Local SEO for Law Firms: 5 Quick Growth Tips (and a simple guide)

Chintan Zalani Article by Chintan Zalani Last updated

Local SEO is a part of lawyer SEO that focuses on getting exposure for attorneys in front of their prospective clients in their primary business location(s). It involves optimizing a law firm’s website to appear at the top of search engine results (SERPs) for keywords with local intent, such as “criminal defense attorney Miami.”

Here’s one of On The Map Marketing’s client ranking in the local-3 pack for the above phrase, which gets them a pipeline of high-quality leads regularly:

Local seo for law firms

We have a decade of experience providing law firm SEO services and ranking law firms at top spots for the most competitive keywords like the ones below:

Word image 44

Today in this law firm SEO guide, we want to share our expertise on how your law firm can crack top spots in Google Maps and local organic search results. Let’s get started with establishing why local SEO is vital for attorneys.

Ranking in local search results is crucial for law firms

Given that each state has different BAR regulations getting clients out of their locality makes little business sense for attorneys. Further, Milestone research of 500 local websites establishes that local SEO brings about 23% digital traffic.

For more competitive law practices like personal injury, SEO makes even more sense. The cost per click for local searches around car accidents and other injury related keywords can run up to $1000:

Word image 45

SEO is a slow burn. It can take up to a year in competitive markets to start cracking the top spots in the local-3 pack, but once the SEO flywheel starts, results compound over time.

Here’s what the Google My Business for a criminal defense attorney looked like when they started working with us:

Word image 46

Within a year of working with us, here’s how their keyword rankings for GMB fared:

Word image 47

More importantly, here’s how the jump in rankings translated into call leads:

Word image 48

Screenshot from our proprietary tracking software: TrackRight.

Local SEO for Law Firms: Ranking Factors

Google determines local rankings based primarily on three factors: relevance, distance, and prominence.

Word image 49
  • Relevance is how much your listing matches with a user search query. Google determines this by the business information you provide.
  • Distance is the measure of proximity of a searcher with your business’s IP address based on the search term they use (or whatever they know about the searcher’s location).

In December 2021, with the launch of the “vicinity update”, Google significantly increased the weightage of the proximity in local search.

  • Prominence “refers to how well known a business is” in Google’s words. Besides your offline reputation, Google relies on info from across the web: links, articles, directories, reviews, ratings, and your position in web search results to measure your law firm’s prominence.

Now that we’ve got the official word from Google out of the way, let’s break down local rankings and our usual organic Google search results into easily decipherable factors. We’ll take help from a 2021 survey of local SEO experts by BrightLocal for the same.

As per their grouping, we can broadly divide local SEO — and law firm local SEO by extension — into Local Pack and Local Organic.

Word image 50

And here are the important local SEO ranking factors across these two groups: Word image 51

A holistic local SEO strategy considers all of the above ranking factors. In this local SEO for law firms guide, you’ll learn tactics that will help you cover all the bases of local search engine optimization. Let’s begin with one of the most important aspects:

Google My Business is the holy grail of local search engine optimization

Recently Google renamed Google My Business (GMB) to Google Business Profile (GBP). Whether GMB or GBP, the important aspect is that local SEO experts rate the importance of its factors to be rising over the years as per a Whitespark survey:

Word image 52

Here’s how to optimize your business listing for Google’s local pack

While you can’t control the distance of a local searcher from your law firm, you can control the relevance of your listing to their search term and the prominence of the law firm.

Word image 53

To begin improving the relevance of your business profile, check your:

  • primary GMB category,
  • the keywords in your GMB title,
  • add high-quality visuals of your business,
  • and complete the business info in your local listing.

Indeed, our team has witnessed an immediate jump in GMB rankings for clients as a result of correction as well alignment of the primary and secondary GMB categories.

Later, we’ll also discuss the importance of accurate and consistent NAP + W and creating location pages to improve your relevance.

Let’s move on to improving your listing’s prominence. A survey of local SEO experts by Whitespark found that the top two GMB conversion factors are: high Google Ratings and positive sentiment in the review text. Both of these fall under “prominence” signals by Google.

Here’s the list of the top 20 conversion factors:

Word image 54

Once you get these basics right, you can refer to the detailed guidelines on representing your business on Google to ensure all aspects of your Google listing are right.

Positive reviews remain pivotal to higher local rankings

Business reviews are essential to driving positive momentum for your local SEO. As you saw in the ranking factors section, they are the following:

  • the second-most important ranking factor for the local pack,
  • and the seventh important for local organic.

Further, the BrightLocal 2022 Local Consumer Review Survey found that a whopping 98% of consumers read reviews and trust them almost as “personal recommendations.”

Word image 55

For getting more of those valuable reviews, offer stellar legal services and impress your clients. Because as per the BrightLocal survey above, 67% of consumers will consider leaving a review for a positive experience.

Do not offer incentives to your customers in exchange for positive reviews, though. It’s against Google’s guidelines that you can review here.

