gradual but it’s effectiveness compounds over time. PPC and directories can drive immediate traffic but their added value is temporary. SEO is an investment while PPC is cost.
Here’s how Google Ranks Your Web Pages
Yes, you read that right. Google doesn’t rank your website – instead, it ranks your pages. Search engines consider each web page as a unique entity.
Web pages are a great way of organizing your website. The more organized your website is, the easier it will be for search engines like Google to crawl and index it. In general, websites that are better organized rank higher than those that are poorly organized. A good hierarchy for a website is important, so make sure to use the right categories when creating web pages.
Ideally, each web page on your website must be optimized for only one parent keyword. This has many advantages.
For a start, it helps you stay focused. By focusing on a single keyword, you are able to offer the right content on the page and deliver genuine value to the people visiting the page.
Another advantage is that it makes it easier for Google to understand what the page is all about. When you use the focus keyword in page URL, title, headings and other places, search engines are quickly able to discern the topic of the content. This allows them to easily index the page for that keyword.
For instance: let’s say your firm offers a wide range of legal services related to corporate law, intellectual property law, estate planning law and personal injury law.
Now, if you try to talk about all these services on a single web page, that won’t work well. You won’t be able to do justice to any of them by giving them due attention, the search engines will be confused when crawling the page and the people visiting the page won’t have a very good user experience.
On the other hand, if you create a separate web page for each legal service and then optimize each page for the relevant keyword, that will work beautifully. It will make the job easier for search engines, offer easier browsing for the visitors and improve the overall organization of your site.
The Google Formula
When ranking pages among search results, Google uses various guidelines to judge their quality. If a page offers content of a superior quality that meets these guidelines, Google will up-rank it. If a page falls below the mark in terms of quality content or doesn’t meet some of the guidelines, it will fall among search engine rankings.
In general, Google uses two key metrics as part of its ranking formula: the Needs Met Ratings (NM) and Page Quality (PQ). Let’s look at both of them.
Page Quality: Page Quality ultimately determines the actual purpose of the page. Does the page deliver content of genuine value to the readers? Or is it meant to lure them into generating money, clicks or towards other suspicious ends?
The more relevant the page’s purpose is to its target keyword and audience, the higher it will be ranked by Page Quality raters. So relevance and quality are the key considerations when it comes to Page Quality.
Relevance: You are trying to target an audience – is the content you are offering on the page relevant for this audience.
Quality: So you have content that is relevant to your audience? But is it quality content? Does it offer genuine value to your readers in a clear, structured and easy way?
Needs Met: The Needs Met metric determines whether a given web page satisfies the information needs of the mobile users. This metric is specifically focused on the mobile audience, and for good reason.
67% of all internet traffic is mobile-based while only 33% is desktop-based. This trend is also seen in the search engine space – the bulk of online searches today originate on a mobile device. Naturally, search engines like Google are keenly aware of this. And this is why Google uses the Needs Met metric specifically to judge how suitable the content of a web page is for the mobile audience.
In fact, the Needs Met metric is so important that it determines the overall ranking of your web page in search results. So if you have not optimized the web page for the mobile audience, your page may be ranked lower by search engines.
Key Things to Consider
There are many different forms of content when it comes to attorney websites. These include the actual content on your site like services pages, blog posts and opinion pieces, in-depth informative articles about specific legal areas and more.
No matter what form of website content you are dealing with, there are some things you must always consider. These will help you stay on the right side of SEO and make sure that your page achieves better rankings in search engines.
Structure: If you have a parent keyword, it should be embedded in the overall structure of the web page. The keyword should ideally appear in the URL, page title, headings, subheadings and the meta description of the page. You will be better able to pull this off if you focus on a single parent keyword for a given page. This brings us to the next point.
Focus: Don’t juggle too many main keywords. In fact, stick with a single keyword for a single web page. As discussed above, this quickly tells the search engines what the page is all about. It also gives the page more authority and relevance. As a result, the page ranks more easily for that one keyword.
Authority: The more backlinks your page has, the more it is considered authoritative by the search engines. When it comes to backlinks, you should choose quality over quantity. A few high-quality links pointing to your web page are better than many dozen links on shady sites. Backlinks can be achieved through content partnerships, guest blogging and more.
Offer genuine value: What is your target audience looking for? What are their needs, problems and the solutions they may want from you as their potential attorney? You need to consider these things when creating the right content for this audience. Make sure your content offers them genuine value – by providing solutions, advice, training, guidance and help.
Chapter ROI by Jordan Stambaugh, CEO of Cloudburst Marketing
Understanding how Google ranks your webpages gives you a clearer idea on what type of content you might want to create for your website. I think in profitable keywords, and you might now too.
Law Firm SEO and Bar Regulations
All law firms in the United States must conform to the bar regulations that are applicable to them. Any advertising activities by the law firms in the U.S. are typically governed by the bar. The regulations may differ from one state to another but stay the same for the most part.
As in all other matters, your law firm must also adhere to the bar regulations when it comes to online advertising.
When you set up a website and launch a solid SEO strategy, you will be dealing with a lot of firm marketing and advertising. It’s critically important that you are well-informed about the bar regulations that govern these activities.
In general, following are some of the most frequent regulations that apply to lawyers and law firms in matters of online advertising.
Reviews and testimonials
Some states simply do not allow law firms to seek reviews or testimonials from their clients.
Others allow them but on various conditions: the reviews must not be gained by offering clients any compensation, they must make it clear that other cases which are similar may have different outcomes, and they must be absolutely genuine.
Bar regulations may be a little flexible when it comes to online reviews and testimonials. Many of these reviews may be left by clients on platforms like Google or Facebook – so a firm can’t be held responsible for reviews that are not directly solicited by it or hosted by it on its website.
That being said, it is highly recommended that you read up on the local regulations to better understand what freedoms you have in getting online client reviews.
Incorrect statements and claims
Incorrect or false statements are a big no-no for law firms. When you claim that you firm is the best in town, or that you can provide guarantees of success to your clients, these statements are unverifiable. Therefore, they can be regarded as deliberately false or incorrect.
In general, if you are making any broad claims or statements that go against the law or can’t be substantiated by solid evidence, these can become a liability for your firm.
These may include statements like ‘Best with car accident cases’ or ‘The best personal injury legal help.’ As a general rule-of-thumb, if a claim can’t be verified in a concrete manner, it is better not to use it in your online advertising efforts.
Comparative Statements and Scenarios
“Our firm has handled more cases than XYZ firm over the last two years.”
“We’ve won more personal insurance cases than XYZ firm.”
Such statements may work well in marketing campaigns of other companies – but for law firms, they are no-go area. Making comparisons between law firms or trying to shine a better light on your firm by degrading another firm are considered bad practices.
Such comparisons are not strictly illegal but they are frowned upon and considered a shoddy method of advertising your law firm. So it’s better to stay away from comparisons – instead, focus on the good things about your firm that you can talk about.
Chapter ROI by Jordan Stambaugh, CEO of Cloudburst Marketing
Hiring an SEO firm that specializes in the legal niche is a no-brainer. It’s important to keep your marketing language inside the lines of bar regulations. Most SEO firms may create whatever kind of content they think fits. This might work for other industries, but not all and it’s always best to play by the rules in the legal niche.
Creating an SEO Strategy for Your Law Firm
If you want to get better visibility online, you simply need to have a good SEO strategy in place. There are a limited number of spots where you can organically reach the right audience.
For instance, the first page of results on Google has only so many results – and the top few spots are contested by virtually endless law firms. To get there, you need a solid long-term SEO plan.
A comprehensive legal SEO strategy caters to all the aspects of your website. It covers the content strategy, keyword optimization, search engine visibility, on-site optimization, link building and more.
Understanding the Legal SEO Funnel
As with any other business, the SEO strategy of a law firm essentially caters to its marketing funnel. You attract potential clients, then provide them with valuable content and ultimately intend for them to do business with you, in this order. This is the basic shape of the funnel.
The first step in attracting your target audience is generating the right content and making it visible to them. This involves doing a thorough keyword research and building original content such as blog posts and articles around these keywords.
Keyword research is one of the most important phases of a legal SEO strategy. When you research keywords, you need to consider two types of them.
Informational Keywords: These are the keywords people may use to seek legal help in your practice area. They are not directly related to the legal services you offer, but you can cater to them by offering informational content on legal matters. Think ‘car accident lawyer fees’, or ‘car accident lawyer qualifications.’
Service Area Keywords: These are the keywords directly related to the legal services you offer. Think ‘car accident lawyer’, or ‘personal injury lawyer’.
Categorize and Organize for Keywords
When it comes to service area keywords, a great way to optimize your web pages for them is by organizing the site hierarchy. You want to create as many service area pages as possible – and organize them suitably into categories and subcategories.
For instance, if you offer legal help in the Intellectual Property Law area, don’t just create a single page. Instead, you can create a parent page for Intellectual Property Law, and then create sub-pages on specific services such as Trade Secrets lawyer, Trademarks Lawyer and Patents lawyer.
Such a hierarchy makes it easier for search engines to index your content. It also allows you to optimize the content more effectively for multiple keywords through multiple pages. As stated in the previous chapter, try to optimize each web page for a single parent keyword – this will allow you to get the most out of your on-site content.
Long-tail keywords are keywords that are highly specific compared to regular keywords. Their downside is that they may not have a lot of traffic on their back. Their overwhelming advantage is that they are specific, so they can help you target a highly relevant audience and cater to this audience effectively.
Consider this example.
‘Car accident lawyer’ is a popular keyword. It has a lot of traffic. But it’s also very generic and you will face stiff competition if you want to rank high for such a general keyword.
‘Car accident lawyer for self-driving vehicles’ – now this is a specific, long-tail keyword. It generates a lot less traffic than the generic ‘car accident lawyer.’ But the upside is that the person who is using this keyword knows exactly what he/she wants. It is also comparatively easier to rank for this specific keyword.
If you can target long-tail keywords through content that is genuinely relevant, you will be able to draw the right audience to your website. Once the right audience is on your website, you can gradually take them to your services pages.
LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. Basically, any other keywords or phrases that are contextually similar to your main keyword are considered LSI keywords. Search engines use LSI keywords to make sure they display the right results.
Let’s consider another example.
Suppose you write a post about ‘cars.’ For the search engine, this is a vague and generic keyword. So it can consider the following things:
- You are writing about the Disney movie cars.
- You are writing about an automotive vehicle.
- Your content is about the 1970s American music band.
- Your post is related to Canadian Aviation Regulations, or CARs
So how does Google discern what the piece of content is actually about?
It uses contextual keywords. If your post includes words like ‘buy’, ‘repair’, ‘sell’, ‘engine’ or ‘vehicle’, then the post is very probably about cars as a vehicle.
If it includes words like ‘movie’, ‘actors’, ‘Walt Disney’, ‘Disney’ or ‘motion picture’, Google will know that it is about Cars the movie.
If you are going to rank for a given keyword, make sure to find some LSI keywords to include in the content. They will support the main keyword and help search engines quickly determine what your content is all about.
SEO Content Strategy
Content is the backbone of your law firm SEO strategy. Once you know what keywords are important for you, it is time to create high-quality content that is relevant to these keywords.
