When we talk about SEO for lawyers, people often forget it also constitutes Google Maps and local organic search results. They are invaluable digital real estate where most of your prospects — in the primary geographic area you target — will search for lawyers.
So how do you rank at these coveted spots? By leveraging local SEO for lawyers.
In this article, you’ll learn the top 10 ways to drive more targeted local traffic and conversions for your law firm. Let’s begin with the basics.
Local SEO for attorneys is optimizing a law firm’s Google business listing and building citations intending to rank at the top of Google Maps for local keywords their prospective clients search for.
Also known as the local-3 pack, Google Maps is a search engine results page (SERP) feature that lists the top three local attorneys and law firms relevant to your search query. It appears just before the organic results.
Each listing on the local-3 pack shows the NAP (name, address, phone number) and others to provide users with additional information about the lawyer. Upon clicking on any listings, you will open an expanded version of Google Maps with more relevant lawyers and further information on the listing you clicked on.
To rank your local listings, you need to consider these factors:
- Relevance – How much your listing matches a user search query. Google determines this by the business information you provide.
- Distance – The proximity of a searcher to 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 searches.
- 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 Google search results to measure your law firm’s prominence.
Here are the important local SEO ranking factors for local and organic search results according to a BrightLocal study:
Later on, we will discuss how you can optimize your business listing for these ranking factors. In the meantime, let’s delve deeper into local SEO’s value to your legal practice.
Today most people search for legal counsel and information on Google—they don’t turn to yellow pages for finding attorneys. Local search engine optimization helps you appear at the top of the local results, and makes you the most likely attorney they will hire. Further, SEO offers compounding returns over something like pay-per-click (PPC).
When discussing “business listings,” you can’t ignore Google Business Profile (GBP). Formerly known as Google My Business or GMB, your GBP is what Google shows on the local pack. This makes it the most vital part of your local SEO’s success.
To claim your Google Business Profile, go to the GBP homepage and manage your listing now. It will ask you to enter its business name and category before proceeding to the next steps. It’s possible for your business to have an existing listing with client reviews. If so, you can claim this listing and edit the profile with your correct information.
After claiming your GBP, start optimizing it by executing the following steps.
Accurately describe what your business is about within 750 characters. Include your business name, the lead attorney’s full name, years of experience as an attorney or a law firm, practice areas you cover, locations you specialize in, and recognitions from award-giving bodies.
Enter a primary category that best describes your practice. Then mention other things your law practice covers in the additional categories. The category is one of the most important things for improving the ranking of your listing.
Adding photos of yourself, your team, and your office makes your profile more engaging to prospects. The images help potential clients know who they plan on working with–if they like what they see, they will call you.
Keep your audience posted with the latest updates about your business. Publish and schedule posts on your GBP just like you would on other social media channels. Add images or videos with your text and include a call-to-action so people can engage with the post.
To do this, click “Ask a question” on your GBP and enter the question in the text box. One published, reply to it with your answer. Rinse and repeat until you have answered on your profile the most common questions your prospects ask about your business.
Citations refer to any mention of your NAP data of your local business online. Examples include social media platforms (Yelp, YellowPages, Apple Maps, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) and legal directories (Avvo, Nolo, FindLaw, LegalZoom, and Martindale).
Creating many citations from these local listings helps increase your online footprint, allowing Google to index your GBP listing for your target keywords. These directories can also be a direct lead generation source that you can convert into new clients, complementing your local SEO efforts.
There are two methods of building local citations for your law firm:
The former lets you compute your listing score based on how accurate your current listings are and what other listings you need to sign up for. It also helps you identify, confirm, and delete duplicate listings to avoid confusion with your audience.
Yext’s Listing Management features work the same way as Moz Local but are suited for larger local businesses. It’s much more complex to set up because you have to connect the platform with over 200+ apps and systems to verify the data and format of your business information across these sites. But you can take help from their customer support.
If you don’t have the time to build and manage your citations across multiple listings manually, you can use a service like BrightLocal. It lets you pay per citation created for your business. Brightlocal also has the option to sync your digital storefronts like GBP, Facebook Pages, Apple Maps, and Bing Places and keep them accurate and updated.
Its unique pricing approach helps you keep costs low and have transparency when monitoring the work done for you.
It’s not enough to mention your NAP on business listings. You also must ensure that your NAP is the same across all online directories. Having different variations of your NAP creates confusion not only for your prospects but also for search engines.
If you have multiple NAP variants for your business listings, Google won’t know which version to show users whenever they search for your business. As a result, Google may show people the wrong NAP version, which prevents them from contacting you. Worse, Google may end up not showing anything at all.
True enough, 63% of consumers said finding such incorrect info would stop them from using your services. So, you want to nail NAP consistency from the very start.
Using the previous step’s citation builder tools and services will help you determine which listings have outdated or incorrect NAP. Make changes to these listings to have the exact correct NAP appear.
As local ranking factors, reviews are viewed as “personal recommendations,” which 98% of consumers trust. In other words, the more satisfied your customers are based on their reviews, the higher the likelihood that others will reach out for your legal counsel. While you can try to get reviews on all prominent directories, your main focus should be Google reviews.
The best advice here is always to offer stellar legal services and go out of your way to impress your clients, as 67% of them will consider leaving a review for a positive experience. At the same time, you can’t just wait for people to leave their testimonials. Send clients an email days after concluding your services with them and asking for the reviews.
