From the #1 Ranking Lawyer SEO Expert:
The Complete Guide to Search Engine
Optimization For Attorneys

A high-level lawyer SEO campaign will make your phones ring, and keep your pipeline full of leads so you can land more cases… and generate (a lot) more revenue.

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What Is Attorney SEO?

Attorney Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing a law firm’s website to achieve higher ranking positions on the search engine results pages (SERP’s) of Google, Bing, and Yahoo in order to attract more potential clients.

THE ULTIMATE STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO SEO FOR LAWYERS

If you want more clients and cases, and you’re wondering if having the top lawyer SEO expert manage your campaign would be a profitable investment… there are really only 2 things you need to know.

FIRSTAlmost two-thirds (62%) of legal-related searched are ‘non-branded.’

That means most of your potential clients are conducting ‘generic’ searches when they’re looking for attorney.  A search query like ‘Orlando car accident attorney’ is an example of a ‘generic’ search.

screenshot of google search bar showing a search query for orlando car accident attorney

SECOND… 72% of people searching for advice from an attorney only contact one law firm.

What this means for you.

You can compete for clients with even the biggest law firms in your market, and… you don’t need a $million a month budget for TV and billboard ads to build a successful, high-growth law firm.

image of john morgan in a morgan and morgan television commercial

The majority of people searching online for legal representation do not already have a particular attorney or law firm in mind.

That one simple fact is the key to the enormous opportunity available to you online… if you develop a high visibility presence in local and organic search results, you will start generating more phone calls, leads, and new cases for your firm.

SEO gives you visibility… precisely when it matters most.

Can you think of a better time to have your firm’s name and glowing client reviews in front of potential clients than the prices moment they are searching for an attorney online?

And online is where they are searching.

There are over 200 Google searches per day for ‘personal injury attorney los angeles.’ And if you had to rely on pay-per-click advertising, every click would cost you almost $72 – with no guarantee that expensive click would turn into a lead for your law firm.

screenshot of Google search volume of 6,600 per month for los angeles personal injury attorney

Over 60 Google searches per day for ‘personal injury attorney Miami.’

screenshot of Google search bar showing search volume of 60 per day for miami personal injury attorney

Over 40 Google searches a day for ‘personal injury attorney Chicago.’

screenshot of Google search bar showing search volume of 40 per day for Chicago personal injury attorney

Goals of a successful SEO marketing campaign:

Goal #1: Start generating more phone calls from prospective clients.

How you achieve this: By ranking in the top spots of Google’s Maps 3-Pack.

screenshot of Google's Maps 3-Pack for car accident new york city

Goal #2: Generate more online leads by (significantly) increasing organic search traffic to your website.

How you achieve this: By getting onto Page 1 of the organic search results… and then becoming the #1 ranking local attorney in Google SERP’s

Screenshot of the Google organic search results for personal injury attorney los angeles

Goal #3: Achieve at least a 5X ROI – with the ultimate goal being 10X.

How you achieve this: By reaching Goal #1 and Goal #2.

Overview Of Our SEO Process For Lawyers

STEP 1: COMPREHENSIVE SEO AUDIT & WEBSITE ANALYSIS

A comprehensive website audit provides the foundation for any successful attorney SEO campaign. Conducting an in-depth audit is the only way to collect the data you need in order to create an effective SEO plan for your site.

We use the findings from your website audit to establish the starting point as we create the roadmap to achieving the SEO goals we have established together.

Investing the time and effort to collect, and organize the data from your website audit allows us to make intelligent decisions, and maximize the efficiency of your SEO campaign.

A professional SEO audit will include:

  • Review of any existing analytics data
  • Competitive analysis
  • Keyword research, selection, and mapping
  • Benchmarking your current rankings
  • Review of your website architecture
  • SEO analysis of your on-page elements
  • Analysis of your off-page optimization
  • Analysis of the content on your website
  • Review of your firm’s overall online presence

STEP 2: ATTORNEY SEO MARKETING STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT

Armed with the data from your website audit, our experts then create the plan for your website. We also determine which SEO strategies will be implemented during each phase as we execute the plan.

During the strategy development stage, we organize your high-priority keywords into groups. Then we map those keyword groups to specific pages on your website. This allows us to theme your most important webpages with tightly-focused content that both search engines and your website visitors will love.

STEP 3: FOUNDATIONAL OPTIMIZATIONS OF YOUR WEBSITE

Armed with the data from your website audit, our experts then create the plan for your website. We also determine which SEO strategies will be implemented during each phase as we execute the plan.

During the strategy development stage, we organize your high-priority keywords into groups. Then we map those keyword groups to specific pages on your website. This allows us to theme your most important webpages with tightly-focused content that both search engines and your website visitors will love.