Your SEO content will typically of two types:
Informational content such a blog posts and articles. This content is geared at providing useful information, advice, help and guidance.
Business content such as service area pages and the main on-site content.
Let’s elaborate on both types of content.
Informational content: Blogs and articles
Informational content like blog posts and articles serves many purposes:
- It answers the legal questions of a client.
- It helps solve problems.
- It caters to the highly-specific, long-tail keywords.
- It is related to the legal services you offer.
- You can direct visitors from information content to service areas.
Informational content can include blog posts, tutorials, articles, podcasts, online trainings, in-depth guides and more. The more relevance and value you offer in this area, the higher will be your ability to attract, retain and convert potential clients.
Business Content: Service Area Pages
Business content is mostly about the legal services you offer. So the service area pages on your website are the main anchors for this type of content.
Typically, this is how a prospective client’s journey looks like:
The client will search a long-tail keyword on Google. If the keyword is relevant to you, Google will display a piece of content from your website among the results.
The client clicks on the result and arrives on a blog post or article. If he is satisfied with the information provided, he will be inclined to know more about you. This is where you service page areas come in.
Legal service page areas must accomplish the following:
- Provide detailed and relevant information such as contact info.
- Case studies and feedback from clients (depending upon local bar regulations)
- Easy navigability so that the visitors can easily get the information they are looking for.
- Suitable Call-to-Action texts to encourage visitors to contact you ( Contact us Today, Free Legal Advice, Free Legal Consultation etc)
The informational content is meant to support the business content. And the business content is the turning point where site visitors are converted into likely clients.
On-Site Law Firm SEO Strategy
You must have a good on-site SEO strategy in place to make sure your content is ranked high. On-site SEO is all about providing a good user experience to the visitors who come to your site. You can do so by offering them relevant content that is easily discoverable and accessible.
On-site SEO serves the following purposes:
- It makes sure that your keywords are suitably positioned in the URL, title, headings, subheadings and other aspects of a web page’s structure.
- It optimizes the on-site images you use by utilizing the ALT text and relevant image descriptions. This makes the images readable by search engines and enables them to show up in image searches.
- It flags duplicate or useless content and accounts for it.
- It strives to improve the site-load speeds for a better user experience.
- It optimizes your website for a consistent user experience across laptop, desktop and mobile devices.
- It enables search engines to easily crawl the site and rank it.
A good on-site strategy is an ongoing process. It makes sure that your website is optimized both for the search engines and your target audience.
Content audit is simply an accounting of the content you already have. It is meant to organize, tidy up and optimize all the content that exists on your website. It also aims to make sure that multiples pages do not vie for the same keyword and instead, each web page is optimized for a different keyword.
You can use a variety of online tools to perform a content audit. We’ll look at these tools and content audit strategies in more detail in the subsequent chapters.
As a general guideline, content audit must accomplish the following tasks:
- Identify the traffic, backlinks and other numbers for each web page
- Identify duplicate content and account for it
- Delete unnecessarily duplicate content
- Delete content that attracts no traffic, is poor in quality or is no longer relevant
- Identify content that needs to be updated with new information
Your content must be neat and tidy. It must follow a strategy and a plan. Each piece of content must be optimized, unique and of genuine value to your readers.
During your content audit, look for thin content. Thin content may be temporarily useful but is ultimately harmful for your website as it erodes site authority and repute. Delete thin content during the audit.
If a page has a good number of backlinks but is no longer relevant, redirect visitors from that page to a relevant page. This will preserve the backlinks as well as the traffic while removing the useless page from the site’s content.
Topic Clusters and Pillar Pages
One of the best ways of organizing your site’s informational content is by using topic clusters and pillar pages. These techniques are typically used in advanced law firm SEO strategies.
Pillar pages are comprehensive pieces of content related to a specific theme. Topic clusters are the different topics related to that theme.
Pillar pages are a great way of organizing your content, keeping it structured and offering genuine value to your readers.
To better illustrate the concept, consider an example.
Suppose your law firm offers legal services related to criminal law. You need to first determine what kind of information your target audience really wants when it comes to criminal law. Once you have identified this, it is time to create the pillar page.
The main pillar page will be about criminal law. The sub-topics on the page will be about various aspects of criminal law. Any other blog posts you create on criminal law will automatically become a part of this main resource on the topic.
Over time, the topic cluster will grow and strengthen the pillar page. The pillar page, in turn, will expand and become an authoritative resource.
This is an incredibly powerful technique that significantly improves the SEO standing of your site. Pillar pages are also great candidates for backlinks, so they can also contribute to your link building strategy discussed below.
Backlinks/Link Building Strategy for Law Firm SEO
Back links are links on other sites pointing to the web pages on your site. The more backlinks you have, the better it is for your SEO strategy. However, quality is far more important than sheer quantity when it comes to backlinks.
Backlinks are vitally important because Google uses them as a primary factor to determine the relevance and authority of a web page.
When it comes to backlinks, you can use a twofold strategy.
- Create informational and relevant content for your target audience. Use the right keywords and optimize your web pages for them. This will make your web pages more visible and direct the right traffic to them. Once this traffic arrives and finds that your content is relevant, it will stay instead of bouncing away. This will signal search engines like Google that you are doing it right and they will uprank the page. Other sites will also realize this and want to link to your web pages, bringing valuable backlinks to your site.
- Create content meant to attract backlinks. If you create a piece of content that is unique, contains new research or findings, and is relevant for a target audience, it is a valuable resource. You can create such resources to attract backlinks. Data-driven content is typically a great candidate for backlinks from other sites. Through such content, you can earn organic links from other sites which are even better.
It is important to note that not all backlinks are created equal. When you are trying to get backlinks to your site, consider these things:
- The backlinks come from a relevant website
- They are contextually relevant
- They direct users to high-quality content
- They come from site with good ranking and authority
As a rule-of-thumb, the better is the standing of the sites linking to your content, the more effective and useful will be the backlinks.
Optimizing for Local search results
Local SEO is of vital important for law firms and attorney. After all, your practice very probably caters to a geographically limited area. If you offer legal services for Manhattan residents for instance, it makes sense to optimize your site for the Manhattan area.
Local SEO has its opportunities and disadvantages. On the upside, optimizing for a specific area ensures that your site has a better visibility within that region. The downside is that local search engine results experience stiff competition – so you need a solid local SEO strategy.
A great way of achieving better local SEO is to make sure your site has all the right information in the right places.
Highlight your business address, contact information, map location, name, and other details on the main pages of your website. Have these details listed on other relevant online places such as legal directories, social media pages and data aggregators.
You can also take a local approach to link-building by garnering backlinks from relevant local businesses and firms.
Chapter ROI by Jordan Stambaugh, CEO of Cloudburst Marketing
As you can see there are plenty of moving parts in planning an effective SEO campaign. If done correctly, you will already have a leg up on your competition and it will be easier to outrank them in your marketplace. If you have any SEO strategy questions feel free to reach out to us.
Performing a Detailed SEO Audit for your Law Firm
We have briefly discussed the importance of a content audit in the previous chapter. However, the scope of an SEO audit is much larger.
An SEO audit essentially takes into consideration all the aspects of your law firm’s online presence. These include the website as well as all its content and structure, and any off-site instances such as listings.
The audit itself is a process during which your law firm’s online footprint undergoes a rigorous review. The purpose of this review is to ensure that best practices are implemented across your website and other online channels. It also identifies any weak spots that can be further optimized for better search engine rankings.
It is best to undertake the SEO audit process as a checklist.
Law Firm SEO Audit Checklist
A quick checklist is a great way of staying organized as you carry out the SEO audit of your law firm. We have brought together a brief checklist that will cover most bases. However, you can expand or customize this checklist to more closely suit your needs.
A good SEO audit will cover the following 4 core areas:
- Keywords Audit
- On-site and Technical SEO Audit
- Off-site SEO Audit
- Local SEO Audit
Keywords are the key to getting your site’s content ranked among the right search engine results. A keywords audit basically analyzes whether the right keywords are included at the right places and in the right way.
The right keywords are naturally the keywords that are relevant to your legal areas. At the same time, these are the keywords that your target users are actually using, and have a steady volume of traffic. A keyword that is relevant but has no traffic is of no use to you.
Next, the keyword audit also looks for LSI keywords (discussed in the previous chapter) that may complement the main keyword on a web page. The auditor checks whether each page has a keyword focus and is optimized for a single parent keyword, which is the recommend way of keyword optimization.
Keyword placement is of a critical importance in getting your web pages ranked higher. So the audit reviews the page titles, URL, meta description, img ALT texts, headings and subheadings as well as other parts of the page’s structure to see whether all of these include the main keyword.
At the same time, the auditor matches up the keyword usage against bad practices such as keyword stuffing or the overuse of keywords.
Keywords Audit Checklist:
- Does your website has a focus on a main keyword and is optimized for it?
- Does each web page have a single parent keyword?
- Is main keyword supported by related LSI keywords?
On-site and Technical SEO Audit
Your website is the heart of your online presence. The structure of the website, its back-end maintenance, its content and all other aspects of it are reviewed during an on-site audit. The ultimate purpose is to make sure the website is optimized both for search engines and the visitors who arrive at the site. Following are some of the key aspects of on-site audit.
A good site structure is important. Your website must have a well-defined and hierarchical overall structure. The same is true for the individual web pages which must conform to the standard structure that is recognized by search engines.
When it comes to the site structure and technical SEO, these are some of the vital considerations:
- XML Sitemap: You must have an XML sitemap for your website installed on the main domain.
- Robots.txt File: A robots.txt file ensures that the search engines are able to crawl the key pages on your website. Make sure that the site has its robots.txt file in place.
- SSL: SSL is a security certification that tells the visitors that they can safely browse your website. Make sure that such a certificate is installed on your site.
- 404 Errors: 404 Error happens when someone tries to look up content on your site and is returned the ‘Not Found’ error. If a lot of web pages or links on your site return this error, it makes for a very poor user experience. Identify and eliminate any useless pages that are becoming dead-weight for the site.
- Site speed: When it comes to mobile search engine rankings, Google considers page-load speeds as an important factor. You should optimize your website for quicker loading speeds which also makes for a superior user experience.
- Permalinks: The permalinks of your website are another place you can optimize for search engines. Make sure each permalink includes the relevant keywords. At the same time, the permalinks should not be very long and have an easy-to-read structure.
- Mobile-Responsiveness: Is the website optimized for the mobile users? Does it look well on smartphones and tablets, and delivers a consistently good user experience? Mobile-responsiveness is a must-have if you want to achieve a good website SEO standing.
The structure of each web page on your site is important for SEO. During an audit, you can check each web page against certain metrics. Following are some of the important things for which each web page should be optimized:
- Keyword Focus: Each web page should ideally focus on a single parent keyword. This keyword should be suitably positioned across all the aspects of the page.
- Content Length: The service area pages on your site should ideally be longer than 500 words in length. Blog posts can be significantly longer as long as they deliver genuine value and offer an engaging reading experience.
- Page Title: Does the title of a web page include the main parent keyword? According to SEO best practices, the page title should be around 55 – 70 characters in length and include the target keyword.
