Article by Chintan zalani Chintan Zalani

SEO for Lawyers:
(Step-by-Step) Law Firm SEO Guide

Last updated

Most law firms struggle with low utilization rates because they can’t establish a pipeline of high quality leads. That’s where law firm search engine optimization (SEO) comes in. It’s one of the most effective law firm marketing tactics which still offers a level playing field against billion-dollar firms.

For instance, one of our personal injury lawyer SEO clients, 1-800 Injured, ranks for the super competitive keyword: “car accident attorney Miami” on the second spot.

Table of Contents

Word image 75

Guess which billion-dollar law firm we outrank?

Find for yourself in the screenshot below:

Word image 76

SEO for lawyers is unlike digital marketing tactics like pay per click — where a firm can throw millions of dollars and appear at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). Getting results requires a sound strategy and effective utilization of resources.

Now, as a law firm SEO agency with proven results in the most competitive (metropolitan) national markets, we have found attorneys fail at search because of three primary reasons:

Word image 77

Today, in our DIY SEO for lawyers guide, you’ll learn:

  • Basics of law firm SEO,
  • How to execute a winning attorney search engine optimization campaign.

Thereby, you’ll prevent yourself from failing at the last two reasons. And as you get results from SEO, your firm will become resourceful enough — even for competitive markets.

Ready to catapult the search engine rankings for your law firm website and give yourself the best chance to set yourself up for SEO success?

Then let’s get started.

Prefer watching our law firm SEO webinar by our CEO, Chris Brencans? Here you go:

(If you want to hire us instead of reading and implementing our SEO advice, contact us. We begin with a free custom SEO audit for law firm websites!)

Is SEO important for law firms?

Search was rated the most effective marketing channel in Brandmuscle’s 2020 local SEO survey. If you want to grow your law practice beyond referrals from the courthouse and word of mouth from clients, investing in attorney SEO can create a pipeline of high quality leads.

Further, once you start building a moat of content and links on your website, the SEO flywheel begins to deliver compounding returns. For instance, below are the leads we generated for one of our long-term law firm SEO clients in one single month. They had executed a planned SEO strategy for numerous months before getting here.

Word image 78
Screenshot of our proprietary tracking software: Trackright!

What are the top search engines for the legal industry?

People seeking legal advice almost always begin with an online search. While there are numerous other search engines, one giant has had over 85% of the market share for over a decade: Google. So focusing on optimizing your site and landing at the top of Google search results will suffice for law firms.

How does law firm SEO compare against law firm PPC marketing?

As we also offer law firm PPC services to clients, we observe that multiple placements for a money keyword in search results can give you a competitive advantage. If your budget allows, we recommend PPC for getting instant traction while simultaneously focusing on building a moat of content and links via SEO.

In some niches, PPC is extremely costly. Look at the insane cost per click in the personal injury market, for instance:

Word image 79

So it makes sense to start the SEO flywheel for your law firm ASAP. Remember that SEO can take 6 to 12 months to deliver results, so stay patient.

How effective is lawyer SEO vis-a-vis social media marketing?

Our law firm clients have got incredible results via SEO and rated it highly over social media marketing. However, social media for law firms is viable if your audience hangs out on popular social networks and likes to read your legal advice there.

Which type of keywords should lawyers start off using for search engine optimization?

Lawyers should ideally target local keywords related to their legal services with high purchase intent. For instance, if you’re a personal injury attorney in Miami, you want to appear in the top 3 local rankings and on the first page for “car accident lawyer in Miami.”

However, if you’re starting a new website for your firm, it will lack trust from search engines. So you’ll need to build legal links and citations to build your site’s authority. Meanwhile, you can consider targeting less competitive keywords that you can rank for. Our legal content writing services start with the identification of the keywords for your firm. These are the ones you need to create content around.

The Ahrefs keyword difficulty (KD) tool is a good starting point for checking the difficulty of keywords and finding ones within your reach right now. If you’re starting from scratch, targeting keywords with a KD between 0-10 could make the most sense. Word image 80

Broad lawyer SEO ranking factors your law firm should focus on…

Google’s algorithm is a black box with hundreds (or more) of ranking factors, but we can club the important ones in the categories below.

