Law firm search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting high search rankings for specific keywords that are most relevant to your legal services. While search engines constantly change their algorithms and no one outside of Google knows the exact formula for how search engines rank websites, there are certain best practices that most search marketers agree help get high rankings. Here is a 6-step process for law firm seo.
Step 1 – Plan Your Law Firm Search Engine Optimization Strategy
The foundation for any law firm search engine optimization campaign involves planning for your campaign’s success by setting goals, defining your target market, and researching your competitors.
- Setting campaign goals – What specifically do you want visitors to do once they arrive at your website? Which pages are most important? Ideally, you would like to capture leads in some fashion, whether that is to download a free report, fill out an online form for a consultation, or join your newsletter. Increasing traffic, by itself, is not a good campaign goal. You want to increase targeted traffic and then have those visitors do something so you can measure your success.
- Understand your target audience – What types of people do you want to visit your website? What are their demographics and psychographics? What are their key problems, concerns and frustrations? What solutions are they looking for when they arrive at your website?
- Research your competitors – Which law firms are listed on the front page of Google in the organic and sponsored listings? Some great tools to research your competitors include Alexa and Spyfu. Alexa will show you how a website’s traffic is trending over time while Spyfu will show you which keywords your competitors are bidding on through Google Adwords and how they rank competitively for organic listings.
Step 2 – Keyword Research
Once you’ve decided on campaign goals, clarified your target market, and researched your competition, it’s time to start brainstorming keywords for your SEO campaign. What would your prospects type into Google to find you? Some keyword ideas include:
- Your company name, attorney names, and any brands or trademarks you own
- Words or phrases that describe your practice areas
- Words or phrases that describe your services and what you do
- Words or phrases that describe what problem you solve from your prospect’s perspective
- Any local or geographical words that apply to your firm
A great way to brainstorm keywords is through the free Google Adwords Keyword Tool. This will show you synonyms for keywords you’ve uncovered as well as give you an idea of search volume and how many advertisers are bidding on those keywords.
Step 3 – Law Firm Website Architecture
How your website is designed plays a crucial role in your search engine optimization efforts. Your site architecture is the structure of how all your pages are interconnected. Think of your site architecture as a hierarchy with your home page being the “hub” or “doorway” page of your site that directs visitors to other parts of your website. Here are some things to consider when planning your site architecture.
- All pages should be no more than 3 clicks from your home page – Your home page will most likely be the page that gets the most traffic, so its primary job is to direct visitors to the inner pages of your website. Any pages that the home page links to are your “second tier” pages, meaning they are one click away from your home page. Any pages that your “second tier” pages link to are your “third tier” pages, meaning they are two clicks away from your home page. At the absolute maximum, you should be able to reach all pages of your website within three clicks of the home page.
- Optimize your home page for best converting key phrases – Your home page should be optimized for the highest traffic keywords that convert the best. Conversion means that visitors take a specific action when they arrive at your page like fill out a form or join your mailing list. There’s no point in optimizing your website for extremely high traffic keywords if they aren’t relevant to your law firm. For instance, trying to target a generic term like “law firm” or “personal injury lawyer” when you only practice law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey will not only be extremely time consuming and expensive, but most of the people coming to your site won’t find it relevant to them, so they will quickly leave.
- Use a keyword-based domain name – A domain name with your main keyword in the domain name could help you in search results. Try not to include any numbers or hyphens and make sure it is a “.com” domain name. Also, when you register your domain, do so for at least two years or longer as search engines take into consideration domain registration length.
- Use keyword-based URLs – Use short folder names for any directories you have and use keywords as URLs rather than variables – for instance, you want your URLs to look more like “www.mydomain.com/pa-trademark-lawyer/” than ” www.mydomain.com/page1.aspx?id=1234″
- Keep the site professional – Make your website look like an authority website by having a user-friendly design and great content. You don’t need bells-and-whistles, animated graphics, or flash to impress prospects. Rather, keep it simple, clean and easy-to-use.