- Meta Description: Meta description is a brief snippet of content that tells search engines what a web page is all about. It should be around 160 – 165 characters in length.
On-site content includes the main Home page, service areas pages as well as the blogs or articles that exist on your legal website. All these undergo an audit to ensure they are optimized for the following factors:
- Content architecture: Is the content presented in an organized and structured way? You can use the pillar pages and topic clusters technique from the previous chapter to ensure this.
- Content formatting: The content on each web page should be presented and formatted in a clear way so that it is easy for visitors to scan the content. The use of headings, subheadings and relevant visuals helps ensure this.
- Duplicate content: Are there any pages with duplicate content? Pages which have exactly similar content reflect poorly on your website – search engines may not take a very friendly view of them. If duplicate pages are essential for some reason, use the relevant tags to tell the search engines not to index the extra copies of the content.
- Old content: Not all content is evergreen. During an SEO audit, you need to identify the web pages that feature old or outdated content. Once you have identified such content, you can come up with ways to update this content where possible. Where it is not possible to update an outdated piece of content, you may want to delete it altogether.
On-site and Technical SEO Audit Checklist:
- Does the site have an SSL certificate?
- Is an XML site map installed on the site?
- Is the site mobile-responsive and optimized for mobile users?
- Does the site have a robots.txt file?
- Are all web pages indexed for search engines?
- Are page titles and meta descriptions optimized for keywords?
- Does each web page feature headings and subheadings?
- Are permalinks short, keyword-optimized and easy to remember?
Off-Site SEO Audit
You are able to control what happens on your website – what content to publish, how to format the content, how to structure the website and so on. But this may not always be the case with off-site content about your law firm.
This is why SEO professionals make an extra effort to discern off-site SEO elements that may affect the rankings of your website.
Most notable among these elements are backlinks. These are the links from other websites pointing to your site. In general, backlinks are very valuable as they establish site authority and let Google know that your website is trustworthy.
That being said, an off-site SEO audit performs the following analysis of the backlinks:
- Quantity: How many backlinks are pointing to your website? If there are too few, why is that the case and how can it be remedied?
- Quality: What kind of websites or web pages are pointing to your website? Are these high-quality, authoritative sites or shady sites?
- Anchor Text: What type of content is used to point to your website? Is the anchor text on your backlinks positive, or can you request the sites hosting these links to modify or improve the anchor text?
- Relevance: Are the backlinks relevant and provide you more authority in your target legal domain?
Off-site SEO audit also analyzes the present and past link building campaigns. These are done to ensure that your website has not attracted spammy or shady backlinks which can harm the site’s standing instead of improving it.
Local SEO Audit
Local SEO audit is typically a part of off-site SEO. This is mainly because most of the local SEO elements exist apart from your main law firm website.
As discussed in the previous chapter, local SEO optimizes your website for a specific geographical area. This makes sense since most firms offer legal services within a given region.
Links from other sources such as directories and listings are a great way of garnering better rankings in local SEO results. A local SEO audit will typically cover the following areas:
- Location-based keywords: Is your website content optimized for location-based keywords? Such content can attract the right audience to your website.
- Listings: Is your website and business listed on the relevant directories, local listings and other websites that feature local businesses?
- Consistent Data: Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) are the main info people seek to contact you. NAP should be consistent across all the places where your law firm is mentioned – this includes your own website as well as the directories or listings that mention you.
- Customer Reviews: Depending on your local bar regulations, does your site host customer reviews? Do reviews about your law firm also exist on other platforms such as Yelp?
- Google My Business: Your law firm should have a Google My Business (GMB) profile. A GMB presence is useful in achieving better local SEO standing.
Off-site and Local SEO Audit Checklist:
- Does the website have backlinks?
- Determine the quantity/quality of backlinks
- Does the law firm have a Google My Business (GMB) profile?
- Is your firm’s NAP (name, address, phone number) data consistent across all platforms?
- Is your business listed on relevant directories and listings?
- Do you have a location page set up on your website?
- Does your law firm have online reviews?
Useful SEO Audit Tools
Manually performing SEO audit for your law firm’s online presence can be very time-consuming. A wide range of free and paid tools exist that can speed up the process and let you gather the right insights more quickly. Some of these tools are mentioned below.
Search Console is a more basic on-site SEO analysis tool. Google offers this tool for free, so virtually anyone can register with the Search Console site and have their site’s SEO elements analyzed. You can start the law firm website SEO audit with this tool.
Moz Link Explorer
Moz Link Explorer lets you add a link and then see various statistics related to that link. These stats include the number of backlinks, the keywords for which the link is optimized, the Domain Authority related to that link and the number of domains linked to it. You can get free insights on a limited number of links. For a virtually unlimited number of links, you can sign up for the paid version.
Screaming Frog is an industry-famous SEO audit tool. This tool will scan your website and provide you easily understandable data about the page titles, headings, meta descriptions, search engine results snippets and other SEO elements. You can scan up to 500 pages for free using Screaming Frog. To get unlimited access, you have to sign up for the paid version.
SEMrush lets you get quick reports on statistics related to links and keywords. It is comparatively a simpler tool that uses a more limited set of metrics. However, the tool is a perfect choice if you want to simplify the rudimentary SEO data of your law firm’s website. You can test the tool utilizing a free trial and then sign up for the full and paid version.
Chapter ROI by Jordan Stambaugh, CEO of Cloudburst Marketing
Performing a detailed audit is an important step in understanding what needs to be done on your SEO. Think of it as a checkup for your visibility online. Without a proper SEO audit, you cannot diagnose and treat your website for SEO errors and outstanding issues.
Keyword Research for Law Firm SEO
Keywords form the foundations of a good SEO strategy. Researching and identifying the right keywords are the first step towards implementing a sound, long-term and successful SEO strategy.
The right keywords are the ones that are used by your target audience and carry a good volume. They are also the phrases that have a good potential of converting the searchers into clients for your law firm.
A wide range of tools and techniques can be used to perform keyword research for you law firm SEO strategy. But before we dive into it, let’s see exactly why keyword research is important as well as the different types of keyword of concern to you.
Why keywords are important for law firms?
Keywords are important for a number of reasons. They are the bedrock of both a short-term and a long-term SEO strategy.
Your law firm might consider a short-term SEO plan such as pay-per-click ads. PPC ads cost you each click they generate – and this is precisely why it is important to target the right keywords.
The right keywords will drive the right traffic to your website. It will also help you generate potential leads and eventually turn them into clients.
Before we get to various types of keywords that are relevant to law firm SEO, let us first understand how Google treats keywords and what searcher intent is.
Understanding Searcher Intent
Searcher intent is the intent of the person using a given keyword. How do we know what the searcher intends? Well, the easy way to go about it is to scan the search engine result pages or SERPs.
Google is meticulous in trying to deliver the right results for each keyword. So the search engine essentially tries to cater to the intent of the searcher in the case of every keyword.
The pages that are most relevant to the actual intent of the search, Google displays at the top on the first page of results for that keyword. Take a look at these results and you know what the searcher is looking for.
For instance, consider the keyword ‘criminal attorney lawyer fees.’ Now a potential client may be using this keyword to see what it will cost to hire such a lawyer. Alternatively, a student may be using the same keyword to look up university fees associated with legal studies in this area. How do you know which of the two intents is more relevant?
Simply punch in the keyword into Google and see the top results. In this case, all the top results are about the legal fees of a criminal law attorney. So now you know what the searcher intent behind this keyword is.
Understanding searcher intent is important because it helps you shortlist the keywords that are most relevant for your law firm.
Let us now take a look at various types of keywords and how they fit into a smart keyword strategy for a law firm.
Important Types of Keywords
Keywords can be classified into different types. Such classification is important because it helps you understand and target them more effectively. Following are some of the distinct types:
- Informational keywords
- Location-based keywords
- Purchase-intent or transactional keywords
- Long-tail keywords
- Navigational keywords
Informational keywords are when the searcher is looking for some information on a specific topic. In the context of a law firm, informational keywords are when people seek information related to your practice areas.
Here are some examples of informational keywords related to law firms:
- What are the fees of a personal injury attorney?
- What does a personal injury attorney do?
- When to hire a personal injury attorney?
In essence, informational keywords are a variety of long-tail keywords. This is because they are highly specific, although they can be grouped by topic. The keywords above, for instance, belong in the general category of ‘personal injury attorney.’
The best way to target informational keywords is by creating blog posts around them. In fact, a majority of the blog posts are typically created to target such keywords and attract the audience.
By providing valuable information for such keywords, you are able to garner the goodwill and trust of the readers. At the same time, a person using these keywords very probably also requires the services of a law firm or an attorney. And so, the potential reader is also a potential client.
‘Real estate lawyer near me’
‘Real estate lawyer in Denver, Colorado’
‘Real estate lawyer in Texas’
These are examples of location-based keywords. As their name suggests, such keywords are used by the searchers to look up relevant information in the context of a specific geographical area.
Location-based keywords are incredibly important for law firms. A searcher using such a keyword is more likely to hire a service or purchase a product compared to searchers using informational keywords.
They are also important because they let you target the searchers in a particular geographical area – after all, most law firms offer their services within a specific region.
Location-based keywords are typically easier to incorporate into service area pages. For instance, you can create a web page for ‘real estate lawyer services in Denver, Colorado’ and provide the details of your legal services on the page.
Purchase-intent or transactional keywords
Purchase-intent keywords are used by searchers when they are ready to make a purchase. In the context of law firm SEO, these are the keywords which hint that the searcher is on the verge of contacting a law firm, hiring an attorney’s legal services, or making some other form of transaction such as a chat or an email message.
For this very reason, these keywords are immensely important. They target an audience which is going to make a decision briefly. So the people using these keywords are more likely to convert into clients.
Some examples of purchase-intent or transactional keywords include:
- Best car accident lawyer in Denver, Colorado
- Who is the best insurance lawyer in Austin, TX?
Purchase-intent keywords often overlap with the location-based keywords. Again, this is no surprise – in both cases, the searchers are closer to making a decision based on the results of their search. So your keyword research should focus on finding relevant purchase-intent keywords and optimizing your website’s content for them.
Most of the search keywords used by the searchers are long-tail keywords (more than 80% according to leading SEO sources like Ahrefs).
As previously discussed, long-tail keywords are keywords that are highly specific. They may carry a low search volume but they come from searchers who know exactly what they want – and if you can cater to this, you have a much higher possibility of converting them into clients.
Long-tail keywords can be perfectly targeted through blog posts that are about them.
‘How to file for bankruptcy without an attorney’
This is a long-tail keyword. This keyword has a low search volume – but if you create a blog post that directly answers this question, you have gained a loyal reader. Getting this reader to move along your content funnel is easier because he or she already knows that you can answer their questions and solve their problems.
A comprehensive law firm SEO strategy must include content created around long-tail keywords. This is critically essential for long-term success with the strategy.
Navigational keywords are the keywords that a person uses to directly reach your website or seek information regarding your law firm. Navigational keywords can also be about specific products or services.
When it comes to law firm SEO, it is highly recommended that you focus on the handful of navigational keywords that directly relate to your firm. This is essential so that the searchers using these keywords are not routed to any other misleading sites using your firm’s name.
