Things to Consider with Law Firm SEO
Law firms that choose not to do SEO have to play the Google or Bing Ads game. That’s super-expensive! Here are some things to consider with your Law Firm SEO.
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The Traffic Conundrum for Law Firms
There’s no other way to say this, but your law firm’s growth now and into the future will be predicated on online traffic to your website.
The way that this traffic finds you are the most pressing question for a growing number of law firms who are finding that other lead channels are drying up.
In this context, at Fast Firms, we demarcate traffic into two categories, one, traffic that you earn and two, traffic that you buy.
In relation to the former, this is obviously where every law firm wants to be and we have a number of clients who are now in this position. Earning website traffic requires a multi-dimensional approach. Most importantly it needs a combination of SEO (search engine optimisation) and content, preferably omnichannel that drives content to your website.
The latter category is simply about spending money on Google Ads.
Why law firms should focus on the former is because whilst Google Ads work you will always be at the peril of paying the cost per click (CPC). CPC isn’t cheap for any practice verticle and the cost has and is growing exponentially. For example, once your law personal injury law firm would enjoy leads at a CPC of $20.00. Now the same clicks can you cost in excess of $100 in metropolitan areas.
That said, the reason why law firms choose a CPC approach over and SEO approach are simply because if you work with an agency that is legal industry-specific, you will start getting leads within a very short period of time. In contrast, SEO requires effort, long term commitment and month after month funding.
What is Law Firm SEO?
Law Firm search engine optimisation (SEO) is all about getting your law firm ranked well for the search terms that people are entering into Google and other search engines, either through manually entering those terms or voicing them via Voice Recognition Software.
The practice of Law Firm SEO is both complex and time-consuming, deriving from a diverse range of strategies.
At Fast Firms, we consider SEO for law firms an integral and important facet of the breadth of services we provide. Traffic to your website and/or other online properties relies on your law firm being found for the keywords potential clients are searching.
Simply put, SEO is a complex framework to help your law firm’s website to get ranked in primary search engines like Google for keywords that your firm wishes to target.
For example, you’re a family law practice in Geelong and you want your website to be found easily when someone searched “family lawyers Geelong.”
It’s likely that you will want your law firm to be found for numerous keywords, including the most obvious and others that we call long tail. A long-tail keyword using the same example above maybe, “property settlement lawyers Geelong.” This search term will not garner the same amount of traffic as say, “family lawyers Geelong” but it may garner some traffic and because of its long tail nature, it may not take as long to rank your website for that search term.
If you’re a diverse practice law firm, it may be the case that your SEO strategy is made up of over 50 keywords.
Importantly, if this is the case your firm will need a robust content strategy underpinning it. Such a content strategy will require the identification of landing pages that will target specific content and a regular regime of blog content giving the opportunity to provide an internal linking practice.
The Practice of Law Firm SEO
The practice of legal SEO has become incredibly complex and it draws upon the diverse expertise within a multi-dimensional agency like Fast Firms. More specifically, law firms seeking our assistance invariably have worked with either SEO agencies who did not understand the legal industry or who were SEO agencies only doing SEO for the law firms, requiring overwhelming content and design changes to the website by other agencies who were involved in marketing the firm. In the experience of our clients, augmented by our own, when Law firm SEO services are deployed like this, it usually ends in disaster.
SEO is a laborious task, let no one tell you differently, particularly those who advertise first page or number #1 rankings. Using these types of services can be extremely risky because Google is akin to doing major algorithm updates frequently and if it is the case that your SEO agency has tried to game the system by using what we call, “black hat tactics” you may find that your website is removed completely by Google. This happened to many websites due to an algorithm update by Google called, “Panda.”
Essentially though, good SEO is a practice that requires:
- a speed optimised website
- a fast, mobile responsive website
- a website with clean, uncluttered code
- a website that has communicated recent sitemaps to search engines
- a website that has correct heading architecture
- a website that has a regime of internal link sharing
- a website that has quality links pointing to it
- a website that has regular, substantive content
- a website that uses a multitude of mediums
- a website that has good traffic
- a website that has a good time on page ratio
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will give you an idea of the types of things your law firm needs to consider in the context of SEO.
How Long Goes SEO take?
It’s not the answer you want, but it depends. It depends on the factors outlined above and to what extent your law firm’s website has these things in place.
