Article by Chintan zalani Chintan Zalani

SEO for Lawyers: Beginner’s Guide

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

Using SEO for lawyers, you can become the first firm potential clients contact and hire. But starting a search campaign can be tricky because there’s a ton of conflicting information on search engine optimization.

How can you put your law firm in the best position to rank number one for relevant legal terms? In this comprehensive beginner’s guide to attorney SEO, we’ll cover everything you need to know. Here’s an overview of the subtopics:

What is SEO for Lawyers?

SEO for attorneys is optimizing and promoting your firm’s website with the goal of ranking it on the first page of search engines (like Google and Bing). When done right, SEO will improve your visibility in front of your prospective clients.

Whenever someone in your locality looks for legal advice of searches for legal representation, your website or law firm’s business listing should pop at the top. SEO can help you achieve that.

Why is SEO Important for Attorneys?

Most people today start a search for legal services online using Google. They trust the first few firm websites that appear to be trustworthy. For most queries, less than 1% of people go to the second page of organic search results. Indeed, the first three results may get 50% of the clicks.

Google organic ctr breakdown by position
Image based on data from Backlinko

Further, organic search generates 66% of the call conversions in the legal sector. Your firm needs to invest in SEO to appear in the top spots for queries your potential clients search.

Is Paid SEO Worth it?

While it can come across as expensive, with the right agency, SEO for legal firms can work amazingly well. As an attorney, the increased online visibility and organic traffic from it will not just recoup your investment — it can even help you scale your law firm.

On The Map Marketing is a specialized lawyer SEO service provider. We’ve helped numerous attorneys in the most competitive niches — such as personal injury and criminal defense — rank in top spots for legal keywords. Explore our law firm marketing case studies and give us a call to discuss your SEO campaign.

Key SEO Ranking Factors Law Firms Need to Know…

Google’s algorithm is a black box relying on hundreds of signals, but we can club the important ones into four categories below. Focusing on them is often sufficient to crack top Google rankings and achieve SEO success — whether you’re a family law practice, criminal defense firm, or any other kind of attorney.

Links were the foundation of the original PageRank algorithm that Google relied upon. Essentially when a website puts a clickable link to one of your website pages, it counts as a “vote” of confidence for the usefulness of the content on that page.

All links aren’t equal, though. Quality backlinks from pages topically related to your law firm are given a higher weight. Also, the more relevant domains that refer to your law firm’s website, the better its authority.

What is a backlink
Image inspired from Backlinko

Relevance of Content

What does the searcher want when they plug a specific keyword into Google? The search giant’s systems try to understand the meaning of every query and serve the most relevant and helpful pages in its results. You can look at the top ranking content for your target keyword to get clues on the search intent.

Google also pays attention to the contents on page, including the HTML elements like title tags, header tags used to structure the content (referred to H1, H2, H3), etc.

Technical SEO

You want search engines to easily crawl, index, and understand the content of your website. Technical SEO consists of optimizing your website to ensure the same. Here are a few things it takes into consideration:

  • Using a flat and organized website architecture to ensure all web pages are only a few links away from each other,
  • Reducing the size of your pages to boost your page speed,
  • Strategically using internal links to help search bots better find and understand your website,
  • Using meta tags, schema markup, and other technical elements makes the website more easily understandable for search engines.

User Experience

Beyond your content’s informational value, Google also cares about the experience you provide. Earlier they had the page experience, page speed, mobile friendliness, and related factors in its algorithm. In April 2023, Google retired all of them.

User experience based signals weigh less than content and links. But they are important to make a strong impressions for your law firm’s brand.

Local Ranking Factors

When a prospect in your locality plugs a legal query, Google shows some businesses in Maps and organic search. Once you have a filled Google Business Profile with accurate information about your firm, here are the factors it uses to rank local businesses:

  • Relevance of your business profile to the search query,
  • Distance of the potential search result from the user’s geographical location, and
  • Prominence refers to the popularity of your business based on your reviews, backlinks, and offline reputation.

Want to learn more about these search signals? Head to the next chapter of this guide to explore SEO ranking factors in detail.

How to Implement SEO for Lawyers

There are two broad ways to execute an effective SEO strategy:

  • Execute SEO DIY as a busy attorney (or build an inhouse team),
  • Or hire an expert.

If you plan to do SEO for your law firm by yourself or build a team inhouse, below is a step-by-step breakdown of legal SEO. We’ve included references to our dedicated chapters on SEO subtopics (where available).

Prefer to hire a lawyer SEO agency? Then click here to navigate to the next section!

Create a Law Firm Search Engine Optimization Strategy

Starting an SEO campaign without a strategy is like drafting a contract without understanding the legal implications of the terms. You need a custom attorney SEO marketing plan to improve your online presence.

