SEO for Law Firms - The Complete Guide
In our complete guide to SEO for law firms, our experts at Moore Legal Technology explain all the essential considerations involved in optimising your site to get it ranking for relevant Google searches and driving profitable enquiries to your firm.
If you require immediate advice as to whether your law firm's website has been properly optimised or if you aren't getting enough enquiries from your existing SEO & content marketing strategy, give us a call and we'll carry out a free analysis over the phone - 01413548862 or fill out our online enquiry form here.
Click the links below to get to the relevant section:-
- UK Legal Sector SEO - Increasing Enquiries from Clients Searching for Your Services
- "We’ll get you to number 1 on Google." - Treat it with Suspicion
- The Full Guide to On-Page SEO for Legal Sector Websites
- What are the most important ‘On-Page SEO’ factors?
- 1. Content of your firms’ web pages – providing great value
- 2. Meta title – keywords plus user experience/intent is key
- 3. URL – include keywords but don’t overdo it
- 4. Many Other Ranking Factors
- Why Does this Matter for Law Firms?
- On-page SEO performance audit
- Local SEO for Law Firms - Don't Forget Your NAP
- Off-Page SEO (Link Building, Local Citation Building & Social Bookmarking) & Keyword Research
- SEO for Law Firms & Lawyers in the UK and Beyond - Conclusions
Great SEO is crucial for your law firm to generate the best possible enquiries online. But it's no longer all about keywords; it's about writing and publishing and sharing great content based on highly accurate keyword research, with powerful links and signals being attracted to your content, with great social media distribution and various other relevant factors.
To do well online it is critical that potential and existing clients can find you easily when searching for services relevant to your offering. It is important not to focus on one or two main keyphrases such as ‘Solicitors London’, or ‘Personal Injury Lawyers Birmingham’, instead focusing on driving as much traffic as possible from as many relevant keyphrases/keywords as possible.
If done properly (particularly with great content marketing) you can achieve excellent results. As an example, last year we were able to more than double a firm’s enquiry levels through expanding their local presence and constantly refining the conversion process in order to maximise their return on investment. Here are some of their results:-
Has your site been properly and thoroughly optimised? We’ll happily take a look for you. Enter your site’s details into the form on the side of this page or contact us here and we’ll get back to you. Usually we can tell instantly if there are serious gaps in your optimisation; and we employ a range of SEO audit tools to dig deeper under the skin your website if needed.
Contact us for a no obligation discussion on how we can help you: call 01413548862 and ask for Chris and for even more information read our useful guides below.
Treat anybody who tells you this with suspicion. Google is a capricious mistress and the techniques and processes surrounding search engine optimisation change all of the time. Anyway, there’s not really a lot of point being at number 1 in Google, or Bing, or Yahoo, for only one keyphrase as it will, on its own, never drive enough traffic to generate the conversions you need.
Having said that, as trusted digital advisor to many law firms in various competitive area, we have been able to help firms excel well beyond their expectations and develop a great spread of top search engine rankings. It's all about maintaining an awareness of current best practice and ensuring that the firm's online presence is properly aligned to fully leverage the internet for the generation of new business. If you want a preview of one of our client's excellent Google rankings following a heavy-duty content marketing and SEO campaign see the following (note keywords are anonymised):-
It's imperative that SEO activities are carried out in a strictly ‘white-hat’ manner to promote your online presence. As a result of continual updates to Google’s search algorithms, we have seen various law firm sites suffer at the hands of agencies who have used black-hat techniques in the past.
Even many 'grey-hat' online marketing activities that were once considered good practice are no longer valid. Google is becoming increasingly advanced and now looks to reward websites that are highly authoritative, deliver a good user experience and are full of in-depth valuable content. Google are also increasingly looking for social media signals and links back to your website which are both relevant and authoritative. Generally speaking, online prominence is achieved today through a mixture of on-site SEO work and off-page factors such as relevant back-links and social media links
For further reading on some of these key elements of SEO see our following further guides:-
- The Full Guide to On-Page SEO for Legal Sector Websites
- Off-page SEO (Including Link Building, Local Citation Building & Social Bookmarking)
- Keyword research
In our full guide to on-page SEO for law firm websites, we explain all the essential considerations involved in optimising your site to get it ranking for relevant Google searches.