Local listings go beyond GBP

To improve your law firm’s search visibility, you need to think beyond Google reviews. Sure, most consumers rely on Google, but you can’t rule out Yelp, Yellow Pages, and other local directories in their decision-making process.

The 2022 Consumer Review Survey by BrightLocal lists the following apps being used by consumers for evaluating local businesses:

Word image 56

11 common local citations you can build

You need to create business listings with accurate, consistent, and descriptive info across these social media platforms: Yelp, YellowPages, Apple Maps, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Additionally, you can build citations from legal directories such as Avvo, Nolo, FindLaw, LegalZoom, and Martindale.

Some of these directories can act as a direct lead generation source, thereby aiding local SEO for attorneys.

Create local website pages for your law firm’s website

Having your website optimized for your primary location is a necessity if you want to show up in local search results. For instance, when onboarding one of our clients, Jesse Minc, our team re-optimized the website’s homepage for the phrase “personal injury lawyer Bronx.”

Word image 57

And here’s how these optimization efforts panned out (rankings data as of August 2021):

Word image 58

Indeed you need to create hubs of content on all related keyword phrases to the law practice areas you serve. Here’s how to go about it:

Create content hubs for all the law practice areas you serve

Begin allocating a page each to local keywords for all your law practice areas. Then build supporting pages for more specific practice areas inside the main practice, thereby creating a complete content hub.

For Jesse Minc, we allocated 15k words worth of local content for these pages:

Word image 59

You can view comprehensive content hubs around each practice area as well. Here’s an example car accident hub that shows up in their website’s navigation:

Word image 60

No wonder the attorney is ranking for a bunch of “Bronx” keywords related to car accidents through this page:

Word image 61

Screenshot for Ahrefs, a leading SEO tool

Once you’ve built all of these practice area pages, it’s time to link across the silo internally. It helps Google and readers navigate across the practice area pages smoothly. You’ll get perceived as an authority on the subject and rank higher across the group of these keywords.

Here’s the “head-on collision” page interlinking across the whole content hub through a “Related Practice Areas” section in the left sidebar:

Word image 62

You can also use breadcrumb navigation links for letting the visitor smoothly move across the silo:

Word image 63

Ensure robust technical SEO

A 2020 Reboot Online study found that technical SEO issues plague law firm websites. Some of them include internal linking, incorrect page indexation, bad page speed, and thin content.

Word image 64

For your website to appear in search results, search engines must first index the right page and read its contents for your website to appear in search results. If you want to analyze how a search spider views a page, a good place to start is by plugging your site in our tool: SEO browser.

Here’s what its report may look like for a page:

Word image 65

For a more thorough analysis, I would recommend using the free Ahrefs Site Audit tool. It returns your website’s health percentage and any immediate issues you need to address.

Word image 66

Next, you should also run a full crawl with Screaming Frog.

Lastly, submit an XML sitemap for your website because that’s an important source for Google to discover the URLs on your site. Check your Google Search Console “Index” section for finding your submitted sitemaps. Here’s what it looks like for On The Map’s website: Word image 67

Aim for a strong, flat site structure

Your website architecture plays a key role in helping Google crawl your site’s pages. A flat and organized hierarchical structure — where your pages are only a “few” internal links away from each other — is ideal.

Remember putting pages on your law firm’s website in different categories also gives additional context to Google around what your pages are about.

The Visual Site Mapper is a handy free tool for visualizing your current site architecture. Here’s an example of what DisabiliyLawFirmNC.com looks like:

Word image 68

Remember not to make sweeping changes to your architecture based on the above info. However, plan a consistent, logical, and clean URL structure for your future.

Ensure fast load speed

With Google’s introduction of the Core Web Vitals update, ensuring your law firm website loads quickly and offers a stellar user experience is important for future-proofing your rankings. Indeed, a hard-to-use slow website will also turn off your potential clients.

A good starting point for checking website speed is the Google Pagespeed Insights tool. It even returns opportunities for you to improve your performance:

Word image 69

Get the search giant’s badge of trust: Google Screened

A key aspect that differentiates local SEO for law firms from other local businesses is the presence of Google Screened. They entail free vetting on your service license by Google’s trusted partners.

Their presence bypasses other paid and organic listings in a local search result, which means they eat a significant chunk of clicks from organic SERPs. Here’s an example:

Word image 70

To get into one of these prominent positions, you need to run local service ads (LSAs). However, even if you don’t run paid ads, local searchers tend to click on the “More [your legal service vertical name] lawyers” button.

This opens up a dedicated page for your legal vertical. Your listing can still appear in organic results on the page below the blue horizontal separator:

Word image 71

Note that it can take more than a couple of weeks to get Google Screened, but it could be a nice addition to your local SEO campaign.

How to get started with Google Screened? Well, view the requirements page for the details of the screening and verification process for your law practice. Here’s an example of the documents required for insurance, license, and background check for personal injury lawyers:

Word image 72

Next, let’s look at five tips on local SEO for law firms. These tactics are quick to implement, improve your search engine rankings, and level up against competitor law firms.

