Law Firm Local SEO: How to Reach More Customers
As a law firm, you want to get in front of customers who need your help. However, when you search for your lawyers in your city, several of your competitors appear above your own firm’s listing in Google. You want your customers to be able to find you, but you do not have the time to understand the ins and outs of local SEO. Array Digital can take the guesswork out of SEO and help you appear at the top of local search results. You can guarantee better visibility for your business. Call us at 757-333-3021 for a free local SEO audit.
What is a local SEO strategy?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a way of ranking in search engines like Google and Bing. We call this organic SEO, and it is one component of digital strategy for building your law firm’s online presence. It often involves using keyword strategies that enable search engines to find your website and rank it on the search engine results pages (SERPs) — what a searcher sees when they search for a service your law firm offers.
Local search engine optimization is much different. It refers to the Google 3-Pack, a specific listing of three service providers within a local area, often localized to where the searcher is. Local SEO is just as important as organic SEO, but it’s quite different.
What is the Google 3-pack?
Local SEO refers specifically to the Google 3-Pack, a set of three businesses pulled out of the rankings and positioned high on the page. Ranking within this set of three allows your law firm to be present right in front of a searcher in your area looking for your services. It allows your business to stand out and become the obvious choice to call. That’s why it is so valuable.
One of the benefits of local SEO is that it is very regionally targeted, which means it creates a way for people who are explicitly seeking services within a region to find relevant businesses. By optimizing for local SEO, you are targeting your most likely clients, increasing your conversion rates, and helping your law firm remain competitive within your area.
Local SEO is not expensive, but it is a core component of building your local business into a recognized, respected organization. Want to increase potential customers? Consider how local SEO plays into your overall SEO strategy.
How does local SEO work?
Also, why is local SEO important? What makes it different than other types of search engine optimization?
Local SEO is something Google crafted to provide results for searchers looking for specific businesses and solutions within a specific area. For example, a customer who needs a haircut is not interested in a hair salon in New York City if they live in Chicago. They want a company close by that can provide services for them.
Google determined that certain searches for businesses need results within an immediate geographical radius. As a result, Google added a local search algorithm with a proximity factor. That is, Google puts businesses located in the same general area in front of the searcher.
Even if the searcher does not use a geographical term, like a city name, Google is smart enough to determine their location via their IP address and provide results within that area. That way, the person looking for a haircut receives salons within a certain radius of their location, making those results more relevant for the user.
Now, if the person searching for a hair salon takes a trip to a different city and enters the same search, they will receive an updated list of results for their new location. Super useful, right? You’ve probably experienced this in your daily life, as well.
In the past, Google was limited in its ability to customize search results to the locale due to limits in technology . Now that more people are searching on their mobile devices, local SEO has become a critical component of any SEO strategy. Without a doubt, law firms must dedicate time to understanding and creating a local SEO strategy if they wish to compete in their local market. Local search is a valuable component of building an online presence, especially when you want to be sure people can find you.
What is the difference between local SEO and general search engine optimization?
Great question (and quite a common one from our new clients). Local SEO isn’t just organic SEO with a geographical qualifier. That’s a big misconception. Remember, local SEO focuses specifically on helping you improve your rankings and visibility in local search results such as Google’s 3-Pack, which is based specifically on Google Maps.
In this way, every component of local SEO is designed to help brick-and-mortar businesses, like law firms, appear on the search engine results pages (SERPs) compared to other websites that may contain information on the field or topic. Getting into that 3-Pack puts your law firm right at eye level on the SERP.
For example, there are plenty of websites that provide legal information, such as NOLO.com or Investopedia. Yet, these services do not provide clients with access to an exact law firm they can call for help. They just provide information. That’s why Google tailors the results of certain SERPs to display law firm names ahead of these information-based websites, giving searchers a way to solve their problems from within that listing of firms.
Google tries to understand what the searcher’s needs are. For example, if a searcher types “workers’ compensation law,” they are likely looking for information, which means Google may place large, informative websites at the top of the page. If the searcher is looking for “workers’ compensation lawyers,” Google will place the name of law firms at the top of the page.
