A practical guide to SEO for law firms
Written by LaFleur
If you’re like most lawyers, you know that you need to take SEO (search engine optimization) seriously, but you probably don’t know exactly what that means. Every month, people search “seo for law firms’ almost 2,000 times according to SEMrush’s data. However, many of your peers get bogged down by the marketing and technical jargon and never make meaningful improvements to their law firm websites.
SEO is the art and science that helps clients and search engines find your website. While it might seem overwhelming at first, your law firm can take simple steps that improve your website’s organic results, boosts your ROI, and gets you better clients. Here’s how.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
SEO is the process of driving more customers to your business’ website. The ultimate goal is to get more people to come to your site through a search engine’s results, not because of a paid ad.
Well-optimized webpages can offer law firm’s a remarkable ROI. A well-designed website and writing high-quality content can attract leads for years—long after you’re done paying for them.
For example, we wrote a blog about personal injury settlements for our client in 2018. The law firm approved the content, paid its invoice, and we published it. Today, the article ranks in the top 100 for almost 300 keywords—including 201 featured snippets. It attracts roughly 601 monthly visitors. Our client doesn’t have to do much to maintain this performance, although we can always modify the content if there’s a significant decline in traffic.
However, that doesn’t mean your website should be static. The search engine’s algorithms are continually evolving, and if you want to rank at the top of a search engine results page (SERP), your site will need to embrace SEO best practices.
There are three broad categories of SEO:
- On-page SEO: how you write and structure your content will affect its organic search performance.
- Link building: credibility matters. When well-regarded websites link to your content, the search engines will notice and boost your rankings.
- Technical SEO: your website’s architecture and design will also impact its performance, especially now that Google is prioritizing user experience in its algorithms.
Your law firm’s SEO strategy should incorporate all three elements. Now, let’s explore them in more detail.
The key to on-page SEO: keywords
Keywords are words and phrases that define your content’s subject matter. In SEO terms, keywords are the words or phrases that people enter into search engines. Digital marketers typically divide keywords into two categories:
- Short-tail keywords: broad keywords, often consisting of three or fewer words. For example, “injury lawyer” would be a short-tail keyword.
- Long-tail keywords: these longer keywords target a niche topic and audience. For example, “how much do personal injury lawyers charge” is a long-tail keyword.
Generally speaking, long-tail keywords are easier to rank for than short-tail keywords. Let’s look at the keyword “injury lawyer.” While it gets 22,200 monthly searches, it’s dominated by high-authority websites. You’re probably not going to rank on the first page for it.
In comparison, “how much do personal injury lawyers charge” gets 140 monthly searches, but it has a much lower keyword difficulty, according to SEMrush. The top competitors for this keyword include websites like AllLaw and individual law firms, so there’s a chance you could rank for it. And the people who are searching this keyword are likely considering hiring a lawyer, not considering law school or looking for jobs.
So, how do you find the “right” keywords?
If you’re like most attorneys, you probably assume that the way you search for services is how your potential clients would search, too. But in lots of cases, it’s not. Your site may rank first for “premises liability lawyer,” but most people search for “slip and fall lawyer.” Rather than building your SEO strategy around the way you think your clients are searching, it’s a good idea to research your keywords.
Keyword research 101
Since you’ve got to learn about what your potential clients are interested in, you need to go where they are. Google has “people also ask” and “searches also related” drop-down menus that show alternate terms and queries based on the keyword you entered.
You can also track your clients’ most frequently asked questions and answer them via your blog. You can also consider checking out your top competitors’ content and other top-performing legal websites (like NOLO) to find popular topics and keywords.
Once you’ve got a set of potential keywords, you can use Google Trends to compare keywords, see whether they are rising or falling in popularity, and even review interest by metro areas. (In the “interest by subregion” section, click on your state and you’ll see the search interest broken down by metro area).
For example, we searched two keywords, “how much is my car accident worth” and “average car accident settlement” on Google Trends.
While the topics might seem similar, “average car accident settlement” gets a lot more interest.
Once you’ve landed on the right keywords, it’s time to optimize your website with those keywords.
Optimizing your law firm’s content
Content optimization involves more than just using your keywords in the title and headings. When legal marketers optimize a web page for SEO, they focus on both its structure and content, making it readable and highlighting their high-value keywords. To ensure that your law firm’s content is optimized, use the following on-page SEO tools.
These appear on search engine results pages and tell both the search engine algorithm and the user exactly what your page is about. For example, on the SERP below, “Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Services for Law Firms” is the title tag.
