Organic traffic is of utmost importance for businesses like law firms. This is because, unlike traffic from advertising, organic traffic is FREE traffic from search engines. However, acquiring this traffic can be challenging. In order to drive visitors to your website from organic rankings in search engines, your website must be optimized for important, relevant keywords and you must acquire high authority links from other websites. Your site also needs to be technically sound. This local guide to SEO for lawyers explains in the important aspects of lawyer SEO in a step-by-step manner.
Plan the Website
Step 1. Perform Keyword Research
Keyword research is a key part of any highly successful SEO campaign. Google Keyword Planner is an excellent tool for keyword research that provides monthly search volume and also generates keyword ideas.
Another good option is KeywordTool.io which can generate ideas for keywords that can then be input into Google Keyword Planner to find monthly search volumes.
Keywords with bigger search volumes are typically harder to rank, but can attract more visitors.
The main keyword for a law firm is going to be something like ‘law firms in [city]’ or ‘[city] law firm.’ These purchase intent keywords can bring in visitors near the end of the purchase funnel who are ready to buy.
Step 2. Figure out Your Site Hierarchy
Every page on your website should focus on just one primary key phrase or keyword. Let’s say your law firm is only located in one city, focus on the homepage as your main page to be optimized for the main target keyword, for example ‘[city] law firms’.
As for the secondary pages, consider an AboutUs page, blog index, FAQs, service pages, and any other key pages you consider that potential customers will want to see when paying a visit to your website. Some sample services you could create separate service pages for include:
- Personal Injury Law
- Divorce Law
- Family Law
- Employment Law
- Criminal Law
- Civil Law
- Contract Law
- Copyright Law
- Corporate Law
- International Law
- Real Estate Law
- Medical Malpractice Law
If your law firm has more than one location, it is best to have a separate location page for each area you cover.
Step 3. Plan Your Internal Linking Structure
Every secondary page should be linked internally from the website’s main navigation area, so that link authority from the homepage is sent to your secondary pages.
If you have more than one location, include a ‘locations’ tab on the main navigation. Also include a dropdown menu with all the separate locations so visitors can find their preferred one quickly and easily.
It is a good idea to link blog pages to each other if they are relevant in terms of keyword-rich anchor text. Although this spreads keyword relevance and link authority throughout your website, it is a mistake to overdo these internal links, since too many on one page looks like spam to search engines and can negatively impact rankings.
As already mentioned, it is important to optimize your service pages as well as the homepage for keywords from the keyword research you did for purchase intent.
After that, your blog pages and content pages should be optimized for your researched keywords and key phrase terms. This is how to optimize your webpages on-page elements for your keywords:
Step 1. Optimize your URL Structure
Short, keyword-rich URLs are always best. Use dashes instead of underscores and lowercase letters when creating URLs. So for example you might have a service page for personal injury which should look something like this:
Step 2. Optimize your Title Tag
Search engines use the title tag as one of the best indicators of the contents of a webpage. Include the primary target keyword in the title tag and keep it less than 65 characters long so they display properly in search engines and none of the wording is cut off.
A sample format of a law firm homepage could be:
Law firms in [city] | [your law firm name]
Step 3. Optimize your Meta Description
A meta description is a little longer than the title tag and should describe the website’s main focus. To make sure it will display properly in search engines, keep it under 156 characters in length.
A good meta description will summarize the webpage’s content accurately, including the main keyword and ending with a call to action if relevant.
Try something like this:
[Name of law firm] is the best law firm specializing in [law service] in [city]. Call us for a consultation!
Step 4. Optimize your H1 Heading
A good H1 heading goes at the very top of a webpage and makes it clear what the page is about. Make sure it includes the main keyword or key phrase. Don’t have more than one H1 heading on each page.
This is an example for a good H1 heading for a law firm webpage:
Best Law Firm in [city, state]
Step 5. Optimize the Body Content
The text on every page of the website should be more than 400 words, thoroughly describing what you want visitors to know. Your homepage copy should offer background business on your law firm including which services you offer, ending with a call to action.
Include the main keyword in the first paragraph of the text and keyword variants once or twice in the remaining text. You can boost the number of customer contacts you get by adding a call to action or contact form with an email address or phone number at the end of each page.
Step 6. Optimize the Image Alt Text on Each Page
One great signal that search engines like are images, so include a minimum of one image on every page. The page’s HTML should include the alternative text attribute (also known as ‘alt tag’ or ‘alt text’) for each image. This is a short description of the image.
It is recommended you have a minimum of one image that uses alternative text which includes the page’s primary target keyword.
