SEO Strategies to Rank Your Law Firm
What is SEO? Why does it matter to you?
Most of your clients will hear about you through other means, like referrals and word of mouth, right?
Not so much in today’s digital world. In fact, an estimate of 89% of people in North America are currently using the internet, with a forecasted 23-million rise in new users before 2020.
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization, which does what it sounds: optimizes your website for search engines so you rank highly in the search results.
When you search for something on the internet, you’re using a search engine to find a list of websites relevant to your query in the search results. Click or tap on one, and you’ll find yourself on their website – but, have you ever wondered what makes those sites appear in the top search results?
Appearing top in the search results is important. Very few people (less than 2%) go past the first page of Google. Additionally, the higher up in the search results you are, the more people will click on your site. Approximately 31% of searchers click on the first result, lowering the further you get down the page until everyone after the third page shares 1.6%.
Sharing 1.6% across thousands of pages is often not worth the money it takes to host a website, so why wouldn’t you do SEO to get onto the first page?
There are a couple of important things to note before you jump into the game, however:
SEO takes time.
Don’t expect to get to the first position overnight. In a video on “How to Hire an SEO” Google states that not many people will see results until they’re at least four to twelve months into their SEO campaign.
Google doesn’t like cheaters.
Very quickly, you’ll find there are a lot of sites out there that will let you purchase links in large quantities for a relatively small amount of money. Google’s business is run on delivering high-quality, relevant websites to searchers, so they actively try to weed out these kinds of spammy tactics. If you use these tactics, you’re pushing your luck with Google and risk your site receiving a penalty that can get you kicked off the search results completely.
It’s a zero-sum game
Which means, once you’re on the first page, you’re bumping someone else off.
Don’t expect them to take it lying down – especially in larger cities and metropolitan areas, losing the traffic is noticeable and they’ll want to know why. Usually, after someone’s bumped off the first page, they’re going to be in the market to hire an SEO to get them back in their spot.
Maintenance is Important
We’ve heard people say their SEO campaign is “the bill that pays the bills” and this couldn’t be truer, especially if you’re in a competitive niche.
The reasons for this are two-fold:
First, the aforementioned zero-sum game. Whoever you bumped off will either have an SEO or be looking for one now that you’ve bumped them off.
Secondly, Google doesn’t like to see an unnatural drop-off in your site’s background activity. A sudden drop, to Google, usually means either an SEO was working on their site, or that site is not as relevant anymore to the audience, so they’ll try to push you back down.
Who Do You Want to Target?
Before you start linking to your site and start creating parts of the campaign, it’s important to think about who you want to target.
A better way to ask the question is this:
What do you want your next caller to ask you about?
You may be a personal injury lawyer, but who do you want to target? People looking for “personal injury law,” or “18 wheeler accident lawyer Gulfport?”
Narrowing down your search will help you get the right kind of calls, and get the best return on investment.
1. Get in the Maps: Most Searchers Click on a Map Result.
The maps often show in the search results above the organic results, especially in search terms that target a location.
In Gulfport, our client Wetzel Law Firm wanted to target potential clients who searched for “personal injury lawyer Gulfport.” We targeted this keyword and worked to get their business to the number one spot in the results for this query. You can see their map pack results below:
If you were a prospective client looking at this map pack, which one of the three companies would you click on?
The Wetzel Law Firm also appears in map results for searches as varied as “18 wheeler accident lawyer,” “brain injury lawyer,” “car accident attorney” and many others.
The local map pack is one of the most important places for your firm to appear. In fact, Moz performed a study when this new listing system came out discovered over 30% of searchers click on one of the three listings in the map pack, with another 30-40% or more of searchers clicking on the first organic result.
Here’s the interesting part – while organic listings direct searchers to your website, local map packs don’t. Map listings are an entirely separate platform called Google My Business.
But, if you can get 30% more clicks by just being the top result in the map pack, then how do you get there?
We’ll show you:
First, you’ll start by creating your Google My Business listing. To do this, go to www.google.com/maps and search for your business name. If you see a result with the correct address and information, then fantastic! Google has autogenerated a Maps listing for you. You should see a “Claim My Business” link if you don’t already have access to the listing.
If you don’t see this listing, click on “Add Business to Google Maps.” Once you’ve entered your information, you have a Google My Business Listing!
Hold on, don’t click Verify Address yet.
There’s more to it…
Here’s the backend Google My Business listing of Wetzel Law Firm:
There are a few key points to a Google My Business listing that should be optimized before you verify the address.