Technical SEO for your law firm’s website

Law companies without an in-house developer are typically unaware of their website’s technical SEO. It affects how search engines can crawl and index your website — and understand the content on your web pages. For our clients, we have an extensive technical SEO audit sheet we rely on:

Word image 81

Here’s a quick technical SEO introduction by Ahrefs:

Relevance of content

Typically clubbed under on site SEO, this involves meta descriptions, title tags, internal links, and heading tags (H1, H2, and H3). But more important is the relevance of the content on the page itself. You have to serve the searcher’s intent and address their problems efficiently and comprehensively.

For this reason, whether blogging for lawyers or website content creation for attorneys — both involve legal keyword research. Once you find relevant keywords to your legal services that your prospects are searching for, you can create content that satisfies the user intent.

A tool such as Surfer SEO can come in handy for this. It gives suggestions on keyword usage in your content, overall content structure, the composition of images, and the like. Then returns an overall content score.

Here’s an example Surfer report where our legal content writers nailed the page and got a 75:

Word image 82

Your law firm’s link profile

Link building, clubbed under off site SEO, is one of the most tedious components of law firm SEO. It involves unsexy grunt work of reaching out to website owners and convincing them to link to your law firm’s website.

It’s also tricky because Google Webmaster Guidelines advise against link schemes and paying for backlinks. However, the search giant continues to rely on links from other authoritative and relevant sites in your niche as “votes” of confidence for your website. Here’s our ultimate link building for law firms guide you can refer to learn more.

Local ranking factors

There are two parts of SEO for law firms: the local pack and localized organic results.

Word image 83

And there are four governing factors for local SEO that determine your local visibility:

Word image 84

Since we have already covered organic search results, let’s talk about your map rankings. They are dependent on how you’ve optimized your law firm’s Google Business Profile (earlier called Google My Business):

Word image 85

Here’s our guide on local SEO for law firms for detailed advice on improving your local rankings.

Two ways to execute SEO for lawyers

Before we begin looking at how to run a winning law firm SEO campaign, remember there are two ways to go about it.

DIY law firm SEO

If you have a small law firm and time on your hands, you can execute SEO in-house. Remember to follow a custom SEO plan that gradually uplifts your site’s rankings and traffic (I’ll show you the process in the next section) — do not waste your marketing resources.

Hiring a law firm SEO company

If you’re short of time and want to grow your firm quickly, then hire a law firm SEO expert who can take responsibility for the rankings of your site.

Counterintuitively reputable and reliable law firm SEO services don’t offer first page guarantees. But they have a method to their SEO madness and results to prove their processes work. Also, they focus on the effective utilization of your SEO budget.

Below is a quick comparison between the two options above. We are biased, but we want to help you make the right choice.

ParametersDoing law firm SEO yourselfHiring a law firm SEO agency
Your time investment20 to 40 hours per month to learn and implement SEO tacticsUnder 4 hours per month
CostsLosing $3246.8 to $6853.6 per month corresponding with time spent on SEO*$3k to $5k per month (depending on your market)
CommitmentNot required (but can work against you if you lose steam midway because SEO takes six to nine months to get results)Can have 3-6 months or even longer contracts
Legal expertiseAdvanced levelAgencies can be hit and miss with legal content creation
Attention to detailYour law firm website is your sole project, so it gets undivided attentionYour agency’s time will be divided among various clients

*We’re assuming lawyers make $306 per hour, as found in the Clio 2021 Legal Trends report. Also, SEO agencies charge $134.66 per hour as per an Ahrefs report. You can find both data points here (with links to sources): law firm SEO stats. So lawyers lose $306-134.66 = $171.34 for every hour spent on SEO — that they could have spent on their law practice.

On The Map Marketing started over a decade ago with ranking attorneys on the map. We have proof of efficacy and proven systems that have helped law firms rank in the most competitive markets in the country. You can trust us with your law firm SEO and get back peace of mind to focus on your business.