Keyword Research Tools
A number of keyword research tools are available which can allow you to shortlist the right target keywords for your law firm SEO strategy. These tools allow you to gauge the yearly volume of a keyword, the cost of using the keyword in cost-per-click ads, overall difficulty of ranking for that keyword and so on.
When it comes to quality keyword research tools, you have plenty of both paid and free options. Free tools generally offer a more limited set of data for the keywords – paid tools go into greater depth and let you take a clearer view. We’ve covered both free and paid tools in the list below.
Google Search Console
Google is the main search engine for which most websites strive to rank – so it makes sense for law firm websites to use a keyword tool from Google. Google Search Console is such a tool.
Search Console provides you data about the search volume and other statistics about a keyword. But it comes with a major limitation. It only provides you data for keywords that are already bringing visitors to your website. So it does not let you explore and research other potential keywords which may be useful for you.
Google Keyword Planner
The Keyword Planner is another excellent tool from Google. It is particularly useful if your law firm intends to run paid ads on Google and other platforms. You can also use the tool to dig up relevant organic keywords for which to rank your content.
Keyword Tool is the perfect tool for researching keywords across Google, YouTube, Amazon, Bing and a number of other platforms. It is particularly useful in researching the right longtail keywords for your law firm SEO.
When searching Google keywords, Keyword Tool gives you the option of selecting from various languages and regions. This is virtually a free alternative to the Keyword Planner tool from Google.
We’ve covered SEMrush in the step-by-step guide below. This is one of the most useful, nifty keyword research tools out there. It has a solid reputation and offers you an excellent insight into the standing and potential of various keywords.
That being said, SEMrush is paid – although it is not a very costly subscription. You can get a taste of the tool by using the free trial to look up a few keywords.
Ahrefs is a comprehensive SEO tool that also offers excellent keyword research. Simply punch in a keyword and Ahrefs will show you the volume for that keyword, matching phrases, CPC, number of paid clicks for that keyword and so on.
Ahrefs is an industry leader in SEO research. It offers a 7-day free trial but you can choose from various paid options to make the most of it.
Step-by-step guide to conduct keyword research using SEMrush
You can conduct keyword research using one of the tools listed above. For the purpose of this step-by-step guide to keyword research, we have used the free trial version of SEMrush. However, rest assured that the process is more or less the same across all keyword research tools.
That being said, a keyword research tool will only get you so far. You also need to be clear about your target audience and SEO objectives when doing keyword research.
If you don’t know where to begin, consider this: what do your current clients want or get from you? And why do people search online for law firms like yours? The answers to these questions provide a good starting place for your research.
To use the SEMrush tool, navigate to its main website and sign up or log in. You will be then be asked to provide a keyword for which to conduct research, as shown in the screen below.
Once you input the keyword, you will be presented with various metrics related to it. Notable keyword metrics include overall volume, cost per click or CPC, keyword difficulty or KD and SERP. Let us consider each of these.
When you punch a keyword such as ‘car accident lawyer’ in the SEMrush tool, you are presented results in the format shown below.
Note that the ‘Volume’ for this keyword is 22.2k or around 22,200. This means that the average yearly volume of this particular keyword is 22,200. In other words, this keyword has been used 22,200 times in the past one year for people looking for lawyers related to car accidents.
The volume shows you whether or not a keyword is worth ranking. As discussed previously, you should look for high-volume keywords as a general rule-of-thumb but there are exceptions. Long-tail keywords, for instance, which are highly specific, are worth ranking for even when they have a low search volume.
At the same time, you need to pay attention to another useful metric: Cost-per-click or CPC. If you intend to run CPC ads for a keyword as a part of your paid SEO efforts, SEMrush gives you an estimate of what it is going to cost you.
In the Paid Search section, the CPC for the keyword ‘car accident lawyer’ is $209.61. This is the average cost of acquiring a single click for this particular keyword – the cost is fairly high for this keyword which means it is highly competitive.
Competition refers to the density of advertisers trying to bid for this keyword. The more the number of bidders, the greater is the cost for paid search. Competition is a metric between 0.00 and 1.00 – 0.00 means no competition while 1.00 means fierce competition.
While Paid Search and Competition are mostly concerned with the Paid Search, you can also gauge the organic difficulty of one or more keywords.
Navigate to the ‘Keyword Difficulty’ section from the left panel as shown below.
You can add one or more keywords and then gauge their relative difficulty. Keyword Difficulty is a measure between 0 and 100. 0 means a given keyword is incredibly easy to rank and has little competition. 100 means that a keyword has endless competition and is incredibly hard to rank for.
The screen below shows the relative difficulty for the four keywords we have entered above.
So according to this data, ‘car accident attorney’ has the highest keyword difficulty of the four keywords. ‘Motorcycle accident lawyer’ has a slightly lower difficulty but it also has a relatively lower search volume.
When you are conducting keyword research, your ultimately aim is to find keywords that are relevant to your law firm and relatively easier to rank for. Look up related keywords and scour through the rest of the keyword-related data offered by SEMrush.
At the same time, remember that keyword research is more than just stats and numbers. You have to bank on your intuition and understanding of your target audience to finalize the right keywords using this data.
Chapter ROI by Jordan Stambaugh, CEO of Cloudburst Marketing
Keywords, keywords, keywords. It’s how people navigate the internet and find what they’re looking for. Some are harder to rank for than others so doing your research and finding keywords your competitors aren’t going after is a great strategy for some easy wins. In fact, we call that our “Easy Wins” approach to SEO. Reach out to us to learn more how to implement this strategy.
Legal Content and Law Firm SEO
Content forms the backbone of a website and any good SEO strategy. Good content will lay down solid foundations on which you can build success for your website, and your law firm.
Legal content is the specific type of website content that goes on to the website of a law firm. Such content may include the main practice area and service pages, the blog posts and articles, as well as any value-added resource pages such as guides, tutorials, videos, eBooks and more.
Many law firms are so eager to rank in search engines that they start creating content without a plan. This may bring them short-term success but leads to poor results in the long-run.
A smart SEO strategy first creates a proper content framework and plan. All the content that is then created for the website follows this framework.
How to create this framework, you ask? Here’s the answer.
Content Framework for Legal Content
As stated above, all legal content should ideally be created within a content framework and according to a content plan.
In order to do this, you must be clear about the goals you wish to achieve through various forms of content.
In general, legal content can be classified into three areas:
Blogs: Blogs target long-tail keywords. They are the main fodder for your attorney SEO campaigns. Legal blogs are also known as blawgs. Blogs do not directly sell your services – instead, they are meant to target long-tail keywords used by people with specific legal queries. So the content on a blawg essentially serves as the top-of-the-funnel content for your website.
Resource Pages: Resource pages are the middle-of-the-funnel stuff. They provide detailed information about specific legal topics and queries. Once a person comes to your blawg and understands that your law firm website has good content to offer, you can use a resource page link to direct them to more valuable content on your main website.
Practice Area Pages: This is your bottom-of-the-funnel content. Practice Area pages are where you actually provide detailed information about the services you offer. This is where you make the final push for a potential client to take a specific action such as call an attorney, engage with on-website online chat or send an email.
Now that you know the position of the three types of content along your SEO funnel, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty.
Legal Content Creation
When it comes to legal content, every page and every post on your website matters. Each page should serve a specific purpose – it should have a specific position in the SEO funnel and accomplish something for satisfying the people who are coming to that part of the funnel.
Here are some guidelines on how to create effective legal content.
As mentioned above, blog posts target long-tail keywords. ‘When to hire a personal injury attorney’ – you can craft an entire blog post around this topic.
In general, the more specific the topic is, the more effective will it be in capturing the interest of someone searching for that topic. You can use the Keyword Research chapter to look for relevant long-tail keywords and then craft content around them.
Following are some best practices for creating good law firm blog content:
- Offer relevant content. This goes without saying. The content you offer on your blog must be relevant to your target audience, keywords and the services you offer. It must serve a purpose for your purchase funnel.
- Offer genuine value. Avoid filler content at all costs. Offer genuine value to your readers in every blog post you publish. In fact, try to go the extra mile and offer the kind of information in your blog posts that is not offered by anyone else. Unique content is pure gold for an SEO strategy.
- Have a content plan. There are different types of blog posts you can create as legal content. Popular varieties include listicles, question-based posts, posts related to current news and so on. Categorizing your blog posts will keep your content organized and let you follow a content creation and publishing plan.
- Keep your posts structured. The overall look and readability of your blog posts should be consistent. Use the same fonts, use headings and subheadings to break down the text, keep the paragraphs short and meaningful, and provide links to useful external resources where suitable.
- Optimize for keywords. This one also goes without saying. Make sure your target keywords are suitably located in the URL, title, headings, subheadings, image texts and other areas of the blog post.
- Encourage social sharing. Blog posts are shared most often – this is because they contain information that is useful for a large section of people. Be sure to include social sharing buttons on all your blog posts.
- Be Creative. There are many ways of finding exactly what kind of legal questions people are asking in your service areas. You can scour through legal forums, check out sites like Quora, and look at the ‘People Also Ask’ and ‘Searches Related To’ sections on the main Google search results pages.
You blawg must be updated often with relevant posts. You can generate post ideas through brainstorm sessions or use a variety of tools. Following are some excellent tools to generate legal content blog ideas:
Pillar pages, also known as resource pages, offer detailed information on specific topics to the visitors who arrive at a law firm website.
Typically, pillar pages include links to various resources on a given topic. These resources can exist on your site in the form of related blog posts and articles – or they can be linked from other authoritative websites.
The ultimate purpose of a pillar page is twofold.
At one hand, it provides a visitor with a treasure-trove of resources on a topic he or she is interested in. At the other hand, it gives other website owners a reason to link to your website by citing the valuable pillar pages you have on your site.
It is important to note that creating a pillar page is more than just adding a dozen links to a web page. Instead, you should look for relevant links, organize them properly and create some content around them as well.
Following are some best practices for creating effective legal resource pages:
- Know your audience. Before you start building a pillar page, know your audience. Then determine what this audience wants in terms of legal advice and information. With this knowledge, build a pillar page with links that may be genuinely useful to this audience.
- Use internal links. When creating a pillar page, you can include links from your own website. If you are creating a pillar page about ‘personal injury law’ for instance, you can include links to relevant blog posts and articles you already have on this topic.
- Include external links. Your pillar pages should not be limited to internal links alone. Instead, look for useful and relevant links at other websites as well. For instance, you can link readers to the federal and state stipulations regarding ‘personal injury law’ by connecting them to other legal websites.
- Include a lot of resources. The more resources you include on your pillar pages, the better. Your ultimate aim should be to have a comprehensive web page that includes virtually all the relevant information for the topic at hand.
- Expand and Update. Pillar pages should be expanded and updated on an ongoing basis. You can update them with links from around the web as well as relevant new content you publish on your law firm website.
- Focus on authoritative resources. When scouring relevant resources from around the web for your pillar pages, focus on authoritative sources. This gives your pillar pages a good standing, both in the eyes of your readers and the search engines.