It needs to holistically allocate resources across these three pillars: content, links, and technical optimization. You can conduct a site audit using Ahrefs to find the areas where you need to step up.

Optimize Your Google Business Profile

A low-hanging fruit to get some leads quickly is claiming your free Google business listing (earlier called Google My Business or GMB). It calls for completing business details about your firm, including your name, address, phone number, and website.

Then choosing your primary business category. It carries a big weight in local rankings, so wisely pick one that fits your practice area from the pre-populated drop down.

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Read our detailed guide on optimizing your Google Business Profile.

Craft a Memorable Website Design

Your lawyer website’s design should represent your legal expertise. It’s your brand’s potential first impression in front of millions of internet users in the US. A professional looking website will evoke trust in new users and make it more recognizable.

Even for your SEO campaign, a well-designed website is the foundation to reach more prospective clients. Google wants to server high-quality content to its users that’s easily accessible and presented in an elegant, user-friendly manner. A good user experience ensures your visitors stick around longer and engage with your site.

It also changed its index to mobile-first and wants webmasters to offer a smooth UX — even on the smaller screen. So ask yourself: will your website visitors able to easily navigate your site and find the information they come looking for?

Learn more about how to create a compelling lawyer website design.

Begin Local SEO

A major part of SEO for law firms is “local,” as you want to connect with potential clients in your service location. Ideally, you want to appear for relevant keywords at the top of the local pack and organic results.

🙋‍♀️What’s the difference between the local pack and local organic?

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It comprises building citations, getting more positive reviews, and managing your reputation across legal directories. You also create local website content around your practice areas.

For example, if you’re a personal injury lawyer in the Bronx, you need to optimize some of your website pages around it. Indeed such optimization efforts on the homepage of one of our clients, Jesse Minc, helped them rank for Bronx related keywords.

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Continue with our local SEO guide for a thorough breakdown of the subject.

Conduct Keyword Research

Just like you want to choose the right words for a legally binding contract, SEO for law firm websites should be based on strategically chosen phrases your target audience is searching for. Whether you create content for practice area pages, blog posts, or other landing pages, you ideally want to target relevant keywords.

What are these keywords? These are phrases around your legal services or subjects you have expertise in — that your prospects are searching for in Google.

How do you find them? While we have a dedicated keyword research guide for attorneys, you plug some seed keyword ideas into a tool such as Ahrefs.

You want to target keywords you can rank for. For example, the phrase “Texas agreed divorce forms” results in a bunch of government websites or organizations sharing forms. If you’re a divorce attorney in Texas, you’re better off excluding this keyword.

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Create On-Page Optimized High-Quality Content

Once you find relevant search terms for your campaign, you want to create content satisfying user intent. Look at the kind of content ranking on the first page. Are there a lot of listicles or educational “how to” articles? Or do you have commercial landing pages selling the legal services of attorneys? Follow the cues.

For example, for the keyword “hire accident lawyer”, there are educational articles on how and when you should hire an accident lawyer. If you were to target the keyword, creating a similar educational blog post might make sense.

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Besides aiming to create content that resonates with your audience, legal content optimization also calls for housekeeping on-site SEO steps. It involves optimizing your meta descriptions, title tags, and heading tags (H1, H2, and H3), and formatting your article for better readability.

Link building, clubbed under off site SEO, is tedious. It involves the unsexy grunt work of contacting website owners and asking them to link to you. But promoting your content helps it get discovered quickly by your target audience.

You can’t pay media publications for linking to you as it’s against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. You can use these SEO link building strategies for attorneys.

Measure Your SEO Performance

Unless you know SEO is helping your bottom line, you wouldn’t want to continue investing in it. So identify key performance indicators (KPIs) for your campaign and track your results. You can set up tools such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console for the same. Adjust your strategy based on your results.

New in 2024

Let’s look at two concepts you need to pay special attention to in 2024:

SERP Volatility

Google keeps rolling out algorithmic updates one on top of another, so search engine results pages (SERPS) have lately been volatile. Awareness of this fluidity in algorithmic signals is important to stay competitive in SEO in 2024.

Use SEO tools such as Ahrefs to track your organic visibility against these algorithmic changes and make corrective SEO efforts as necessary:

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E-E-A-T Takes Prominence for Lawyers

Rolling out of ChatGPT has permanently changed content marketing. Many writers now rely on AI to create content. But guess what? For sensitive subjects such as law, Google wants to prioritize content backed by relevant “Experience.” It rolled out an extra E in its E-A-T quality guidelines, making its acronym E-E-A-T recently.

You want to highlight your legal experience and expertise on your attorney bio pages, about page, and other areas of your website. Learn more about E-E-A-T for lawyers.

