The need for lawyers is decreasing as automation, artificial intelligence and self-service legal solutions replace lower-level work. With competition for clients on the rise, it’s more important than ever for your law firm to generate leads. Search engine optimization (SEO) can help. In this post, I'll explain:
Why does your law firm’s online presence matter so much?
The internet matters because it’s where the clients are. 76% of consumers go online to do a search when looking for a lawyer. If you’re still relying on traditional forms of advertising, you’re losing out. Only 16% of clients search for law firms in the phone book, and a mere 6% contact an attorney they learn about from seeing billboards.
In order to get found online when prospects are looking for an attorney, you need to optimize your law firm’s website for search. SEO helps because it connects your website to terms that prospects use when searching online for law firms. This helps “surface” your site to people searching for what you do. It also ensures your website will show up higher in search engine results making it more likely to get clicked on.
Now that you know why you need search engine optimization, here are the most important tips for doing it.
You can use Google Keyword Planner to find popular keywords people use when searching for attorneys. Although Google Analytics won’t show you what keywords drive the most traffic to your site, it will show you which search terms users most often type into your website’s internal search. Why does that matter? Using this information, you can see what information visitors to your website are most interested in. Then you can create new content using those keywords, or add those keywords to existing content. Both will help improve your site’s SEO.
When people need an attorney, they look for one close by. That's why including your location as part of your SEO is so important.
Include location-related keywords throughout your website, on title tags, meta tags, headings and subheads, as well as in the body copy.
Also be sure that your website is listed on local search directories — especially Google Maps. Google Maps is increasingly important to helping your law firm website get found, and if you have a listing there, your law firm's location will show up on the map when a prospect does a search, like in the example of a search I did, below.
Just as with most types of professional services, location is a big factor in selecting an attorney. If a prospect can see that your law office is 3 miles away while your competitor is 15 miles away, they're more likely to choose your law firm over the competition.
You can make your law firm’s website more SEO friendly by organizing it in a logical way that makes it easier for search engines to crawl. A good way to do this is by creating “content umbrellas”-- that is, grouping related subtopics under one main topic.
The most basic way to do this is to put all your services under the umbrella of "services,” as in this example below:
However, you can go much further with content umbrellas, and this can help your SEO. Take a look at this screenshot of a legal website:
The law firm has broken its services down into four areas:
However, when you mouse over the "Child custody attorney" tab, you'll see several subcategories of the specialty. Take a look at the screenshot below:
Why is this beneficial to the website’s SEO? Because each of these subcategories has its own web page — and each web page provides an opportunity to use the most relevant keywords for that subcategory.
For example, on the “Child-support attorney" page, the law firm might want to use keywords such as:
The more logically your law firm’s website is structured and organized, the easier it is for search engine spiders to crawl it and accurately assess the content.
It used to be that only restaurants, service stations, or other businesses that people suddenly need at the last minute had to worry about mobile searches. And it's still true that most customers don't hop in the car and then start searching for a law firm on their smartphones.
However, consumers are now more likely to use their smartphones than their computers to search online, even when they're at home. It's simply more convenient, since most of us have our smartphones close at hand pretty much all the time.
Design your website with mobile use in mind so that it's easy to navigate on a smartphone. Taking a mobile-first approach is a lot easier than trying to translate a desktop website design into a mobile version. You'll also want to include a click-to-call feature on your site so that prospective clients can contact you easily.
Here’s an example of how a legal website might look on a desktop computer, how the same site would look on a smartphone if it weren’t mobile-friendly (middle) and how it would look on a smartphone if it is mobile-friendly (far right).
Prospects seeking legal assistance are typically in stressful situations, such as a DUI or personal injury case, where time is of the essence. Your website needs to load quickly, both on desktop and on mobile devices, so prospects don't get impatient and leave.
There are a lot of factors that affect your website speed. Google's PageSpeed Insights tool analyzes the speed of each page of your website and offer suggestions for improving its speed.
Useful, high-quality website content is one of the biggest factors in where your law firm's website will rank in search engine results. For example, adding a blog to your website is an excellent way to provide value to visitors while also enhancing your search engine optimization.
Generating ideas for blog topics is easy: Just create blogs that answer the most common questions people searching for attorneys ask. For example, a lot of people want to know if they really need a lawyer, or if they can just handle the task themselves:
"Do I need a lawyer to sell my house?"
“Do I need a lawyer to write a will?"
"Do I need a lawyer for child support?”
Try searching on Google for “Do I need a lawyer for…” and see what auto-complete suggestions come up. Here’s a screenshot of some ideas I got:
Writing articles or blog posts that answer these and other questions will help attract people with those questions to your website.
Of course, while individuals can handle some of these things themselves, you will want to point out the advantages of using an experienced attorney. By educating visitors to your website on the pros and cons of the DIY vs. expert approach, you help them to make an informed decision.
If you don't have the in-house resources to maintain a blog on an ongoing basis, simply create some articles that answer prospects' most common questions and use them on the relevant pages of your website.
Another alternative is to outsource writing these articles or blogging to a freelance writer. There are many websites where you can find bloggers, including Freelancer.com, Guru and Upwork. Be sure to look for a blogger with experience in legal writing and familiarity with your State Bar regulations regarding marketing and advertising (more on that in point No. 7 below).
While hiring a freelancer will require an initial outlay of cash, the results should be well worth the cost in the long run if you find the right writer.
Make sure you follow your state bar’s laws regarding advertising and marketing. You or someone at your firm should review your website copy before it goes live to make sure that you aren't making misleading claims, using terms that could get you into trouble, or otherwise breaking the rules of law firm advertising. When using an SEO company to assist with your website SEO, look for one that is experienced in SEO for law firms.
We've covered a lot of ground here, but to be honest, we've barely scratched the surface of the myriad ins and outs of SEO, not to mention that the rules of search engine optimization seem to change at the speed of light. That’s why it really pays off to hire an SEO expert.
On average, attorneys spend 48% of their time on administrative tasks, 33% on business development, and just 29% on billable work. Wouldn't it be great to flip those percentages around so most of your time is spent on billable work — not administrative stuff? After all, you didn't spend all that time in law school because you wanted to spend your days learning SEO or any other unbillable task.
Keeping up with changes in your field of law is time-consuming enough without throwing complex online marketing practices into the mix. So do yourself a favor ad hire and SEO expert.
Hiring a pro to help with search engine optimization not only takes a load off your hands, but also garners better results than the DIY approach.
In addition, you can find SEO services for lawyers that can take care of more than SEO. Some can also handle paid online advertising campaigns, email marketing, and lead management for you.
When it comes to SEO it’s a long term strategy and you need experts on your side to get results as fast as you can. Hire in experts to do the job properly and efficiently, so you can start attracting new clients from search engines and get back to business.
Feature Image: Unsplash/Melinda Gimpel
All screenshots by author. Taken October 2018.
Image 1, 6: via Google
Image 2: via Family Legal Service Los Angeles
Image 3-4: via Long Beach Child Custody Attorney
Image 5: via Web Express