Also handle negative reviews professionally and timely. Your goal should be to minimize bad experiences and show prospective clients that you’re committed to their success.
For law firms operating in multiple locations, you want to optimize your website’s homepage and key practice area pages for your primary geography.
For instance, for Jeandron Law, one of our clients, we reoptimized their homepage for their primary location: Orange County, California. We also restructured their website for it. The location is pretty competitive, so we also built links for them.
They saw massive keyword ranking jumps:
Their leads also jumped significantly.
Using a keyword research tool like Ahrefs, enter the practice areas and locations here and check keywords with local intent and related to the one you entered to find better search terms to optimize your site pages. Use the KD and Volume (monthly search volume) columns to help you decide which keywords to include in your list.
Once you’ve identified the keywords for the practice area pages, it’s time to research keywords for your topic ideas. You can simply enter your legal practice area in the Keyword Explorer and check the Questions from the results. This will show you all the most relevant questions about the topic you can write about on your site.
Most question keywords have an informational intent, making them perfect for supporting pages or blog content. Since users search for these keywords to find answers to their questions, you can put your knowledge on full display here.
Our SEO content writing is almost entirely based on the above idea of hubs and spokes. You identify the main topic you want your firm’s website to rank for, then create more content around every subtopic.
Local link building focuses on getting high-quality backlinks from location-specific websites. A great start is registering on online directories that allow you to include a link to your law firm’s website from your profile.
An example of a personal injury lawyer profile on Nolo.com
Another tactic to generate local backlinks to your website is to reach out to local publications for opportunities—some offer sponsored content placement where you can write an article about your practice area that their audience is interested in. In exchange, you can include a link to your website on the author’s byline once published on their website.
Or you can try good old PR, where you pitch your firm’s or an attorney’s story to local journalists in an intriguing way. Getting some press coverage could help your brand and if they publish news online — also help your local SEO efforts.
A key aspect differentiating local SEO for law firms from other local businesses is the presence of Google Screened, where trusted partners vet your service license for free. Your company appears before other paid and organic listings in a local search result.
To get started with Google Screened, view the requirements page for the details of your law practice’s screening and verification process. You must then run local service ads (LSAs) to get into one of these prominent positions. However, even if you don’t run paid ads, local searchers tend to click 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 search engine rankings on the page below the blue horizontal separator after a couple of weeks.
You can also use LegalService schema markup to get the details of your law firm related to its operation hours, ratings, directions, etc. appear in the Google knowledge graph. It can help search engines understand your website’s content and generate rich results in SERPs, thereby helping you get a higher CTR.
You can use Schema.org LegalService Schema generator to generate a schema, ands start enjoying its benefits.
While social media presence is not a search engine ranking factor, it can indirectly help your SEO efforts. By staying active on these platforms, you can build a notable online presence. Just be wary that if your practice area revolves around sensitive topics, then people may not respond to your posts.
So where do you begin social media marketing? Well, set up your social media profiles on relevant platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Then create a content calendar and start posting regularly around topics of interest for your target audience. Don’t forget to reply to the comments you receive.
You can also publicize any local events your firm is participating in or if you conduct certain events on social media — which brings me to my next point.
Local events are a great way to build your brand awareness and build goodwill in your locality. You can participate in community events, offer scholarships, be a part of fundraising events, and the like. Such opportunities may be a Google search away. You can also consider proactively reaching out to charitable organizations for finding them.
For example, The law firm of Ekaterina Mouratova, PLLC, launched a Startups & Entrepreneurs Legal Group on Meetup and got a backlink from the DR 92 site in exchange — which is a cherry on top.
If you establish a positive association in your local area, whenever potential legal clients will want legal representation, they will turn to you.
The factors attorneys must highly consider to rank at the top of local search results according to a Whitespark survey include: Google Business Profile (32%), on-page optimization practices (19%), getting positive reviews (16%), building local backlinks (11%), user behavior and engagement (8%), and citation building (7%).
You can monitor its local keyword rankings using a tool like TrackRight. Implementing the tips mentioned above lets you check whether your business listing has improved its keyword position over time. Using the data provided here, determine how to improve its ranking for your target keywords and compare its progress against your competitors.
It can take six to twelve months to see success from local SEO. If your website has existing authority that’s competitive for your practice area, you may reach the first page sooner than six months with optimized content alone. But in competitive practice areas such as criminal defense and personal injury, it can take even up to a year.
For starters, a quick Google search containing your practice area and location plus “SEO” reveals the most popular and trusted agencies offering their local SEO services to lawyers and law firms.
Next, look for published client case studies on their websites. Check for screenshots of their client sites’ data from Google Analytics, Search Console, and other rank tracking tools to see how effective the agency’s digital marketing strategy is.
You can also check their online reviews and note how they dealt with these unhappy clients. Once you’ve narrowed your list, schedule a consultation call with each of them to get a better feel for their business. Compare how each call went and which agencies you felt most capable of providing you with the best local SEO strategy.
Ideally you want a law firm SEO service provider who can handle your campaign end-to-end — not just the local aspect.
Over a decade ago, On The Map Marketing started with running local SEO campaigns for attorneys. Now we specialize in ranking law firms — big and small — for the most competitive keywords in the US. Contact us to get a free quote today. We offer a free local SEO audit to all law firms we’ve a mutual fit with.
SEO for Lawyers: (Step-by-Step) Law Firm SEO Guide