Critically and most importantly, if your website is lagging in any respect, where it will become very expensive for your law firm is if you choose to work with an SEO focussed agency. In other words, an agency that does not have the expertise to carry out all the related work that SEO requires. For example, your website may need significant changes and if your SEO agency isn’t doing this work, you will need your web design agency to work collaboratively with the SEO agency. This rarely works, as SEO is somewhat of a science and it’s likely that your web designers will not always agree with the recommendations and you will find yourself mediating in the middle.
In this context, you also need to be confident that your SEO agency understands the legal industry. Simply Google terms like “law firm marketing” “law firm SEO” etc and you will find plenty of agencies who masquerade as law firm marketing experts and their copy on the website will likely mention completely irrelevant search terms that they will chase for your firm.
At Fast Firms, we inherit many SEO accounts managed by agencies who simply put chased search terms that were non-sensical and at best, informed by Hollywood movies.
Experienced SEO Agency For Law Firms & Lawyers
In of itself, SEO is expensive because of its laborious nature. At Fast Firms, we have a proven track record of getting our clients ranked exceptionally well in very competitive search landscapes, and content and design changes that are required, are all handled seamlessly in our one agency.
SEO for Law Firms 2020 Guide
There are only 2 ways to get traffic to your website. You earn it, or you pay for it. SEO is all about the former. In this guide, find out what your law firm needs to do to get ranked for competitive search terms in major search engines, like Google.
What is SEO for Law Firms?
Every one searches Google. If you’re a person in need of legal help, the chances are that you will give the job to Google to find the best response to your legal query.
People of course no longer just type what they’re looking for into Google, but with an array of voice search devices both in our home and car, people increasingly will voice their query to Google or another search engine.
Invariably, one of the first 3 organic results in the search engine will the one that receives the phone call or website enquiry. Unless of course, they choose a Google Ad result, which people increasingly do. Hence why it’s smart to be doing both SEO and Google Ads.
SEO is the methodology and practice that delivers your law firm as one of those responses to the search query.
Let’s say your criminal law firm is based in Brisbane, then obviously a relevant search query that you will want to rank for will be, “criminal lawyers Brisbane.”
The type of keywords that your law firm may entertain is informed by a practice that we call keyword research. More about that next.
However, before we get there, here are the things that we will cover in this guide.
Making sure that your law firm is chasing the right keywords and how to determine what those keywords are.
Increasingly SEO has a very strong relationship with the content and functionality of your website.
Local SEO for Law Firms
Ensuring that your law firm ranks well for local SEO is imperative.
A fundamental way that Google ascertains whether or not your law firm should rank high for relevant search queries is by determining your worth by how many external links point back to your website.
Measure Your Results
SEO is research-intensive of which assessing and analysing the SEO results as they come in for specific keywords is key.
In this guide, SEO for law firms, we will take you through each of these topics.
Keyword Research for Law Firms
Very importantly, the keywords that you think people may be searching for, you might find render limited or no results.
In conducting keyword research, the most obvious and well-used tool is the Google Keyword Planner. The Google Keyword Planner will give you an estimate of search traffic that is searching for those specific terms.
In our work with law firms, they at times can get ahead of themselves and want to populate their keyword search strategy with terms that garner no or very limited or traffic. This is why it is important that your law firm SEO strategy is predicated on keyword research.
That said, there may be occasions where you wish your law firm to be found for these types of keywords. We call these keywords, “long-tail” keywords and whilst they shouldn’t be your law firm’s primary focus, providing their terms that drive some leads they may be worth consideration.
For example, if you’re a personal injury law firm, then a primary keyword you may chase maybe, “personal injury lawyers Sydney,” and a long-tail keyword may look like, “How do I claim compensation if I was a passenger in a car crash.”
The latter will be significantly easier to rank your firm than the former.
When conducting your keyword research, whilst Google is a great platform to do this, there are of course other tools as well. Some of these tools may be useful, particularly if you’re using them more broadly for your SEO tracking and reporting.
There is also a Chrome extension called keywords everywhere that is useful.
If you need help doing this research, talk to us at Fast Firms. We can show you example after example of results for our clients.
Just to add some context, at Fast Firms up until 3 years ago, we partnered with a leading SEO agency to do the SEO work for our clients while we concentrated on everything else. Needless to say it didn’t work and we decided to bring SEO in-house.
The reasoning for this was primarily because that we found and continue to find that SEO agencies do not understand the nuances of legal practice and consequently content that was added by them, and the SEO titles etc were completely wrong. The end result was that the law firm looked bad!