STEP 4: LEGAL CONTENT CREATION

This stage is where we begin developing the legal content you need to rank (and attract visitors to) the most important pages on your website. At the same time, we create highly-optimized content that is designed to increase the perception of your site as being geographically relevant by the search engines.

Having original content that focuses on the needs of your website visitors (your potential clients), allows you to become a trusted authority on matters related to your practice area.

STEP 5: OFF-SITE SEO AND LINK BUILDING

Once we have created the kind of content that search engines like Google recognize will deliver real value to their users, it’s time to start the outreach necessary to earn high-quality backlinks for your site.

Backlinks from other authoritative websites that Google trusts are analogous to votes in a popularity content. Only these ‘votes’ help increase the trust and authority your website has in the eyes of search engine algorithms.

Your visibility in online search results will improve as your website becomes more ‘popular’ and trustworthy in the eyes of the search engines.

The goal is to earn backlinks from high-authority websites related to your market (geo), business and legal directories, as well as sites in complimentary topical categories.

SEO Produces Unbeatable ROI As Your Traffic Grows

There’s a big difference between owning your search engine visibility with SEO vs. leasing it with pay-per-click advertising.

Pay-per-click ads can certainly be a valuable piece in the overall marketing plan for a law firm, depending on the practice area and how new the firm is.

PPC delivers expensive website traffic with every click

However, when you run PPC ads on platforms like Google Adwords, you pay for every click to your website. Every single click.

You pay regardless of whether or not that person ever contacts your firm.

What you’re paying for with those clicks is raw website traffic.

And according to a recently updated report published by WordStream, keywords for legal-related searches rank in the Top 4 categories of the most expensive clicks on the Google Adwords PPC advertising platform.

image from wordstream showing the 5 most expensive keywords on the Adwords platform

If you’re bidding on the kind of ultra-competitive legal keywords that your prospective clients are searching online, the cost of that raw website traffic you’re buying can quickly climb into the five-figures a month range.

SEO delivers an ever-increasing ROI with every click

With the right lawyer SEO company or lawyer SEO expert handling your campaign, your firm’s search engine rankings are going to improve.

When your website makes it onto the first page of the SERP’s with our SEO services and you start getting traffic to your site, you aren’t paying on a per-click basis.

Which means your marketing costs don’t increase as you climb into the top positions on page one, and start getting even more clicks, and  more traffic to your website.

Phone calls are even better than clicks

Getting into the Maps 3-Pack should be your first ‘major’ campaign  goal when you invest in lawyer SEO.

The biggest benefit in taking over one of the Top 3 spots in Maps is that you will begin to get phone calls from prospective clients.

Google continues to test and improve the design of the Maps 3-Pack, and over the last several years those improvements have had an interesting effect on searcher behavior.

An increasing percentage of people searching online for an attorney started calling one of the lawyers in the Maps 3-Pack using the click-to-call button… and skipped the traditional step of visiting the firm’s website entirely.

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According to a report by Conversion Sciences: Inbound phone calls are 10-15 times more likely to convert than inbound web leads.

Phone calls from ranking in Google’s Maps 3-Pack can supercharge the returns from your lawyer SEO investment, and contribute to the long-term benefit of owning your search results visibility rather than just leasing it with expensive pay-per-click ads.

Components of an SEO Campaign

Website Audit

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A comprehensive website audit is the foundation of any successful SEO campaign for an existing website. The goal is to identify elements of your site that need to be corrected, restructured, and/or properly optimized.

The ‘big-picture’ aspects of your website that will typically be covered in an SEO audit include:

  • technical SEO elements
  • indexation & crawlability
  • site architecture
  • backlink profile
  • keyword analysis
  • content analysis
  • keyword cannibalization issues
  • internal linking
  • local optimization
  • on-page elements
  • page speed & mobile speed
  • mobile-friendliness
  • competitive analysis

User-Friendly Website Structure

The ‘architecture’ of your website refers to how the pages are structured, organized, how they interlink, and the URL’s that are chosen for each page. Optimizing your site’s architecture provides two benefits:

Benefit #1

SEO-friendly site structure and navigation allows potential clients to quickly and easily find the information they are looking for on your site. Optimizing for user experience in this way will lower your website’s bounce rate, and increase the amount of time people spend on your site.

Benefit #2

Having an SEO-friendly site architecture makes it easier for search engine crawlers to find, and index all the pages on your site.

image representing search engine spiders crawling a web page

Keyword Research

In-depth keyword research impacts every facet of a successful SEO campaign for any law firm. Targeted keywords inform decisions regarding the on-page SEO, content development, outreach and link-building, as well as the architecture of your website.