- Organize the resources. Instead of simply stuffing the pillar page with links, try to categorize and organize the resources. Use headings and subheadings to let visitors know where they can find the information they are looking for.
Pillar pages are an excellent way of bringing organic traffic to your website. They also establish authority for your legal content and persuade other websites to link to your site. You can also use the pillar pages to generate topic ideas and clusters for your blog content.
Practice Area Pages
These are the bottom-of-the-funnel pages that offer details about the legal services and legal service areas you cover. These are the pages where people convert from potential prospects into potential clients. This is why Practice Area pages should also include suitable Call-to-Action (CTA) texts to prompt a specific action (Make A Call, Book An Appointment, Get Free Legal Advice etc.).
Use these best practices to craft SEO-friendly Practice Area pages:
- Be as specific as possible. When creating Practice Area pages, anchor each page on a very specific legal area. For instance, if you are an Intellectual Property Attorney, you should create separate pages about ‘Trade Secrets’, ‘Patents’, ‘Copyrights’, ‘Trademarks’ and so on.
- Localize where possible. If you offer your legal services in more than one city, create a different web page for each city. For instance, if you offer Intellectual Property Law services in Dallas and Austin, you should create specific pages like ‘Trade Secrets attorney in Austin’ and ‘Trade Secrets Lawyer Services in Dallas.’
- Offer detailed content about your services. Give all the relevant details about the services you offer. Include a video to more directly speak with the potential clients.
- Show off your credibility. Practice Area pages are where you can show off your legal credibility. This can be done by including social badges, legal certifications, client reviews and other content that may establish your standing in the eyes of the reader.
- Encourage contact. The ultimate aim of a Practice Area page is to encourage the reader to take an action – in most cases, it is to contact your law firm. Make it easy for the reader to contact you by offering multiple options – online chat, text message, phone number, email address and so on.
- Use CTAs. As stated above, call-to-action texts are a must-have for your Practice Area pages. The call-to-actions should be direct but subtle – do not use too many CTAs or texts that may sound pushy to the potential clients.
Although Practice Area pages are meant for visitors who have already passed through your content funnel, you can still include relevant keywords on these pages. This makes them more visible to the audience looking for specific legal services.
Paid Ads and Legal Content
Your law firm may decide to run ads on Google, Facebook, Youtube or other platforms as part of its SEO strategy. Paid ads cost significantly which is why it is important to get them right.
As a general rule-of-thumb, paid ads should tie in with the legal content you have on your website and blog. When you are targeting a more general audience, advertising relevant blog posts will be more effective in garnering their interest. Once they are interested, they enter your content funnel.
You can also target a highly specific audience with more specific content such as your Practice Area pages. This typically costs more as the keywords in this category are costly to bid for on platforms like Google.
Chapter ROI by Jordan Stambaugh, CEO of Cloudburst Marketing
Let’s face it – you probably don’t have the time to write +10,000 words for your website’s content, or want some kid abroad writing high level legal marketing content. It’s in your best interest to find an SEO team who has awesome legal content writers on staff to develop all of your content for you.
On-Site Legal SEO for Law Firms
On-site SEO is one of the most important components of your overall law firm SEO. On-site SEO, as the name suggests, includes the techniques and tips to optimize all the on-site content for search engines.
On-site SEO can be broadly categorized into various sections. Following are the major areas of on-site SEO that you need to be considered in SEO for lawyers:
- Title Tags
- Header Tags
- Image Optimization
- Keyword Placement
- Responsive Design
- Duplicate Content
- SEO-friendly URLs
- Site Schema and Structured Data
Here is a detailed view of each of these areas.
Important On-Site SEO Considerations for Lawyers
The Title Tags of your web pages are critically important. They signal search engines what a given page is all about. And they are the ones that turn up on the search engines results, so they are your first impression on someone searching the relevant content. The more relevant and impressive title tags are, the more likely a searcher is to click on them and arrive on your website.
Following are some actionable techniques you can use to make sure your Title Tags are optimized for search engines:
- Place your keyword as close to the beginning as possible. Google gives more weight to the first few words of the Title Tags, so placing your keywords towards the start gives you more organic reach.
- Use characters like colons and hyphens to help in placing keywords towards the beginning. If you are offering a full list of SEO tools for law firm SEO for instance, you can use a title like “Law Firm SEO: The Definitive Toolkit.”
- Use modifiers to target long-tail versions of your keywords. For instance, if you are using the primary keyword ‘Texas Car Accident Attorney’, you can use modifying phrases such as ‘when to hire’, ‘how to hire’ and ‘best.’
Title Tags are your first interaction with the searcher. It has the potential of turning that searcher into a website visitor, or losing that searcher to the competition. If your title tags are relevant, well-crafted and optimized, it will attract the right audience. The more people it attract, the more Google is convinced that the result is relevant, ending up upranking it for the target keyword.
Header tags are essentially the headings and subheadings you use on a page. For a search engines, these are important – if your keywords are optimally placed in the header tags, it signals the search engines that the primary keyword is focused in the content.
For the visitors, header tags make it easier to scan the content and quickly determine whether it’s relevant. So it improves the readability and on-site user experience.
Following are some handy insights to improve your site’s header tags:
- Always use an H1 tag. Even if there is little content on a given page, you still have the room to use an H1 tag. An H1 tag is considered by a search engine whether or not the page is relevant – so make sure to use your target keyword in the H1 tag.
- Use subheadings with H2, H3 and other tags. For one, it organizes your content more aesthetically. Also use keywords in at least one subheading.
- Experiment with variations of the main keyword in the subheadings. You may not always have the room to use the exact keyword phrase in the subheadings. So go with minor modifications and variations.
- Use headings naturally. Do not create forced headings and subheadings in a bid to create header tags. This will affect the quality of the content. A great way to create natural headings by offering genuine value and using longer content posts.
Most law firm websites tend to ignore the on-site images. On-site images have the potential of making a huge contribution to the SEO of your website.
Images signal search engines what the content on a given web page is about. However, images that are added without descriptions and ALT tags fail to accomplish this.
This is why it is important for attorneys to consider the following image optimization guidelines:
- Use ALT tags. ALT tags are an HTML attribute that tell search engines exactly what an image is all about. For this reason, make sure that you use the images most relevant to your primary keyword.
- Mention your primary keyword in the ALT tag. If you only want to use an image title, use the primary keyword phrase where suitable.
- Optimize the law firm logo. Attorneys must use the law firm name to optimize the logo.
- Make sure your images load quickly. You have to find a balance between image quality and load speed. Law firm websites can use specialized techniques such as progressive image rendering to achieve this balance.
- Use images naturally and strategically. The general purpose of an image is to complement the text on a page. It should be relevant to the text and positioned so that it has a maximum impact. General images can go at the top of the page – specific images can be peppered throughout the text.
Keyword placement has been discussed in the previous chapters. However, it is worthwhile to mention it once more in the context of on-site SEO.
Attorneys should use the primary keywords for each page in the URL, page title and header tags of that page. The primary keyword should also appear in the first 100 words of the article.
Following is a handy checklist to consider when ensuring keyword placement:
- Page URL
- Page Title Tags
- Header Tags
- Image ALT text
- First 100 words of the content
The bulk of internet searches today originate on a mobile device. In other words, most of the traffic on Google comes from smartphones and tablets. For this reason, Google has been evolving its ranking algorithm to give more weight to mobile-specific metrics.
In fact, Google has two separate search results indexes now. One is specific to desktop users and the other is displayed to the mobile users. Since most of the traffic comes from mobile devices, most attorneys should strive to have their website optimized for both.
Mobile-responsiveness is an important part of law firm SEO. It incorporates various factors that ensure that your website delivers a consistent quality user experience on mobile devices as well.
Here are some practical tips for a mobile-responsive website design:
- Use Mobile-Friendly Test Tool from Google. This tool asks you to input the website and then analyzes whether or not the website is optimized for mobile devices (as shown in the screenshot below). It also specifies various errors that can be corrected to improve the site’s mobile-friendliness.
- Choose mobile-responsiveness over creating a separate mobile-only website. A mobile-responsive website delivers a better user experience.
- If your site is not already optimized for mobile devices, you can use a responsive theme. Alternatively, you can go with a mobile-responsive CMS such as WordPress.
Duplicate content is content that is exactly the same across multiple locations or pages of your website. Duplicate content raises a key concern for search engines – which of the duplicate copies is the original, and which of them should be shown in search engine results.
If duplicate content exists on your own website, it can lead to a competition for the target keyword by multiple content copies. If it exists on other websites, Google may choose to rank those sites for the content which originally belongs to your website.
For this reason, it is advisable for attorneys to identify any duplicate content on their website. You can also use various tools to look for duplicate content on other sites.
Here are some actionable tips to handle duplicate content on law firm websites:
- Minimize boilerplate content. Law firms may have to use some form of boilerplate content that is duplicated across multiple pages. To minimize the duplication, you can choose to have a minimum amount of text in the boilerplate copy.
- Define a Canonical URL for Google. You can use this useful resource from Google to define canonical URLs. Basically, a canonical URL is the one that is the most representative of all the duplicate copies. When you specify a canonical URL, Google automatically treats any duplicates as secondary and does not use them for search engine results indexing.
- Get rid of unnecessarily duplicate content. Duplicate content may serve a purpose, or it may be there for no reason. If this latter is the case with the content on your website, take some time to identify the unnecessary copies and get rid of them. To preserve backlinks, you can retain duplicate pages, remove their content and re-route them to the primary copy of the content.
- Ask other site owners to take down duplicates of your content, unless you have authorized them to do so. If you have guest posted your site’s content on other sites, make sure you have defined which is the canonical URL.
Search engines crawl your website and index its content. So the first step towards achieving better search engine rankings is by making all the important content on your site visible to these search engines.
Search engines programs that crawl your website pages are typically called crawlers. Now, there are many ways in which you can help the crawlers scan and index your website more effectively. Alternatively, there are bad practices which can lead to errors and prevent crawlers from getting to all the important content on your law firm website.
To optimize crawlability of their sites, attorney can use the following best practices:
- Configure a Robots.txt file for the site. Such a file essentially tells the search engines about the areas of the site that need to be crawled and indexed. Robots.txt also defines how often the site should be crawled. A misconfigured robots.txt file can mislead the search engines and leave our important pages from being crawled.
- Identify and remedy 404 Errors. A 404 Error page is one which is broken. When Google’s crawler comes across a 404 Error, it doesn’t crawl that page. If such a page has links to other pages, the crawler may be prevented from reaching those pages as well. So you need to identify and remedy the 404 Error pages.
- Use page redirects. If you have a 404 Error page, it’s either a completely useless page, or it has some value. Pages that have backlinks, are receiving some traffic, or have an important place in the site structure, are valuable in their own might. You may want to preserve these pages. You can do so by using a page redirect and eliminating the 404 Error.
- Use Meta Tags. Meta tags are typically used in page headers. They are a great way to have your pages crawled and indexed by search engines.
The URL of a web page is very important to its SEO standing. Attorneys should strive to have all website URLs optimized.
You can use the following standard best practices to optimize URLs for search engines:
- Keep them as short as possible. Shorter URLs have numerous advantages. They are preferred by search engines and generally rank better. And they are easier to remember, so people find it easier to share them with others.
