Law firm SEO is often marketed as an arcane and mysterious science. It’s not.
To reach potential clients and remain competitive in a crowded field, a law firm needs to understand and utilize the power of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the application of practices on a website and its pages to increase the ranking of their appearance in the results a search engine returns to a person searching for something on the internet.
SEO increases appearance in organic search results (unpaid) based on the quality of the information related to the searcher’s intent, as opposed to gaining paid placements through ads on search engines.
Because a search engine results page (SERP) contains thousands of links to websites for the searcher to choose from, the goal of SEO for lawyers is to get a website to appear at the top or near the top of that SERP list, which determines the volume of potential clients who will ever know about a law firm’s website.
- SEO for lawyers is essentially the same as SEO for any profession or website, though it is often marketed to law firms as a secret skill requiring rocket scientist intelligence.
- The real secret behind effective SEO is simply providing excellent legal firm content on topics internet users are already searching for.
- Vanguard has decades of experience in creating SEO-rich content, applying certain practices and principles to optimize it, and staying up-to-date on the constantly evolving SEO practices of search engines like Google.
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The more legal firm SEO marketing changes, the more it stays the same
For almost 30 years, Vanguard has operated on the digital marketing principle that “content is king” because it drives SEO and new customers to our professional services clients. Over the years, Google, which has over 87% of the search market share, has changed the way it evaluates SEO.
Yet Google’s search purpose remains the same: To serve up the most accurate and credible information from websites that best relate to what a person is searching for, whether typing into the search bar or asking a smart speaker.
That credible information is invariably excellent content that answers the searcher’s request. In our experienced opinion, that is the first aspect of SEO for lawyers; the second is the art of making sure the search engine finds that excellent content, so people can.
Vanguard’s competitive edge in SEO for lawyers & content marketing
When looking for an SEO agency, it’s important for a law firm to ensure the best choice by balancing expertise, quality and value. Here’s how we make that an easy choice:
- We’ll tell you upfront that SEO success doesn’t happen overnight; it takes some time, constant attention and ongoing content generation.
- Our decades of experience leveraging SEO has resulted in guaranteed growth for scores of medical practice clients.
- Our straight-shooting approach: SEO for lawyers is not rocket science or magical.
- Expertise providing excellent, trusted content optimized for the best keywords, which can be considered the keys that open up SEO performance.
- Our rigorous, team-oriented production process of content and quality control.
- Constant monitoring and updating of site performance using such tools as Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
SEO for lawyers 101: It’s all about the SERP
Search engines know what is on a law firm’s site and on its competitors’ sites. And, like people, they are comparing the two. How?
Google et al. use web crawlers (also called robots, bots or spiders) to scan, read download and index data from websites and pages all over the internet. The web crawlers’ job is to understand what is on each webpage so the search engine can recall that page when it thinks it will answer a searcher’s query.
These choices are offered to the person in a SERP (search engine results page). The search engine isn’t stingy with options it offers on a SERP: searching Google for “family law” returned over 3 billion options in less than a second.
Search engine optimization is the way a website attempts to have its webpage that contains information on the searcher’s query show up in the SERP. SERPs generally have paid ad results listed at the top denoted by “Ad.” But the ones that show right below those are known as organic search results, as opposed to paid search results from ads.
Organic search results are determined by the search engine’s evaluation of the value to the searcher of the webpage’s content and how it is optimized for search engines. Consumers are fully aware that those sites are the objective winners in the search engine’s evaluation of a legal website’s authority on the searched topic.
Organic search results are akin to free advertising on the internet
But their real worth is in their placement on the SERP. The essential goal of SEO is placement as near to the top of the SERP listing as possible. The benefits:
- The #1 organic search spot on a SERP has a click-through rate of 39.8%, which is fantastic – and free.
- That #1 spot gets 10 times the clicks as the website that shows up in spot #10 of organic search results.
- Organic search result position #1 is clicked more than the total clicks for organic spots #3-10.
- The top 3 organic search positions get 68% of the clicks on that SERP, according to FirstPageSage.
Until late 2022, SERPs were listed as pages with about 10-15 results on each page. This is why digital marketers say the best place to hide a body is on page 2 or 3 of SERPs: nobody looks there.