If you would instead execute law firm SEO yourself, the next section’s for you!

How to start search engine optimization for your law firm?

SEO for law firms can become time consuming and expensive, especially if you don’t have a sound SEO plan. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a targeted one, then iterate it based on your results.

Step 1: Conduct an SEO audit to evaluate your law firm’s website (and find low-hanging fruits…)

Cheap SEO services typically offer a one-size-fits-all solution to all law firms. They will provide you with a certain amount of “links” and “content” per month at a fixed monthly fee.

However, SEO should begin with an audit to evaluate where your website stands right now — we do this for every prospect that contacts us (for free).

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools are great SEO reports on the health of your website. For conducting a more comprehensive audit, here’s a SEMRush tutorial you can refer:

For your local map rankings, you can use a tool like Surfer Local to evaluate your visibility for important legal keywords in your locality. Here’s how our client, Stroleny Law, fared for the keyword “criminal defense attorney” in Miami:

Word image 86

You can further rely on Surfer Local’s local SEO audit tool for evaluating your Google Business Profile.

Beyond diagnosing your website, you should also find low-hanging opportunities for growing your site. Here’s how to do it:

i. Plug your law firm’s website inside Ahrefs.

Word image 87

ii. Find the content that is stuck on page 2 and page 3. For this, use the Ahrefs Top Organic keywords 2.0 report and apply the position filter 11 to 30:

Word image 88

Also, apply a filter for the KD under 20 to find easy to rank keywords.

Word image 89

And the result…?

You’ll get keywords your website can rank on the first page for relatively easily. Minor content optimization or link building will move the needle.

From here, find the most relevant keywords to your law practice that can generate leads. I have tried to mark those in the result below:

Word image 90

Step 2: Craft a custom SEO strategy that fixes your weaknesses (and generates interest for your legal services…)

Now that you know where your website stands create a law firm SEO strategy that helps it maximize its current potential while planning for future growth.

It may mean that if you have keyword cannibalization issues, then fix them on priority:

Word image 91

If your website is not passing core web vitals (CWV), then invest in a website redesign that fixes such SEO issues.

And so on.

On The Map Marketing works with clients dividing the campaign budget holistically across the three pillars of SEO: content, link building, and technical SEO.

Word image 92

For our law firm clients, we like the website content to be planned under silos to establish their topical expertise for their main practice area. Here’s an example content plan for a personal injury attorney across 11 categories and 70 pages:

Word image 93

Our law firm SEO experts also conduct a link gap analysis to find how a client’s site stacks against competitors before building a single backlink. Here’s what it looks like: Word image 94

Depending on your team’s availability and budget, you can plan a similar strategy for your law firm’s SEO efforts.

At this stage, also ensure that your other law firm marketing efforts — even offline ones like event marketing — align with legal SEO.

For instance, we integrated charity efforts by Fasig Brooks into their legal SEO campaign by requesting local links by relevant organizations in exchange for their donations. This helped them attain local links at scale.

Step 3: Execute your SEO campaign in sprints

The number one reason an SEO agency fails in execution is the failure to adapt to changes in the search engine algorithms. For law firm SEO success, you need agile systems so that you can change course based on the feedback you receive via Google Analytics (or Search console):

Word image 95

I recommend you execute SEO campaigns in 90-day sprints. Weekly, monitor your performance and make tweaks slightly (if needed). Your overarching execution plan should be clear and focused for the whole quarter. Here’s what it might look like:

Word image 96

Our SEO tasks are organized using a project management software, Quick Base, where we allocate a project to an account manager. There are links to their “SEO Master Sheet” and other Google sheets for organizing the execution of specific tasks.

Word image 97

Here’s their main audit sheet with the list of sub-tasks it tracks:

Word image 98

Your project management can look extremely different based on the number of marketing professionals executing your SEO campaign.

Maybe your website has a decent domain rating, and you want to focus on creating high quality content to establish your topical relevance this quarter. In such a scenario, you may simply make a content calendar attaching deadlines to keywords you want to target in the next quarter. We do this for our agency’s website:

Word image 99

Ultimately, you want to establish iterative and reliable systems. Don’t set an SEO strategy once and not consider external feedback to adapt it. Also, everyone on your law firm’s SEO team should know the current status of tasks.