- Use the primary keyword. Your primary keyword must be used in the URL. In fact, URL placement is a vital part of overall keyword optimize of your website.
- Keep them simple and relevant. The URL of a web page should give a glimpse of what the page is about. So keep them simple and straight-forward.
- Use directors to organize URLs. Attorneys may cater multiple cities, or they may offer multiple legal services in a specific legal area. Each location or each sub-service area must have a separate web page. Law firm websites can use directories to organize the URLs accordingly.
Examples of an SEO-Friendly URL:
A good SEO-friendly URL is short, relevant and well-structured. For instance:
In contrast, URL unfriendly to SEO for the examples can be something like:
SSL Certificate for Attorney Websites
An SSL certificate is a great way of securing your law firm website. Google currently uses on-site security certificate as one of the metrics used to rank a website. So if you have a security certificate installed, it helps in achieving a better SEO standing for the site.
You can purchase an SSL certificate from a hosting company. The certificate shouldn’t cost a lot of money and is generally a more pertinent requirement if you are going to accept online payments or process sensitive data.
Here is a detailed resource from Google on how to ‘Get an SSL certificate for your domain.’
Once you have an SSL certificate installed, your website is marked as ‘Secure.’ Without such a certificate, the site is marked as ‘Not Secure.’
With online users increasingly conscious about the security and privacy of their information, it is advisable for law firm websites to have an SSL certificate installed.
Once you have the certificate installed on your site, go to Search Console. Choose ‘HTTPS’ as the preferred URL in place of HTTP. At the same time, redirect all the traffic from HTTP to HTTPS.
Site Schema and Structured Data
Structured data is a way of defining machine-readable values for different types of content. It is typically used for content types which are otherwise ignored by a search engine.
The content defined in structured data is indexed by search engines and often displayed in search engine result snippets.
For instance, if you have a Services page and it has a certain number of reviews with an average total rating, you can assign a value to this rating using structured data.
Once Google recognizes the rating, it will display it as part of the search results when showing the page.
Schema is the same as structured data, except that it comprises of agreed-upon values defined by Google and other leading search engines. So when you use Schema markup on a law firm website, search engines recognize it more readily.
Using Schema, you can identify and highlight different types of content so that the search engines can understand and index it easily. This includes phone numbers, email addresses, business names, addresses, articles, blog posts and more.
So you can essentially add a Schema markup for virtually all types of content on your attorney website.
Adding Structured Data
You can add structured data to your website using a variety of tools. Some of these tools are offered by Google itself.
- Using Google’s Markup Helper
Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper is an excellent tool in this regard.
For the purpose of the example below, I’ve used a job listings page from indeed.com. Now, Google offers ‘Job Listings’ as a distinct type of markup. To generate the markup, simply provide the URL and select the right category as shown below:
Now hit Start Tagging. On the next page, the tool asks you to select any data and then choose its particular category:
For instance, ‘Link Building Specialist/SEO Specialist’ is highlighted and selected, upon which the markup tool presents various options to categorize this content. As this is the Title of the job posting, we will select ‘Title.’ Once you select the data type, it is displayed in the right-hand column:
The next step is to generate the HTML for this content. To do so, hit the ‘Create HTML’ button at the top right corner. This will display a screen like this:
So now you have the HTML code which you can embed into the back-end code of any web page to markup the specified data. You can use the tool to markup all kinds of data on an attorney site, get HTML code and then use the code.
- Using WordPress Plugins
If your website is built on WordPress, here are some great news: you can use a host of free and paid plugins to quickly add schema to your web pages. Plugins make the process a lot easier and quicker. So if you want to add schema to web pages on a regular basis, which you should, WordPress plugins are a great way of doing so.
Here are some popular WP plugins which let you add schema to your site:
- Adding Schema Manually
You can also add schema to your website manually. However, be warned that this typically requires an extensive knowledge of the back-end site functionality and HTML coding. If you are tech-savvy enough to handle this, take a dig and see if you can manage the schema on your own.
Alternatively, you can have your in-house tech support to get the job done. When creating the schema for your site, a good starting place is Schema.org where you can find all the relevant information and the right tags.
Another great help is the Structured Data Testing Tool from Google. This tool essentially analyzes a web page and tells you if the site schema is properly configured. Use the tool at the end of your manual schema definitions to see if you’ve got it right.
Chapter ROI by Jordan Stambaugh, CEO of Cloudburst Marketing
If you get your on-site SEO right the first time you will save time, money and headaches later down the road in your SEO campaign. It’s like the saying goes “There’s no point in filling a leaky bucket!”
Law Firm Local SEO
Local SEO is the cornerstone of a successful SEO campaign for law firms. It is of particular importance to attorneys as most attorneys offer their services within a defined geographical area. Optimizing your website and overall general presence for that geographical area leads to a better organic reach.
Why is Local SEO important?
Local SEO is immensely important for a variety of reasons:
- Local results are more prominently displayed by Google
- Local searches are more likely to convert into actions such as visiting your site, calling your office or booking an appointment
- Local SEO more effectively focuses on your target audience
- Local SEO helps searchers find relevant information about your law firm such as its address, phone number, email and office location.
How does Local SEO work?
Local SEO works by catering to the search intentions of the local audience. Typically, when people search for a law firm in their neighborhood, they want to know about the firm’s name, contact information, services and other details.
Their intent is clearer, so they are closer to making a decision. For this reason, a good local SEO strategy can lead to a good growth in organic traffic and leads.
To gain good visibility among local search results, you must cater for a number of factors.
Key components of Google’s Local SEO:
Google is the largest search engine which attracts the bulk of online search traffic. Google also has a local pack of results which are displayed towards the top of search results. The local pack includes only 3 results, so the competition is tough when it comes to it.
To improve your law firm’s chances of being included in the local pack and in the overall organic local search results, optimize your site for the following factors.
When it comes to local search results, Google displays businesses that are more prominent towards the top. Google measures prominence by using various metrics. These include the offline reputation of a business. Museums, for instance, are well-known locations, so they are a classic example of a prominent landmark.
At the same time, law firms with a greater number of reviews and ratings, with a good score, garner online prominence. Links from other sites and directories also contribute to a firm’s overall prominence score.
To gain good prominence in local search results, make sure your law firm in every reputable director and listings website that is relevant. At the same time, ensure the completion of NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) across all citations.
Here are some best practices to achieve good prominence:
- Build a Google My Business (GMB) profile. Make sure to follow Google’s guidelines for business listings. Get reviews on the profile.
- Have your business listed at the relevant sites and directories.
- Ensure consistency and completeness of NAP across all listings.
- Get backlinks to your site through quality content and other measures discussed in the previous chapters.
When a person searches for a local business, Google tries to display the most relevant results at the top. This is simply because Google’s mission is to cater to the actual intent of the searcher.
So if your business is relevant to the search query of the searcher, it has greater chances of showing up in the results. When determining the relevance of a local business, Google takes into consideration the GMB listing of that business.
Here are some great ways to improve and optimize the local relevance of your GMB listing:
- Use the right keywords. If your business is relevant for a searcher but does not use the right keywords, it won’t come up in local search results. So make sure to use the right keywords on your local business listings, including the GMB profile. Use keywords in the descriptions instead of using them in the title of the listings.
- Provide specific categories. If you are an intellectual property lawyer who offers attorney services in patents, trademarks and trade secrets, use specific categories to highlight what you offer. Instead of saying ‘intellectual property lawyer’, mention ‘patents lawyer’ and ‘trade secrets attorney’ in the listing.
- Create and link location-based pages. If you offer intellectual property law services in Austin and Dallas, you should have a separate local page for both cities. Link all the local pages on your site to your GMB profile to ensure maximum local relevance and visibility.
Distance is simply the distance between your business location and the searcher. Google takes this distance into consideration when ranking local search results. So if two businesses are equally relevant to a searcher’s query but one of them is closer, Google will display this business higher up in the results.
There’s not much you can do to optimize this area. At best, you should include complete information about your business location on GMB and other places on the web.
When adding a location for your law firm, make sure you follow these guidelines from Google:
- The location should be an actual address. The office should be open during the defined business hours and in-person interaction with customers or clients must take place.
- You can’t add a location for a virtual or online business with no offline location or presence.
- The business location must be clearly indicated through prominent street signs.
Business Citations for Attorneys
Business citations are mentions of your law firm across various online directories, websites and data aggregators. Google uses these citations to determine the relevance and prominence of your business when delivering local search results.
In general, the more citations you have, the better. However, not all citations are created equal. When seeking online citations for your business, you should look for businesses and directories with a good reputation.
For attorneys, here are some of the most notable places to have their business listed.
Google My Business
Google My Business is the most important place to have your law firm listed online. GMB is specifically geared at local search results, and it is backed by Google. For these two reasons alone, GMB is the most significant signal when trying to rank your business for local search.
As mentioned above, your business must have a physical location with a prominent street sign. And the location must be open during specific hours when interaction with customers or clients takes place.
That requirement met, you can create a GMB listing and optimize it for the local results. Following are some of the key aspects of GMB to consider when undertaking local SEO.
GMB Services Pages
Google allows you to details the services your law firm offers on its GMB services pages. These are the pages where you can include your primary keywords in the service descriptions. However, to make the most out of the Services pages, follow the guidelines detailed in ‘Categories’ below.
Use categories and try to define your business as specifically as possible. For instance, instead of listing your services as a ‘lawyer’, use a specific category such as ‘intellectual property lawyer.’ You can also use ‘Primary Category’ and ‘Additional Categories’ heads.
For a Primary Category of ‘Intellectual Property Lawyer’, you can use Additional Categories such as ‘Patents Lawyer’, or ‘Trademarks Lawyer.’
Reviews and Feedback
The reviews garnered by a business on its GMB profile are a vital contribution to the local SEO strategy. However, attorneys need to carefully consider their local bar regulations before seeking reviews. If your state bar allows soliciting reviews, ask your clients to leave feedback and reviews on the GMB profile of your law firm.
Images are a great way of optimizing your GMB listing. Google allows you to upload virtually endless images to your GMB profile. Use this opportunity to upload relevant photos. These can include photos of the lawyers at a law firm, the office, the area you serve as well as other relevant places and themes. You can also tap into creative commons images online or copyright-free images that are thematically relevant to your legal areas.
As its name suggests, Lawyers.com is a very reputable and well-known directory that exclusively lists the legal services offered by attorneys. You can create a profile for your law firm on Lawyers.com and optimize it by responding to the queries of the visitors, and asking clients to leave reviews on the site. You can also enhance the Lawyers.com presence and standing of your business by occasionally contributing legal content to the site.
Avvo is another excellent legal directory. The website is widely known and recognized in the legal industry. And Google displays results from Avvo on every other legal search keyword.
For this reason, it is important to have your law firm listed on Avvo. Don’t just stop there – maintain a robust presence on the platform. Interact with others, respond with visitor queries and try to earn badges to have your profile more prominently displayed on the site.
Yelp is the go-to review site for most businesses. This stands true for law firms as well. To top it, Yelp is a very authoritative site garnering its strength from peer reviews and feedback. You can improve your local SEO standing by maintaining a good standing on Yelp.