Results are now offered in something of a continuous scroll, but the principle is the same. If a page is not in the first set of 10 or so results, it’s not going to get as much action as pages 1-10.
Even though Google is well along in using artificial intelligence such as its RankBrain function to evaluate good SEO, it’s just a tool to help the search engine better understand what human searchers want. Content is still king.
There it is: SEO for lawyers unmasked.
A content creation process designed by law firm SEO experts
Since content is king in legal SEO, our multi-talented team gives it the royal treatment. The webpages we create for legal firms are in league with the best, most respected legal content on the web – and unique to our clients. Including content related to the main topic is an important factor in SEO ranking and decisions on content creation. This related content can be on the main page or linked to it.
We produce comprehensive content on a topic, clearly and concisely presented. From start to finish a webpage takes us 10 hours or more of combined expertise, and SEO is a top consideration throughout that process. Here’s how we go about it:
- Research. We investigate content topics with good SEO potential and discuss them with our legal client, agreeing on webpages to create and delivery schedule.
- Strategy. Vanguard’s team conducts extensive keyword research in conjunction with topic research, following client input on the firm’s needs, competitive landscape and distinctions.
- Content writing. With research in mind, we draft an engaging page and send it to the client for review.
- Implementation. After approval, we edit and publish on the site, ensure it’s crawled by search engines, and promote it across marketing channels such as a client’s newsletter and social media.
- Measure. We monitor SEO performance and analytics of page performance, making continual adjustments and recommendations.
- Communication. Throughout, our client services manager rides herd on production steps and coordinates with clients along the way.
Vanguard’s art of helping search engines discover great content
If you create great content, they will not come unless that content and the entire website is optimized for search engines. We’ve honed our advanced SEO services for almost 30 years and we never stop updating our processes – because Google never stops updating either.
Keyword best practices
On the worldwide web, a keyword is a word or term that indicates the content of a webpage or other internet-based content. A webpage generally has one primary keyword and several or quite a few secondary keywords.
Search engines have preferences on where and how those keywords are used. For just one example, if a site has two pages with a primary keyword of “personal injury lawyer,” that’s going to negatively affect the SEO of both.
Those preferences change, and Google almost makes a game of not explaining them. One recent shift in keyword practices is to use synonyms for keywords, as this is what people do and now what web crawlers recognize and reward.
Vanguard uses keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner. But we also use other means to determine what legal clients are searching for, including services that distinguish organic traffic from paid (ad-driven) traffic. There are other ways to determine what people are searching for and how, including trends.
On-page SEO for legal firms
On-page SEO involves things we do on the webpage. Some are done before it is a webpage at its draft and editing stages. Some are done when the page is published on the backend of the website, which is where a webpage is constructed and coded. The visitor sees the frontend.
Properly using the variety of keywords for that content in the copy, headline and subheads is one aspect. Using keywords in other areas on the backend is a vital aspect of on-page SEO and overall website SEO.
The structure of URLs (the name of a webpage, like www.supremecourt.gov) is an important aspect of legal firm web design. A reader should be able to look at the URL and know what the content will be about. Use clear and concise wording for URLs, with the website’s navigation structure reflected in them (www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_audio).
SEO link building strategy
Links to other website pages, both to the legal firm’s other webpages and to external sites, are good ways to enrich the visitor’s experience and build SEO. Where the links go and what the text containing the links (anchor text) says are factors that demonstrate the website’s authority. Getting an outside, respected website to link to the firm’s site is called a backlink, which is an excellent way to boost SEO.
Aspects of technical SEO are those elements and practices of optimizing a website and its server making it as easy as possible for web crawlers to do their indexing of the site.
Another technical SEO must is using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption between a browser and a website server. This is denoted by “https” in the URL. Other factors are using structured markup data (coding for search engines), policing the site for duplicate copy, creating an XML sitemap that promotes search engine understanding of what’s on the site, and other practices.
Be careful not to overload pages with elements that can slow page loading times, which is important for visitors and SEO. A slow loading page frustrates readers, causing them to leave and likely not come back. Web crawlers observe this and ding the site’s SEO rankings accordingly.