The category is where you’ll tell Google what searches you want to show up for. In this example, the Wetzel Law Firm won’t show up for the query “copyright lawyer” because they’re listed as a Personal Injury Attorney. However, if you search for the previous example “18 wheeler accident lawyer Gulfport,” then they’ll show up in the results.
You can choose multiple categories as well. Select the ones that are relevant to you and attract the type of client you’re looking for.
2) Name, Address, and Phone Number
The Name, Address, and Phone Number can simply be referred to as the NAP. This is a critical part of your map pack success, and helps when you create citations later. No – not traffic citations – citations are business listings across the internet that match your NAP exactly.
We mean exactly.
If you enter “Avenue” into your NAP, then all your citations must be “Avenue”, not “Ave.” or “Av.”
You’ll learn more about this later, don’t worry. For now, enter in the exact address you want to stick with across the internet.
Photos tell a story. Google likes business listings with plenty of photographs so people can get to know a business more before they even call. It’s best to target around 30-40 photos. You don’t have to hire a professional photographer, either; walk around your office and take photos with your smartphone. Include an image of the entrance, some of your team members, so on, so forth.
This endeavor of getting a business listing won’t help unless it’s verified. Enter in the address and click “Get Verified.”
Google will send a postcard to the address you entered. Inside the card, you’ll see a code. Enter that code and your listing should be verified. In some cases, Google will want to verify the listing over the phone to prove you’re the business owner. This is common in metropolitan areas especially, to reduce the number of fictitious sites.
Don’t change anything in your listing while you’re waiting for your card, otherwise it may invalidate your code.
Reviews are incredibly important. If you look back at the study we mentioned earlier by Moz (located here) on the click pattern of searchers, you can see that reviews impacted what result the searcher clicked on significantly.
Google’s support team is kind enough to have written instructions on how to generate a review link. Give this link to your customers and they’ll be able to leave a review directly on your Google My Business listing.
We recommend shortening the URL, especially for smartphone users or for placing the link on business cards. You can find instructions on how to do this here.
Once you get at least five reviews, your review stars will show up with your listing results. The more reviews you have, the better you look in the eyes of Google – which means your business is more likely to appear in the map pack when people search for keywords and searches related to what you’ve targeted.
My Business Listing is Verified. Now What?
Remember how we mentioned we’d talk about business citations later? Now’s the time to take care of them.
Citations – also sometimes called “business listings” are the exact same listing of your NAP across the internet. These are usually found in directories like YellowPages, Yelp, and so on.
Now, there are over 300 business listings in the United States. Each one, you’ll want to ensure your NAP is correct on each one, monitoring it and making sure it stays live, submitting it again to each one, double checking…
Instead of that, you should be moving on with your SEO campaign so you can take calls.
We recommend purchasing citation listings. One of the most cost-effective options is Local Citation Services. Because law can be so competitive, we recommend choosing the Elite option.
Once your order is complete, you’ll receive a file with all the locations of your citations, including login information.
Unfortunately, you’ll need to log in to each one and ensure the information is correct, from your business details to the NAP.
Yes, all 350 of them.
Fortunately, you’ll only need to do this once.
We’re not done yet – before we can move on from citations, we need Google to see the listings. If Google hasn’t seen the listing, then it doesn’t exist.
It will be seen by a Google bot, also known as a “crawler.” Google bots crawl links and sites to “index” them, which is another way of saying it sees the link or page and will consider it where applicable.
You’ll want to point Google toward each of these citations. The easiest way to handle this is to put links to each citation on one (or more) of your social networks. Again, yes, all 350 of them. Luckily, this only needs to be done once. Google’s bots follow any activity on social networks closely and will follow the links you post. Once it follows the link to your citation, it has crawled it and will begin taking it into consideration.
To Sum It All Up…
Create your listing, add lots of photos and lots of information.
Get your address verified, get a review link, and get reviews.
Order all the citations and check them for accuracy.
Point links from social networks at your citations for Google to see.
That’s step one to get clients to see you.
At this point, you won’t be noticing much increase in ranking or calls – because you’ve only started working on your campaign.
It’s no wonder why people hire SEOs to take care of the work for them; you’re working two full-time jobs. One as a lawyer, the other as an SEO.
2. Take a Look: Is Your Website Optimized?
It’s time to look over your website. There’s no point to embarking on an SEO campaign without a website to point it towards, and once someone’s on your website, they need an easy way to navigate – which in turn, increases your conversions.
Now, we like to make data-driven decisions, which is why we shy away from web design.
However, web design is still important, and we can still make some decisions based on data and information.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, design your website based on a site that you already know is working well.