Probably the most notable element of local SEO is the Google 3-Pack. Sometimes called Google’s Local or Map Pack, it is the ideal place to be as a law firm serving a specific area. These are the most relevant results in Google’s SERPs for the topic searched. When someone searches for a lawyer in their area, three lawyers near them that meet the search criteria best are listed in a separate area of the results page.
Typically, the 3-Pack is at the top of the SERP, often next to or near a Google Maps image. The law firm’s name and contact information is displayed. This often is separated by a line that reads “more options” to allow the searcher to find even more attorneys in their local area. Under this section is where you’ll find the organic search results, which we’ll define in just a bit.
In many ways, getting into that 3-pack enables your law firm to stand out from many others in the region .Most often, the three results are accompanied by a Google map feature, showing the location of those firms. The 3-Pack also shows hours of operation and addresses, as well as other small details, such as the types of legal services available and customer reviews. Most importantly, the Google 3-Pack clearly presents your business listing in front of your potential clients allowing them to click on the business’s website, directions, and phone number easily.
Why is local SEO important for law firms?
When investing in any type of local SEO strategy, it is critical to understand how it will benefit your law firm in terms of increasing leads and creating better traffic, building your law firm’s brand, and establishing an online presence. Local SEO does this across all levels.
When people are looking for a law firm to represent them, they use local search. Most law firms operate at a very local level — most of your target clients are likely within your city or county, though some highly specialized attorneys may want to spread beyond their local area to a state-wide range. People choosing a law firm to work with are required to work with one that serves their area, as laws vary significantly from state to state.
Today’s legal clients turn to the internet to find someone that can help them. They search for a provider close to home that offers the services they need. If you want to capture that significant number of leads for your law firm, you need to be on Google search results, within the 3-Pack listing, no debate. If you are not, you will be missing out on clients who need your services and are fully within your reach.
The legal niche is the most competitive when it comes to SEO. Think of how many attorneys within your geographical area offer the same services as you. All those firms are your competition. Leveraging SEO with a local focus is key for standing out within that group.
What are the benefits of local SEO?
As a business owner, you know the importance of marketing to draw in clients; however, marketing for law firms is different. It is less focused on ads and mailers and more focused on developing a strong website.
According to some resources, most people who complete a local search are looking for a company within just a few miles of their home or location — sometimes no more than about five miles. That is a very specific and narrow focus for your marketing. Yet, because consumers go online to find a legal professional to help them with their needs, you have to appear on their SERPs in the 3-Pack to connect with those clients. If you do not, your competitors will appear instead.
Many attorneys spend hours building a strong local reputation and word-of-mouth; yet, even in those situations, there is a significant gap if you fail to make it easy for people to find your law firm online. Remember, if you rank in the 3-Pack, you end up not just ranking at the top, but your law firm’s phone number is easily visible, encouraging people to click and call even without going to your site. Let’s talk about the benefits of implementing these SEO services.
Increases your online visibility
Online visibility is how easily people can find you when they search for your law firm online. Do you have a website? Does it show up for any of the search terms you are using? If not, your prospective clients cannot find you.
By ranking well in the SERPs, in the 3-Pack specifically, your website is accessible, and your law firm is visible. Put your law firm where your clients are looking for services. Cracking that top position is one of the best ways to increase your client leads significantly.
Brings more visitors to your website
Why do you want to be in that position when someone is using a search engine to find information? One reason is that it allows you to get more people to your website.
An estimated 67.6% of people will choose one of the first five Google results to click on and call. This does not include any paid ads that may also appear on the page. If your business does not show up within that top five, your chances of getting that potential client to contact you fall significantly.
With the 3-Pack, it’s even more competitive. Local search focuses on getting in that set of three listings. That’s where most people will click if they are looking for a lawyer. You’re limiting potential website visitors if you’re not in one of these areas.
The more people see your business listed on the first page of Google, the more opportunities there are for clicks, which means more potential clients calling you or reaching out for legal representation. Your website then sells your services to that client, getting them to set up a consultation with you.