We start with a list of seed keywords, and delve into related searches that people are typing into the search engines. Then we evaluate the keywords your competitors are ranking for using tools that provide insight into the most popular, and the most profitable organic keywords.

Local Search & Google My Business

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Most law firms generate their clients from their local market. It doesn’t matter if you have one office, or a dozen locations in different cities, you must optimize your Google My Business (GMB) listing to have any chance of competing in local search results – the Maps 3-Pack.

Although local SEO and traditional SEO do share some aspects in common… local SEO is a highly-specialized niche that requires a significant amount of optimization efforts that are completely different from traditional SEO aimed at increasing organic rankings.

On-Page Optimization

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On-page, also referred to as on-site optimization encompasses all the elements found on a web page itself.

On-page elements include:

  • the page content
  • HTML code
  • keyword usage
  • title tags
  • header tags
  • schema markup
  • internal links

One of the most important aspects of on-page is creating relevance with the search engines for your targeted keyword queries.

Off-Page Optimization

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majestic seo logoWhile off-page SEO includes more than just backlinks, outreach and link-building are the primary focus of most off-page optimization efforts. Producing great content that appeals to, and informs your website visitors is the best way to earn high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites.

However, backlinks don’t just magically appear just because you start producing new content. Outreach to webmasters and publishers is how you secure those backlinks, and build the number of Referring Domains (RD’s) in your site’s backlink profile.

Building an authoritative (and diverse) backlink profile by increasing the number of Referring Domains linking to your site is how you develop greater trust and authority with search engines.

Content That’s Tightly-Focused & ‘Complete’

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Along with backlinks, and RankBrain, content is one of the top 3 Google ranking factors. Search engines like tightly-focused content because it allows them to show the most relevant content to a specific search query.

Producing content that completely answers a searcher’s questions about a topic is how you develop authoritative content.

Relevance and authority are the one-two punch for making the search engines love your content.

Search Intent And Matching Your Content To It

You can’t just assume you know what information people are looking for when they perform a particular search. You have to do the research, and find out what Google thinks will satisfy the answers people are looking for.

screenshot of google search bar relating to search intent

Then you need to develop your content to match up with what Google believes people want from that query.

Keyword Mapping

Creating an organized plan to match up your content ‘buckets’ to specific pages (URL’s) on your site helps you achieve two very important objectives. Maximizing the ranking of individual pages for your high-value keywords, and avoiding the rankings damage caused by keyword cannibalization.

Mobile-Friendly & Responsive Website

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If you want to convert website visitors to prospects, it’s important to optimize the mobile version of your site for UX (user experience) signals.

The RankBrain algorithm developed by Google is engineered to analyze how searchers interact with your website, and to incorporate those UX signals into how your website ranks in online search results.

Having a responsive website that is easy to navigate on mobile devices is a key part of sending the right user experience signals to the search engines.

 

Technical SEO Audit

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Mobile Speed

Almost two-thirds of all searches on Google are performed on a mobile device. Even more important is the fact that 95% of all mobile searches are performed on Google.

To protect and maintain their dominance in mobile search, Google has rolled out their Mobile-First Index, and mobile speed is definitely a factor in how rankings are determined by search engines on mobile devices.

Page Speed

Page speed (and your resulting page speed) is a measure of how fast the content (text, images, etc.) on a page loads in a web browser. The server a website resides on, the page file size, and image compression all play a role in how how quickly a page will load.

Google has used page speed as a ranking factor since 2010, and Google began placing even greater importance on page speed when they rolled out the ‘Speed’ update in 2018. So having a slow-loading website isn’t just annoying to your potential clients, it can definitely hurt your search engine rankings as well.

Having A Secure Website (SSL)

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If you want people to submit their information via your website, they had better see that reassuring little padlock icon in their browser bar when they visit your site.

The moment a searcher sees the ‘Not Secure’ warning in the browser bar, it’s over. If you haven’t migrated your website to https: yet, you are losing an incredible percentage of your visitors who will never fill out and submit your contact form.

Analytics & Reporting

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google analytics logo

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Google Analytics tracks all of the most important metrics of your website. Rankings by keyword, how much traffic your site is getting from individual sources, click-through-rates, etc.

You can also see some of the most important ‘big-picture’ metrics related to your SEO campaign, such as overall organic visibility, and organic keyword growth.

Understanding The Landscape Of Google SERP’s

Google is constantly evolving, and it’s not just their algorithm that changes.

They test and tweak how their search engine results pages (SERP’s) are structured as well.

Unfortunately, most of that evolution does not favor law firms looking to generate leads from their local market.