If you look at some of the top results in major market areas such as Chicago or New York, you’ll likely be looking at a website that was honed over time to maximize their conversion rate. If you take a look at the Wetzel’s website in the image below you’ll see a couple of highlighted points. This site was designed with inspiration from law firm websites in major markets and is still converting well after many months.
1) Your Site Title
Site titles are recommended to be between 50-60 characters including spaces.
The site title appears in your visitor’s browser tab at the very top. This helps them keep track if they have multiple pages open, as well as tells them what the page is about.
We recommend having your site name and one of your main keywords in the title tag, as it’s arguably one of the more important pieces of content on your website. As you can see, the Wetzel’s title tag is “Personal Injury Lawyer – Car Accident Attorney”
This prompt is a click-to-call phone number in a visible place near the site header. Most visitors will see your site from a mobile device, so a click-to-call phone number allows them to simply tap the number to begin a call with you.
We recommend also placing the phone number on the button or somewhere else on the site that is highly visible, in case they are on a desktop or tablet without click-to-call capabilities.
3) Clear Call to Action Above the Fold
The Call to Action is a highly-visible button, form, or piece of text that prompts the client to do something. In this case, the Wetzel’s are asking their visitors to put their information in for a free case evaluation.
“Above the Fold” is the part of the page you can see on a site without scrolling down. This is the most important part of your website.
You should also notice that the colors for important items on the page are bright green, which “pops” off the screen. Green is a complementary color of red, which is present in the undertones of both the image and video on the page.
To find the best color without diving into color theory, choose the color scheme you enjoy using the most and do a quick Google search on the “complimentary color of […]” and search the color you’ve chosen. Use the complimentary color as the one to pop off the page.
Only use this color in the places you want the visitor’s eyes to land on most. In the Wetzel’s case, they chose their “submit” button and their phone number under “Talk to Mr. Wetzel today!”
4) Client Benefits Above the Fold
What is your client getting at first glance? In the Wetzel’s case, their potential clients are assured of a >95% success rate. Other ideas of client benefits are a free case study download or informational booklet.
5) Relevant Content
On average, most sites ranking on the first page of Google has a minimum of 1,890 words on the homepage. We recommend between 2,000 and 4,000 words due to the average competition of law firms.
Now, if you want to do this step well, you’ll want to hire a writer with SEO knowledge for this step. Let’s face it, not all of us have a degree in English or read AP Style guidebooks with our morning coffee. A good writer is used to creating engaging and compelling copy, and you can almost always find someone who specializes in the law niche. You can expect to pay between $0.15 ~ $0.20 per word for high-quality content.
You can still write it yourself if you’re determined. We won’t stop you.
Now that you’ve taken a thorough look at your website and probably moved things around, you’re ready to start doing the hard work to get that site ranked. Link your website to your optimized Google My Business (once you’ve verified it), and you’re ready to get started on the next step.
There is an extensive list of additional items you can concern yourself with if you’d like to. This can range anywhere from keyword density, adding security to your site, compressing images, alt text, meta tags… The list goes on.
One thing we hear a lot is “but I had my site professionally designed. Shouldn’t they have taken care of all that?”
Well, a lot of people have, and it’s a great thing to do, but web designers shouldn’t be trusted for SEO. Web designers focus on aesthetics, not optimization.
There are a lot of web designers who say they can do SEO, but much of the time, you get web design, or you get SEO – not both. We have seen too many beautiful websites that miss out on some of the very basic technical aspects of driving organic traffic.
3. Converting Site Visitors Requires Site Visitors.
You’ve been through a lot on this campaign already.
You’ve built the foundation, and now it’s time to put the support beams in place.
It’s a no-brainer that to convert visitors who are on your site, you need to get people onto your site in the first place. But, how do you do that?
Google’s algorithm weighs 200 variables when ranking a website, but many people agree that the most important ones can be separated into three different, succinct categories.
Your site’s content
Regarding your website’s age, there’s not much you can do to give yourself an advantage unless you happened to purchase a domain over ten years ago to use for your site today. You can potentially find an old domain at a domain auction, but this is often prohibitively expensive for many people – especially if you’re just getting your start in the industry.
Your site’s content is, as we discussed earlier, one of the most important things you can put on your site. Get this one right and hire a professional SEO-experienced copywriter. You can expect to find one in the $0.15 ~ $0.20 per word range.
Now, for backlinks.
To break backlinks down into their simplest form, a backlink is a sort of “vote” from one website to another.
Google will index the link and follow it to your site. The crawler then takes into consideration the authority of the site that sent the link your way, as well as the authority of your site. Your site will be recognized as having that much more “weight” to it, as well as being relevant to the niche or industry that linked to you. The more high-quality sites that link to you in a relevant industry or niche, the more you can outweigh competitors and climb in the rankings as google periodically reconsiders the rankings.
