Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the primary drivers of traffic and clients for law firms, but it’s not always straightforward how to go about it the right way.
After all, legal is a highly competitive niche, and there are a lot of hoops lawyers have to jump through in regard to marketing their services online.
Due to the often sensitive nature of some practice areas (think Personal Injury or Criminal Law), law firms need to take a strategic and creative approach if they want to attract more clients from Google.
The good news is that the fundamentals of an SEO-friendly website are pretty consistent across the board.
A website that is user-friendly targets the right search terms. It provides valuable content to potential clients is over halfway there when it comes to satisfying the search engine algorithms.
In this chapter of our Law Firm SEO Guide, we’re covering the basics of optimizing your law firm website to generate more traffic, leads, and ultimately, clients for your practice.
The Importance of SEO for Law Firm Websites
As stated previously, search engines are one of the primary avenues through which people search for lawyers, typically in their geographical area. For that reason, law firms that don’t have a strong SEO strategy will struggle to get found by potential clients online.
Users search for a variety of terms to find answers to their legal questions, compare law firms, and eventually find contact information for the firms they want to reach out to.
Investing in SEO will allow your law firm to rank for their search queries, increasing your chances of getting these users to contact you.
Overall, here are just a few benefits of having an SEO-friendly law firm website:
- You increase your firm’s visibility in search engines, helping you to get found by potential clients.
- You can outrank local and even national competitors, compelling users to choose your firm over the alternatives.
- You can increase your law firm’s reputation by showcasing positive client reviews and getting featured in publications.
- You drive consistent traffic and clients to your firm, ending the “feast or famine” cycle.
8 Crucial Components of an Optimized Law Firm Website
Now, let’s dig into the exact components your law firm website needs to rise to the top of the organic search results.
Whether you’re doing SEO for your own site or are an agency doing SEO on behalf of your clients, you can follow these steps to start seeing tangible results from your marketing efforts.
1. Keyword Research
Keyword research is an important component of any SEO strategy, but it’s particularly important for the competitive legal niche.
This is because the goal is to find high search volume, mid to low competition keywords that will attract the right kind of prospects to your website.
One of the most common complaints I get as an SEO professional in the legal niche is that lawyers may have their phone ringing off the hook, but the calls are from people who either:
1. Need something they don’t offer.
2. Can’t afford their services.
This is usually due to off-base keyword targeting.
As a law firm, you should target those terms that will attract the types of people (or businesses) you want to work with.
Be specific, whether that means targeting keywords related to “car accidents,” “product liability claims,” “family law,” “criminal defense,” “employment law,” etc.
Targeting “lawyer in [location]” keywords will end up being too broad while targeting “[practice area] lawyer in [location]” is more specific.
With the latter, you’re targeting people who are looking for law firms that specialize in a particular type of law and that serve clients in a specific geographical area.
You can use keyword research tools like ahrefs.com or SEMrush.com, to find these highly targeted keywords. Then, it becomes a matter of strategically incorporating these keywords into your website content (which we will address later).
2. Website Design
The structure of your website and how easy it is for users to navigate play a major role when it comes to SEO.
A website that loads quickly is intuitive and makes it simple for visitors to find the information they’re looking for means easier crawlability (for search engines) and more clients (for you).
In setting up your law firm website, it should be built with SEO in mind from the very beginning. It’s recommended that you work with a website developer that knows SEO and can design a site that’s friendly for Google and for users.
Some SEO-friendly website design best practices include:
- Optimizing your website’s load speed, so web pages and blog posts load quickly (under 3 seconds).
- Using simple fonts and clear images that are easily viewed by website users.
- Laying out your site content in an intuitive way so users can find information easily.
- Adding obvious call-to-action buttons so users know how to get in contact with you.
- Using professional graphics and custom photography rather than generic stock photos.
- Including internal links to other pages and posts on your site so users can find additional resources with ease.
- Checking that all contact forms and clickable links work and don’t lead to a 404 page.
- Web Accessibility: WCAG 2.1 AA Compliance.
A reputable website designer will know these SEO best practices and build out a site that’s fast, functional, and user-friendly.
3. Branding & Authority
One component of an SEO-friendly law firm website that rarely gets mentioned is branding.
In a sea of online competitors, your law firm needs strong branding to stand out. This means investing in high-quality photography, a professional logo, and an attractive website.
Branding also encompasses brand colors and fonts and the messaging (copy) you use on your site.
As a lawyer (or collective law firm), you’ll need to decide what your law firm represents and how to communicate that to your prospective clients.
This is where it might make sense to work with a branding consultant and/or copywriter to come up with your brand mission and unique selling proposition (USP).
Cohesive visual branding and brand messaging will help set your law firm apart from your online competitors. It will also help you build authority in your niche as a reputable, professional law firm.
This can come in handy when it comes to generating PR for your firm and earning authority-building links back to your website.
4. Technical SEO
Technical SEO refers to all the technical inner workings of your website which keep your site running smoothly and available to be crawled by search engines.
You could have the best branding or most attractive website in the world, but if your site isn’t structurally sound, it will be difficult to rank high in the search results. Further, users will have a hard time navigating your website.