The other reason we brought SEO in-house was that it is complex and increasingly is enmeshed in website optimisation and design. From a practical perspective, what this meant for our clients was that they were paying for SEO than were paying us to update the website repetitiously to fall into line with recommendations. Many of which didn’t work from an SEO perspective.
We mention this because if you’re going to have an SEO agency work in tandem with your web design and development agency and your content writers it will end in disaster as we found.
Because everything is interrelated these days you need to consolidate everything with one agency. It’s akin to having too many cooks in the kitchen.
Let’s now discuss the website optimisation things you need to know about.
SEO Site Structure
Well-designed websites have very clear architecture, clean code, are mobile responsive and are quick.
They are websites that are easy to navigate and have substantive content relating to the key topics.
This type of consideration is broadly called UX (user-experience design).
This is all a little counter-intuitive, but rarely will UX be nailed at the first iteration of a website design. Very importantly your law firm has to accept that a website design, designed and developed with the very best intentions and subscribed to the foregoing methodology, is nothing but an assumption.
Sure that assumption is informed by the experience of your web design and development agency, but no-one really knows how effective it will be until such time as it is launched and starts interacting with users.
Practically speaking, at Fast Firms we have been designing and developing websites, along with everything else for over 10 years and despite knowing what works for law firms, we’re still occasionally surprised.
In testing the assumption there are numerous tools that we use to measure the UX. For example, following launch we run heat maps and mouse-tracking under the website to determine patterns and whether those patterns support the assumption or are in conflict with it.
Whilst this work technically isn’t SEO, it’s important because forming knowledge of how people are using your website will allow you to improve it and consequently you will be rewarded from an SEO perspective because it follows the key tenets of what search engines, particularly Google wants.
Let’s talk specifics.
Schema.org came about due to the collaboration of major search engines, like Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo! with the key objective to improve search for people using the collective platforms. One of the key factors that arose from the collective wisdom was Schema markup. Without getting into too much detail, adding Schema markup to your HTML (code within your law firm’s website) will improve the way your page displays in search engines by enhancing the rich snippets that are displayed beneath the page title of your law firm’s website.
By and large, most web design and development agencies will simply deploy a theme or template to your law firm’s website when designing and building it. The problem with this approach though is that often the code that has been used to design and build the theme or template is bloated and does not follow the strict HTML markup protocols. When this occurs, not only is it likely that your law firm’s website will be compromised in speed but from an SEO perspective, it will be difficult for search engines to crawl.
It goes without saying that when Google crawls your website if it has trouble, your search results will be severely hampered.
At Fast Firms, we inherit many unhappy clients who come to us soon after they have had their website built by another agency who has designed and developed the website poorly.
In this context, we often see website URLs that are not optimised for search or have been over-optimised which can cross the line in Google potentially concluding that your law firm website is using keyword stuffing to gain position.
An example of a poor URL structure is www.joneslawyers.com/personal-injury-lawyers/about-us
The far better and recommended URL structure would simply be www.joneslawyers.com/about-us
The URL is straight to the point and not over-complicating the intent of the URL. In this case, the URL points to this law firm’s about page and that should be the sole objective of how it is structured.
We often see the same thing with law firms who have poor blog URL structure.
For example, www.joneslawyers.com.au/blog/2020/what-is-probate
The much better URL structure is www.joneslawyers.com.au/what-is-probate
Again, clean, URLS with intent and one singular objective.
Website page speed is becoming a very big issue for SEO focussed agencies like Fast Firms. Put bluntly, we are finding ourselves returning to websites that have been built within a 2 year period doing significant site-speed work. For new clients, the objectives of the law firm now guide the use of technology that we use at Fast Firms. That said, whatever the technology, we’re aiming for above 90% speed results on desktop and towards the 50% for mobile, using Google Developer tools to assess the latter. Whilst this figure may look a little lame, we’re yet to see any websites that score above 60% on this particular tool.
In determining site speed, we recommend that your law firm use these tools:
These tools are useful in not only assessing your current speed results but will offer recommendations in relation to speed generally.
Speed is also compromised by functionality. What we mean is that law firms may want lots of functionality that require additional technology which may slow site speed. So, consideration of new technology has to be considered also from an SEO perspective.
Keyword Use on Relevant Pages
Don’t let anyone tell you that having relevant keywords on relevant landing pages is not an SEO priority. It is. That doesn’t mean that your law firm should keyword spam those pages, but it needs to be very clear to Google what this page relates to and to this extent, having keywords within the page addresses this objective.
When we consider SEO in this frame, we think of keywords being used in a variety of headings, as well as paragraph content.