Sites that show up in the top search engine results for even the most competitive keywords almost always have backlinks from high-quality, authoritative websites, and often have the most backlinks, alongside a large amount of content and a user-friendly website.
Keep in mind that backlinks are, again, one of 200 algorithmic ranking factors that Google takes into consideration, so to say backlinks are the only thing you need to have a successful site is incorrect.
How can you possibly outrank your competitors though? There are a lot of options available to you, and this website has a fairly extensive collection of guides and walkthroughs to earning the right links for your site.
But, where do you start?
We’ll show you:
With the Wetzel Law Firm, we began our backlinking approach with something called the Copycat method.
This method relies on the idea that sites that are linking out to your top competitors in the field are likely going to link to you. You can start finding your competitors’ links, reaching out to the sites that link to them, and ask for a link to your site.
The best part is, you can do all of this for free. All it takes is time.
First, you’ll need to visit a website called Majestic. In the white bar, type in the website address for the #1 site for the main keyword you want to target.
As an example, we’ll use a local law firm website:
You’ll see a page much like the above image. Because you’re likely using the site as a free user, you won’t see the trust flow categories in the middle. While these are important, right now we are trying to figure out where the backlinks are coming from, which can be seen under “Backlinks.”
Click the “Backlinks” tab, and you’ll see a report of all links that are going to this site. In this example, some of the links are ones that won’t be easy to replicate, such as a link from the NBA.com because this particular site sponsors the New Orleans Pelicans. Especially starting out with a campaign, you may not be in a position to sponsor a professional basketball team – that can come later.
Some of the other top links are free, and all they cost is time.
Google Plus, Pinterest, Authenticpros.com, and a few others of this site’s backlinks are high-quality links that you can get by just signing up.
Of course, you can’t get to the first result by just copying the links from the first result.
Move on to the next competitor and do the same here. Repeat this process for the top ten competitor sites who are ranking for the keyword you want. Once you have a backlink profile that combines the best links from all of your competitors, you can start to see rankings rise in as little as a month or two.
4. Tired of Being a Copycat?
A business needs to stand out if they’re going to get more customers. You can’t stand out from a crowd when you’re just doing everything the crowd does.
For the method we’ll discuss below, we’ll get down and dirty with some advanced Google search parameters. It will be exciting if you’re someone who loves advanced search parameters like we do.
Before we dive into the details, however, let’s explain how you can benefit from this method:
Websites are moved, taken down, or abandoned all the time. An estimate of over 20,000 domains expire every day, and a lot of those domains still have backlinks pointed towards them.
We can take advantage of this:
Our process for finding these domains starts with searching for domains in the legal industry and determining which ones have a link to one of those expired domains.
Once we find one of these domains, we e-mail the webmaster and inform them that one of their links are no longer functioning – this is a huge favor to their site and helps them significantly since Google doesn’t like broken links.
In return, we let the webmaster know about a similar resource that they can link out to instead – this happens to be your site.
If you’re lucky, you might have found a broken link that can point directly to your homepage.
Most of the time, however, the broken link will reference a particular topic or subject. If that’s the case, you might not be able to get a link to your homepage, but you can still get a link from them.
You’ll need to create authoritative, high-quality content on a subpage or blog post that’s relevant to your site as well as the subject or topic they referenced. After you post that content, you can e-mail the webmaster suggesting the link to your new subpage or post. If they choose to link to it, you can still give your homepage authority from that link, so long as you have a link to your homepage in the post.
Finding these broken links can be time-consuming at the very least; however, we’ve found a solution to making the game a little easier with advanced search parameters.
Here, you’ll learn what they are and how to use them:
Search parameters - also called “Search Operators” or “Search Syntax” - are used in the Google search bar. They are guidelines for google to find very granular, specific terms and targets, whether you want to search for something within an individual site or a particular term.
You can get as granular as showing results from a particular country, or even results that have indexed within the last hour. This, however, has its own learning curve, and we won’t be needing all of that. For now, we’ll stick just a few simple ones we use regularly.
A lot of legal sites will have a page called “links,” “resources,” or similar types of information dumps where they’ll house a directory or list of links. The search parameter “intitle:” will only return results on google that have the specific word or phrase you’re looking for in the site’s title. Likewise, “inurl:” does the same, but with the URL.
If we’re looking for broken links from DUI lawyers, for example, we’ll search the following term on Google:
DUI Lawyer intitle:resources
When we performed this example, we received 7,930 results that have the phrase “DUI Lawyer” somewhere on the page and have included the word “Resources” on their page title. Now it’s time to go nosing through the pages looking for a broken link.