Facebook is the largest social network on the planet. So it makes senses for attorneys to maintain a presence on Facebook through an official page. Your official listing on Facebook also contributes to your local SEO effort.
BBB.org is the website of the Better Business Bureau. BBB is virtually synonymous with quality information on local businesses. When looking for local businesses, BBB is often the go-to resource for most customers. Make sure that you have a complete business listing on BBB.
Helpful Citation Tools
As discussed above, business citations are important for attorneys because they contribute to the local search results standing. However, it can be incredibly cumbersome to get your business listed on hundreds of relevant websites. At the same time, it is important to have it listed on as many relevant sites as possible.
To make the task, you can make use of a number of help citation tools. Citations tools automate the process by asking you vital information about your business such as: name, phone number, address, email, website and description. Such a tool then automatically distributes these details to hundreds or even thousands of relevant directories.
Following are some excellent citation tools to get you started:
Chapter ROI by Jordan Stambaugh, CEO of Cloudburst Marketing
There is so much that can help your local marketing campaign in addition to SEO. For example, your Google MyBusiness Maps Listing. Getting ranked in the Maps is still one of the best lead generation tactics today. Reach out to us for more information on our Maps Takeover Strategy.
Link Building for Law Firm Websites
Backlinks are one of the most important factors used by Google to rank websites. In general, the more backlinks a website has, the higher it will be ranked in the search results of Google.
But there’s a catch.
Not all links are created equal. So your law firm SEO strategy should focus not just on acquiring back links but getting high-quality links from relevant and authoritative websites.
Importance of Off-Site SEO
Off-site SEO is the optimization that is done on off-site places to attract organic traffic to your website. The holistic aim of off-site SEO is to gain better visibility for your website through links, guest posts and listings on other high-authority sites.
Off-site SEO is of vital importance for attorney sites. One of its goals is to perform search marketing and give your website an overall better visibility and authority so that it can rank high in search results.
As discussed above, the cornerstone of off-site SEO is link building. A comprehensive link building strategy focuses on several mediums and techniques. Here are some of the best places and techniques you can use to earn high-quality backlinks for your site.
Link Building Strategies
This one goes without saying. Quality content that is related to your services and relevant to your audience – such content will inevitably attract an organic traffic. And when such content is also unique so that the information offered in it is not available anywhere else, it becomes a coveted and exclusive piece of content. Other sites and site owners would want to link to such content.
Blog posts are an opportunity to craft quality content. The more exclusive your content is in terms of the data, information or advice it offers, the higher is its value. A great way of achieving such exclusivity is by using relevant niches.
A niche should not be about what you do. It should be about what your target audience would find relevant and interesting.
For example, if you specialize in intellectual property cases, a related niche could focus on:
- History of intellectual property laws
- Intellectual property in ancient civilizations
- A rundown of IP laws in different states
Depending on what your target audience is and what it is interested in, you should create content that will attract and engage them. Interesting content quickly becomes viral. And when it is packaged by making it relevant to the services you offer, it can successfully generate valuable backlinks and leads.
Pillar Pages and Complete Guides
Pillar pages, also known as ultimate guides or complete guides, are a one-stop page which contains all the information on a specific topic.
For law firm websites, pillar pages are of vital significance. Think about a high-value, highly competitive keyword that you want to rank for. Now, other websites already rank higher for that keyword because they offer valuable content.
The only way you can outsmart them is by offering a comprehensive set of content about that keyword phrase. This will significantly improve your odds of getting ranked for that keyword.
This guide is an example of a pillar page or an ultimate guide.
If your law firm deals with intellectual property cases, for instance, you can create a complete guide about ‘Hiring an Intellectual Property Lawyer.’ Complete guides are meant to be exhaustive – so make sure to cover what, when, how, why and where as well as any other aspects of the topic.
When creating a complete guide, use your target keyword in the page URL, title, meta description, image ALT texts and other places throughout the content. Also use secondary keywords in subheadings.
If you have other content on your site that is relevant to the guide, make sure to link to it. You should also include external links in the guide to resources that can be genuinely useful to the target reader.
Once you have chosen a topic for your guide, you should aim to create a content that is so comprehensive that your reader shouldn’t need any additional info about reading it.
Complete guides are a perfect way of garnering high-quality backlinks. By linking to external resources, you are also able to tell other sites and siteowners about the rich resource you have created. Others will automatically want to link to it.
Guest posting has earned a bad reputation over the years. This is simply because it has been used in black-hat SEO techniques to generate inauthentic backlinks for sites.
However, when done right, guest posting still has the potential of earning a lot of quality backlinks for your attorney website.
A good place to start is by reading up on exactly what Google considers wrong link-building practices. The page contains guidelines about guest posting as well.
To make the most out of guest posting and to ensure that you don’t end up on the wrong side of Google, here are some handy tips:
- Work with other sites that are genuinely relevant to you. When you have guest posts published on these sites, the backlinks will have that much more value.
- Look for reputable and high-authority sites. When you have your content published on high-authority sites, the backlinks channel that authority into your site as well. A few backlinks from high-authority sites are better than a lot of backlinks from sites with little authority.
- Take it easy. Go on a slow pace when having your guest posts published on other sites. You can go at a faster pace and have tons of guest posts published within a month – but that may get Google to notice you and look suspiciously at your link building campaign.
- Don’t use keywords in the anchor text too often. Using your target keyword in the anchor text that points back to your site is alright in some cases. But if you do it too often, it can cause problems with Google.
Some very reputable guest posting sites relevant to the legal vertical include:
Legal Collaborative Content
Collaborative content is one of the best ways of earning organic traffic and backlinks. Collaborative posts, also known as roundup posts, aggregate the feedback or opinion of various experts on a given topic.
When you publish such content on your website, it immediately adds authority to your site. Legal collaborative content is also a great tool to interact and connect with peers in the same industry without sounding competitive.
So how do you pull off a collaborative piece of content?
Consider this: let’s say you are a law firm that represents intellectual property cases. You can create a perfect roundup post by following these steps:
- Decide a topic. The topic should be broad enough so that it allows you to solicit the opinions of other attorneys and experts. The topic should also have a keyword focus and should be related to your service area. For instance, “When do you need to hire an intellectual property lawyer?”
- Find the relevant experts. LinkedIn is a great place to start as most professionals have a presence on the platform. Shortlist a specific number of experts, preferably around 15 to 20.
- Connect with the experts. Use LinkedIn and other contact information to get in touch with the experts. Sound them out, give them a view of the post you are planning and then ask for their email to share further details.
- Create a professional email template. Email templates are perfect in such scenarios. Create a template where you tell them what you want (their feedback on a specific topic, suitable word length, any other details etc), what they will get in turn (better visibility, participation in a post poised for excellent organic traffic, a link to their site etc) and any other details (when will the post be published etc).
- Create the blog post. Once you have the feedback and opinion of the experts you have contacted, it is time to curate it into a blog post. Be sure to optimize the post for the target keyword. Link to the profiles or sites of the professionals whose opinions are included in the post.
- Share and Promote. Once the post is published, it is time to promote it far and wide. You can start by sharing the link with all the experts who are cited in it.
Once your post begins to get traction, other law firms and legal sites would want to connect to it. This is simply because the post offers genuine value from a diverse set of relevant professionals.
Legal collaborative posts are a great way of getting organic traffic as well as high-quality backlinks. You can create a couple of these posts at the very least for the legal services your law firm offers.
Local Link Building
Local link building is a part of the local SEO techniques discussed in the previous chapter. In order to be successful at local SEO, your site must garner high-quality backlinks from local websites and resources.
Garnering local backlinks will help your site become more visible for the local searchers. It may also propel your content to be included in Google’s much-coveted local pack of search results.
Following are some great strategies and places to gain quality local backlinks:
- Business citations
- Legal directories
- Business reviews and feedback websites
- Profiles on local-specific platforms such as Google My Business
- Content contribution and collaboration with high-authority local sites
- Using offline activities to promote your site to fellow sites and siteowners
- Job listings sites that cater to your target location
To optimize your business for local SEO, try to have your business and website listed on as many local directories as possible. Your focus should be on high-quality legal directories but you can divert from this golden standard to get listed in other local directories as well.
You can automate the process of submitting listings for various sites using a variety of local SEO tools.
Some great tools to help in local-based link building include:
Over recent years, educational links have gained significant notoriety. This is because they often attract link spammers for their perceived higher domain value. However, Google has recently downplayed the important of .edu links precisely for the problem of link spamming.
That being said, not all educational links are created equal. If you are able to earn genuine backlinks from reputable institutions and educational organizations, they can give you a significant advantage in your grand SEO strategy.
Following are some great strategies to get authoritative links from educational sites:
Scholarships are a perfect way of forging a genuine, long-term relationship with a target educational community. To launch a scholarship, follow these steps:
- Create a scholarship. What is the scholarship about? What is the amount of the award? How is the award decided? A structured competition whereby the winner is granted the award is the best approach.
- Come up with a suitable topic if it’s a competition. The topic should be relevant to your legal practice while workable for the students at the same time.
- Determine the amount of award, the method of awarding that amount to the subsequent winter, the submission process, reviewing progress, deadlines and any other guidelines.
- Get in touch with the educational institutions. Focus on institutions with a good reputation and standing. Reach out to the right resource person in these institutions. Have an award program set up on their respective websites.
- Try to reach as many institutions as possible. Once you contact the educational institutions you have shortlisted, not all may respond. So try to include as many institutions as possible in your list.
- Analyze the results. Once the colleges, universities and other institutions create a scholarship or award page for you on their websites, it is time to track the results. Use a link tracking tool to see how many .edu links you earn as a result of the scholarship.
Seminars and Workshops
When trying to earn quality educational backlinks, you can also use offline activities such as seminars and workshops.
- Shortlist a target audience, such as students with a specific aged bracket or at a specific educational level.
- Shortlist the colleges, universities and educational institutes you want to target.
- Create a proposal to arrange workshops and seminars offering help in an area which is relevant to your legal practice, useful to the students and acceptable for the institution.
- Ask the institutions that respond positively to set up a page for enrollment. The page should also include a backlink to your site.
Infographics are an excellent way of presenting data or statistics which can otherwise be boring. Legal jargon, terminologies and numbers can often become tiresome for an average reader. This is why law firm SEO strategies can immensely benefit from using infographics in the place of text-only posts.
Another notable advantage of infographics is their shareability. If done right, an infographic has the potential to go viral, be widely shared over social media and attract high-quality backlinks from relevant websites.
For this reason, you can incorporate infographics into your link-building strategy. The great thing about infographics is that you can also submit them to other websites in the legal vertical when promoting and sharing it.
If you want to pull off an infographic successfully, here are some handy guidelines:
- Cater to your readers. Any infographic should focus on a topic that is directly relevant to your customers and readers. You can use long tail keywords as topics for infographics as they can be very effectively presented in the visual elements of an infographic.
- Do your research. Infographics are known for presenting the relevant statistics, facts and data. So do your research and be sure to include interesting, shareable facts related to your target keyword.
- Solve a problem. An infographic should be more than mere numbers. It should relate to a pain point of the readers by offering a solution, advice, help or guidance. Use the data in the previous step towards achieving this goal.