- Use a sitemap – Sitemaps are files that contain links to every page on your website. They help search engines index your content faster. You can create a site map at xml-sitemaps.com. Once you have created your sitemap, register it at Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Step 4 – On-Page Optimization
Once you know what keywords your target audience is searching for, it’s time to evaluate your website for how well it ranks for those keywords. On-page optimization involves everything you can do to your website that will influence its rank in search engines. Some of the primary ways to optimize your pages include:
- Title tags – Your title tag is what shows up at the top left side of your internet browser above the “File” menu. This tag should start with the key phrase you want to rank for and briefly describe your page’s content. You only get 65 characters, so keep it concise. Think of this tag as the headline for your page – it is what shows up as the clickable link in organic search results. Make sure to give each page of your website its own unique title.
- Meta tags – While the “meta keyword” tag is virtually useless, the “meta description” tag is important because this is the description that shows up in search engines underneath the clickable title link. Keep your description limited to 155 characters and include a brief summary of the page’s content. Like the title tag, your pages’ description tags should be unique.
- Headline tags – Use your primary keyword in your H1 tag at the top of your page. Depending on how your web designer structures your page, the H1 tags are usually reserved for the largest text on the page – which is usually the page title.
- Focus on unique keywords – Each of your pages should focus on a different variation of your main keyword. Don’t optimize every page of your website for your primary keyword. For instance, if your high-traffic keyword is “Philadelphia DUI lawyer,” focus one or two pages on that keyword and use related keywords like “Philadelphia DWI attorney” or “Philadelphia DUI law firm” or “Philadelphia defense attorney” for the subpages of your website.
- Create content regularly – A site with minimal content will be extremely difficult to rank well. Search engines want to rank high-quality, authority websites at the top of search results, so the easiest way to get ranked is to continually create new content around your keywords.
- Write content for visitors – Realize that getting pages to rank well for search terms and getting pages to convert visitors into leads are two completely separate things. The end goal of SEO is to get visitors to your website and to take action. If your web pages don’t convert, your SEO campaign isn’t nearly as effective as it could be.
Step 5 – Linking Strategies
On-page SEO will get you pretty far, but if you are targeting highly competitive search terms, you will need to devote considerable effort to getting inbound links from relevant, high-quality websites. Search engines see inbound links as a “vote” for your website, meaning the site linking to yours is vouching for your website’s credibility and trustworthiness by linking to you. Here’s what to look for when building links back to your website.
- Number of high-quality links – One link from a high-quality website is worth more than thousands of links from questionable sites, so focus your link-building efforts on high-quality sites that will provide you a link in their editorial content rather than the footer or sidebar of a website. Search engines use high-quality links as a measure of how important of a resource your website is on the Internet.
- Diversity of link sources – The more links you can get from a variety of high-quality sources, the better your search rank.
- Topic-related links – Try to get links from websites that are topically related to your website’s subject.
- Be cautious of paid links – Google strongly discourages paid links or acquiring links from known link brokers, so be very cautious about buying links.
- Traffic – Ideally, you want the website linking to you to actually send you targeted traffic, not just give you a link. Look for high-traffic websites that would be a good source of potential prospects.
Step 6 – Measuring Results
Finally, once you’ve implemented your campaign, you must measure and tweak the results. Where does your site rank for your priority keywords? Are you getting more qualified traffic from those rankings? Are you getting good links from reputable and relevant sites? Are you getting the conversions you want? And specifically, are you getting a good return on your investment?
A great way to analyze your law firm search engine optimization campaign’s success is to install Google Analytics to keep track of your traffic, conversions, keywords, top content, and other features. Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful, free tool that anyone can add to their website to monitor results.
By following these six steps for creating your law firm search engine optimization strategy, you should start to see results within 30-90 days of implementation. Keep in mind, search engines change their ranking algorithm regularly, so just because you are able to achieve a high rank doesn’t mean you are entitled to keep it long-term. You must continually monitor your campaign’s success and make changes accordingly.