Here’s an example of what a typical person sees if they search for a personal injury attorney in Dallas, TX.

3 Categories of Search Results

Paid (Adwords) Ads: there are three ads at the very top of the SERP, and usually a couple more at the bottom of the page – below the organic results.

Maps 3-Pack: Currently, there are three ‘organic’ (not paid) listings for local attorneys and one Paid Ad in the Maps 3-Pack – displayed just below the the Paid Ads.

Organic Listings: Most of the time, you will see 10 listings in the organic results.

The organic results are where it gets tricky for any local attorney trying to generate leads from organic search – especially if you aren’t showing in the Maps 3-Pack.

In this example, a search for ‘personal injury attorney Dallas TX,’ the first three organic listings are not for local law firms.

They’re authority sites, also referred to as directories, or review aggregators.

In fact, 6 out of the first 7 results in the organic section for ‘personal injury attorney Dallas TX’ are authority/directory sites.

dallas-pi-attorney-ads-maps-isolated-600
Click to enlarge

Ranking In Google’s Maps 3-Pack Should Be Your Top Priority

The search results page (SERP) that we see for ‘personal injury attorney Dallas TX’ has a total of 17 listings (or positions) available, and includes a mix of paid ads, and ‘organic’ (unpaid) listings.

Out of the 17 positions available on this SERP:

  • 4 positions are taken up by paid (Adwords) ads
  • 6 are taken up by ‘authority’ sites – think Avvo or SuperLawyers
  • Leaving only 7 positions available for actual personal injury attorneys located in Dallas to generate phone calls and website traffic.

Searchers are presented with four paid (Adwords) ads – before they even see the first ‘organic’ (unpaid) listings in the Maps section.

Fortunately for the attorneys who rank in the top spots of the Maps 3-Pack, the paid ads account for only a very small percentage of the clicks that come from most search results pages.

By focusing your initial SEO efforts on ranking in the top spots of the Maps 3-Pack, your firm can capture phone calls and leads from searchers – before they are diverted (and distracted) by the increasing number of ’authority sites’ in the organic listings below the Maps.

dallas-pi-attorney-organic-results-600
Click to enlarge

Maps 3-Pack + Good Reviews = Make Your Phone Ring

The Maps 3-Pack dominates most of the prime screen real estate in Google SERP’s.

A top lawyer SEO expert will be able to rank your firm in the Maps 3-Pack. And when you take over one of those top 3 spots in Maps, not only can you capture online leads before they are diverted into the abyss of the big ‘authority sites’ – you can actually short-circuit the typical ‘investigative process’ searchers have traditionally felt like they needed to perform before contacting an attorney.

That means people may skip visiting your website altogether. Instead, they just use the click-to-call button in your GMB listing to contact you.

There are three ingredients necessary if you want to start taking leads away from legal directory sites like Avvo, and start generating more phone calls from prospective clients:

  1. Take over one of the top spots in the Maps 3-Pack
  2. Have great Google reviews from clients
  3. Have a high ‘Average Rating’ from those reviews

Screenshot of criminal defense attorney's GMB listing showing good client reviews

You can see in the screenshot above that this criminal defense attorney has over 50 client reviews, and an awesome average review rating of 4.9.

When your law firm ranks in the Maps 3-Pack, and searchers see that you have lots of great reviews, you’re making the decision of which attorney they should contact easy for them.

Instead of having to spend time on multiple websites ‘investigating’ several different local law firms, they can see the information that important to them… that your firm has lots of very satisfied clients who have been through the same thing they are facing now.

And… Google has made it so easy for them to contact with the click-to-call button in your GMB listing.

A Word About The Big Legal Directories And Review Sites

Most attorneys grimace at the mere mention of the big, national review-aggregator sites like Avvo, also referred to as ‘authority sites.’

And that’s understandable.

 

Authority sites ‘steal’ (divert is probably a more accurate description) a significant percentage of clicks, and website traffic from the local attorneys who actually serve people who are searching for legal services.

 

That’s frustrating.

 

Best Advice: Part of your marketing strategy should be to leverage your attorney profile on the top review-aggregator sites. Here’s why…

 

As you can see from the screenshot below, the top legal directory sites:

  • Avvo
  • SuperLawyers
  • FindLaw
  • Justia
  • Martindale
  • HG.org
  • HireMeLegal.com
  • Lawyers.com

 

… all have exceptionally high Domain Rating’s – a measure of their Domain Authority with Google.

screenshot of the ahrefs dashboard for superlawyers.com

Legal directories (also referred to as authority sites) like these have tens of thousands of Referring Domains, and millions of backlinks.

They rank on Page 1 of Google’s organic listings for just about every prime legal keyword you can imagine.