Use Structured Data like LocalBusiness Schema Markup
Structured data is added to a webpage’s HTML, giving Google and other search engines a ‘machine-friendly’ way to understand the content on the page.
Schema markup and other structured data can enable search engines to understand phone numbers, addresses, events, reviews, and other elements on the page.
Does your law firm have more than one location? If so, ensure every location landing page includes LocalBusiness schema markup in its HTML to flag elements such as the law firm name, phone number and address. This can help your web pages appear higher up in local search results.
Your Site Should be Mobile-Friendly
Google will determine the rankings of a webpage based on the mobile version including for listings which desktop users will see, since it launched the new ‘mobile first’ index.
Google recently launched a page to test a webpage’s mobile speed because their focus is to offer search results which can give mobile users a good experience.
Keeping this in mind, you can see the importance of viewing all the pages of your site on a mobile phone to check for compatibility. They need to load fast and display correctly. Take a look at Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing Page to make sure every page on your website is mobile-friendly.
Your Site Should Load Quickly
Page speed is an important element since many visitors won’t wait more than a few seconds for a page to load. Page speed is about how fast a webpage loads its content. Google has used page speed as a ranking factor in the mobile first index for several years now.
Reduce the Number of Crawl Errors
Reducing the crawl errors that appear in Google Search Console can increase your site’s search engine visibility. If web pages on your site have been deleted or a website redesign has occurred without properly redirecting old URLs, it can result in 404 errors. Implementing 301 redirects of old URLs to their most relevant current URL, will ensure that link authority (or link juice) that the old URLs collected over time will be passed on to the new URL. A 301 Redirect is a ‘Permanently Moved’ status code which is sent from the server to the browser telling the browser the resource has permanently moved to a new URL.
Take a look at the list of 404 errors in Google Search Console and implement 301 redirects to their most relevant live URL counterparts.
Add an XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap on your website is important since it makes sure search engines crawl every page. This means search engines can discover the most important pages on your XML, or ‘Extensible Markup Language’.
Include a Robots.txt File
You can speed up your website’s performance by including a robots.txt file for search engines to crawl. This text file tells any crawlers what pages should be crawled and what ones not. You will usually have an URL like ‘example.com/robots.txt’.
You can improve the crawling and indexing of your website by disallowing pages that are not necessary to crawl like disclaimers and login pages for example.
Claim your Google My Business and Optimize It
You can claim your Google My Business profile at google.com/business. Follow the verification process and Google will then send a postcard with a PIN to your business’s physical address. Go to your Google My Business account and enter the PIN. This will verify your business.
The next step is to optimize your profile, by filling in as much detail as you can. Add a comprehensive description of your business and its hours, the logo, relevant categories, what kind of payment is accepted, and perhaps also photos of your law firm or various services you offer.
Get Citations in Online Directories
These can be a great ranking factor when it comes to local search listings. The more citations you can get for your law firm in online directories and the more consistent your business details are across the listings, the better your business listing will do in local search.
Make sure you remove any duplicate business listings if you find any since these are detrimental to search rankings.
Try to Get Online Reviews
Review signals, such as review diversity, quantity and velocity, are an important factor in Local Pack/Finder ranking, according to MOZ’s 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors.
Consider sending an email to customers and ask them to look at your Google My Business page and leave a review. Regular reviews are always great if you can get them.
Acquire High Authority Backlinks
A backlink is a hypertext link from another website to your website. They should come from authoritative, trusted websites. These can help ensure your website ranks well in search engines.
A link to your website from another will pass ‘link juice’ (authority) to your website unless it has a ‘nofollow’ attribute attached.
To increase the number of backlinks to your site:
- Contact websites that you have a relationship with (associations, etc.) and ask for a link to your site
- Acquire links by claiming listings in your local Chambers of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau
- Mention other industry-specific businesses, events, or people in your blog and let them know that you have mentioned them
- Reply to relevant queries on HARO or SourceBottle
- Guest post on law-related websites
- Monitor your competitor’s backlinks with backlink monitoring software and replicate them (check out the Best SEO tools guide)
- Submit your site to law-related online directories (make sure these are not low quality, spammy sites or they will hurt your ranking potential)
- Promote your content on your social media properties (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)
Acquiring free traffic from search engines can sometimes be a challenge, but if you make sure you plan your website properly and adhere to the best practices of on-page, off-page, and technical SEO, you will see results. Follow the instructions discussed in this Local SEO guide for lawyers and you will be well on your way to acquiring many more clients for your firm. Lawyer SEO for attorneys and law firms is a much simpler process when you have the correct guidance.