When we performed this search, the 12th result was this website. The third link on their resource page was to “CNN Law News,” which was no longer working.
In this case, I would then e-mail the webmaster for this website and inform them that link to CNN is broken, and suggest linking to a resource on our website.
But, some of these sites have hundreds of links. Should you manually check each one?
Not at all. There is an easier way:
We often use a Chrome extension (located here) called Check My Links. It will add a button to your web browser and highlight any broken links. Below, you’ll see a screenshot of the previous site with a broken link:
You’ll notice that the broken CNN Law News article is listed in red with a “404” next to it, which is a server code for “Not Found.”
This method is certainly time-intensive, but we typically see a 10% success rate in earning links, which is significant enough to go through the effort. There’s a bonus, too: because you’re starting with the highest ranked sites for the search terms you’re using, you’ll already be starting with the most valuable sites first, and work your way down.
Personally, we enjoy this method because we’re also helping clean up the internet and make it easier for users to find the things they’re looking for.
Of course, the internet is a vast place, and it can be exhausting to do this by hand, but the name of the game right now is getting links to your site so you can get traffic.
5. Your Return on Investment
Any business owner should not base their business decisions on looking at what “feels like it might just work,” but also what their return on investment is. It’s a big buzz-word, but it’s still important and valuable.
Remember our client, the Wetzel Law Firm? They saw $20,000 of leads in a single month.
Below, we’ll explain where those numbers came from:
At the time of their case study, we had been working with the Wetzel’s for three months, and we can talk all day about rank and traffic improvements. In fact, here’s a chart displaying their site’s rank performance from November 2016 ‘til February 2017.
Keep in mind, this is their rank position, so lower is better.
While seeing your rank improvements is exciting, you won’t know what your ROI for these gains are.
What is a lead worth in your space?
Let’s begin by establishing the value of a telephone call for a personal injury attorney who is located in Gulfport, MS.
The easiest way to do is by looking at how much it costs to purchase Google Adwords for these terms.
In case you’re not familiar with it, Google AdWords are four paid ad listings that appear at the top of the search results, often above the Map Pack. These advertisers pay for individual clicks on their ads and are chosen to appear in a round-robin selection with other competitors.
A good estimate you can use to calculate how many people call after visiting the website is 10%.
In the above image, you’ll see a screenshot from the Google Keyword Planner Tool. This is a free tool offered by Google that helps you estimate your AdWords campaigns. You’ll notice the suggested bid for “personal injury lawyer” is $51.82 each time someone clicks on the ad. Not calls you up, or books an appointment, but clicks on the ad, even by accident.
Keep in mind that this is for searchers in Gulfport, MS – nowhere near major cities like Chicago, Dallas, or New York. Combining this rate with your estimated 10% call rate, that implies that, with AdWords, you can expect to spend $518.20 per call you receive. Let’s round this up for ease and say it’s an even $520.
How many calls did our client, the Wetzel Law Firm, receive over the last thirty days?
First, you’ll have to understand that there are two sources of calls once your site is ranked in Google. One is calls from searchers who visit your site from the organic results, and the second is calls from your map pack listing.
Above, you’ll see a screenshot from the Wetzel Law Firm’s Google Search Console, which lets us see how many people have clicked on their site. The total is 123 clicks in the last 30 days.
We’ll use the same 10% call rate to estimate 12 calls in those 30 days.
Below, you’ll see the results for Google Map results, showing 27 calls in the last 30 days.
Let’s do some math:
That’s 39 calls over the last 30 days. Now, we did learn from Google AdWords that advertisers are paying an estimate of $520 per call.
In this case, a little more than $20,000 of value has been generated from the site’s organic ranking.
That’s evidence to us that our methods work, and it’s worth spending the time and energy to make your site more visible. After all, the result you want is more calls to your law firm from the clients you want.
Who Are We?
Ulku Logistics is a technical search engine optimization firm centered around making informationally-based decisions. The team has seen firsthand how law firms often have poor-quality search engine optimization, and how much it can affect their business.
Compelled by the vision to provide guidance to law firms, helping them attract the right clients and generate additional revenue, we’re determined to change the standards in the field and deliver high value to our clients. We strive to fulfill this vision with integrity and in a way that serves our clients to the highest degree possible, whether that’s through learning, through results, or a mixture of the two.
If you have any questions about our method, schedule a call with us. We’ll take a look at your firm’s Google My Business listing and website, giving you actionable advice to improve your rank position in the search results so you can focus on growing your client base and revenue.