Engages your target audience
The people looking for your type of law firm in your area need help. They are less likely to be researching information and more likely to be at the point in their life where they need an attorney. They are highly targeted and motivated people, sometimes facing life-changing events or who have questions about their rights.
These are people searching online for legal support. They are a qualified audience, which means they are more likely to book a consultation or request legal support for their problem. They are not just searching but often are ready to take action.
By using local search techniques, you’re giving them the support they need. They see your law firm’s name and contact information, making it easy to reach you.
A high percentage of people who engage in local search will buy your services. As noted, these people need help and want someone nearby who can solve their problems. That means that local SEO results will lead to better conversion rates. That means more traffic to your website and more people contacting you for help.
Increases phone calls and in-person visits
Nearly ¾ of people who perform local searches end up actually visiting that location if it is within a 5-mile radius of where they are. As a law firm, you want people to set up an appointment with you. This can help encourage that.
There is no doubt that attorneys need to focus on this. While you can offer a website that is packed with information and provides exceptional thought leadership, most firms still need people to contact them to set up appointments and consultations.
Provides “free” advertising
Now, there’s a word that most attorneys and other businesses can appreciate when it comes to working with their clients. That’s especially true for a small business just starting to create a marketing strategy with a limited budget.
People trust SERP results more than they do paid advertising. Local customers having direct access to your website in local search results builds positive expectations. When you invest in SEO, you can get in front of customers for a fraction of the cost of other marketing methods.
Getting into Google’s covered 3-Pack creates instant visibility. You don’t pay to be there. Rather, you utilize local SEO strategies to help you get there. Do you know of any other way to get new customers to your site this efficiently and affordably?
Builds trust with your audience
Another benefit of local SEO is that it allows you to build trust and authority with your audience. Clients believe Google has vetted organizations on the first page of its search results and that they are trusted businesses, which is true in some ways. When you are on the first page, new customers inherently see your business as a trusted resource. You instantly earn their respect. That gives you authority in your niche and sets you apart from competitors.
Gives you measurable results
Traditional marketing firms once used a method called “spray and pray.” Basically, they would send out marketing media across a huge range of channels in hopes of getting a response. You no longer need to do that.
Using local SEO strategies, businesses can measure the impact of SEO over time. You can use a wide range of tools to gather information about how well your efforts are working. It is possible to track who is coming to your website and how they got there. You can then adjust your marketing strategy to continue to draw in more people based on those results.
How can my law firm rank #1 in local search engine results?
We understand you’ve read the title of this article, and you are probably dying to know the answer. We get this question all the time, and can honestly say that the answer is…
We know everyone hates this answer, but it’s true. Your ability to be in the first position on the first page of Google is reliant on several ranking factors that will change based on your market.
There’s quite a bit to do to get on that first page. To rank in the 3-Pack, we need to create a way for Google to recognize your business is an answer to searcher needs within your region. That’s different than other steps to rank in the other portion of SERPs we call the organic listings. Our goal is to help your business be found by people looking for help locally. Let’s explain the steps to doing that here.
1. Write high-quality content
One of the core SEO best practices is creating high-quality content. Content needs to be valuable to the reader. Without a doubt, you need to provide accurate and comprehensive information to the reader.
Why content is important for law firms
While local SEO services for law firms can help you do this, it helps understand the value of quality content. You want to show up for relevant search results, and content allows this. For example, if you are a medical malpractice attorney, you want people who are searching for medical malpractice lawyers in your city to find you. Content on your website about medical malpractice allows Google to learn that this is a service you offer and is available to your clients.
Choosing target keywords
Quality content can help you rank well, but you have to choose the best target keywords to do that. Create a list of service-based keywords related to your practice areas. You’re not just a lawyer; you are an estate planning attorney, an attorney that creates wills, and a family law attorney. Brainstorm by listing all of the services you offer. That can help you create content related to people’s searches.
For example, if you are a malpractice attorney, your services may include medical malpractice representation, personal injury services, power of attorney, medical malpractice attorneys for hospital mistakes, and so on.
The content on your website needs to relate to what you do. You also need to understand what people are typing into the search engines to find those services. Consider what your client’s most common questions are about your services. When you include that information on your website in the form of quality content, they are better able to find your website online, and you’re solving their problem.