Step 4: Evaluate the ROI of your SEO efforts

Many law firm SEO agencies share SEO reports in terms of metrics such as the number of content pieces published, backlinks built, and technical SEO tasks performed.

Those are great for keeping track of the project management perspective at the weekly (micro) level. You should track these as well along the way. But in the macro, you want to analyze those metrics closer to your bottom line — such as organic & map rankings, traffic, and leads. We leverage Trackright, our proprietary tracking system, for the same.

Word image 100

These will ultimately determine if you’re recouping your SEO investment and turning a profit in the long run.

With that said, I want to talk about how to track your SEO success in some common scenarios. Here’s the first one:

In the first six months for a brand new law firm website: Depending on the competition in your market and your resource allocation, a new website is slow to take off the ground. Google takes time to trust you as an authority and send visitors your way.

But you can track the early signs of going in the right direction via Ahrefs and Google Search Console. You can keep tabs on:

  • Increase in the number of keywords indexed
  • Lift in keyword rankings
  • New referring domains month-over-month
  • Increase in domain rating (DR)

Below is a rough way to evaluate the value of links in your market that you can rely on early in your SEO efforts:

For established law firm websites that have executed SEO before: If you have a decent website authority and saw your SEO growth plateau, then you should expect more direct business results from your efforts. Measure your performance via:

  • Increase in organic traffic,
  • Number of phone calls, form submissions, and live chat conversations.

Indeed if you’re an advanced law firm SEO practitioner, I would recommend integrating lead quality and conversion related metrics such as:

  • Number of clients closed
  • Your lead to case conversion ratio

Integrate data from your legal CRM, such as Salesforce, and get into the nitty gritty of how SEO is helping you grow your law firm business. Word image 101

In the long run, you want to get an overview of the growth in your organic traffic and associated tactics you executed for the same. Here’s what it looked like for one of our clients:

Word image 102

And how it has translated into leads and revenue.

Word image 103

Step 5: Tweak your SEO marketing campaign

Whether turning ROI positive or not, you can learn from first-hand analytics data around your campaign. And tweak your strategy based on it.

You can take inspiration from the executive business reviews for our long-term clients. It includes our current results, the places “where we can grow”, and a roadmap.

Word image 104

Here are some common scenarios that you may end up with at the end of a sprint and ideas to iterate your campaign.

Your traffic plateaued or worsened. Then evaluate the SERPs and contemplate how you can climb up your rankings. Maybe you can improve your topical expertise by expanding a specific hub. Or build new links to get your authority at part with the competition.

Your organic traffic increased, but it hasn’t correlated with leads. In such a case, you may evaluate the intent of the keywords you published content around. Also, tweak the subjects for the next sprint, including more commercial keywords.

Your traffic increased and correlated with leads. Great job! You probably will still have more competitive keywords you can target or expand the topical expertise by publishing more supporting pages.

For instance, even with the impressive results for our client that you saw in the last step, we still could have ranked them for important keywords such as “immigration lawyer Miami.” So that was our focus for the next sprint.

Word image 105

The broader idea is to learn from data on what’s working in your strategy and keep experimenting with new SEO tactics.

And that’s it!

Final thoughts

In this article, you learned the recipe for cracking the top spots in SERPs for important legal keywords to your practice. Simply put:

  • It requires you to evaluate where your website currently lacks: technical SEO, backlink profile, or content,
  • Then, create a sprint plan to cover these weaknesses and grow your rankings for important keywords.

Hopefully, now you can analyze and find the components of your law firm’s site that need your attention right now to improve its SEO. I want to leave you with these brilliant prompts by our CEO to evaluate your SEO efforts:

Word image 106

Want our law firm SEO experts to do an SEO audit for you for free? You can use its findings to guide your SEO campaign. And if you’re short of time and need to accelerate your law firm’s SEO results — we can do the dirty SEO work for you while you serve your clients. Contact us today to get started!