Google’s algorithms like to see your primary keyword in the title tag. However, the search engine typically displays only 50-60 characters of your title tag (including spaces), so this is an example of a place where less is more. Need help calculating your title tags’ length? Moz offers a free title tag length checker that we love.
This is the text that appears below your page’s title on a search engine results page. In the SERP below, the meta description is “LaFleur leverages cutting-edge technology and inspired talent to create holistic digital marketing solutions for growing businesses across the United States.”
Technically, your meta descriptions will not improve your page’s organic ranking. However, they can increase your click-through rate by enticing readers with a compelling and accurate synopsis of the page. Meta descriptions should be relatively short—Google generally stops showing descriptions after 155-160 characters (including spaces).
Header tags serve two purposes. First, they help search engines and your target audience understand your page’s subject matter. Second, they improve your user experience and your content more readable. Search engines like to see keywords in your header tags, especially the H1 tag (which appears as the title on a web page). You should craft your headers to be skimmable and easy to read, and if read together, your headers should provide a narrative that guides your readers.
Regularly updated, high-quality content
In the past, you could jam keywords into your content and boost your organic rankings. This practice led to some brutally awkward headers, like “Grand Rapids, Michigan, Personal Injury Lawyers, Pedestrian Crash Attorneys, and Commercial Truck Accident Attorneys Focusing on Traumatic Brain Injuries.” Thankfully, the algorithms are much smarter today.
The search engines value three elements when it comes to SEO and content:
- A consistent blogging cadence (ideally 2-4 blogs per month)
- Rich, informative content (increasingly, the top-performing content is over 1,000 words and comprehensively discuss their targeted keywords)
- Informative header tags that highlight core concepts and make the text more readable
Your content can be packed with all the “best” keywords, but if it’s not well-written, well-researched, and engaging, you’ll have trouble getting Google and other search engines to prioritize it.
While high-performing content is relatively low maintenance, you still need to track your website’s key performance indicators. You should regularly visit your website’s Google Analytics page and look for evidence that your content and optimization efforts are (or are not working).
For example, if your bounce rate (the number of people who leave a page quickly), is very high, it might suggest that you need higher-quality content or have inaccurate titles and meta descriptions. On the other hand, steady increases in website traffic, quality backlinks, and conversion rates suggests that your SEO strategy is working.
And when things aren’t on track, don’t be afraid to dig back into your research and try again!
Link building for law firms
When another website links to your content, it builds credibility, especially if it has significant domain authority. A backlink, where a third party’s website links to yours, is like an endorsement or citation, indicating that your content is highly relevant and valuable. However, not all backlinks are created equally.
If you engage in “black hat” link building, it will damage your website’s organic performance (and might even get you blocked from Google). Long story, short: don’t buy links, use link farming, or engage in other dubious practices.
You can, however, link build in other ways. For example, many publications will include a link if you write a high-quality guest blog. You can also build your external links through reputable directory and listing platforms (like Martindale, FindLaw, or Google My Business), community organizations you partner with, and through scholarships and other outreach programs shared on respected .org and .edu sites.
The newest SEO metric: Core Web Vitals
Google’s Core Web Vitals are part of the company’s broader movement toward improving user experiences on websites. CWV is broken down into the following three metrics:
- Largest Contentful Paint: Measures how long it takes a page to load its major content (sometimes called page speed)
- First Input Delay: Measures how long it takes a page to respond to a user interaction (such as clicking a link or tapping a button)
- Cumulative Layout Shift: Measures the amount a page layout shifts while it’s loading
You can measure your page’s performance with a Core Web Vitals report. There are other ways to improve your website ranking, including how mobile-friendly and secure your pages are. A team of dedicated digital marketing professionals can help you improve your webpage’s rankings.
LaFleur can help boost your law firm’s SEO strategy
We know that this is a lot of information to unpack and apply. If you still have questions about law firm SEO, our experts would love to answer them. We love taking difficult concepts, whether they involve digital marketing or the law, and simplify them for people.
Simply call LaFleur at (888) 222-1512 or complete this brief online form. Someone from our team will reach out to you right away. Then, we’ll work with you to improve your SEO strategy and boost your organic traffic.
If you’re not ready to talk, that’s okay! You can also download our free ebook, Law Firm Website Fundamentals. It explores SEO for law firms in detail and offers practical advice for improving your website’s rankings.
Sagoo, A., Sullivan, A., and Sekhar, V. (2020, May 21). The Science Behind Web Vitals. Chromium Blog. https://blog.chromium.org/2020/05/the-science-behind-web-vitals.html