Optimizing your content for SEO
Now that you have some insight into target keywords, the next step is incorporating that into your website content. Consider, for a moment, the goal here, though. As we work to build SEO for small business, we will include keywords with the ultimate goal of providing very high-quality content. That is, you do not want just pack your website with keywords. You want your website to include valuable information that happens to use the right keywords.
You will position these targeted keywords in various areas:
- Title tags: Title tags are a type of HTML code that gives the page a title. Your keyword should appear in the title of the page based on what is on that page.
- Description tags: These describe the content on the webpage, often called meta descriptions, that will show up in the SERPs.
- Headings and subheadings: Throughout the content of your webpage, your key terms should be present in the headings at various points in the content. These lines are often larger and bolded, allowing them to stand out more.
- Content body: The content body is all of the information on that page. You need to place keywords within that content in a way that works for search engines while also being comprehensible to the people reading the content.
Adding keywords throughout your website will show search engines that this data is super important to your website. This is a core component of content marketing — creating valuable information people benefit from that also includes target keywords for your business.
Add location pages to your website
You serve a local community. That may include a dozen cities within a certain radius around your law firm. Make a list of the cities where most of your clients come from – these are the priority. Don’t leave out smaller cities where you still receive some clients or want to target. One of the key benefits of SEO is that you can be very specific with your targeting.
You want each location in your business to have its own service page. That may seem overwhelming, but it is a core component of building your marketing campaigns for local SEO. It alerts Google that their search ranking for those local areas should include your law firm.
As a law firm, it is important to have a page for each city you service. That may include the city your office is in, the larger metro cities in your area, the location of courthouses you operate in, and the surrounding communities. Each page you add creates an opportunity for local ranking in that community.
2. Optimize your Google Business Profile
Google My Business is now called Google Business Profile. No matter what Google calls it, it is a fantastic tool that enables your business to reach potential customers more easily. It is highly effective at not just helping your website rank well but also getting people to call your office for an appointment.
Why your Google Business Profile is important
Your Google Business Profile allows Google to support, verify, and share your information with people looking for that service. An optimized profile enables your information to show up on the SERPs in that 3-Pack.
Do a quick search of one of your key search terms outlined above. When you get a result on the Google search page, you will see several businesses listed at the top. Remember that this is the Google 3-Pack that we mentioned.
Your Google Business Profile is a free tool that lets you communicate directly with people looking at this results page. It includes a description of your business and more. Companies can provide a great deal of additional information and tools to allow customers to engage with their business directly.
Your Google Business Profile allows you to manage your profile and engage with your customers. This includes allowing information about your business to appear on Google Search and Google Maps. In addition to letting you list your product or services, you can also provide your website address, phone number, physical location address, and much more on your business profile. It even enables your customers to leave reviews of your business and the service they received from you.
From your Google Business Profile, your customers or would-be clients can click directly on the link to contact you. It reduces the need for people to find your website and then navigate to the contact page. From here, they can reach out to your business easily and quickly without taking additional steps.
Creating your GoogleBusiness Profile
Creating your Google Business Profile is free. It helps Google deliver better search results and supports your business.
If you work with a digital marketing company or SEO services provider, you can let that organization set up and manage your profile for you. You can also do it yourself — another great feature of the Google Business Profile. Because it is easy to access, you can update it as often as you like.
You can now manage your Business Profile on the Google Maps app. On the app, you can edit your profile to include information about your law firm. This may include your hours of service, a description of the legal services you offer, a way for people to book a free consultation, and contact methods. You can edit your business information anytime as your services or needs change.
You can then add photos and updates to your listing. These help your law firm stand out. For example, adding a picture of the front of your law firm office can help encourage people to stop at your physical location — they get a better idea of where it is. By including photos of your attorneys and legal team, you can help to put a face to your law firm, creating more personal interaction. You can even post videos here to set up a welcome message or encourage people to reach out to you.
