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SEO tips in the legal sector – What law firms need to know to acquire new clients

How many spam SEO emails does your firm get from the ‘next top SEO company from India with thousands of SEO experts around the world’? We hear from partners in law firms every week about how they’ve had an email like the one in the attached screengrab below. So it’s no surprise that SEO (and perhaps more broadly internet marketing) sometimes gets a bad name. You may get such an email and just delete it instantly, perhaps preceded with some swearing. That’s perfectly normal. That’s what I and my colleagues do too (yes, even our legal SEO experts get bombarded with similar emails each day, and yes we have a swear jar in the office).

seo for law firms 2016 spam example

Example of a spammy SEO email that should be treated with extreme caution and deleted as soon as possible. In particular, question any ‘guarantee’ of first page rankings – Google is a capricious mistress, as our founder Stephen Moore would say, and firms like the above probably employ tactics that may well get you ranking first page for a short period of time, but long-term could put your firm at serious risk of having a much worse online presence than your competitors.

An expert and trusted opinion on modern SEO

But what this constant barrage of SEO spam shouldn’t do is put you off thinking that SEO has little viability for law firm business generation today. In this post, I’m not going to disparage search engine optimisation ‘SEO’ professionals elsewhere in the world who send emails such as the one shared above. Particularly because there is a small minority who are very good at what they do and, like us, who put a load of energy and skill into getting their clients ranking well and performing well in search results. What this post intends to do, instead, is to give you an expert and trusted opinion into what you need to know about modern SEO this year – what works, what doesn’t work, what to look out for, and what to consider when hiring the best SEO company for your law firm. Hopefully this will give you a much clearer picture of the most relevant elements of SEO (particularly applied to the legal sector) and will hopefully save you from a disastrous SEO hire.

The essential elements of SEO

Here are the main elements of SEO as per current best practices, especially for law firms looking to increase traffic and generate more profitable client enquiries:-

1. Great local SEO is critical – see this Business Lawyers New York search example

Taking an example from one of the more competitive locations in the world, the following is an example of search results for ‘business lawyers new york’ (it’s always good to take inspiration and lessons from the more competitive markets). Clients, including business owners!, tend to search locally for their lawyer. So for this competitive search term, you’ll see that directly below the four Google Adwords listings, you’ve got only three local rankings appearing. This ‘local snackpack’ is really important to try to get into for as many relevant local keywords as possible. How do you do that? Through great local SEO skill and effort. Generating more perfect local citations centred around a consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) is one way to get your local rankings boosted. One of the key points to note about local SEO is that there are many ranking factors, not just local citations or any other one metric by itself. And there’s a real chance that if you over-optimise your business name in your Google local listing or if you miss certain key features that you’ll cause more SEO harm than good. See our local SEO guide for law firms here for a more in-depth introduction to the subject.

business lawyers new york seo local search rankings example

Example of the local ‘snackpack’ of three local law firms showing for a Google search for ‘business lawyers new york’ – the fact that there are now only three listings showing initially means more click throughs for those firms that get shown and much fewer click throughs for those firms that are missing out.

2. Longer, more valuable content combined with great on-page SEO is a deadly combination to beat your competitors

Content really is king when it comes to online marketing for law firms. For best SEO results, longer content that provides more value to readers will tend to outrank weaker content, but it still must be written and optimised with keywords in mind.

And when it comes to legal content marketing, you really need someone with a legal background writing the content so that they can provide the reader with as much valuable legal and practical information as possible. Indeed, that’s why, within our group of legal marketing companies, we set up our sister company Curated Media, content marketing strategy experts in the legal sector. We’ve all written extensively about the importance of great content marketing not just for SEO but generally to acquire and convert new legal leads. So if you’re interested in reading further on this, we’d recommend you check out the following resources:-

a) Curated Media – content marketing for lawyers & law firms

b) Moore Legal Technology’s Complete Guide to Content Marketing for Law Firms in the UK

c) 2000-2030: A Content Odyssey - How the Internet and Your Customers Will Decide the Future of Your Law Firm (by lawyer and law firm consultant Alasdair Thomson)

3. Link building is not dead, nor is it likely to die anytime soon

As sophisticated as search engines are, links are still a fundamental part of their algorithms. Modern link building demands a highly skilled manual approach and trying any form of automation can be really harmful to your business. Certain firms, such as Irwin Mitchell, have already been penalised heavily in the past for trying to automate and game the system too severely.

In terms of what the modern link building landscape looks like within online marketing agencies around the world, it’s worth having a look at Moz’s new survey on the subject. So if your firm is hiring an online marketing provider (such as ourselves) it’s worth asking what their team set up is like.

4. Google loves video content

Video content published on your website is great for SEO. Ideally you should aim to get at least one high quality short video guide published into each of your main service pages. In terms of SEO best practice generally, a lot of it is to do with user experience – are you providing value to visitors? Google wants to rank sites highly only if those sites are going to give visitors the information they want for the search query entered. So it’s no surprise that valuable video content will get you ranking higher. You can read our further tips for video marketing for solicitors here.

5. Mobile optimisation is essential

More than 50% of all mobile searches are carried out for the purpose of finding local results and, indeed, from studying the web analytics of over 100 law firms in the past several years we’ve been able to determine that, on average, around 1/3 of all visitors to law firm websites are likely to be mobile ones. This is likely to increase every year for the foreseeable future. And Google, with their ‘Mobilegeddon’ update and further impending mobile ranking update, rewards sites that are mobile friendly. But for the purposes of great internet marketing, having a mobile friendly site isn’t just about SEO – it’s also about converting more of those visitors who view your site on mobile. If you don’t have your calls to action really highly placed as soon as someone hits your site on mobile, you’re more likely to lose them to a competitor who does.

6. Stay up to date with the latest SEO trends

Google’s algorithm changes all the time. There are hundreds of iterations made each year without the majority of people realising. When we met one of our clients earlier this week (a partner in a medium-sized law firm), she said that she had been focusing so much on her own practice areas and doing a great job for her clients (as law firm partners should indeed be doing) that she had no idea there was this ‘other world’ of SEO and internet marketing strategies and techniques. For our clients, it’s our job to be on top of the very latest trends – something that works brilliantly for generating business online this week won’t necessarily still be available next week. And you, too, can keep up to date with the latest trends if you have an interest in this ‘other world’. Whether through our blog, through our updates on Twitter, or by subscribing to some of the leading SEO and online marketing publications such as The Moz Blog, Search Engine Watch or Search Engine Land, to name just a few.

Get the SEO results your law firm deserves – free initial consultations available

For further reading, see our complete guide to SEO for law firms here, and if you think you’re missing out on better rankings or enquiries through the internet, we’d love to have a chat to see if we can help you. Fill out our online enquiry form here or give us a call on 0333 130 8043 and ask for Chris.

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