With Google declaring its own generative AI, Bard, to soon take the top spot to answer many questions of searcher, the digital landscape has become more competitive. It’s become an increasingly winner takes all market. So cracking the first coveted position in SERPs for your target keyword, called as “featured snippet” — can be more useful than ever.

Should You Hire a Law Firm SEO Expert?

If you can commit to over $3k monthly budget for about an year, and want to grow your firm quickly, it makes sense to hire a professional SEO company for lawyers.

They can handle the nerdy and messy parts of SEO: from tech to link building to content creation: end-to-end. Or you can hire them to take care of a specific component of SEO: local search, content writing, building links, or technical optimization.

While SEO will still take time, you can always have a conversation with such experts that you want to get new clients from your SEO efforts. Hold them accountable for metrics important to your firm’s success, such as leads and revenue.

We have a detailed guide to law firm SEO services you can check out if you want to go this route.

FAQ About SEO Services for Lawyers

What Are the Benefits of SEO for Attorneys?

When an attorney begins law firm marketing, sooner or later, they consider lawyer SEO because of its following benefits:

1. Earning Trust and Credibility: People are short of time. When researching legal advice or looking for an attorney, they simply trust the first few Google search results.

2. More Phone Calls: By targeting relevant local keywords related to your practice on your website and optimizing your firm’s Google Business Profile (GBP), you can get more phone calls and form submissions.

3. Getting More Local and Foot Traffic:  Improving your local presence in organic SERPs and maps can increase local traffic. It can give your practice the edge for dealing with potential clients who prefer meeting attorneys in person before hiring them.

4. Cost-effectiveness: While growth from search engine optimization for lawyers is slow, the organic traffic and leads compound over time.

5. Complementing Other Marketing Initiatives: Whether PPC, social media, or even an offline marketing strategy, SEO layers nicely on top of them all. For instance, local SEO can help you earn an extra spot for the keyword “criminal attorney near me” alongside the one you get by paying for Google ads.

What is an SEO at a Law Firm?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” When you hear about an SEO at a law firm, it generally refers to a professional in charge of ensuring that the law firm’s website and online content is optimized to appear prominently in search engine results. They may perform a wide range of marketing tasks and work in-house.

But you can also consider hiring an external consultant or a lawyer digital marketing agency.

How Effective is SEO Compared With Social Media and PPC?

SEO is arguably the most effective and scalable way to get high-quality leads among lawyer digital marketing tactics. But it takes time to drive website traffic via SEO. Pay-per-click advertising on Google is a great way to get leads instantly. But you may need to pay almost hundreds of dollars per click on your ad (in competitive niches like personal injury).

Social media has rarely delivered results for attorneys we have worked with. But if your audience hangs out on social media and wants to read your legal advice there, consider adding it.

Irrespective, you should have consistent info about your firm online across places like Yelp, social media, and attorney directories such as Avvo.

In the next section, you’ll learn the important SEO for attorneys ranking factors.

How Much Do Law Firms Spend on SEO?

Lawyer SEO marketing budgets can go anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 per month or even more. You can determine a sound investment based on the competition in your market (based on your practice area and location), your firm’s size, and your growth ambitions.

If you want a more detailed breakdown, check out our detailed guide to SEO pricing.

How Much Time Does Search Engine Optimization Take?

Depending on the competitiveness in your practice area and the service location of your law firm, search engine optimization for attorneys can take anywhere between six to nine months

If you’re a new lawyer starting a website with zero authority, cracking top search engine rankings and getting organic traffic can take more than a year. That’s because Google prefers to serve authoritative and trustworthy brands to its users. In a study of 2M results pages, the average age of a page on the first page of Google was 2+ years.

You can reduce the time required to rank by dedicating a higher marketing budget to SEO, but there are no guarantees. We recommend starting with improving your presence in local search results before moving on to organic.

How to Find the Best SEO for Law Firms?

The best law firm SEO company for you is the one with proof of efficacy for your practice area or locality. Perform a search for lawyer SEO agencies, look at how they are doing regarding their SEO, and explore their case studies and testimonials from past clients. Get in touch with a few, ask for a quote, and get on a call or two before you make that decision.

Ultimately you want to work with an agency with relevant experience and expertise to tackle your market’s competition.

Parting Thoughts: SEO for Attorneys

SEO stands out as a legal marketing tactic for attorneys.

  • It’s scalable — unlike referrals from your clients or the courthouse.
  • And you get compounding returns on your SEO investment in the long term — unlike online marketing tactics like PPC, where you must keep paying for ads to appear at the top.

We can grow your law practice through SEO while you focus on serving your clients. Contact us today for an audit of your law firm’s website.

If you want to take the DIY route, continue learning SEO with our next chapter on ranking factors.