Search engines can drive a great number of relevant users to legal sector websites and other online marketing channels of law firms. However there are certain key steps that must be undertaken to optimise your site to present it effectively to search engines in order to secure the top rankings for relevant keywords and thus to attract the best possible business.
On-page SEO is the process of optimising your own web pages for the purpose of improving your search engine rankings. The main factors that are relevant for such optimisation include the following:-
- Content of the page
- Meta title
- Many other ranking factors
The content on the pages of your law firm’s website is crucial for you to have great on-page SEO and, in turn, to acquire relevant profitable online enquiries. Only through great content can you find yourself worthy of great search rankings, particularly in the most competitive legal sectors.
To provide great content you must satisfy a demand – i.e. you must provide valuable information to people searching around the area on which you are writing. Some call this ‘giving away information snacks to sell knowledge meals’ (such as New York content marketer Jay Baer; or our own Chris Davidson!).
Say, for instance, you were looking to get your site ranking well for terms relating to Probate Lawyers in Newcastle. After conducting initial keyword research, you would aim to write many words (ideally over 1000 words) on probate in England & Wales, what the main processes are, how your lawyers can assist clients with your unique brand proposition scattered throughout the piece, what the top tips or common pitfalls may be and what some of the main legal terminology is.
We use a range of SEO tools as part of our content auditing process and can determine what might be missing from any given web page or indeed website.
And some of the world’s leading online marketing experts at Moz have a checklist for ensuring your content will work well. They note that it should:-
- Be uniquely valuable
- Provide phenomenal user experience (UX)
- Be built to share through social networks
- Be multi-device ready
- Be keyword-targeted
- Be crawler-bot accessible (see our next subsection below)
- Have relevant authorship, meta data and schema markup
Over time expertise (such as that of many of our team members) will be gained and you can spend less time on keyword research and more time writing and optimising the content and making sure all of the features above are in place. See also our content marketing guides referred to below.
And, of course, your content must be capable of being linked to i.e. you must have it published on your website and capable of people to create a link to it from other sources. And this can be from either social media channels or from other pages on the web. But it must be linkable. Hiding content behind images, slideshows, flash plugins or private login screens will render that content non-linkable in which case it is highly unlikely to rank well in search. And even once it is linkable, you need to ensure your off-page strategy (link building, citation building, social bookmarking) is as strong as it can be.
For more on content marketing for law firms see our guide here or our sister content marketing company Curated Media’s full guide here: 2000-2030: A Content Odyssey: How the Internet and Your Customers Will Decide the Future of Your Law Firm.
Once you’ve got your content well written and optimised (see also other ranking factors below) you must ensure your meta title is as relevant as possible. The meta title defines the title of your page and it’s important not only for SEO purposes but also for social sharing and browsing. If you look, for instance, at the tab in your browser when on this page and hover over it, you’ll see what the meta title of this page is.
Optimal length of your meta titles should be between 50-60 characters (ideally under 55 characters) and they should contain relevant keywords in readable and clickable language. Think what your ideal user’s query or intent may be (user experience is always a high priority), think what your main keywords are and ensure they are well positioned within that 55 character limit. For example, say you were looking to optimise one of your personal injury claims pages of your firm’s website. Your meta title should look something like this:-
Personal Injury Lawyers for [Type of Case] [Cities] [Your Law Firm’s Name]
Not only will you get an automatic SEO boost by getting the keywords you are targeting into the meta title of the page, it will also make your page much more clickable in search, which itself is an SEO bonus.
When you’re dealing with over 100 pages of website content, it can be tricky optimising all of your relevant meta titles. Because at Moore Legal Technology we practise this day-in day-out, we have the speed and the accuracy to get it right for our law firm clients first time, without it having to be redone again.
The url of your page is also very important for on-page SEO purposes.
A good url structure for a good law firm’s web page will include relevant keywords and be concise. For instance for a family lawyer’s main family law landing page:-
A poor url structure will have no or few keywords and possibly contain unnecessary further levels. For example:-
And an over-optimised poor url structure that Google will be able to see is trying to game the system is equally of little value (whereas in the past it may have been somewhat useful). An example of such a poor overly-keyword stuffed example would be:-
Lawfirmbrandfamilylawyersand divorcesolicitorsengland.com/ family-law-lawyers-solicitors- england-and-wales- child-finance-support-alimony-family-law
There are many other ranking factors that determine how your firm’s pages will rank in Google and other search engines. Here are just a few more:-
(a) headline and heading tags (H1, H2, H3, H4 etc) – ensure you provide a great relevant user experience with some relevant keywords without overdoing it
(b) internal links – note that a page should be accessible through no more than 4 clicks from any other page on the site.