Once you set up your profile, you can then use it to connect with your customers. Your clients, for example, can leave reviews of your business on the profile. Whether they are good or bad, you can respond. Other people can see what you have to say or how you fixed a bad situation or clarified what occurred. People want to know they are working with a trusted law firm but also want to be sure the law firm they choose is customer focused.
Your Google Business Profile allows you to include your office location, which can help you get attention from the search engine and increase your chances of landing in the 3-Pack. Optimizing your profile is one of the most effective ways to get into that 3-Pack, in fact.
Managing your Google Business Profile can help you rank, but if you do not have the time to respond to every review or update your listing frequently, Array Digital can do it for you. You’ll still have access to your profile, but Array Digital can do all the heavy lifting, ensuring you get the boost from the search engines you deserve.
3. Clean up NAP citations
Clients need to know your business name as well as your physical location. Yet, it is very common for mistakes in this type of information to occur, and it can hurt your business in multiple ways.
What are NAP citations?
One concern is with local citations (NAP) citations. NAP stands for name, address, and phone number. When there are mistakes in this very basic information anywhere on the web, it is going to hurt your ranking. Even if you thoroughly check your details, a typo can happen, and when it does, it can cost you.
NAP is critical information. A mistake here means the customer who just found you cannot contact you. What is a NAP citation, then? A citation is any mention of your key business information anywhere on the web. These citations may appear on social media, social networking sites, review sites, directories, various apps, and other websites. Some of the most common directories for attorneys, for example, include Justia, FindLaw, and LegalMatch. You want your info to be the same across all channels.
Imagine if your business name or contact information is inaccurate in any of these locations. People may not be able to find you or question who they are contacting, causing that lead to go to a competitor.
However, local citations are also a ranking factor. Some citations allow for additional information, such as a business description, a website link, photos of your site, or other data. When this information is correct, you can be sure it will support your business’s ranking in several ways:
- Having your NAP info on various websites is great. Sometimes directories will link to your business when listing information, therefore creating a backlink to your website.
- The accuracy of citations ensures the right information is out there for customers to use.
- You can optimize many NAP citations to help provide your customer with the necessary supporting details.
What’s critical about NAP information is that it is the same on all platforms. Consistency helps to create that link between those connections, contributes to the overall quality and authority of the site, and helps promote brand awareness.
How to audit your NAP citations
So how can you find such citations? Because you want your NAP information to be 100% the same on every single mention, it is critical to complete a NAP audit on a consistent basis.
The good news is that there is a wide range of citation tools and services that can help you to do that. No matter which one you use, they will scan the web, find information that relates to your business, and allow you to verify it.
You will need to use your current NAP info — how you want your business to appear on every site. You also should consider historic NAP info, such as previous names for your law firm or different locations. That way, you can use the tool to help you to update outdated information with new data.
Fixing incorrect business information
Once you use that service, chances are good you are going to have a lot of results. It may even be a bit overwhelming, but your next task is to find and fix that incorrect information to ensure there’s 100% consistency across all locations.
Once you find a NAP citation that needs to be updated, you will likely need to correct them one by one. There are some citations you can change, such as information on Yelp. However, there are other citations that someone else has to change, such as in directories or when a local resource is listing your firm.
Going through and updating this information on your own is difficult and time-consuming, but there are services that can help you. For sites someone else has to update, you’ll need to reach out and ask them to change the information. Here’s some good news — Array Digital can do this for you, too. You can schedule a free local SEO audit with our team, and we’ll handle each update.
4. Manage your online reputation
Your online reputation is critical to your business’s reputation. Negative reviews will happen. It is just part of having an online business. However, you do not want to let those reviews sit so a local audience sees them.
If you have negative reviews anywhere online, respond to them in a positive and supportive manner. Don’t call anyone a liar, but do let readers know what you did to fix the situation, if possible.
In addition to influencing how new customers feel about your business, online reviews influence your search engine ranking. Positive Google reviews can improve your rankings and overall SEO. As search engines look for trustworthy and authoritative websites, reviews matter.
It’s not just about managing negative reviews. You also want to solicit positive reviews from your clients. You can do that by simply asking your clients to leave a review, perhaps by sending an email with a link that enables them to do so. The key here is to work to build positive reviews.