Some technical SEO best practices to follow include:
- Having an intuitive URL structure (i.e., using URLs like “diazfirm.com/family-law/” rather than “diazfirm.com/famlawfirm-or”).
- Fixing 404 (not found) pages to direct to live pages on your site (see: “301 redirects”).
- Submitting a sitemap of your website to increase crawlability.
- Enabling SSL (https:// vs http://) so your website is “secure” for users.
- Making sure your website is mobile-friendly across multiple devices.
- Setting up Google Search Console and Google Analytics to track traffic to your website.
Technical SEO is often the most confusing component of optimizing your website, so I recommend referring to this Complete Technical SEO Guide for assistance.
Or, you can reach out to a trusted technical SEO professional to help you fix any on-site errors.
5. On-Page Optimization
Remember that keyword research we did in step #1?
Now it’s time to incorporate those keywords into your website.
The goal here is to use your focus keywords throughout your website to indicate to users and search engines what each page is about.
However, you don’t want to over-do keyword usage, or else you risk coming across as spammy (or just plain awkward).
Here are the basic steps of on-page optimization:
- Choose a primary keyword for a specific page or post.
- Use keyword research tools to find related keywords (i.e., keywords that are most similar to your target keyword).
- Use your primary keyword in the title tag or your post or page.
- Use your primary keyword or a related keyword in your page’s Heading 1 (<H1>).
- Use your primary and secondary keywords within the body content of your page or post, focusing on providing accurate, valuable information to your target audience.
- Add internal links to relevant content on your website.
- Add external links to reputable sources, as needed.
- Include high-quality images with descriptive alt text.
Again, Search Engine Journal has a more in-depth On-Page SEO Guide to help you identify each of these components and optimize them correctly.
Just know that your primary goal here is to provide valuable content to your prospective clients first, and optimize for search engines second.
6. Off-Page Optimization
Off-page SEO (as the term implies) refers to any SEO tactic that takes place off of your website.
For law firms, this typically involves three things:
- Local optimization.
- Review generation.
- Link building.
In terms of local optimization, law firms can increase their rankings in local search by completing a Google My Business profile and submitting their information to reputable directories (like Bing Places, Yellow Pages, BBB, etc.).
This will help your website get found by potential clients and will send SEO-friendly trust signals to your website.
Positive client reviews are huge for law firms because having a 5-star rating could be the deciding factor that convinces a potential client to work with you over a poorly-reviewed competitor.
That’s why you would work to get positive reviews on your Google My Business profile, in local directories, and on your social media profiles.
Finally, earning links from reputable websites can indicate to Google that your website can be trusted as a reliable source of information for users.
You can earn backlinks through guest posting on industry-related blogs, getting featured in interviews, or by investing in PR services.
For lawyers, reputation is everything, so the more platforms that mention your law firm as a reliable source of information, the better. Just be sure that these links come from trustworthy, non-spammy websites.
7. Conversion Optimization
When it comes to SEO, the end goal is rarely traffic; it’s leads or revenue. By considering conversion optimization when building your website, you increase your chances of turning that traffic into actual clients.
Consider the type of experience you want users to have when they come to your website.
- Are they able to find the information they are looking for?
- Do they know how to contact you?
- Can they find examples of the types of results you’ve generated for your clients?
With these questions in mind, follow these conversion optimization best practices to make the most of the traffic coming to your website:
- Use simple and straightforward menu navigation.
- Add clear and concise call-to-action buttons.
- Include an obvious Contact Us tab and/or phone number at the top of your website.
- Link to all important pages within the main menu.
- Include contact forms throughout your website.
- Include internal links from new pages to relevant pages on your website (including blog posts).
- Showcase client testimonials and reviews.
- Give users opportunities to opt into your newsletter, ebooks, or other downloadables.
The goal here is to have multiple touchpoints throughout your website where visitors can engage with your content or contact you directly.
This is the surest way to make sure visitors actually reach out to you and turn into a paying client.
8. Content Marketing
When it comes to writing content for your law firm website and posting on your blog, it’s not enough to just publish, pray, and wait for the traffic to roll in. You’ll want a multi-channel marketing strategy in order to get the most life out of your content.
For you, this might mean sharing your latest blog posts across social media or sending them out to your email list. Or, you might repurpose your content as a YouTube video or reference it in a paid ad.
There are multiple methods for sharing your content and reaching a wider audience. And the great news is that legal content doesn’t have to be boring! You can publish content that’s of interest to your audience and is optimized for search engines.
Get More Traffic & Leads Through Your Law Firm Website
While legal is a competitive niche when it comes to SEO, hopefully, we’ve taken some of the guesswork out of optimizing your site for users and search engines.
Know that SEO is one of the best ways to drive more traffic and leads to your website, so it’s worth it to get it right from the beginning.
Of course, there are a few finer details you’ll need to consider when it comes to technical and on-page SEO, so be sure to look to the additional resources linked throughout this guide.
Know that even novice website owners can see real results from their SEO efforts by focusing on their target audience, following SEO best practices, and working SEO into their wider marketing strategy.
Featured Image Credit: Paulo Bobita