- Design the infographic. Again, the design, layout and the overall visual appeal of an infographic should be tailored to the content consumption habits of your target audience. This will add that much more appeal to the infographic and attract more visitors. You can build the infographic using one of the many free tools available online or get a professional designer to do the job for you.
Some of the best infographic-designing tools include:
- Make it shareable. It goes without saying that your infographic should have social sharing buttons prominently displayed next to it. In addition, you can also allow people to embed the infographic on their websites by offering an embed code. Use an embed code generator to generate the code and provide it directly below or next to the infographic.
- Share and promote. Once the infographic is live, make sure to promote is proactively. Share it with all the right people over social media and email. Submit it to sites that are relevant and accept infographic submissions.
- Track the results. Your ultimate aim with the infographic is to gain better SEO standing and earn organic backlinks. If you have done this right, the results should start pouring in within days. Use a URL analysis tool to check the number of inbound links and overall rank for the target keyword. Ideally, the number of inbound links should increase as more and more sites link to it. At the same time, the rise in inbound links will also uprank the URL in the search results for the target keyword.
You can use a variety of backlink analysis tools to track the results. Some of these tools include:
Podcasts are another great way of connecting with your target audience, promoting your services and getting a high-quality backlink to your site.
You can look up legal-specific podcast sites, build a profile on the site and then submit your own podcasts along with the relevant URLs.
Following are some of the most popular legal podcast sites:
Authoritative and reputable media sites are another good resource where you can seek quality backlinks for your sites. You can get membership, create a profile and start contributing at some of these sites. At others, you can answer queries by fellow members and contributors, interact and build up a standing gradually.
Some great media resources to focus on are:
Chapter ROI by Jordan Stambaugh, CEO of Cloudburst Marketing
All links were not created equal. It’s extremely important to only get great links pointing back to your website. Otherwise you run the risk of Google penalizing your website due to it’s spammy backlink profile. Reach out to us to learn more about our Premium Link Building services.
Tracking and Understanding Results
So you have poured a lot of time, money and other resources into your SEO campaign. It is time to track the results from the campaign and find meaningful takeaways from these results.
There are virtually endless tools you can use to track SEO results.
The catch is: each tool has its strengths and weaknesses. One tool may be good at backlink analysis but may not be so good at keyword research. Another may be great at keyword research but offer no help on local citations. So there’s no single tool to help you track and analyze all aspects of SEO.
Instead, you should acquaint yourself with various tools. Then use the ones you find most relevant to keep tabs on different aspects of SEO.
To give you a good starting point, here’s a rundown of some of the best SEO tools in the industry. Using these tools you can plan, execute, track and analyze your SEO campaigns.
Google Search Console
The Search Console is offered by Google and it is completely free. Using this tool, you can track and analyze the performance of your own website in terms of backlinks, SERP appearance, keywords, mobile responsiveness and more.
Backlinks: The Search Console basically shows you the inbound links that point to your site and bring in traffic. This gives you a basic idea of the backlinks associated with your site in general, as well as specific pages on your site. That being said, other tools like Ahrefs offer more detailed view of the backlinks of a site.
SERP Appearance: How does the information available on your site appear in search results? Does information like ratings, reviews and published date of a blogpost also appear in these results? Search Console lets you view this and more. You can improve the markup of your site right away by using this data and then going to Data Highlighter to add markup to your site.
Keywords: The Keywords section of the Search Console lets you see the keywords for which your website or web page is ranking. It also shows the position of the page in search results for these keywords. In addition, the Console provides data about the CTR or click-through rate for these keywords. You can use this data to see which keywords are important for you and whether or not you are successful in optimizing your site for them.
Mobile Responsiveness: Does your website offer a user-friendly experience across mobile devices? You can check this using Search Console. If the site has any technical errors or problems that are preventing it from a mobile-friendly experience, Console identifies them and helps you resolve them.
To make the most out of this tool, it’s best to use it together with Google Analytics, another free tool from Google.
Google Analytics, as the name suggests, provides you with a wide range of useful analytics with which to measure the performance and SEO standing of your law firm website.
In particular, this tool gives you a glimpse of the interactions happening at your website such as page visits and views, traffic sources, on-page and on-site times and bounce rate.
Here is a brief breakdown of what these and other Analytics metrics mean:
Page Visits and Views: This metrics gives you specific numbers on how many times a page on your site has been viewed by visitors. You can use various time brackets to determine the number of views for a page within a given time period.
Bounce Rate: Bounce rate is the rate at which visitors to your site do not expand their interaction and quickly leave from the page they arrived at. A higher bounce rate means the content on your site isn’t engaging enough. By identifying Bounce Rate using Analytics, you can identify such content and then transform into more engaging content.
Traffic Sources: What sites are serving as useful referrals for your site? You can see this in the ‘Source’ section of the Analytics. The source tells you how much traffic each referral site is contributing to your overall number of visitors.
On-page Time: What is the average time a visitor spends on a given page of your site? Like Bounce Rate, this tells you how engaging or uninteresting the content on that page is. Using this metric, you can tweak and improve your content over time to make it more relevant and engaging for your target audience.
One of the most widely recognized SEO tools in the industry, Ahrefs is a paid tool in contrast to the two free offerings listed above. That being said, you can easily sign up for a $7-for-7-days trial to get access to its full range of features for a week.
Although Ahrefs provides a comprehensive range of SEO tools, its true strength lies in backlink analysis. The tool is renowned for offering the best backlink analysis. It accomplishes this thanks to the fact that it has its own crawlers, much like search engines do. So it is able to aggregate actual data from the web in real-time.
Data is also where Ahrefs outsmarts most other SEO tools. It has a huge data set which it maintains to provide sound analysis on backlinks and other aspects of a site’s SEO.
Some of the key metrics which Ahrefs covers include:
Backlinks: This is Ahrefs’ forte. The number of backlinks, the quality of backlinks, the Domain Rating of a URL and other factors help you get deep insights into the backlink strength of a web page or a website. You can tweak and improve your link-building strategy based on these insights.
Domain Rating: Domain Rating, in its own might, is a very useful metric. You can use this on Ahrefs to see which sites are valuable enough to seek backlinks from. You can create a shortlist of the sites which have the potential of offering you high-quality backlinks.
Organic Keywords: What keywords is a particular page ranking for? How many organic keywords has it been optimized for? These are valuable metrics which Ahrefs offers.
Organic Traffic: How much organic traffic is reaching your site or a specific page on your site? Ahrefs also lets you see trends in organic traffic to discern whether your organic traffic is improving, declining or plateauing.
Traffic Value: This metric gives you an estimate of the average value of the traffic reaching your site, or a page on the site. It is related to the pay-per-click or PPC costs.
Ahrefs is an excellent tool for analyzing backlinks and performing analysis on other aspects of an SEO campaign. You can use is to gain deep insights into your law firm SEO campaigns. However, most of the Ahrefs features are so detailed and advanced that you won’t be needing them unless you are an SEO professional.
Moz is an SEO brand that has been around for long enough. The brand is known for being among the pioneers when it comes to innovative SEO tools.
Moz offers a wide range of tools that can be of help to your law firm SEO campaign. You can choose from Moz Pro and Moz Local. Moz Pro gives you access to the full powerhouse of SEO tools. Moz Local is focused on optimizing your local SEO efforts.
Although you can find virtually all important SEO tools within the Moz Pro package, the true strength of Moz lies in its keyword research. In fact, Moz is often spoken in the same breath as keyword research because Moz Keyword Explorer is incredibly powerful and useful.
To use the Keyword Explorer, simply punch in a query. Moz will return key metrics such as the monthly volume for that query, the competition you face in trying to rank for it, the average organic CTR and Priority. You also get related keyword suggestions and SERP analysis.
Here is a brief view of these metrics:
- Difficulty: The Difficulty score for each keyword is a number between 0 and 100. This numbers shows you how hard it is for you to rank for that keyword on the first page of results. If the competition is tough, the number is higher. 0 indicates no competition while 100 indicates a very stiff competition.
- Organic CTR: Organic click-through-rate is the percentage of users who are likely to click on organic links for a given keyword on the search engine results pages. This is a percentage between 0 and 100. The higher the percentage, the easier it is to attract searchers to organic links for that query.
- Priority: Priority ties together all the keyword research metrics and gives you a general verdict. It basically is a sweet spot between search volume for a keyword, Organic CTR and the difficulty of ranking for it. A lower Priority number shows that the keyword is fairly hard to rank for, all things considered. A higher Priority shows that the keyword is easier and more convenient to rank for.
- SERP Analysis: Moz also presents a comprehensive SERP (search engine results pages) analysis for the keywords you research. It brings up the top results for that keyword and provides you information about them, such as Page Authority and Domain Authority.
- Keyword Suggestions: One of the best features of Moz Keyword Explorer is its Keyword Suggestions. This feature returns a rich and vast list of keywords that are relevant to the actual query. It details the monthly volume for these suggestions as well so that you can easily shortlist the more valuable keywords.
As with Ahrefs, you don’t need the full Moz package to plan and execute your law firm SEO strategy. Instead, you can focus on the stand-out Moz features such as its Keyword Explorer and Moz Local. Moz Local is a good help when it comes to business citations and you may want to check it out as well.
Another industry-favorite SEO tool is SEMrush. This tool stands in the same league as Ahrefs. It offers you insights into virtually every aspect of your SEO campaign. And the great thing is that you can set up multiple clients on its dashboard to track multiple sites and domains.
To get the ball rolling with SEMrush, input your site into the tool. The tool will perform a quick analysis and give you a detailed SEO report for the site.
In the example above, SEMrush took seconds to display the average number of monthly visits to the URL we provided. It also identified the number of unique visitors and the total number of pages viewed by each visitor on average.
Breaking down the on-page time further, SEMrush lets you see under ‘Avg. Visit Duration’ the total time which visitors spend on the site on average. Next is the Bounce Rate which shows how many visitors get off the site quickly.
Below, you get a report on the main keywords for which the website has been optimized. It also shows the site’s position in the search results for each keyword, as well as the monthly volume for that keyword.
On the right-hand panel, backlinks section gives you a list of the backlinks as well the trends related to link acquisition and loss over time.
You can also use SEMrush to see how different sources such as Referrals, Social, Search and Paid contribute traffic to your site.
SEMrush is an all-in-one SEO tool and it provides you metrics which you can easily understand and work with. The intuitive and easy-to-use interface are one of the main strengths of this tool.
Other SEO tools you can check out:
Chapter ROI by Jordan Stambaugh, CEO of Cloudburst Marketing
There are many tools to help you make sense of your website’s SEO. While they were mainly created for SEO specialists, you can also utilize these tools to keep an eye on your SEO if you’re a DIY type of person.
Outrank Your Competition and Get New Cases
This is the goal of any SEO campaign. If you’re out ranking your competition then you have the best chance in attracting online searchers to your law firm.
This means more inquiries, appointments and cases retained by your firm.
As a results oriented firm, Cloudburst Marketing assists law firms with 100% Done For You SEO Campaigns that are designed to bring you high value cases.
Contact us today for your free consultation.
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