(c) external links – some SEOs question the value of external links. In our experience some pointing to highly authoritative sources and resources can be beneficial and improve the user experience and not leak too much value from a site. On the other hand, linking out to many low value, poor experience websites could seriously harm your SEO.
(d) body text – see our notes on content marketing above
(e) meta description – while not itself directly used in Google’s search algorithm, having a really clickable meta description can propel your website in search results.
(f) images (ensure alt text is optimised)
(g) meta keywords – it’s worth mentioning that we and other SEOs recommend against using meta keywords. Perhaps ten years ago this would have been useful; not now, so avoid this like the plague.
(h) social shares – if you have written and published your content effectively it should be capable of attracting shares from your contacts on social media channels (for law firms think mainly LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook and more)
There are many other considerations for you getting your website to rank well in Google and generate profitable enquiries. See for instance this rank factors chart published by Rand Fishkin on Moz:-
And, again from Moz, these features that correlate with higher rankings in Google:-
Ultimately, if you can get your on-page SEO perfected your law firm can achieve the following, even despite serious competition from other firms:-
- Increased prominence in Search
- Increased traffic and enquiries
- Maximised business generation potential of your website
Want to see some of the results we have achieve for our law firm clients? Take a look again at these sample keyword rankings improved as a result of a content marketing and SEO campaign:-
And again this increase in enquiries following significant investment in a range of online marketing activities for a legal practice:-
Local SEO is a critical part of generating business online for law firms - whether you are a small high street legal practice or a large global law firm, you will still have potential clients that search for you locally (even if that location is Manchester, Birmingham or London or Sydney or New York). In terms of local SEO best practices, there are many local ranking factors. One of the most important is the consistency of structured local citations, explained in more detail by our local SEO experts below.
If you require immediate advice as to whether your law firm's approach to local SEO is working (or even existent at all!) or if you aren't getting enough local legal enquiries, give us a call on 01413548862 or fill out our online enquiry form here and we'll give you an initial free SEO audit.
Guide to Local SEO - Local Ranking Factors
To give you an idea of how involved local SEO really is, see this great overview of the main rankings factors from Moz:-
Ranking factors for great local SEO results, published by Moz: "The 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors".
Local SEO has become even more important in recent times owing to Google's shift to showing just three local search results upon any given local search (previously 7+). Not only does this mean the click through rates to the local 'snackpack' are now higher, it also means that if you aren't getting featured there for relevant local searches for your types of legal services, you're going to be missing out.
Local search results in Google UK for 'family lawyers manchester', showing just three law firms in the 'snackpack'
The Importance of Consistent, Structured Local Citations with a Consistent NAP
One of the most important ranking factors is a consistent, structure local citation strategy, one of the most fundamental points of which is your NAP. Your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) for your law firm for any particular office location is your online local identity – it's how Google knows that all of your online local listings are linked. One of the starting places for this is your Google local business listing, where you tell Google your firm's name, address, phone number and other details. And Google is so clever that, should you then type into Google your firm's name with 'phone number' you'll see that Google understands what your phone number is (see our screengrab of an example search for this below).
Example of how Google can understand key pieces of information related to your business, such as your phone number (one of the key elements of your NAP) - the above example shows a search for 'moore legal technology phone number'.
But it's not just about getting one Google local listing. It's about then acquiring or perfecting other local listings you have in local directories and getting the exact same, consistent name, address and phone number there too.
Rather than just noticing that all your listings point back to a central website (local SEO isn't really about links as such), Google also looks for listings that point back to a central physical location. And it's very specific about these details being consistent across all listings. Your business name has to be the name across all listings, and each address has to be exactly the same. Exactly. Right down to the tiny details. So "Unit 1a Sheriff Court Road" vs "1a Sheriff Court Road" won't wash.
And to get the best local SEO results (in addition to many other local ranking factors listed above) it’s important to build relevant, powerful citations in online local directories. This helps customers to find you not only through improved search results for those local listings themselves, but it also has SEO benefits that will improve the performance of your website too.