More specifically, your website will be made up of a variety of H tags. H tags typically range from H1 to H6, with H1 being the most important in signalling to Google what this page is about.
In this context, an example for a personal injury law firm in Salt Lake City on a page that is relevant to medical negligence may be:
H1 = Salt Lake City Medical Negligence Lawyers
H2 = Jones Lawyers Medical Negligence Experts
H3 = What is Medical Negligence?
These are just examples, but it illustrates what we mean when we talk of the importance of H tags and their role in SEO.
Content is imperative to SEO and more to the point, long-form content. Put bluntly, if your law firm is a family law practice in Melbourne and one of your keywords that you’re targeting is “binding financial agreements (prenups” than you will need to spend time on writing substantive content on this page, preferably upwards of 3,000 words. This content needs to adopt the principles of SEO, in particular H tags and keyword usage.
We acknowledge that having your lawyers write this content can be laborious and might not be an effective use of their time, for this reason, Fast Firms have a team of journalists who write this type of content.
Another key factor in website optimisation for SEO is time on-page. In other words, Google gives those websites who have a higher time on page an advantage over metrics that signify a low time on page.
In this context, ensuring your content is substantive is important, as well as exploring multiple mediums to keep people on your pages longer is a key objective. Augmenting your written content with video, podcasts, webinars etc is becoming increasingly important to drive time on page data upwards.
At Fast Firms, we do video production, as well as podcasting and webinars for this reason, as well as many others.
Local SEO for Law Firms
Local SEO for law firms is best explained by asking you to Google the name of your law firm. When you do this, on the right-hand side of the results page you will see a map and specific details relating to your law firm. This area is called Google Business and it is very important from a Local SEO perspective.
When we use the term “local” we mean ranking well for those search terms of which Google will deliver “local SEO results” below the map section. Here is an example
Local SEO requires that your Google Business (GMB) page is optimised and of course has positive Google reviews. The latter is becoming very important for both SEO and of course client acquisition. If you have poor rankings, good luck trying to persuade a potential client to choose your law firm over the result below that has 77, 5-star reviews.
Driving more positive reviews needs to be a key part of your broader marketing strategy. At Fast Firms, we have technology that we provide to our clients at no cost that assists them to get more reviews.
The GMB page importantly needs to have details that are consistent with your website. For example, if your GMB page is old and out of date with incorrect phone numbers or addresses, this will impact negatively on your local SEO results.
Search engines like Google ascertain part of your worth as a business by the number and quality of links that point to your website.
Let’s talk the best case scenario.
Your law firm is a criminal law practice and your lawyers are often asked by media outlets to discuss certain criminal law matters. In doing so, you ahead of time have substantive content relating to the topic of interest to the media and encourage them to link that content on their news website. Coinciding with this, your lawyers regularly write content for online authoritative blogs with links again pointing back to your website. Moreover, your lawyers regularly facilitate tutorial sessions at a local University of which the details for upcoming tutorials are advertised on the University website, linking back yo your law firm website for more details.
This example illustrates how Google would envisage the worth of your website. Clearly, with these types of links, Google would form a view that your website should rank (as long as all other things are dialled in) high in search results because of its influence.
Link building is a laborious, fastidious task that seeks to identify websites, particularly good ranking directory websites that can offer worthwhile links back to your law firm’s website.
Measure Your Results
SEO for law firms is a science and therefore requires a copious amount of testing. One of the major benefits in working with a legal industry-specific agency is the many firms of which SEO work is being deployed and as a result the key learnings. Practically speaking, we know the strategies that work to get law firms well-ranked for their keywords.
Given the scientific nature of SEO, testing is imperative and accordingly, you need great software to measure and track results.
In this context, we use a range of tools and stay up to speed on the developments of SEO by tuning in to key online publications.
What to Do Next
Law Firm SEO is complex and takes time. Do not think that you will see results within 3 months. We typically say to our clients that it’s a marathon and providing all things are dialled in, SEO results will start being achieved within a 6 month period.
The other thing you have to consider is that by and large, any law firm that is ranking on page 1 and 2 of Google for specific search terms are likely doing SEO. Consequently, it is highly competitive. You can short cut this time by working with an agency like Fast Firms that solely works with law firms. We know what works by virtue of the fact that our clients rank #1 #2 #3 for the most competitive search terms in the legal industry.
Talk to us today about how we can assist your law firm. We can initially do an SEO audit and advise you of your next best steps.