5. Build relationships with other local businesses
There are lots of great reasons to work with other local businesses. Even years ago, supporting another local business meant they could recommend you to their clients later. There are benefits to partnerships online, too. For example, adding guest blog posts to a local community site or connecting with local real estate agents could help you. Not only could this win you a few recommendations, but it also builds backlinks for your business.
Link building means having links to your website on other websites. This helps with SEO rankings. That means it will help your business be more accessible online.
Think of a backlink to your website as a vote for it. It’s as if someone else is saying, “Hey, this website is valuable and packed with information!” Google recognizes it as a signal that your website is trustworthy and useful. The more times you have these types of links out there, the more times Google gets to pick up on that value.
6. Optimize technical SEO
Google uses technical SEO to determine how to rank your website. It does this by crawling through the site to determine its value to the searcher. What matters for this? Several things.
Follow Google’s best practices
Google rolls out core updates throughout the year that you need to stay on top of consistently. What’s most important to Google is removing spammy and unhealthy websites from the rankings. If that’s your website, these updates will hurt your ranking.
Build a fast and easy to navigate website
How fast your website loads for customers who are visiting for the first time is very important to Google. People will choose a competitor if your site takes a long time to load. If the site is having connectivity issues, that hurts, too.
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
Mobile searches are growing in importance every year. Most people use mobile devices to look up information, such as a law firm to call after a car accident. If your website does not allow a mobile device to navigate it easily, it will hurt your ability to connect with local audiences. Google knows that and will lower your rank as a result.
What local SEO tools can I use for my law firm?
As you can see, a lot goes into ranking well in local searches. Luckily, you can always turn to Array Digital for help.
If you want to work on the process yourself, you can do that, too. We encourage you to use highly reliable website tools to help you with this process. Here are some of the most important tools we recommend using. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a guide to get you started.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a tool that lets you determine which keywords your site is ranking for and how much traffic you get for them. This is a foundational tool. Use it to see where you are, make changes in your SEO strategy, and determine how those changes are helping your search engine ranking improve.
Ahrefs is a well-known, trusted tool. It is an all-in-one SEO toolset. That means it will allow you to audit and optimize your website, analyze your competitors, and find quality keywords.
Screaming Frog is a website crawler that provides information on how you can improve your online SEO free of charge. It is a very flexible site crawler that provides real-time results that allow users to make decisions about their SEO strategy.
Moz Local provides great insight into local business ranking online. It also includes reputation management tools to help you manage those less-than-ideal reviews you’ve received.
Should I hire a digital marketing firm to manage my local SEO?
You have learned why local SEO is important. Now, you may want to know why having an external team manage it is even more critical. With expert help, you can ensure you are getting the most out of local SEO. You also benefit from learning about how to improve where you are now. Having an expert consistently staying up to date on industry trends and Google changes is valuable to your law firm, so you can spend more time helping your clients and giving them the best possible legal advice.
What are some tips for hiring an SEO service provider?
If you’re unsure who to hire, you should put some time into comparing your options. There are a few things to remember.
- Request an honest estimate. If a company is unwilling to discuss costs upfront, that’s a concern.
- Learn what they offer in their local SEO package. If they cannot break down what they will do for you, that’s also a warning sign to look elsewhere.
- Schedule a call to talk to a person. You can do a video chat. You want to hear their expertise and ability to meet your needs.
- Find out how they measure their efforts. A reputable SEO provider will list key performance indicators that show you how your site is performing. It’s not just about ranking.
- Research the company to get a good understanding of who they are, what experience they have with law firms, and what expertise they have in the industry.
When it comes to local SEO, check out Array Digital’s services. Our local SEO services in Virginia will help your business remain at the top of the Google 3-Pack while also ensuring your visitors always have access to top-notch content.
Over 46.5% of customers use Google to select a law firm
Martindale-Avvo conducted key research in 2019 to show that 46.5% of prospective clients turn to Google to determine who they should call when they need legal help. Will they contact you? That depends. Can they see what you have to offer? Or do they have to scroll through pages of SERPs to find your business?