Let us explain more. Google (and indeed other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo) constantly looks for cues that your law firm or company is real and reputable. We could go on for hours about all the different ways it does this, but for now, let's focus on these local citations. They show Google that your business does exist, at your address(es) – and if you have some genuine client reviews on your Google local listing(s), all the better. These cues all do their bit to push you up the rankings, sending clients to your site or through your door.
And note that 'Local' citations in this context doesn't necessarily mean local citations on sites for your town or city, but can also mean citations from sites within your country. UK-wide local citations can be just as important if not more important than citations from sites for your town.
Personalised Search Results for Local Legal Queries
Google is now getting more personalised with its search results. This means when you type in a query, it uses your information to give you results that are relevant to you. If you sit at a computer in Glasgow and search for, say, "employment lawyer", your results will include employment law firms near you, and very few if any law firms miles and miles away. It will even include Google maps listings in the results, for your convenience.
But it's not just Google who are locally tailoring search results. More and more people are creating local searches by including their town or city in their search – an example would be "Employment Lawyer Manchester". So it pays to take this into account for your online strategy.
Local Citation Building for Law Firms
To do great local citation building for your firm's office(s), you need to start with your physical contact details on your website. Then you must set up a Google local business page – this is how you get a Google Maps listing. Google will ask you to verify this listing. Finally, you can start submitting these details to online local directories. If you have more than one physical location, you need to do this for each one. Consistency is key and there are many considerations to bear in mind when creating such listings, such as what to name your business (authenticity being key) and what keywords and categories for which to list your business.
Call Tracking & Local SEO
You may have heard of call tracking, where a unique number is set up for each visitor to track where calls are coming from. It's a great tool to use on your website if you want to know exactly how hard your site is working for you. One of the slight complications with Local SEO and call tracking for businesses is that Google likes local numbers, and a consistent NAP, which means it is best not to use call tracking phone numbers for your local citations, and this includes within your Google local business listing(s). But in our experience the value of call tracking from all other sources including your website, PPC campaign, social media marketing and other forms of online marketing outweigh this point.
Best Practice for Local SEO for Your Law Firm or Business
As with all aspects of SEO for your law firm or business, your best course of action with Local SEO is to be authentic and create genuinely useful local citations. This, coupled with good quality, regularly updated relevant content, will help you to dominate the online presence relevant to your service offering. It will give you a competitive advantage and help you to generate the online enquiries your business needs to thrive.
If you take one thing away from this article, it's that your NAP for local SEO purposes is crucial.
Of course, at MLT, it's our job to know all this, and keep up to date with Google's ever-evolving algorithms. Our Digital Marketing experts can provide the local SEO tips above. Get in touch with us here, and let us do all the hard local SEO work for you.
For our further guides to off-page SEO (in addition to local SEO strategy, as explained above, and keyword research please see the following pages:-
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of ensuring that your website ranks well in search engines for as wide a variety of search queries as possible. If you wish to attract new business online then potential clients should be able to find you when searching for services (e.g. searching for the term ‘accident claims lawyer surrey’ in a search engine such as Google and finding your website at the top of the search results).
Good Search Engine Optimisation isn't about 'tricking' search engines, or trying to boost your rankings artificially. We put in place a layered, multi-faceted, organic approach to raising your rankings in a way that will deliver consistent results and continue to improve over time. Some SEO companies can promise 'quick fix' solutions and promise to boost your rankings in a short space of time. In our experience, these strategies work for a while, but stop bearing fruit and even become harmful over time.
This is because SEO best practice is constantly changing, as search engines update their complex search algorithms to improve the quality of their service. When choosing a company to advise on or manage your online activities, it's important to choose one that stays up to date on the latest search engine and online developments, and that can change strategy accordingly. Over the past few years, search engine algorithms, particularly that of Google, have changed dramatically - updates such as 'Panda', 'Penguin', 'Exact-Match Domain' (EMD) and Hummingbird have altered SEO strategies throughout the world. Ensuring that your website and online marketing strategies are robust is essential.
Get a Free SEO Analysis Today
If you're unsure as to whether your site has been properly optimised or if you aren't getting enough enquiries from your existing SEO and content marketing strategy, give us a call and we'll carry out a free analysis over the phone - 01413548862 or fill out our online enquiry form here. We have achieved fantastic results for our clients and we can help you too.