1. Ensure consistent NAP + W across the web

In your business listings, the most important aspect is accurate business information. Specifically, your law firm’s name, address, phone number, and website address mentioned in the Google My Business profile also needs to be consistent across other online directories.

As per the BrightLocal Business Listings 2021 trust report:

  • 85% of consumers found incorrect or incomplete information about a business,
  • Further, 63% of consumers said finding such incorrect info would stop them from using your services.
Word image 73

Besides the consumer perception, NAP consistency is also a citation signal and a crucial local pack ranking factor. For instance, here’s one of our star clients 1-800 injured using the same business name across multiple locations to ensure consistency:

Word image 74

2. Fix content cannibalization issues

Do you’ve two similar pages on your site?

Then:

You’ll run into keyword cannibalization issues, and it can hurt your organic search rankings.

For instance, your homepage may target the keyword “Raleigh personal injury,” and you also have a practice area page about the same subject.

For instance, JM Burton Law targets two pages for the keyword: “car accident attorney in Raleigh”. They are:

  • www.jmburtonlaw.com/car-accidents
Word image 75
  • www.jmburtonlaw.com/car-accident-lawyer-raleigh-nc
Word image 76

Due to this, neither the first page is ranking well for “Raleigh” car accident keywords:

Word image 77

Nor is the second one:

Word image 78

Here’s our CEO, Kristaps Brencans, discussing these issues in our “Raleigh Personal Injury Lawyer Marketing” webinar:

Our lawyer marketing team runs into such issues of pages targeting the same keywords with the same intent quite frequently. To fix this, you need to merge these pages so that they don’t compete with each other.

Event sponsorships were the most commonly used marketing tactic by law firms as per the 2021 American Bar Association (ABA) report:

Word image 79

How would you like to earn a relevant backlink and improve your law firm site’s domain rating (DR) while sponsoring a local event?

Here’s a law firm that used to organize events for startups & entrepreneurs in their locality:

Word image 80

And look what they got in exchange:

Word image 81

That’s right:

A juicy 92 DR backlink.

If not physical events, you can always look for virtual opportunities to contribute your legal expertise. Legal link building doesn’t get easier than this.

4. Ensure your law firm website works well on mobile devices

In the ABA report (we referred to in the last pointer), 87% of respondents claim to have a website, but only 68% indicated that their website is mobile-friendly.

This could be a huge turn off for consumers aRaleighindicated a heavy usage of mobile devices when researching what law firm to hire (as per an iLawyerMarketing study):

Word image 82

Having a responsive website that runs flawlessly across devices and loads quickly is no longer optional. If you have an outdated site, consider shifting to WordPress as your CMS because it offers many premium themes that are responsive and SEO-friendly. You can also install plugins on your site to improve your site speed.

To diagnose any of your issues, the mobile usability report inside Google Search Console is helpful. It lists the details of errors that your developer can then fix:

Word image 83

If you’re looking for a fully custom website, hire our law firm web design services — we’ll craft a conversion-focused law firm website that accurately represents your brand.

Word image 84

5. Conduct a site audit and capitalize on your growth opportunities for your law firm website

Any local SEO campaign should begin with a thorough site audit to identify low-hanging fruits on your site — pages that are stuck on page 2 and page 3 for important keywords. Or quickly fixable issues (such as meta tags, page speed, page indexing, internal linking, and the like) that may be preventing your site from cracking top search spots.

To quickly improve your overall traffic and leads, you need to focus on these quick wins. Here’s a video by Ahrefs to conduct a 20-minute SEO audit:

Does local SEO feel like a lot of work? Then, let OTM execute it for you!

Hope the local SEO tips in the article help you start your local SEO marketing on the right foot.

But:

If you find the execution of the specific steps of a local SEO strategy as tedious, then hiring an attorney SEO agency could make sense for you.

Indeed, as of 2021, the average rate for local SEO services in the US is $128 per hour, and law firms average $284 per hour, so it makes business sense to hire external SEO consultants. It also leaves you more time to focus on serving your clients.

On The Map Marketing has over a decade of experience of ranking attorneys for the top spots on Google Maps and organic search. We were even nominated for the best local SEO campaign in the 2021 US search awards:

Word image 85

So contact us by filling out our proposal form or call us at +1-305-614-3004 to see what we can do for you.

Oh, and did I forget to tell you a law firm SEO specialists from our team will conduct the above mentioned SEO audit for your website for FREE?

Table of Contents

Article by Chintan Zalani

I’m the inbound marketing director at On The Map Marketing, taking care of content marketing and SEO for our website. Previously I have helped numerous SaaS businesses with content and got my own website to over 50k monthly visitors. I have written more than 500 articles on digital marketing, small businesses, sales, and related subjects, with my work appearing on the likes of Entrepreneur, Content Marketing Institute, WordStream, CoSchedule, and G2.